Qigong the explanations of this great mystery
There are thousands of Qi gong forms, associated with hundreds of existing schools/lineages. Some forms include a lot of physical movement – similar to forms in Tai Chi or martial arts forms. Others are primarily internal - focused on breath, sound and visualisation in ways that require little or no physical movement. While all Qi gong forms aim to cultivate life-force energy, each of the many specific forms has its own specific techniques for accomplishing a particular kind of “cultivation of life-force.”
Basic Qi gong Axiom: Energy Follows Attention
In spite of their differences, there are basic mechanisms that are common to all forms of Qi gong. The primary axiom of Qi gong practice is “energy follows attention.” Where we place our awareness – our conscious attention – is where Qi, i.e. life-force energy, will flow and gather. You can experiment with this right now by closing your eyes, taking a couple of deep breaths, and then putting your attention, your mental focus, into one of your hands. Hold your attention there for thirty seconds to a minute, and notice what happens.
You may have noticed sensations of warmth, or fullness, or a tingling or magnetic feeling, or a sense of heaviness in your fingers or palm. These are common sensations associated with a gathering of Qi in a particular place in our body. Each person’s experience, however, is unique. What’s most important is simply to notice what it is that you are experiencing, and to develop some kind of confidence in this basic principle of Qi gong practice: energy follows attention.
Breath As A Conduit For Linking Energy & Awareness
What is the mechanism by which “energy follows attention”? In the initial stages of practice, this has a lot to do with the physical breathing process. By learning to rest our attention on the cycling of the inhalations and the exhalations – merging our mind with the movement of the breath – we activate a capacity for our mental focus to be able to guide the movement of Qi.
The Chinese word “Qi” is sometimes translated into English as “breath” – but this is not, in my opinion, the best choice. It’s more useful to think of Qi as energy plus awareness. The physical breathing process is used to guide awareness into a union with life-force energy – the offspring being what is pointed to by the word “Qi.” As this union of life-force energy with awareness is stabilised within the body mind of the practitioner, the physical breath becomes (over years of practice) more and more subtle, until it is absorbed into what is called embryonic breathing.
In embryonic breathing, we draw energetic sustenance directly into the body mind, independently of the physical breathing process. The physical breathing process is used as a kind of raft. Once we’ve crossed the river – returned to the land of the Cosmic Mother (dissolved our notion of separation from all-that-is) – we’re able to leave that raft of physiological breathing behind. In the same way that a fetus “breathes” through the umbilical cord, we’re able now to draw qi directly from the universal matrix.
Clarifying The Flow Of Qi Through The Meridians
All Qi Gong forms aim, in some way or another, to open, balance and clarify the flow of Qi through the meridians. In the course of our lives, when we have experiences that we’re not able, in the moment, fully to digest, the energy of those experiences – like undigested food in our intestines – creates blockages in the meridians. The particular patterns created in our body mind by these energetic blockages define what in Buddhism is called “ego” – our own unique way of being unconscious, which we mistakenly believe to be who we are, fundamentally. Qi Gong practice helps us to untie these energetic knots, allowing energy/awareness to once again flow freely in and as the Present Moment: a luminous emptiness in which the play of our bodily elements continuously unfolds.
According to Taoism, the health of our body mind is dependent upon a clear, strong and balanced flow of Qi through the meridian system. Since Qi gong practice accomplishes just this, it should come as no surprise that the benefits of Qi gong (also spelled “Chi Kung”) practice extend to every physical system of our bodies, as well as to the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our Being.
Physical Benefits Of Qi gong Practice:
Qi gong practice makes the body strong and supple. It improves balance, stamina and flexibility. It has positive effects on the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, immune and central nervous systems. It tends to create smooth skin, and a pleasant feeling of deep warmth within the body. It increases sexual vitality, and allows our sleep-time to be more deep and restorative. Over time, Qi gong practice can reduce or eliminate chronic pain. It also has the power to reverse the ageing process, and restore youthfulness.
The smooth and balanced flow of Qi created by Qi gong practice shows itself as a joyful, relaxed, optimistic and energised state of mind. While the emotional energies of anger, fear, anxiety or grief still may arise, they will be much less “sticky” – and be held and then dissolved within the larger field of joy, gratitude, acceptance and equanimity.
Mental & Spiritual Benefits Of Qi gong :
The abundance of clarified energy and mental stillness generated by Qi gong practice supports great mental clarity, and nourishes both intuition and creativity. As our intelligence becomes rooted in a connection to the inner body, it widens and deepens in increasingly wonderful ways.
As we deepen in our Qi gong practice, our spiritual channels – such as the third-eye – gradually open. We become aware of more subtle realms of Being, and begin to experience, directly, our interconnectedness with All-That-Is.
To Reap The Benefits, You Must Practice!:
The best way to begin to reap these many benefits of Qi gong practice is, of course, to begin to practice! Which of the many available forms you choose will depend upon your individual circumstances: your personal preferences, what’s best for your physical condition.
The level one Qi Gong, which you are introduced to at the beginners of your Tai Chi and Qigong, is learnt and practised to regain a good level of health and flexibility, while gently massaging the entire body, nervous, muscle and bone systems. There are many levels of Qi Gong, but the main ones or the important ones should I say, which I will be teaching you all over a correct period of time consist of various levels and these are.
Beginners Qigong. There are 21 exercises in the first set, which massages the entire body. Most people when they join the school are normally in a poor or fairly good shape of health. I teach these exercises to beginners to allow the student to understand their own level of health and how much work and practice they will have to undertake to remove basic problems such as poor or weak circulation, constant feeling of stress and tiredness. If practised daily a good level of health can be achieved along with correct posture and calmed mind.
8 Piece Brocade. These wonderful 8 exercises are learnt to work the central meridian line which feed the main 12 meridians. All 12 meridians are dependant on us having a healthy central meridian. There is much to learn about these exercises as they promote good health through the major organs and glandular systems, including the root nerves. When these exercises are practised correctly, one should feel calmed, spiritually enlivened and a level of health not achieved by just exercising.
Overall these exercises are believed to promote and strengthen the legs, knees, waist and back muscles, Shoulders, biceps and forearms. Many Chinese healers believe that this exercise helps regulate and improve the kidneys. Balance and brain functions are improved by co-ordinated movements, while relaxing stiff and tense muscles. Standing up straight in a horse stance helps realign the back muscles and the spine.
As you can see a wonderful and beneficial set of exercise, which are centuries old, yet filled with wisdom and wonders. I will of course be teaching the deeper levels of these exercises as you progress.
Yi Jin Jing. These 12 exercises are used strengthen and clean the tendons, sinews and muscles in our bodies. These are also ancient exercises and were considered to be the basis of health for the vitality. I will be teaching these exercise to all of you as we progress, but seeing as these exercises are more demanding, a level of health has to be achieved first through the previous levels. These exercises clean and strengthen the 12 main meridians throughout the body, by opening the channels and the gateways, so our Qi can flow freely. You will with out a doubt not only enjoy these exercises but also enjoy a level of rejuvenated health.
The basic purpose of Yi jin jing is to turn flaccid and frail sinews and tendons into strong and sturdy ones. The movements of Yi jin jing are at once vigourous and gentle. Their performance calls for a unity of will and strength, i.e. using one’s will to direct the exertion of muscular strength. It is co-ordinated with breathing. Better muscles and tendons means better health and shape, more resistance, flexibility, endurance.
Xi Sui Jing. These are small set of exercises, which accompany the Yi Jin Jing. These exercises clean and wash the bone marrow and brain cleansing. They say that both sets are needed to complete our body revitalisation and growth.
Why clean the bone marrow in the first place. Well after years of living as we do and for most of us not being fortunate to have this taught to us a an early age, we build and live off old and stagnant bone marrow, which is the source of our stem cell production. To continually regenerate and enjoy youthful health, one must continually work there entire system at the deepest level.
Qi Gong Level 2,3 and 4 work together and can be classed as the secret of Youth. The Tendon Changing exercises is a series of practice that lifts and inflates the connective tissues called fascia, with Qi. In the case of the above, you lead Qi into the marrow, and thus "wash the bone marrow", or "bone marrow washing". It is said, these changes generate an internal heat and light, which eventually reaches the brain, you then become illuminated. In other words, this is a practice of enlightenment, in the sense of illumination.
Five animal forms or frolics. These forms follow the movements of the Deer, Tiger, Monkey, Bear and Crane. They are used to strengthen the bodies core systems and promote the inner senses to the degree that all 10 senses are opened and used.
As for the internal Qi Gong exercises, I will of course be teaching these over a long period of time, but a student needs to have passed through the above six levels first, which include some of the internal system.
I myself have learnt the traditional Qi Gong and have steered clear of the western adaptions. I hope you find the Qi Gong I teach to you all beneficial and uplifting.
It is best not to talk about your Qi, but simply point it to where you want it to go.
There are a further five sets of Qigong to master, however these are only taught to students who have learnt and mastered the above five levels.
Internal System. After learning and mastering all of the previous five sets, the student is introduced into the internal systems of Qigong. Throughout the practice of energy development, meditation and spiritual Qigong is taught, as the purpose is to advance towards our own personal enlightenment. I receive many questions regarding this subject and ultimate practice, but many years ago I decided that it is really only for those who are prepared to undertake walking the ultimate path in their lives. It requires a level of dedication, hard work and continuos practice working through the highs and lows of our own unfolding personality, which some of us are not able to recognise. We are as they say, the greatest mystery of all.