Shen Xiaodong, Shanghai Qigong Institute
Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is a simply, refined, smooth, graceful, and effective health-preserving exercise which contains deep health-preserving philosophy and is deeply welcomed by the common people. This paper provides a detailed analysis of “Qi” and “Mind” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin exercise according to the practicing process of Health Qigong •Ba Duan Jin.
“Integrated Qi between Heaven and Earth” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin Exercise
The “integration of three regulations” is the core and feature of health Qigong exercise. The body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation are everything we can use for self-regulation of both body and mind. The three regulations are commonly seen and practiced in our daily activities but the “integration of three regulations” is difficult to achieve. Health Qigong is exactly aimed at achieving such a state. The “integration” of “integration of three regulations” should refer to “Qi”. Zhuangzi said “Qi runs throughout the entire world” (Zhuangzi: Zhi Bei You). Huang Di Nei Jing: Su Wen: Bao Ming Quan Xing Lun says: “when Qi between the heaven and earth was integrated, man was created” and “man was created with the Qi between heaven and earth and lives by the rules of the four seasons”. Man can actively and consciously realize the “concordance of Qi” of his body and mind and merges his own life into the tremendous steam of life in the cosmos. Man can actively maintain his own health and assist the circulation and development of life between heaven and earth.
Qi is the source of life and motive power for vitality. Qi “cannot be seen, cannot be heard, and cannot be touched” (Lao Tzu). Qi is beyond our sensory organs. We cannot represent it, objectify it, or consolidate it. But we can learn it by establishing a concept with our mind.
Qi has is intrinsic rules and principles of operation, which are exact “Dao”. There is only one way to master Qi: to merge ourselves into “Qi” and “Tao”. We should “get relaxed and natural”, lay down our preoccupation and sensory organs, empty our heart and mind, and then The forms of things all in it crouch; Eluding touch, eluding sight; There are their semblances, all right. Profound it is, dark and obscure; Things’ essences all there endure. Those essences the truth enfold” (Lao Tzu).
The movements of Qi in the human body can be understood as “ascending, descending, incoming, outgoing” circular movements. “Extension Tao Outlook” is advocated by the Chinese culture. It is believed that all things in the world moves in circles like the universe. This is also the case with the operation of Qi in the body. Qi runs in the body through the Twelve Regular Meridians and the Eight Extra Meridians like rings. Qi of the human body also communicates with Qi of the heaven and earth through acupoints on the body surfaces. The human body is an open “macrosystem” (Qian Xuesen). On the one hand, our body performs material metabolism with the outside world. On the other hand, the functional activity systems (e.g. meridians, spirit, Qi, and essence) of our life also have energy and information transmissions and exchanges with the outside world. “Man is connected to heaven and earth” (Huang Di Nei Jing: Ling Shu: Xie Ke). Man is a small cosmos. The changes of things in the environment have certain connections with the physiological changes of man. This is called “Induction between Heaven and Man”.
By carefully analyzing every movement of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we can find that all three movements embody the association and connection between the human body and Qi of heaven and earth. In “Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs”, both arms are required to be rounded and pushed upward and both feed are required to be firmly pressed onto the ground as if taking roots in the ground. The exerciser will be like “standing upright on his two legs between heaven and earth”, connecting the upper and lower Qi of the human body and merging it with Qi of the heaven and earth. In “Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left- and Right-Handed”, the exerciser is required to draw an imaginary bow as if shooting an arrow, pulling the arms, shoulders, and the back leftward and rightward and directing the thought towards the boundary between heaven and earth in the distance. And the legs are kept in a Horse Stance with five toes anchored onto the ground. This can be called “shooting the heaven and anchoring the earth”. In “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach”, one arm is held up against the heaven and the other is held down towards the earth as if holding up a cauldron with great power. This is called “propping up heaven and pressing earth”. In “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, both arms rotate outward, the head and arms are turned, the chest is square and the abdomen is drawn back. Qi is concentrated in Baihui Acupoint. The entire body looks like a high tower which takes in Qi from heaven and earth. This is called “twisting heaven and bending earth”. In “Shaking Head and Tail to Dispel Heart Fire”, the head and hips are shaken while the waist is rotated and the body is turned. They respectively take circular movements which are corresponding to the rotating movement-one of the fundamental movements of the universe. This is called “turning heaven and rotating earth”. In “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, both hands move downward from the top, run along the body to the back, reach to the ground and stretch forward, and finally slowly move up from the front of the body, as if both hands are moving in a circle around the body to infuse Qi of heaven and earth into the body. This is called “receiving heaven and connecting earth”. In “Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength”, both fists are clenched and thrust alternately into the air. Both legs are firmly kept in a Horse Stance. And the eyes glare at the same time to produce tremendous power and grandeur. It is called “thrusting heaven and clenching earth”. The last routine “Seven Movements of the Back to Eliminate all Diseases”, the heels are feet are lifted and then released. The head and neck are kept straight and lifted as if propping up something. The lower part of the body is held to the ground as if being pressed by a very heavy object. This is called “propping up heaven and bumping earth”.
“Coordinated Form and Spirit” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin Exercise
Health Qigong exercise is a resting and growing process. In our daily life and work, all kinds of mental and physical damages are inevitable and consume the resources and energies of the body. And Health Qigong is exactly a “magic weapon” for restoring the resources and energy of the body. Our predecessors pointed out that the purpose of Qigong exercise is to “nourish the vital Qi”, “regulate the meridian Qi”, and “consolidate the defensive Qi” in order to help us achieve “sufficient essence, full Qi, and complete spirit”, keep us away from or eliminate diseases, and maintain the internal equilibrium and stability of both the body and mind.
Health Qigong exercise involves thought, which is a great feature of Qigong. The thought has major influences on both our body and mind. Compared with animals, man is more susceptible to diseases, probably because our thoughts are too disorderly and frequent. It is believed in traditional Qigong theories that thoughts have to be “neither forgotten nor assisted” and have to be placed between adherence and non-adherence. Huang Di Nei Jing says: “To treat deficiency pathogens, we need to avoid wind with good timing. If we stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, the genuine Qi will follow us, the essence spirit will be contained, and diseases will be prevented.” During health Qigong exercise, we should learn to maintain an indifferent mental state and draw back into our own body. We should neither eradicate thoughts nor become over-absorbed by the mind.
Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is a moving exercise dominated by Daoyin of movements. As a Qigong exercise, however, it has its own requirements on thought. “Being relaxed, serene, and natural” is the threshold and orientation of Qigong. During the exercise of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we should always maintain a long and unhurried thought, keep our mind peaceful and delighted, naturally relaxed our body, and make our movements smooth, round, and continuous. In the preparative stance of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we should not only bring our body into an empty and relaxed state, but also quiet our mind, eliminate distracting thoughts, evil intentions, and stupor in order to keep our mind in “subtle and continuous” indifference and delight. As is described in Qigong tips, “when we keep our spirit in a serene state, the form will be naturally upright” (Zhuangzi: Zai You). While quieting, emptying, and relaxing our body and mind, our body will naturally become soft and comforted. In this way we can “maintain both body and spirit and live to the full length of our life” (Huang Di Nei Jing: Su Wen: Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun).
To sum up, Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is dignified and graceful. Its movements are internally smooth and externally straight and full and circular. Its process is like moving clouds and flowing water. Qi circulates throughout the body to straighten bones, soften tendons, and facilitate blood and Qi circulation. While practicing Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we need to enter a good state of “integrated Qi of heaven and earth” and “coordinated form and spirit” through the “Three Regulations” in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of Health Qigong exercise.