Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine

Precelestial breath, Postcelestial breath. Those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.

The precelestial Breath is the original and initial Ancestral Breath.1 This Ancestral Breath is in the real center of Heaven and Earth within the human body. [Placed between] the Secret Door and the Gate of Life, hanging in the middle, it is the Heart of Heaven.2 The self-cultivation of the divine Immortals only consists in collecting the precelestial One Breath and using it as the Mother of the Elixir.
The postcelestial Breath is the Breath that circulates internally: one exhalation, one inhalation, once coming, once going. “Exhaling touches onto the root of Heaven, inhaling touches onto the root of Earth. On exhaling, ‘the dragon howls and the clouds rise’; on inhaling, ‘the tiger roars and the wind blows.’”3
When [the postcelestial Breath] is “unceasing and continuous,”4 it returns to the Ancestral Breath. The internal and the external inchoately merge, and coalesce to form the Reverted Elixir (huandan). Then you become aware of a burning fire in the Cinnabar Field that spreads to the four limbs. You look like a fool or like drunk, but “its beauty lies within.”5 This is why it says, “those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.”
This is what the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) means when it says:

The Spirit of the Valley never dies:
it is called the Mysterious-Female. The gate of the Mysterious-Female
is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Unceasing and continuous,
its operation never wears out.6

And this is what the Book of Changes (Yijing) means when it says about the Kun ䷁ hexagram:
From the Yellow Center it spreads to the veining, as it places itself in the correct position. Its beauty lies within, and extends to the four limbs.7

Notes
1. “Precelestial” (xiantian) and “postcelestial” (houtian) refer to the states before and after the generation of the cosmos. The precelestial Breath (qi) is the One Breath of the Dao. Once the cosmos is generated, it is permeated by the postcelestial Breath, which manifests itself in the multiplicity of the directions of space, the cycles of time, and all the entities and phenomena that exist and occur within space and time. In the human being, in particular, the postcelestial Breath is the breath (qi) of ordinary breathing. In any of its forms, however, the postceles- tial Breath hides and preserves the precelestial Breath, or one “particle” of it. In the strict sense of the term, the purpose of Neidan is the recovery of the precelestial Breath—represented as the Elixir—and its reconjunction with the postcelestial Breath.

2. The first part of this sentence alludes to the description of the center of the human body in the Huangting jing (Scripture of the Yellow Court): “Above is the Hun Numen, below is the Origin of the Barrier; on the left is the Minor Yang, on the right is the Great Yin; behind is the Secret Door, in front is the Gate of Life” (“Inner” version, poem 2). The Secret Door (mihu) is the kidneys, or a point in their region. The Gate of Life (shengmen) is the lower Cinnabar Field, or a point in its region. — The Huangting jing, originally dating from the second or the third century, is one of the main texts on early Taoist meditation. It exists in two versions, usually referred to as “Outer” and “Inner.” The “Inner” version” is later and longer compared to the “Outer” version.

3. This passage is quoted, without attribution, in Xiao Tingzhi’s (fl. 1260–64) Jindan wenda (Questions and Answers on the Golden Elixir). It is also found in Li Daochun’s (fl. 1288–92) Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), ch. 4.

4. This expression derives from the passage of the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.

5. This expression derives from the passage of the Book of Changes quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.

6. Daode jing, sec. 6.

7. Book of Changes (Yijing), “Wenyan” (Explanation of the Sen- tences) on the hexagram Kun ䷁ (see Wilhelm, I Ching or Book of Changes, p. 395). The first sentence is also found in the Cantong qi (The Seal of the Unity of the Three), sec. 19: “From the Yellow Center it gradually spreads through the veining: moistening and impregnating, it reaches the flesh and the skin” (see Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three, p. 77). In the explication given by Wang Jie, these passages of the Daode jing and the Book of Changes refer to the precelestial Breath.

Reference: Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine (Ruyao jing zhujie) translated by Fabrizio Pregadio

The Standing Meditation of Chinese Soaring Crane Qigong

The Standing Meditation of Chinese Soaring Crane Qigong falls in the category of static qigong (the five routines belong to kinetic qigong). It is an exercise to clear the channels, balance yin and yang, regulate the function of qi and blood and improve health. Designed to enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of Soaring Crane Qigong, the standing meditation is taught after the Five Routines. Students must first of all learn the Five Routines well before they go on to this stage. They should have practiced the Five Routines for at least 40 to 50 hours and have had the sensation of numbness, fullness, warmth or cold which proves that their main points – say lao gong, yong quan and bai hui – are open and their major channels are clear. Then they may learn this standing meditation.

When doing the standing meditation, use natural breathing. That is to say, you do not have to think about how to breathe but just let your respiratory system work naturally.

During the practice of standing meditation, various spontaneous external body movements are observed. Some are seen with the whole body shaking, some with hand movements and jumping, some massaging and hitting their own body, some utter some sounds and regulate their breath, some dancing, etc. Upon closer observation, these movements are closely related to sicknesses the practitioners concerned are having. Which parts of the body is having sickness or the channels blocked, those parts will move more. Qi is like a good doctor. It can automatically detect sicknesses and attempt to cure them. These movements gradually become lesser and lesser as these sicknesses and channel blockages get better, until eventually there is no more external body movement. The movement then becomes internal.

1st Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Preparation (Yu Bei)

Stand with your feet as wide apart as your shoulders, toes turned in a little, knees slightly bent. Let your shoulders relax. Allow your hands to fall at your sides naturally. Place the upper tip of your tongue on your upper palate, just behind your teeth. Keep your eyes level and open, thinking of nothing.

Use your mind to relax your whole body sequentially from top to bottom. Gather Qi into your lower dan tian. Concentrate your mind on your lower dan tian for al little while.Direct Qi from your lower dan tian to hui yin, then back up along du mai to da Zhui. At this point, split the Qi into two streams and direct it through the middle of the shoulders, down through the arms to lao gong.

2nd Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Double return of Qi (Shuang Hui Qi)

Turn your palms forward and using your shoulders as a pivot, raise your arms while holding a ball of Qi in your hands, then beam it into tian mu. Open your chest by spreading out your elbows. With palms down and fingertips pointing at each other, your hands descend in front of you body guiding Qi down into your lower dan tian.

3rd Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Holding a ball of Qi (Bao Qiu)

When your two hands reach the level of the navel, relax your fingers and bend them slightly and push your hands gently away from your body with the backs of your hands angled a bit toward your body at about 45 °. Turn your palms to face your lower dan tian. Embrace a ball of Qi in front of your lower dan tian.

4th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Hanging the head from Sky (Ding Tou Xuan)

Keep your head straight as if your bai hui were connected to heaven by a string, and visualize that you are holding an object (such as a bowl of water) on the top of your head. In this way your upper body will be kept straight and your head and neck will be very steady so that you will not easily fall onto the ground.

5th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing the Spine (Zhui Ji)

Raise your shoulders up a little and then inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. At the same time relax your spine by loosening each of your vertebrae.

6th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Holding in the Chest (Han Xiong)

Take in your arms a bit to enable the Qi in your lungs to flow unimpeded but not so much as to press against the inner organs, Be sure to relax the area around the heart; only in this way can the inner organs be relaxed.

7th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing the Shoulders (Song Jian)

Raise your elbows outwardly a bit as if you were holding a tennis ball under each armpit, and relax your shoulders.

8th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Sinking the Elbows (Zhui Zhou)

Hang down the joints of your elbows a bit and you will feel Qi flow down from your arms to your forearms immediately.

9th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing your Wrists (Song Wan)

Keep your mind on shen men and relax your wrists a bit and you will immediately feel the flow of qi into your ten fingers.

10th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Smoothing out the fingers (Shu Zhu)

Relax your fingers and bend them a little as if you were holding a ball of Qi in each palm. Then visualize that you are mingling the two balls of Qi with the Qi in your dan tian to form one big ball, 2/3 of which is outside your body in front of your lower dan tian, and 1/3 of which is in your lower dan tian.

11th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing the Waist (Song Yao)

Use your mind to relax the section of your spine from lumbar vertebrae to sacrum and then push your tail bone back a bit as if to sit, being sure that your knees are not further forward than your toes. The whole body should be completely relaxed, and every vertebra, especially, should be loose.

The 12th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing the Hips (Song Kua)

Take in your hips a bit and rotate them once or twice and then the hips will be fully relaxed.

The 13th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Hanging down Wei Lu (Chui Wei Lu)

Wei lu is a point at the end of the tail bone. Visualize that there is a pendulum hanging down straight from wei lu to 4” (10cm) above the ground. This forms a triangle with your feet as the other 2 sides.

The 14th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Relaxing the Knees (Song Xi)

Relax your knees which should be slightly bent naturally and not further forward than your toes. Use your mind to visualize that Qi passes through your knees.

The 15th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Adjusting the Feet (Diao Zu)

Let your feet be flat on the ground, toes fully relaxed. Use your mind to direct Qi from your shoulders, hips and ankles to yong quan. When you feel the Qi in your yong quan, use your mind to direct it down to the earth to connect with the Qi from the earth. Your feet will then be rooted.

The 16th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Gathering Qi into Dan Tian (Qi Chen Dan Tian)

By this time your whole body is completely relaxed. Now use your mind to mingle the Qi in your two hands with the Qi in your dan tian to form a big, round ball of Qi. Concentrate your mind on shen men, ming men and yong quan so as to relax them. Visualize that you are mingling the Qi in your upper body with the Qi in your lower body and mingling the Qi outside your body with the Qi inside your body so that you are in the middle of a ball of Qi.

17th Instruction for the Standing Meditation

Bringing down the Eyelids (Chui Lian)

Use your mind to withdraw the spiritual light from far to near slowly until you have taken it completely back. Lower your upper eyelids and look at the end of your nose (you may either close your eyes or just leave a small gap but never squeeze them shut). Look down the nose inward through shan zhong and along zhong mai into lower dan tian. Then keep your mind on dan tian without thinking of anything else.

There are 4 steps in the finishing for Standing Meditation.

1st step : Slowly Coming to a Stop

When you feel that you need to stop or you feel too tired to go on with the standing meditation, you tell yourself that you want to stop. You say the following words silently, ”Hao Liao Qi Gui Dan Tian.” (It means, “let all the Qi gather into dan tian; I am ready to finish.”) Gradually your movements will become slower of milder until they come to a complete stop. Stand for a little while and until your heart is in complete peace.

2nd Step : Double return of Qi (Shuang Hui Qi)

Turn your palms forward and using your shoulders as a pivot, raise your arms while holding a ball of Qi in your hands, then beam it into tian mu. Open your chest by spreading out your elbows. With palms down and fingertips pointing at each other, your hands descend in front of you body guiding Qi down into your lower dan tian.

3nd Step : Finishing (Shou Gong)

When your hands reach the level of your navel, relax your fingers and bend them slightly and push your hands gently away from your body with the back of your hands angled a bit towards the body at 45°. At the same time, push you wei lu backward as if to sit. Keep your upper body straight. Be sure your nose is in line with your navel.

Turn your palms in to face your lower dan tian, finger tips pointing slightly down. Embrace a ball of Qi in front of your lower dan tian; relax your shoulders. Use your mind to contract your hui yin. Draw your two hand towards your hips and sides and then let them fall naturally, while at the same time straightening your legs.

Note: You may do parts 2 & 3 as many as three times, until you feel that the Qi is firmly stored in your dan tian.

4th Step : Placing your Hands Together (An Shen He Shi)

Palm to palm with your finger tips pointing up (prayer position), rub your hands together several times and then run them over your face gently from jaw to forehead and down up. Then use your fingertips to comb your hair from your forehead back to the point called fong fu. Then use the outer side of your little fingers to rub the back of your ears and the part under your cheek bones. Bring your ten fingertips together under your chin and let your palms come together naturally. Then draw them down to the point called shan zhong between your breasts. Stay in this posture for a while and then let your arms fall naturally to your sides. Open your eyes slowly and walk away.

1. Your movements and mental focus must be accurate.

The stance adopted by CSCQ is of the medium type meaning the angle of inclination between the thigh and the vertical shall exceed 20°. Only by so doing, the wei lu can be protruded resulting in the point on the ground vertically below wei lu forms an equilateral triangle with the two feet. Use mental focus to virtualise that a heavy pendulum hangs down from the wei lu. This pendulum shall be 10cm from the ground. Never imagine that this pendulum reaches the ground as this would lock the body and Qi from the du mai will be lost into the ground. Prolonged practice this way will cause fatigue and degradation of the brain.

Actually, by imagining that there is a pendulum is to help new practitioners to activate the Qi faster. After some time when the practitioners are more familiar and feel at ease with standing meditation, the same result can be achieved by merely mentally focusing on the wei lu.

2. Spontaneous movements must be really spontaneous instead of artificially induced.

Most practitioners have spontaneous movements naturally. Some practitioners may not have spontaneous movements. This is because some of them have not practiced long enough and have not accumulated sufficient energy of have hot mastered the instructions of the standing meditation. Once these problems are overcome, they will have spontaneous movements. On the other hand, some practitioners do not have spontaneous movements because they do not have any channels blocked, so the Qi travels through their body smoothly.

Once practitioners understand why spontaneous movements come into being and why some do not have them, then they will not force them.

Some practitioners have spontaneous movements but are not satisfied with them. They intentionally induce movements or imitate others’. These are not true spontaneous movements, they will, instead of having curative effects, cause suffering to the practitioners. Therefore false movements are strongly forbidden.

3. Self-control in spontaneous movements may be needed at times.

You should be able to control yourself when spontaneous movements appear. Sometimes the spontaneous movements are very violent and ungraceful, for instance lying on the ground, but you can control them by giving yourself an instruction such as, “Let the violent movements become milder or slower.” If you are lying on the ground, you may thick of bai hui and then you will naturally stand up.

4, Relaxation is preferable to nervousness in the standing meditation.

When you are doing standing meditation, you must be relaxed the whole time from the beginning to the end. You should never be tense. When you are doing standing meditation the true Qi has been activated to its ultimate, therefore the Qi is very strong and travels very fast in your body. If you are tense, some parts of your body may be blocked. As a result, the Qi will accumulate there and block the channels and will not disperse for a long time, and you will feel uncomfortable or in pain. If you are too tense perhaps the Qi circulating in your body cannot be gathered back into dan tian even though you want to shou gong (finish). So, to be relaxed is of utmost importance. You should not worry at all. Let the spontaneous movements happen naturally and enjoy yourself; then you will feel very comfortable and your disease will be cured and your health improved.

5. Adopt a positive attitude toward hallucinations.

You should have a right attitude toward hallucinations. During the circulation and change of Qi (vital energy) while practicing qigong, very often hallucinations will appear. This is because your channels are open and you are receiving information from the Universe through the open channels. You can accept the information that makes you happy and comfortable. This is called ‘positive information’. For instance, you may feel that you are growing taller and bigger; you may see brightness in front of you; you may see beautiful scenes; you may hear wonderful music or even smell the fragrance of flowers. All these information is good for you both physically and mentally.

On the other hand, some ‘negative information’ might appear, which, of course, is not good for health. But do not be frightened because such things happen. Just shake your head and say “shi” and immediately they will disappear. There is nothing to be afraid of. Go on with your qigong practice and you will succeed in the end. Upon finishing, if you wish to continue practicing, choose another location of better environment. Do not continue at that same place.

6. Be comfortable and happy about the time and frequency of practice.

Consider the time you will spend practicing meditation. You might give yourself an order: “I am going to do this for 30 minutes”. Then, when 30 minutes have passed, the Qi will naturally come to a halt. As to how many times you should practice eash day, it all depends on whether or not you feel comfortable and happy. Do not exhaust yourself.

The 5 routines and standing meditation complement one another. They should be practiced con-currently. By so doing, your health will be enhanced and sickness cured.

Reference: China Soaring Crane Qigong (cscq) – http://cscq.webs.com/standingmeditation.htm

The Natural Mechanism of Turning Attention Around to Gaze Within

Bai Yuzhan said, “The path of inner refinement is extremely simple and easy; just get the fire of the heart to descend into the elixir field. The elixir field is the chamber of water, while the heart is fire. When fire enters water, then water and fire mix and true yang is produced. Therefore people Call them heart and genitals,not water and fire.”

The realized man Zhengyang said, “Getting the fire of the heart to descend is the South Star shifting to the position of the North Star.”

Shi Xingling said, “Gather in your spirit back into your energy and the alchemical process will naturally take place.”

Liu Haizhan said, “I have realized the principle of long life – intense yang subdues intense yin.”

Xu Jingyang said, “I will disclose my family way to you – the sun shifts into the light of the moon.”

Master Wang Chongyang said, “When you begin to build the foundation, first take the spirit in the upper opening and sink it into the lower opening, in the cavern of energy. Mind and breath keeping together causes pure attention to be ever aware. Alternating exhalation and inhalation come and go in the furnace of creation; after a long time this becomes thoroughly familiar, and fire will naturally erupt from below the navel, a tiger will emerge from the water. Without even trying to return to central balance, you spontaneously revert to central balance.

“When you first watch over the opening, turning your attention around to gaze within, it is a black pearl, like the dark side of the moon. Steadily illumined by the fire of mind following the wind of respiration, the blackness spontane- ously produces white, fire erupts in water, and warm energy circulates in the cavern of energy. This is the initial movement of true yang, producing being from nonbeing.”

He also said, “The forging and refining of wind and fire must be applied to pure yang to activate the yang energy. This is all a matter of discovering and consciously nurturing the basic spirit, a point of empty nothingness, storing it down in the cavern of energy. This is called sending it back to the earth and it pot sealing tightly.”

“With the ethereal spiritual light of essence of the basic spirit within, be like a turtle hiding, like a snake hibernating; do not forget, do not force, as if present yet as if absent. Eventually exhalation and inhalation will join, spirit and energy will embrace, the mystic pass will naturally open, and the seed of realization will be produced.”

Reference: Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body translated by Thomas Cleary p. 115

The Arhat Holding Up the Sky

Movements:
1) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes sticking to the ground. Bend and close in knees into half-way crouching position with buttocks drawn in. Reach out arms to parallel posi- tion, palm facing upward and fingers apart and relaxed. Also relax wrist, elbow, waist, and in particular, shoulder.

2) Hold head and neck erect, with chin slightly drawn inward and tongue against upper jaw. Keep body upright and stick feet inward to the ground.

3) Look straight forward with steady eyesight and relax
corners of mouth as if to smile.

Purpose:
The practice of Riyuezhuang on the basis of Hunyuanzhuang aims at enriching the inner vitality of the practitioner to such an extent that he will remain immovable, through the plucking of “cream from both the earth and heaven,” under the enemy’s hooking or kicking attacks. Thus he may concentrate all his strength for the dexterous employment of the capture skills.

Essentials:
1) Keep torso upright and look straight forward. Other essentials are the same as those in Hunyuanzhuang.
2) Riyuezhuang takes the practitioner less time to reach stillness than Hunyuanzhuang and is, therefore, more effective. Spontaneous movements, however, should be controlled if they are too violent.
3) When inner Qigong is activated in the practice of this Zhuanggong, the practitioner might jump up, despite of himself, as high as three feet. He should be mentally prepared for such an amazing phenomenon. The height of the jump and the steadiness which he drops to the ground reflect the level of expertise he has acquired through practice Riyuezhuang.
4) Salivation during practice is the result of the smooth circulation of your breath and blood and the activation of your vital energy. Gradually swallow saliva and do not lose it in your relaxation because it is precious secretion from your body.
5) Riyuezhuang is a more fatiguing Zhuanggong than Hun- yuanzhuang. Be sure to keep crown of head,shoulders, elbows, wrists and legs all at level positions, and head, torso, and feet
upright.

Further Explanations:
1) Beginners can hardly stand in this posture for more than – three or five minutes. As he goes on with the practice, he will gradually bring out his inner skills which will enable him to stand for as long as two hours, showing that he has already enough skills in the practice of Riyuezhuang.
2) After the practitioner reaches the state of stillness, the activation of his body begins from his fingers, small fingers in particular, in the form of a slight shaking movement, and goes to the wrists, elbows, shoulders and then to the waist until finally the vital energy passes through the Yinmen, Weizhong, Chengshan and Kunlun acupoints on the legs to bring him up in the air. Such technique is most useful in an actual situation.
The above postures are two primary postures of Zhuanggong ‘ in the martial arts of the Jingang-Chan Natural School. Since there is no “Yin” (the feminine and the negative) and “Yang’ (the masculine and the positive) involved in the two postures, the “cream of the earth and heaven” can be easily plucked. The same rhyme used in the practice of Hunyuanzhuan may be applicable here except for a change of the term ‘Hunyuanzhuang” into “Riyuezhuang” in the rhyme.

Simplified Caputre Skills by Wang Xinde, Hai Feng Publishing Company 1983-84
ISBN 9622380131 p. 21-23

Hunyuanzhuang

Jingang-Chan Posture

Movements:
1) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes sticking to the ground. Slightly bend knees and hang arms naturally by sides of body with elbows also slightly bent, palms facing backward, fingers apart and thumbs pointing to trouser seams. Relax shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger joints. Hold head and neck erect, with chin slightly drawn inward and tongue against upper jaw.

2) Stand upright and consciously straighten Dumai (a Chinese medicinal term which denotes the line running from the perineum up through the spine to the top of the head) Slightly lean torso forward but neither protrude nor withdraw chest or waist. Slightly pull in buttocks and keep weight to front of sole.

3) Look 45 degrees downward to the ground.

Purpose:
This is designed for the training of internal breathing skills and inner strength so as to activate the internal organs, work up the internal vitality and increase the steadiness of the lower limbs.

Essentials:
1) With stillness as the principal requirement for this movement, try to realize motion through stillness. Up to a certain point of the training of this Zhuanggong and with the increase of the level of stillness, unexpected body responses will be experienced by the practitioner. This is a reflection of the activation of the internal breathing and should not be worried about. Instead, the practitioner should go on with the practice.

2) When you lean slightly forward, keep entire body relaxed except for the sticking of toes to the ground and the slight pulling in of coccyx. These two parts of body must not be relaxed during the entire practice lest your vitality is lost.

3) Roll your eyes 36 times to the left and 24 to the right before and after the practice. During practice of Hunyuanzhuang, eyes should remain open. Green color is preferred in front of
practitioner; objects with red and yellow color are forbidden to avoid possible distraction of attention and failure of practice.

4) Natural breathing is required but breath should be controlled, so to speak, at the Laogong (on the palm), Dantian (on the lower abdomen) and Yongquan (on the sole) acupoints. (Beginners may practice how to control his breath at each of the acupoints in the above order for two months before he begins to practice, half a year later, how to control his breath at all three acupoints at the same time.

5) When absolute stillness is reached, the practitioner begins to move, despite of himself, every part of his body in a natural manner. But violent movements should be brought under control.

Further Explanations:
1) Hunyuanzhuang is an important Zhuanggong closely related to Qigong, or breathing skills in the Jingang-Chan Natural School (please refer to 64 Leg-Attack Methods of Shaolin Kungfu by
the same author), which bases its Wugong (martial skills) on Qigong. The time used for the practice of Hun be yuanzhuang may 10 to 15 minutes for beginners and it is gradually increased to one hour. Highly skilled practitioners may extend the time up to two hours.

2) Clear away all distracting thoughts during practice and the following rhyme may be silently repeated for the achievement of stillness:

Aside I put everything and be ready to practice my skills; Stand upright and keep body comfortably still;
Clear away all distracting thoughts until
I reach the acme of the Hunyuanzhuang skill.

Reference: Simplified Caputre Skills by Wang Xinde, Hai Feng Publishing Company 1983-84
ISBN 9622380131 p. 14-19

A General Introduction to Jinggong

by Chen Yingming

There is currently no effective medicine for stress-related disorders. Phosphoric supplements’ claim to fortifying the brain is unsubstantiated. All other stimulants or sedatives have only temporary effect. After the effect wears out, the symptoms come back, maybe with a vengeance.

One must ensure complete tranquility of the mind and disperse all random thoughts from it. This is the most important principle of jinggong practice and is the most effective treatment for stress-related disorders. However, it is difficult to put a stop to all the thoughts that go habitually through your mind. Our forefathers devised a host of methods to attain this purpose, among which the best one is Zhuangzi’s “listen-to-breathing” method (Zhuangzi, c. 369 – 286 BC).

You begin this exercise by using only your ears, not your mind. The idea is not to replace one thought with another, but more to force yourself to stay vigilant about your nose or your lungs. Nor is it to listen to any nasal sound. As long as you are aware ofthe exhalations and the inhalations, you are doing it right.Do not try to control the speed and depth of the breathing. Just let them be. By and by, your breath will beat one with your qi.All distracting thoughts will vanish. You will even forget about your breathing and gradually drift off to sleep. This is the most opportune moment to restore vigor to your frayed nerves. Seize the moment and abandon your self to deep sleep. Be sure not to resist the temptation to sleep. After you wake up, repeat the exercise all over again, and you will be able to drop off to blissful sleep again. If you have already slept several times during the day and do not wish to sleep anymore,you may get up and do some light exercise in a woody place outside where the air is fresh and clean. You may stand there for a few minutes doing breathing exercises, or practice calisthenics or taichi. But do not go overboard. Do not tire yourself out. Once you return indoors, you may either sit or lie in bed, resume your “listening-to-breathing” exercise and, perhaps, to fall asleep again.

Most people with stress-related disorders are also plagued by insomnia. It is not advisable to take sleep pills on a regular basis. Only the “listening-to—breathing” method can tackle the problem at the root, without leaving any side effect. It is in keeping with the theory about yang entering yin in the Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing, China’s earliest work on of medicine completed between 770 BC – 25 AD).

Ancient books on medicine often make reference to the interdependence of the mind and the breath,but no specific instructions can be found.Su Dongpo’s way is to count your breathings and then let the mind follow the breath (Su Dongpo, 1037- 1101, a famous Chinese poet). ZhuXi’s way, as explained in his Advice on Breath Adjustment, is to “watch the tip of your nose,” according to The Surangama Sutra (Zhu Xi, 1130 – 1200, Confucian scholar and founder of the school of Neo—Confucianism). However, since you have to count, you are not free from all engagement of the mind. And, in the latter case, since you have to watch your nose, your eyes will get tired over time. Zhuangzi’s “listening-to-breathing” method is the only one that calls for absolutely no engagement of the mind and leads to no fatigue. What follows is a list of the three methods for you to practice.

1. Su Dongpo’s theory on health (Dongo Zhilin, Su Shi’a Record in His Daily Life, Vol.1):
Health conscious people must exercise moderation in their eating habits. Only when plagued with hunger can you start eating and you should stop before the feeling of fullness sets in. After each meal, take a stroll outdoors until the food has been digested. Then return indoors for exercises. You can freely decide whether to do the exercises in daytime or at night, seated or lying down. The only important thing is to keep your body from moving and stay immobile like a wooden statue. Then, in a combination of Buddhist and Daoist methods, gaze at the tip ofyour own nose while counting the number of exhalations and inhalations through your nose. The key is to empty your mind and not to force anything. When counting, count either all the exhalations or all the inhalations, not both.So each act of breathing, exhaling and inhaling, counts as one, not two. After you’ve counted hundreds of times, your mind will be a blank and your body motionless as a rock. Since you need not force anything on your mind and body, both will naturally enjoy tranquility.

After you’ve counted thousands of times, or if you have no more strength to go on counting, you can switch to another method, called “follow the breath.” When you exhale, let your mind follow the air out of the body. When you inhale, let your mind follow the air on its way in, not through the nostrils, but filling every pore like evaporation of cloud and fog. When you attain this level of accomplishment, all longstanding ailments and afflictions will gradually go away and you reach enlightenment, just like a blind man suddenly regaining sight. Able to see his way ahead now, he no longer needs guidance.

2. ZhuXi’s breath-adjustment method (The Complete Works Zhu Xi, Vol. 85):
Watching the tip of one’s own nose is the 14th of the 25 methods listed in The Surangama Sutra. Both Su Dongpo and Zhu Xi adopted the phrase, but each in a slightly different sense. In Zhu Xi’s words, this is a method applicable anywhere and at any time, provided you are relaxed and feel comfortable. Do not make yourself uncomfortable in any way. Stay calm and let things take their own course. Do not force anything. When tranquility reaches its height, the pendulum will naturally swing toward motion, like fish rising to the surface of the water in spring to breathe. When motion reaches its height, the pendulum swings naturally toward tranquility, like insects hibernating in winter to conserve energy. At this point, the qi in the body converges with the qi of heaven and earth, and the alterations of tranquility and motion unite with the movements of the universe. Words are inadequate to describe the wonders of this method. You may ask, who is behind all this? In fact, there is no one behind any of this. Everything is just a part of nature.

3. The Mind Tranquility method of Zhuangzi (Chapter IV, The Book of Zhuangzi):
Yan Hui asked Confucius, his teacher, about Zhuangzi’s Mind Tranquility method, and this was Confucius’ reply: Do not indulge in wild fancies. Gather all your thoughts to gether and then listen,not with your ears but with your mind. Then,listen not with your mind but with your qi.By this time, you should no longer be relying on your ears. Your mind and qi being at one, you should not be relying on your mind, either. Qi is something unsubstantial. It needs something to form a union with it. Only Dao can merge with the qi of the Great Void. If your mind attains the tranquility of the Great Void, you have made a success ofthe MindTranquility method.

There should be no division of stages to this method, but for the convenience of beginners, I’mgoing to divide the whole process into several steps and give some detailed instructions:

Step 1: “Gather all your thoughts together.” Before you begin the exercise, be sure to gather all your thoughts together and concentrate on the exercise. If any distracting thoughts remain, you will not b eable to do a good job of it.

Step2: “Listennotwithyourearsbutwithyourmind.”Once
you have completed Step 1, you are ready to begin to “listen,” but definitely not to listen with your ears to Conventional sounds. You may get skeptical and ask, since it involves lis- tening, what am I supposed to listento, ifnot to sounds? No clear answer to this question can be found in the annotations to all kinds of theories.So let me make this clear: You begin by listening for the sound of breathing through your nostrils. The breathing of those with normal, unimpeded respiratory systems should be noiseless, which is why you are not supposed to listen with your ears.Even though there is no sound, you are aware ofthe speed and the strength ofexhalations and inhala- tions through the nostrils, as are even the hearing-impaired. That’swhytheinstructionsareto “listenwithyourmind.”

Step 3: As for “listen not with your mind but with your qi,” this can again be problematic. You may be able to get away with saying “listen with your mind” because the mind, after all, is sentient, but qi is not. How can you listen with qi? If the mind listens to qi, what does qi listen to? So how should this be explained? My answer is: when you have become quite accomplished in jinggong, your mind and your qi will be at one and inseparable. Qi becomes something impossible for the mind to listen to, hence the phrase “You must not listen with your mind.” At this point, your mind and your qi, though at one, may not have reached the state of the Void and there fore may still have a slight awareness of your breathing. If you keep on, you will soon lose all awareness of your breathing. During the brief period of transition, rather than listen to qi with your mind and set mind and qi against each other, it makes more sense to listen to qi with qi and wipe out any rift between the two. That’s why the instructions say “listen with qi.”

Step 4: As for “You should no longer be relying on your ears,” and “You should not be relying on your mind, either,” a beginner should first try to gather his thoughts together before concentrating on “listening,” but carrying this on for too long would be overdoing it. So go on to the next step. Stop listening. By this time, you are moving into the stage of the Void, where your mind and qi are at one, you are no longer aware of your breathing.You may appear to be asleep on the outside, but on the inside, it’s another story.

Setp 5: As for “Qi is something unsubstantial. It needs something to form a union with it. Only Dao can merge with the qi of the Great Void. If your mind attains the tranquility of the Great Void, you have made a success of the Mind Tranquility method,” after you have gone from the simpler to the more sophisticated stages, you naturally reach the state of the Void without having to direct your mind to it. If you will it, you won’t be able to get there. The entire process is to go from what you have acquired to what you were given by nature. So the fifth should be be experienced in the state you were born, but I will not get in to that,because it exceeds the limits of therapy. For our purposes, it sufiices to reach the state where your mind and your qi merge.

A summary of the three methods cited above: Su Dongpo’s method is to begin by counting your breathing, then stop counting and let it be. Zhu Xi’s method is to begin by watch- ing your nose, then stop watching it and let everything take its own course. Zhuangzi’s method is to begin by listening to your breath, then stop listening and let everything take its own course. The three methods begin differently but end on the same path. Learners can feel free to apply them in combination.

Young patients with stress-related disorders can be 70% or 80% cured by practicing these exercises for three months. Middleaged patients can be 50 to 60% cured after three month’s practice. However, symptoms can vary in degree. I was referring to more severe cases. Those with less severe symptoms can achieve full recovery. After you leave the sanatorium and return to your workplace, it would be advisable to practice twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, and make it a habit. Only then will you be able to keep what you have gained and be fully accomplished in this healing art.

Quiet Sitting The Daoist Approach for a Healthy Mind and Body by Weiqiao, Jiang p. 67 – 75