Si Hongyu and Guo Kai
Health Qigong is a special sport. One of its unique features is the simultaneous body and mind regulation. Body regulation means the regulation of the physiological state and mind regulation means the regulation of psychological state. By practicing Health Qigong, we can adjust the physiological and psychological states which have gone out of balance due to various causes. Both the mental state and physical state are carried by the human body. They interact as both cause and effect and complement each other. The mental and physical imbalances and problems of man can be solved by co-regulation of the mental and physical states. Everybody has two properties, namely the natural property and social property. As a part of the nature, man is governed by the natural rules and will inevitably be subject to the threats of pathogens such as wind, cold, heat, and damp and go through a process of life, illness, aging, and death. As a part of the society, man is restricted by the conditions of the age he is in and will inevitably experience sorrow, happiness, unity, and departure. All these natural and social conditions will more or less influence the mental and physical states of everyone. Failure to make proper adjustments will result in damages to peoples’ health and longevity and prevent them from “living to the full span of life”. And Health Qigong exercise bears the feature of co-regulation of both the physical and mental states on the basis of the three elements of “body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation”.
Firstly, Health Qigong is a traditional sport of our nation with body movements, respiration regulation, and mental regulation as the major forms of exercise. Therefore Health Qigong is featured by co-regulation of both the mental and physical states: This is because physical regulation starts from essence cultivation and will go through a process covering saliva accumulation, essence generation, conversion of essence into Qi, and conversion of Qi into spirit, while mental regulation mainly involves spirit cultivation in which all concentration is focused on mental activities. Specifically, the physical regulation of Health Qigong is mainly represented by limb movements and focused on regulation of the physiological state of the practicer; and it will certainly assist mental regulation. The mental regulation of Health Qigong is mainly embodied in the moral cultivation and its health-preserving mechanism. It sheds light on self-inspiration and regulates people’s mental, as well as physical functions. Therefore we should not consider them as opposites, because the mental and physical states are united in the human body and have interactions. Every movement of Health Qigong has its mechanism and functions. And these mechanism and functions cannot be fully utilized unless under the guidance of a good mental state. Therefore importance should always be attached to the regulation of mental state before, during, and after the practice of Health Qigong. During the practice, there are some specific requirements in addition to the movement norms: The practicer is required to eliminate distracting thoughts, concentrate the mind, relax the entire body, turn a deaf ear to the external things, and adhere to vacancy and quietness. From this we can see that during the exercise, mental regulation is always the dominant role. Mental regulation has two aspects in Health Qigong. One of them is the regulation of mental state during exercise or, in other words, the conscious control of the body. Internal consciousness is used to turn disorderly and scattered mental activities into regular and focused mental activities in order to regulate Qi. The other is the regulation of mental state in social practice. In other words we should attach importance to the cultivation of morality, which is a necessary condition for maintaining a stable state of life. This is because the moral cultivation involves eliminating and reducing the interference by the Seven Emotions. And the Seven Emotions are factors that disturb the “body, Qi, and spirit” of the practicer. Therefore moral cultivation should be considered a precondition for health preservation. These two aspects of mental regulation depend on each other because the application of mind is restricted by the society and subject to the social and moral influences. Therefore moral cultivation is a part of mental regulation, a prerequisite for the correct and efficient application of the mind, a serenity-accomplishing process used to eliminate distracting thoughts, seek truth, and achieve Anatman, and one of the embodiments of the mental regulation of Health Qigong.
Secondly, the fact that Health Qigong exercise is meant to “increase life span, mental power, and morality” has further shown its feature of co-regulation of mental and physical states. Since the ancient times, practicers of Health Qigong have not only sought physical health and longevity, but also pursued and exhibited high morality and spiritual self-improvement. Health Qigong has been created by learning from the Yin and Yang and hardness and softness of the heaven and earth. Proper adherence to the exercise can be considered a “benevolent” behavior. According to etymology, “benevolence” means “kindness” just as “righteousness” and “goodness”. Practicers are seeking health and longevity. And health and longevity come from “benevolence”. “Moral cultivation and fulfillment of promises are called benevolence”. (Li Ji: Qu Li) Therefore Health Qigong can be considered as a benevolent behavior that leads to health and longevity. And “benevolence” belongs to “morality”. Therefore the mental state is used to determine and realize self-value and thus perform the co-regulation of mental and physical states in Health Qigong.
Secondly, the fact that Health Qigong exercise is meant for “approach-based benevolence” has further shown its feature of co-regulation of mental and physical states. Since health and longevity is a “self-benevolence”, Health Qigong is an “approach-based benevolence”, because the results of “approach-based benevolence” can meet the practicers’ demand for health and longevity. “Benevolence” belongs to “morality”. The achievement in the exercise is directly related to morality. Many regiment schools give the first priority to the cultivation of morality and lay special emphasis on making achievements of Health Qigong with morality. It was said in ancient times that “Achievement originates from virtue and virtue is the mother of achievement”. And “exercise without moral cultivation will definitely lead to evil possession” warns us that exercisers should “straighten the heart before exercising the body”. Straightening the heart exactly means cultivate morality. This is why Confucius pointed out in The Great Learning that: “wealth embellishes your house and morality embellishes your body. A person with a large heart tends to grow plump.” Zhu Xi construed it as: “wealth embellishes your house and morality embellishes your body because when you are free of dirty ideas, your mind will be open and commodious and your body will be always healthy. This is why morality embellishes your body.” How to elevate “morality”? Confucius’ “doing good” theory is based on self-communion, self-control, and self-behavior. In other words the moral cultivation of the subject itself is used to break the spiritual shackles and achieve ideal personalities. This means that moral cultivation is done by the subject itself. The motive for moral cultivation comes from the real human mind. It is an effort driven by the human awareness. Therefore the reason that some practicers fail to understand the gist of Health Qigong is probably related to the degree of conscious efforts. Whatever the reason, Health Qigong itself can cultivate “morality” by co-regulating the mental and physical states. It is just that some practicers haven’t grasped its core and obtained the real benefits. To sum up, long-term, correct practice of “approach-based benevolence” of Health Qigong can be used as a “Tao-upholding” process which naturally leads to “establishment of morality”. Therefore “upholding Tao can establish morality, and established morality can define Tao”. This is quite good evidence. Certainly, only constant, long-term, and continuous habitual adherence to this practice can cultivate morality. Just as Aristotle said: “the properties of morality are results of habit.” Since long-term, correct practice of “approach-based benevolence” of Health Qigong can cultivate morality, it will naturally regulate the mental state.
In a stressful society, people usually need to play multiple social roles. Work, life, and many other things are wearing everyone and the complicated interpersonal communications frequently befuddle us. In such times, we will be desperately in need of relaxation of the body and massage of the mind in order to reinvigorate ourselves and fulfill what we are supposed to do. Perhaps Health Qigong exercise is exactly what you want, because Health Qigong regulates both the mental and physical states. You may be unable to practice it all the time. But as long as you always keep an eye on the cultivation of your own morality anywhere and anytime in your daily life and embed the practice of Health Qigong in your daily life, you can still keep your spirit serene and free of fickleness and keep your mind straight and free of prejudice. This is another way of Health Qigong exercise which just lays more emphasis on the regulation of mental state.
Reference: Origin and Development of Qi-Promoting Techniques jsqg.sport.org.cn