Adherence to Quiescence

Li Jinlong and Jia Meiying; Shanxi University

Health Qigong is a traditional sport of our nation with body movements, respiration regulation, and mental regulation as the major forms of exercise. It has carried the essences of the excellent traditional health-preserving culture of the Chinese Nation for thousands of years. The practice of Health Qigong is focused on the “strengthening of mind”, and the key to the strengthening of mind is “adherence to quiescence”. The mind guides the body and the body is used by the mind. The well-combined mind and body and a healthful and harmonious life are the goals of Health Qigong exercises. Just as Lao Tzu says: “All the flourishing things will return to their source. This return is peaceful. It is the flow of nature.”

Main Idea of “Adherence to Quiescence”

With regard to the idea of adherence to quiescence, quiescence is relative to motion. In the broad sense, they represent two opposite states in the physical phenomena of the nature. In the narrow sense, they refer to the stationary and dynamic, resting and moving states of man. Seeking “quiescence” and adhering to “quiescence” are the inevitable way and basic method to preserve health. Reflected in the practice of Health Qigong, they mean to seek balances between the mental state, movements, and respiration. Secondly, from the perspective health preservation (body building): The sources of all life functions grow in “quiescence”, just as any animal or plant in the nature draws the energy of life from “quiescence” for its growth. This is especially true with the human life. It is only through the never-ending circulation of quiescence and motion that we can obtain vitality that with each passing day. This is basically equivalent to the ideas of “Dhyana” and “Meditation” in Buddhism. In reality, however, people usually feel confused about being unable to feel “quiescence”. Therefore they make every endeavor to seek a method to “adhere to quiescence”. As a matter of fact, Man Huaijin said: “Quiescence is quiescence. We just need to seek it with our heart. If we deliberately use any method to seek it, won’t it cause more disturbances?” If that is true, it will seem impossible for us to seek quiescence. In fact, however, people are just getting too used to the moving state. They keep moving both physically and mentally all the time. Therefore they have different feelings. For this sake, the best way is to pay no special attention to quiescence. For example, we don’t see the dirt in a cup of water when it is turbid. But if we add some clarifying agent to it and rest it there for several days, we will be able to find the sediment in the cup. This is not because this cup of water generates dirt in the stationary state, but because it already has dirt which cannot be found until it is rested. Therefore when we are trying to “adhere to quiescence”, we don’t do it on purpose. It is important to do it with a normal and calm state of mind. Everything is subject to the rules of nature. Where water flows, a channel is formed, and we will be able to experience the mystery of “quiescence”.

Embodiment of “Adherence to Quiescence” in the Health-Preserving and Body-Building Essentials of Health Qigong

The thought of Health Qigong can be traced back to Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine and the legend of Pengzu who lived for 800 years. It originated from the ultimate wish of the human kind-to find a way to immortality, and the greatest quest of the human kind-to learn the principles of life and the origins of Heaven, Earth, and Man. These two factors have also become the initial approaches to seek detachment from reality and sublime the spirit. Ji Kang once proposed and theoretically proved that the meaning of Immortality Art (also an origin of the thought and forms of Qigong) lied in health preservation instead of immortality. In other words “eliminating diseases and prolonging life mean that a man has to learn and practice a great deal of knowledge necessary for health preservation, so that he can live happily without any disease or pain and die smoothly without causing troubles to himself or anybody else. This is the ultimate happiness of life which is most difficult to achieve”. These are the essentials of body building and health preservation. They are just in concert with the awareness of people about “Qigong everywhere”.

Health Qigong is based on harmony and mind regulation. The exerciser needs to seek “Unity of Nature and Man” on the outside and self-content and self-consistency on the inside. Adherence to quiescence, contemplation, introspection, harmony, mental relaxation, and quiescence of mind shall be the major goals of practice so that the exerciser can maintain a good state of mind and perform reasonable metal control and behavior control of himself. How to preserve health? Pengzu says: “control motion with quiescence and close eyes to rest the mind”. In everyday life, we should try the best not to “exhaust the ears or eyes or sit or sleep too long”. On the whole, we should not seek fame and wealth or be fierce, but remain peaceful and calm. In this way our spirit will naturally be at ease and our body will naturally be healthy.

In is expressed in the very introductory chapter of Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine that: “Ancient sages said: 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. ” They advised people to stay indifferent to fame or gain, keep a vacant heart, and contain the essence and spirit. The essence belongs to the kidneys. It is only when the kidney essence is sufficient that the mind can be calmed. And it is only when the mind is calmed that health can be ensured. The “regulating health according to the four seasons” and “adjusting to the four seasons and climate changes” in traditional health preservation are emphases on the harmony between man and nature. Intrinsic harmony is concretely and commonly sought in health preservation. It is a part of the theoretical basis for Health Qigong and determines the emphasis on “contemplation”, “application of thought”, and “interior practice” features of Health Qigong. The guiding theory of Health Qigong involves “using the mind to practice”, “keeping the essence and spirit in the interior”, “pay independent attention to spirit and integrating the muscles”, “entering the quiescent state”, and “achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true quiescence” which are all embodiments of the characteristics of this “introversion” culture. Mencius advocated “deliberately cultivating the mind and moral characters to behave ethically”, which is also an embodiment of the introversion spirit. “Feeling the Way with your mind and understanding the unity” in the Taoist Culture and “clarifying the mind to see the disposition”, “depending on yourself instead of depending on others”, and “seeking Buddha dharma from inside instead from outside” in Buddhism all indicate that the practice of Qigong should be more inclined to the quiescence and cultivation of the interior world.

Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine also says: “The heart is the master of all viscera. When the heart moves, all viscera will sway.” The “heart” here refers to the mind. This indicates that all mental activities and emotional changes of man may influence the functions of the interior body. It is therefore said that “overwhelming joy impairs the heart, and terror overwhelms joy; overwhelming anger impairs the liver, and sorrow overwhelms terror; overwhelming thought impairs the spleen, and anger overwhelms thought; overwhelming worry impairs the spleen, and joy overwhelms worry; overwhelming terror impairs the kidney, and thought overwhelms terror”. This also indicates that all kinds of extreme emotions will stimulate the mind, impair the internal organs, affect the activity of Qi, and prevent people from being adherent, quiescent, and happy, causing all kinds of diseases. Therefore, we should eliminate the distracting thoughts and achieve the quiescent and concentrated state of mind as much as possible during the practice of Health Qigong. This is exactly “adherence to quiescence”. Just as Zhuangzi: “I venture to ask what that fasting of the mind is,’ said Hui, and Kung-ni answered, ‘Maintain a perfect unity in every movement of your will, You will not wait for the hearing of your ears about it, but for the hearing of your mind. Let the hearing (of the ears) rest with the ears. Let the mind rest in the verification (of the rightness of what is in the will). But the spirit is free from all pre-occupation and so waits for (the appearance of) things. Where the (proper) course is, there is freedom from all pre-occupation.” This means we need to eliminate the distractions from the sensory organs, listen to the bounces and vibrations of our heartstrings, and quietly experience the softness and harmony of Qi. The “fasting of mind” and “adherence to quiescence” are two approaches to the freedom from pre-occupation and quiescence. When it comes to health preservation, their essences belong to the quiescence-adherence and mind-regulation parts of Qigong. Zuo Wang Ming written by Zheng Xuan of the Ming Dynasty says: “Constantly contain the Primordial Qi to prevent impairments, reduce the distracting thoughts to preserve wisdom; keep away from anger to harmonize the spirit, keep away from vexation to clear the mind; do not fabricate or flatter, do not stick to foolish ways; keep away from greed to enjoy a normal life, and do the right things to be not afraid of law suits.” These words are good food for thought and can be considered as the keys to physical and mental health. And when the mind is adjusted to an ultimate vacant and quiescent state, it will bring spiritual enjoyment that transcends the physical world. Xu Fuguan perfectly summed this up by saying: “The Way mentioned by Zhangzi is a lofty artistic spirit when it comes to life”. From this we can see that the vacancy and quiescence practice of “freedom from pre-occupation” actually presents an artistic life of the spiritual world. Then how to achieve “freedom from pre-occupation” and “Zuo Wang”? Zhuangzi believes that we should first achieve “vacancy”, “quiescence”, and “clearness”, i.e. mind regulation.

In addition, Lao Zi further considers Qigong exercise as an important method to understand “the Way”. He says: “To experience without intention is to sense the world; To experience with intention is to anticipate the world. These two experiences are indistinguishable; Their construction differs but their effect is the same. Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way, which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.” This means that it is only by focusing the mind on Dantian and achieving ultimate quiescence that we can see the ultimate changes of “the Way” and understand the subtle and unpredictable “Way”. Zhu Guangqian says: “When focusing on an object (natural or artistic), man will forget the ego and the outside world and then achieve a unity between them. The life and flavor of life will be ‘radiated’ or transferred to the object so that the object that originally had no life and flavor will have human-like activities and the originally physical things become humanized.” In other words, if we can achieve “freedom from pre-occupation” in the mind regulation of Health Qigong, we will be able to feel aesthetic joy. This is one of the reasons whey it can preserve health. With this “mind regulation” before the practice of Health Qigong, the exerciser will be able to merge into the imaginary state, change the thought with the form, move Qi with the thought, and thus to regulate the viscera, promote the circulation of blood and Qi, and achieve both mental and physical health.

Embodiment and Importance of “Adherence to Quiescence” in the “Thought Regulation” and “Routine Posture” Exercises of Health Qigong

Both the practicing tips and routines of four Health Qigong exercises currently being promoted are based on quiescence, relaxation, gentleness, and true hardness and hardness out of softness. For example, the foremost requirement of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing is to “relax the spirit and unite form and thought”. It is not allowed to be absent-minded or obsessed. And the first requirement of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is to “be relaxed, quiescent, and natural”. “Relaxation, quiescence, and nature” are the fundamental points and basic rules of the exercise. “Relaxation” means both mental and physical relaxation. Mental relaxation mainly means to relieve the physical and mental tension. Physical relaxation mainly means to relax joints, muscles, and viscera until the mind is light, comfortable, and free of nervousness. “Quiescence” means both the mind and emotions shall be smooth and at ease and all distracting thoughts shall be eliminated. Relaxation and quiescence supplement and promote each other. A “natural” state in the practice is the good mental foundation for practice. There are both relaxation and tightness requirements on all kinds of rotating, twisting, stretching, butting, lifting, and crouching movements in the exercise. The transitions between movements have to be smooth and both hardness and softness need to be coupled. For example, the “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing involves step-by-step rotations from the legs to the waist. And “Bowing Down in Salutation” involves step-by-step pulling, bending, and stretching by way of the head, neck, chest, waist, and sacral vertebrae. In “Tiger Posture” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, the vertebral spine wriggles from a folded state to an unfolded state. In “Deer Wrestling”, the waist bends sideways and twists by a large margin. Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue lays emphasis on respiration and together with the rotation, stretching, and contraction of the body, relaxes and strengthens the body and mind. All the routine postures require that the exerciser ease the mind, calm the spirit, and put the focus on the transition of movements or respiration or both. All of them require “adherence to quiescence”, just as Zengzi says in The Great Learning: “When you know where to stop, you have stability. When you have stability, you can be tranquil. When you are tranquil, you can be at ease. When you are at ease, you can deliberate. When you can deliberate you can attain your aims.” All these are rules of things that people have learned from nature. It is only through quiescence that we can focus and then attain our goals. If we still have many distracting thoughts in the practice and cannot be quiescent enough to gather our mind and thought, we will never be able to experience the subtleness of the routine postures and their stimulation and effects on the body. And we will not even be able to memorize or recall the most basic routing postures. Without mind, quiescence, and focus, such exercise will be just a waste of time without any achievement. And it will even cause doubts on the efficacy of Health Qigong itself. The subtleness and secrets of things cannot be learned unless we carefully feel them after we remove all distracting thoughts. “Adherence to quiescence” is the most important key to the problem.

The most fundamental characteristic of Health Qigong exercises is the control of thought and the accurate and proper mastery of the rules of “deliberation”. And “quiescence of mind” is the precondition of “deliberation”. It requires the exerciser to do the exercises by practicing Qi, achieve a vacant and quiescent state, master the mind, control Qi circulation with the mind, and transport Qi throughout the body. The thought, spirit, and mental state of man are used as the basis for cultivation. The mental state, the movements of the exercises, and the cultivation of Qi and spirit are unified to coordinate movements, thought, and respiration under the guidance of thought, so that the “internal Qi” in Dantian can be moved and used at will. Both the interior and the exterior are coordinated to achieve a relaxed, quiescent, and natural state of harmony and unity between the form, Qi, and spirit, so that “form and spirit can be unified and body and mind can be harmonized” and that the mental state can be balanced. Here the role of “adherence to quiescence” is even more prominent. If the exerciser cannot achieve quiescence of mind and often gets disturbed by “thoughts” about external things, he will not be able to focus the thought on the practice or smoothly coordinate thought with form. And it will be difficult to achieve any good result of practice. In the worst case, the disturbing thoughts may even cause straying or stagnant Qi. Stasis will lead to obstruction, and obstruction will lead to pains. The exercise will damage health instead of improving it. Therefore removing all distracting thoughts during “deliberation” to “adhere to quiescence” is the most fundamental and important precondition for the practice of Health Qigong.

Reference: About the Basis of Health Qigong-Adherence to Quiescence

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