Zhang Caiqin; Inner Mongolia Normal University
The key to the practice of Health Qigong is to stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, control genuine Qi, and contain the essence and spirit.”In order to “control genuine Qi”, the exerciser must first clear the mind, calm the spirit, and eliminate the distracting thoughts and ideas. And physical relaxation can promote the quiescence of mind. Once the body and mind enter a relaxed, quiescent, and gentle state during the exercise, the breath will be naturally even, fine, soft, and long. In such a state, the harmonious Qi within the body will be activated and circulate between the grain of skin and the texture of the subcutaneous flesh, were pathogenic Qi will have no place to stay. This will promote the activity of Qi, strengthen the body, and prolong life. It was said in ancient times that: “The mind will be harmonized only when the body is quiescent; when the mind is harmonized, Qi will be harmonized; when Qi is harmonized, form will be harmonized; when form is harmonized, everything will be harmonized.” If the mind is restless during the exercise, the respiration will be unsmooth, the body will be rigid, blood and Qi will be obstructed, and Health Qigong will not provide any disease-eliminating and life-prolonging effects.
By summing up my practicing experience over the years, I have created a method to practice relaxation and quiescence. By following this method in our practice on a long-term basis, we will be able to quickly enter a relaxed, quiescent, and gentle practicing state. And on the other hand, the functional activities will gradually change from energy consumption to energy reservation and thus provide “self-repairing” and “self-regulating” effects on the organic body during the practiced of relaxation and quiescence.
The relaxation of Health Qigong involves relaxation of the body form and relaxation of the spirit. The quiescence of Qigong is “a special quiescent state of the waked man and the optimal state for physiological functions and activities”. It involves “motion in quiescence” and “quiescent spirit and moving Qi”. In this state, the Yang Qi of the human body will be placid and smoothly reach the four limbs, so that the Primordial Qi (Genuine Qi) is plentiful, Yin Qi is harmonious, and Yin and Yang are well-coordinated. This will improve health and lead to a good mood. Relaxation and quiescence promote and supplement each other and are closely connected. They cannot be separated and must be practiced simultaneously.
During the exercise, the body posture and respiration shall be as follows: lie on the back. Naturally straighten the legs. Put them together or keep them a little bit away from each other as long as you feel comfortable. Lay flat both hands on both sides of the lower abdomen with the palms facing downward. Slightly bend the fingers and slightly close eyes with just a small seam left. Take natural and smooth breaths. The mental requirements of relaxation are as follows: After setting the body posture and evening respiration, imagine that the head is relaxed and take a deep breath. Slowly exhale the breath and relax the facial muscles so that they are light and soft. At the same time clear the distracting thoughts from the mind and relax the head. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of shoulders. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, relax both shoulders from top to bottom and relax the neck, chest, back, and lower abdomen along with it at the same time. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of arms. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, start the mind-guidance from the upper arms down to the fingers. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of hips. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, start the relaxation from the hips down along the thighs to the toes by way of knees and shanks. It is required to lead the thought along the different parts of the body during the slow exhalation. Where the thought goes, the appropriate body part shall relax accordingly and drive the adjacent parts to relax in a transferring manner. After a relaxed state is achieved, mind concentration on acupoints is used to achieve quiescence: mind concentration on acupoints means to concentrate the mind on certain acupoints of the body during practice in order to “replace all thoughts with one thought” and thus to inhibit the generation of distracting thoughts. This helps the exerciser to enter a relaxed, leisurely, peaceful, and quiescent state. The acupoints to be concentrated on include: Dantian in the lower abdomen below the navel, Laogong Acupoints in the centers of both palms, and Yongquan Acupoints in the most dented parts of both soles. Requirements on mind concentration are: Stay between concentration and non-concentration, do not adhere to a certain point, and constantly switch between three positions.
Relaxed and Quiescent States in Different Stages of Practice
The practice of relaxation and quiescence is divided into three stages. The exerciser needs to enter the stages according to the progress he has made in Health Qigong. Not every exerciser needs to start with the first stage. Exercisers that have already made high achievements in Health Qigong will quickly enter the Stage 3 relaxation and quiescence even when practicing this method for the first time.
Stage 1: when one takes Health Qigong exercise for the first time, the distracting thoughts and disturbances from the outside world will always prevent the body from fully relaxing and the mind from being quiescent. The exerciser cannot experience the comfort of relaxation and leisure of quiescence. This is an inevitable process of the exercise. As long as the exerciser strengthens the conviction and keeps practicing, the due efficacy will be naturally achieved in the long run. While using the mind to guide relaxation, the beginner first needs to constantly eliminate the distracting thoughts and focus as much attention as possible to the position where the thought goes during the relaxation process. Distracting thoughts will keep tangling the mind when the exerciser tries to concentrate the mind on acupoints. In this case, the exerciser should just eliminate those distracting thoughts he is able to and give up on those that he cannot cope with. Do not insist on it and always treat it with a peaceful mind.
Stage 2: After the relaxation and quiescence exercise in the first stage, the exerciser will naturally enter the second stage. When an advanced exerciser practices this method for the first time, he will directly enter the relaxed and quiescent state of this stage. During the practice, he will be able to basically control the train of thoughts, actively cease the distracting thoughts, and relax all parts of the body under the guidance of the mind. The exercise should best be done right before sleep at night, as Yang Qi is restrained and concentrated in the body at this moment, which is quite suitable for quiescence cultivation. Lie on the back in a bed and follow the method of relaxation and quiescence exercise to relax the entire body from the head to the feet under the guidance of mind. Then gently close eyes and relax the brain. Assume a leisurely and comfortable look on the face and keep the body in a basically relaxed state. Start to concentrate the mind on Dantian, Laogong, and Yongquan. We can stay at Dantian for a while, switch to both Laogong Acupoints in a moment, and then switch to both Yongquan Acupoints. Sometimes we can also focus the mind on two acupoints (e.g. Dantian and Laogong) at the same time. When distracting thoughts begin to flock in, pull the mind back to the acupoints. As the mind gradually enters a focused state, the thoughts in the brain will continuously fade away and the spirit will be gradually relaxed. Occasionally, the exerciser may achieve a relaxed form and a clarified brain. At this point, the brain will be free of all distracting thoughts and worries and the mind will be in a state between thinking and non-thinking. And the exerciser will experience the relaxation and happiness brought by relaxed form and quiescent mind.
Stage 3: Try not to take deep breaths in the beginning. Slowly relax the different parts of the body according to a sequence of head, shoulders, arms, and hips under the guidance of mind. During the relaxation, distracting thoughts may come in from time to time. But the exerciser will be able to dispel them immediately and keep a light and serene face. With the constant progress in skills, the exerciser will gradually do without mind guidance. During the entire relaxation process, the respiration will be naturally and smooth and the exerciser will no longer need to perform local relaxation with the help of deep respiration. Whenever lying in the bed before sleep, the exerciser will naturally begin to practice relaxation and quiescence before he even notices it (except when the exerciser is angry or has something on mind), and both the interior and exterior of the body will be completely relaxed in a matter of seconds. Then concentrate the mind on Dantian, Laogong, and Yongquan and stay between adherence and non-adherence. When distracting thoughts flock in, the exerciser will be able to timely pull the mind back to the acupoints. After entering this stage, the exerciser will gradually switch from brain-based mind concentration to intuition-based mind concentration. Sometimes the exerciser will glimpse all three acupoints in just one thought and start to understand the essences of “the state between adherence and non-adherence”. At this point, the acupoint of Dantian on which the mind is concentrated will become clearer and clearer. The exerciser will unconsciously lock the position of mind concentration at Guanyuan Acupoint which is right below the navel by 3 Cun or Qihai Acupoint which is below the navel by 1.5 Cun. But the specific position may differ from person to person. For example, when somebody concentrating mind on Dantian first feels numbness, heat, or distention around Qihai Acupoint (numbness: a physical phenomenon caused by brain cells sending out bio-radio wave information during the mind application process; Heat: a thermal reaction caused by the unobstructed blood and Qi abrading the walls of blood vessels after nerve cells are excited; distention: a comfortable feeling of slight numbness and hot distention; it reflects the expanding capillaries and unobstructed blood and Qi circulation over the body during practice), the mind will naturally reach Qihai when he practice mind concentration on Dantian in the future. During the latter period of the third stage, the exerciser may sometimes feel indistinctly that even the brain cells are relaxed with the mind concentration. Occasionally, the exerciser will feel that the relaxation begins with the exterior of body parts and gradually infiltrate the cells. All of a sudden, a subtle perception will cross the mind¬as if all cells of the body are suddenly released and all burdens on the body and soul are completely relieved in a second. At this point, the mind will be tranquil, the expression on the face will be leisurely, and the harmonious Qi will fill all the body. In the moment of relaxed form, tranquil thought, and peaceful mind, a door to wisdom seems to be opened all of a sudden in the brain and the exerciser will gradually learn the true meaning of “If we stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, the genuine Qi will follow us, the essence and spirit will be contained, and diseases will be prevented.” This perception is fast like a lightning across the sky. So we should let it be and not seek it on purpose.
Reference: How to Enter a Relaxed, Serene, and Gentle State of Exercise As Quickly As Possible jsqg.sport.org.cn