Systema Israel youtube.com
TRUE AND FALSE
The Old Man of Clear Serenity said:
There is nothing in the world that does not have both
true and false versions. Practice of the Way may also be true or false, so students should first distinguish the difference clearly.
True practice is total sincerity. It is not a matter of avoiding the world or leaving society. And neither does it depend entirely on deliberate sitting and reciting scriptures. The essential thing is to refine away the false within the true to filter out the true from the false. Only then do you attain the true reality of perfect sincerity.
If you only concern yourself with reciting scriptures in front of other people and do not concern yourself with inner cultivation and self-government, or if you sit quietly all day, immobile as a statue, looking good out wardly but inwardly agitated by roaming thoughts and miscellaneous ideas‐all of this is false.
The false is antagonistic to the true, so if it is not eliminated it will harm the true. But to get rid of it you have to find the appropriate way. If you do not find the way, it is like shutting the door to catch a robber; the false can not be eliminated and the true issure to get hurt.
People who are not of the highest wisdom are influenced and conditioned by false images every day, so they lose sight of natural realities. They are so used to untruth that it becomes truth for them.
Even if there are some who have a little higher consciousness and clearly know that worldly affairs are all artificial, when taught to cultivate the real they still find the artificial hard to relinquish. If they are to be resolute, they first have to refine themselves within the artificial until they feel they have no more interest in artificial things; if they set them aside to seek the real after that, then they will be able to find the real.
If you happen to have been born in a rural area and are basically uncomplicated and unaffected, and never having experienced the bedazzlement of prosperity you do n o t know there is such a thing asartificiality, then you do not know there is reality either. That is because the real is hidden within the artificial and the artificial is not outside the real. What is quintessential is to be able to find out the real in the midst of the artificial and discern the artificial in the midst of the real.
Therefore cultivation of the Way does not require leaving home. You must mix with society, harmonizing illumination, living in the material world without being infected by materialism.
The Old Man of Clear Serenity said:
In quiet sitting, whether or not there is a specific process, you should not cling to form. If you consciously and deliberately try to apply mental images, you are prone to develop all sorts of illnesses. That is called drawing a snake with legs on it; you will bring trouble on yourself.
When we look into the source of this problem, we find it can be attributed to one’s own fixation, inflexibility, and habituation to biased views. It also comes from conceit and rigidity and failure to clarify instructions from a teacher so as to understand them thoroughly.
The upshot of this failure to abide by the principles of the practice, taking in the elixir too rapidly, without the process’s being completed, sitting hastily and carelessly before yin and yang energies have found their respective places.
Some consciously focus their attention on the lower elixir field when they sit. Some roll their eyes up into their heads to gaze upward. They are doing mental gymnastics.
Some concentrate attention on the breathing, like pumping a bellows. Some focus their minds on counting breaths, trying to take energy in without letting it out.
There are a number of such patterns. They can cause dizziness, deafness, reddening of the eyes, distention of the abdomen, pain in the tendons and bones, mental fogginess, nocturnal emissions, and other symptoms.
People who lack the basic capacity tend to develop illnesses by what they do in their pretenses of practicing Taoism. What they do not realize is that practicing the Way is cultivating and nurturing the Way of nature, the natural course.
First it is essential to clear the mind and minimize desires. After that, you preserve and nurture the vital spirit. You may succeed in prolonging life, or even in permanent realization of wizardry or buddhahood; but the effective result is due to inconspicuous practice according to principle, clearing the mind and not making up anything‐it does not come from artificial contrivance.
Generally speaking, quiet sitting has three types of principles. First there are the principles on which higher alchemy is based. In the middle there are the principles of refining the alchemical elixir. Finally there are the principles of lower alchemy.
So every step has its process. The order must be understood, the principles must be observed. Even those who are sincere and genuine may be able to keep the principles of preparation and procedure, but most act carelessly when it comes to completion.
I am going to reverse the order and talk about lower alchemy. You cannot rush; you will be finished only when you have attained thorough resolution, so that your vital spirit is clear and fresh. Otherwise you will merely have one or two experiences, or the process will break down after starting.
If you are careless with lower alchemy, it is very easy to cause harm. I see so many people trying to practice without doing it correctly from the start. Before their minds are settled, and before they have perceived the right conditions, they immediately cross their legs, fold their hands, and deliberately sit. Their heads are not right to start with; their bodies are not upright,their gaze is not even. They try to operate the process before the fire is even burning in the furnace. Even though there remain a number of conditions that have to be present, they cannot wait‐ they thus shut eyes tight, so that purity and pollution are not distinguished and positive energy cannot rise. This way of practice is hardly effective.
In practice, the eyes and ears are the most difficult point. If you simply take the distention of the primary opening to be the process of the work, you may experience itching and ringing in the ears, blurriness in the eyes, and drooling from the mouth that must be consciously drawn in. These are all examples of inability to await the right opportunity, like eyesight and light unable to combine.
If the opening of the ears has not been shut to the outside, the breath in the nose has not become subtle, the true liquid has not been produced, or the fire in the furnace has not been ignited, no state is genuine.
It is altogether essential to reach the point where the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue merge, and vitality, energy, and spirit fuse; that is when the light of insight shines forth. If you do not wait for the medicine to be produced and the fire to ignite, how can the great elixir be refined? If the firing is insufficient, the negative polluted energy in the body cannot be cleared away. Then pure positive energy cannot rise.
I always tell people that the first essential of practice is to even the temper well. You should not practice sitting hastily; wait until positive energy rises and the medicine is produced – only then is the time right.
When it comes to contemplating emptiness, it is essential to attain reversal of attention inward, the state of turning the light around. Rolling the eyes up into the head is not reversal of attention, nor is it turning the light around when the eyes see darkness. You must reach the point where the eyes do not see, the ears do not hear, and the breathing in the nose is extremely subtle. Then you have no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind; you are aware only of the existence of the primary opening, nothing else.
When you arrive here, the light of your true nature emerges. This is called the celestial monarch of the four elements offering a bowl.
Afterward, work on not letting go of this little mystic pass; that will surely be a good way to produce an alchemical pill. But work individually, because the state of turning the light around may take more or less time, depending on the individual.
Above all, don’t be in a hurry. If you do n o t wait for a genuine state to occur but forcibly withdraw your vision and consider that to be turning the light around, sitting with your eyes closed, then positive energy cannot get in and negative energy cannot get out. You will only toil uselessly, without benefit.
There are some people who roll their eyes up into their heads and gaze upward with excessive force. If they do this for a long time, they will suffer either brain damage or possibly blindness, both irreversible. This is very harmful, so I have taken up the admonitions left by the masters over the ages to systematically encompass the practical requirements for realizing the Way.
I have revealed the mechanisms of mysticism without fear of celestial regulations, in hopes that each individual may find out what it is to be human, and return home, to permanent realization of the state of fulfillment of higher development.
If you have worked for a long time but have not perceived any truth, it is because your mind is still unstable. Sages taught people to know how to stop, after which there is stability, calm, and peaceful meditation. The function of stabilization is great indeed! If you practice correctly, your mind will be stable and your temper will be even‐how could you then be unable to perceive truth?
Sitting work is called quiet sitting because it is a matter of cleaning all the pollution from your mind. Once the pollution is gone and your mind is clear, truth naturally becomes evident. The reason people cannot see truth is simply because their minds are too noisy and they cannot see through things and events as they really are.
Whether or not they practice quiet sitting, practitioners of the Way must clean old impurities out of the mind, making it clear and pure. Renew this work daily, without haste or hurry, and eventually you will spontaneously see the benefit.
So when you begin, it is essential to make a real effort. Accumulating vitality is setting up the foundation. Stopping thoughts is principal. Unifying spirit and energy is obtaining the medicine. Keeping the spirit still and not letting it scatter is incubation. Refining the spirit back into cosmic space is obtaining the alchemical pill. After the pill is complete, is it not the highest universal truth?
There is a folk saying that if you want effort to deepen, wear an iron pestle down to an embroidery needle. The point is that practitioners of the Way must not be in a hurry to see results.
Whether or not there is any progress cannot be determined on the surface. You should know there is a time to rise up and a time to lie low, a time to go forward and a time to withdraw. It is like walking a mountain path, which has high and low places, even and uneven places‐how can it be viewed as all the same?
You just have to follow the right pathway and you won’t go wrong. As long asyou don’t stop walking, eventually you will reach the peak, so why hurry? If you hurry, your legs and feet will get numb, your head will get dizzy, your eyesight will get blurry, and you will gasp for breath. Then, instead of speeding on your way, you have created obstacles. Unable to go on, you will give up along the way. Isn’t that a waste of all your previous effort?
Strive to break through material form, empty your body and mind, and become lively and fluid. Don’t “draw a snake with legs on it” and you will naturally not be guilty of “drawing a tiger like a dog.” Develop your character in relation to the outside world as much as you can. When your practice is accomplished and its results are fulfilled, then real truth can be seen without looking, inherently containing endless subtleties.
Reference: Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body translated by Thomas Cleary p. 123 – 130
- The Way
“Take emptiness to the limit; maintain tranquillity in the center” — Lao Tzu
In other words immerse oneself in a state of tranquillity. It is the basic of basics that one be able to keep a peaceful mind. To be able to remain in a state of deep tranquillity is a prerequisite to attaining higher qigong states, and it is the core of practice.
The first consideration is whether we can achieve that state of tranquillity. Practically every practitioner has come across this or that difficulty, or had this experience or that attainment. For beginners, it is always difficult to relax and quiet down. This may not be a problem for someone who has a more receptive mind and whose body naturally relaxes when the mind quiets down. But for most beginners, it is very difficult to quiet one’s thoughts and relax the body. They usually need to relax their bodies before their minds can calm down.
Then, how can we enter this tranquil state? Handed down from a long time ago is a qigong saying: “substitute ten thousand thoughts with one.” It is so basic that to practice any qigong forms or routines, particularly in the elementary and intermediate stages, no one can expect to go anywhere if it is not first achieved.
What exactly is “substituting ten thousand thoughts with one”? How do we do it? Following are some answers.
First is to adjust the body. This applies to the general meditation routines, including standing and sitting meditation. While either standing or sitting, try to loosen up your body‐muscle, blood circulation, bones and countenance. When each and every organ in your body is relaxed, your mind will naturally follow. This method is easy to do and is efficacious to many. Someone who has never done qigong training should first ease off the forehead, then the eyes, and feel the effect; next loosen up the whole body, from head to heel, inside out, and untighten the muscles until there is nothing between the bones and the muscles. Little by little, the mind also quiets down.
Second is to control one’s breathing. There are quite a few breathing exercises and many books are available about methods that can be used.You can adopt any kind of breathing method as long as it helps you relax and is also convenient for you. Although there are various levels of breathing control, general practitioners should only be concerned with convenience.
Third, focus attention on certain body parts; for example, concentrate on the dantien point. This point of concentration replaces all others and gradually one enters tranquillity.
Fourth, try chanting mantras.This is essential fort he Buddhist Pure Land qigong, which teaches no other methods other than chanting the mantra, “Nammo Amida Buddha.” You can do it in silence, or in a low voice. After chanting this mantra day in and day out, you will do it without any conscious effort, even with out uttering the sound. You can walk on the street or do other things, yet the rhythm of the mantra has become so instilled in your consciousness that the sound, audible or not , produces its effect. There is no mystery in Buddhist mantras or other incantations; they simply substitute endless thoughts with the singleness of mantra recitation.
For example,say you are talking to an old country woman. It would be quite irrelevant if you try to teach her all about qigong theory.All you need to do is tell her to chant “Nammo Amida Buddha,” and after chanting thousands and thousands of times she will have the blessings of both spiritual wellness and physical health.Chances are she will be so immersed in the mantra that all other thoughts are dispelled and she will have achieved the desired tranquillity. She has no more worries and her health is regained. As a result, her family benefits and that is a blessing.
Fifth, concentrate on the routine. Different schools of qigong teach different routines, which are sets of body movements, together with regulated circulation of qi, the energy, and point of attention. Some schools stress the importance of the mind. Others claim that mind plays no part in their practice.
Right now in China, Fragrance Qigong is very popular.Many practitioners of this style claim that it is good to practice Fragrance routine because it involves no mind. It is simple and effective. Normally I make no comments on the alleged pros and cons of various styles of qigong. Yet in this case, when one does such routines as Phoenix Nodding, Dragon Tail, or Bodhidharma Rowing, one certainly gets some idea of the meaning of such titles. What is in your mind when such phrases flash by? That is a thought‐ a good one, though. Also, it seems to be pure movement without thought when you are doing the routines. Nonetheless, the act of doing movements contains thought,a single-pointed thought that dispels all others. This is yet another example of “substituting ten thousand thoughts with one.”
I must be honest and say that all the popular forms of qigong are not high level ones. Advanced qigong routines are generally transmitted in encoded forms by the masters. Regardless, even these popular forms and routines simply will be of no use if they ignore the function of the mind.
I will give another example to make my point. Kong Jing qigong also emphasizes pure movements. It equates its routines with the circulation system of the human body; for example, the movement of each finger corresponds to a specific blood vessel. Its movements can cause strong energy flow in the body. Again, it claims that mind has nothing to do with the movements.But even so, one needs to concentrate on the motions to be able to practice well, which is not different from concentrating on the meridian points. All in all, these simple routines are easy to follow and offer a good start for beginning students.
For every qigong form, especially on the elementary and intermediate levels, the most fundamental issue is to be able to enter deep relaxation and direct your mind to a single point of attention instead of being swamped with myriad thoughts. I hope to open a clearer way of looking at the different forms and moves of qigong, and to facilitate your practice. Such understanding will also help you gradually and naturally find the way that fits your individual needs. Better yet, you may be able to come up with ways that can help you relax faster.
A lot of qigong movements have interesting names, such as those we mentioned earlier and others like Holding the Sun and Moon, Embracing the Universe, Standing on Snow Mountain, and so forth. They all connote some positive message, which infuses the practitioner with a certain psychological association. Imagining traveling through the infinite light of the universe or imagining being totally transparent can certainly help with one’s understanding of the movements. Therefore we can see the purpose of these titles. Would you like a movement that is named A Mouse Crossing the Street? I think not.
The next thing to do is desist thinking, which means in the process of quieting down, cease any thought the moment it emerges, instead of letting it run wild. Usually the mind will pop up with new ones,and it is important to halt each one as soon as it arises. Before long, you will acquire the ability to shut out any unwanted thoughts, and eventually you will be able to do it without ever being conscious of the process.This is the high level you should seek. Again, it is to “substitute ten thousand thoughts with a single one.” The single thought is used as a means to halt the ten thousand thoughts.
The last step is to “conquer without conquering.” You can read about this in the Buddhist Diamond Sutra. What does it mean? Say you are agitated, and your mind just will not calm down. What can you do? Just ignore it. Yield to it. Make no effort to subdue it. In the long run,the mind will surrender it self, and thus you have conquered your mind without conquering. This is also of a higher nature, which is more difficult to attain.
When you try to quiet down, your mind is unlikely to cooperate readily. It churns out all kinds of thoughts. At such a moment, you need to sit quietly, trying to figure out where your “true self” hides. Through the eye of your true self, try to observe your mind. It may run in every direction, but your true self can manage it. In due course, you will enter a state of deep meditation despite the resistance of your surface mind. The deep tranquillity and the surface flow of thoughts can co-exist. However, your original mind remains undisturbed even when thought seems to be still flowing on the surface. This state of mind is of a much higher level.
The Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui Neng, once said, “I myself possess no talent, but I never cease thinking.” What he meant was that amidst the turmoil of mind activities, his true mind remains peacefully undisturbed. Just like the ocean in the storm ‐ underneath the surges, it remains calm and serene.
We have discussed the seven ways of achieving tranquillity. Once you are able to make them thoroughly your own, all the mysteries of qigong will become clear. Why is it that calligraphy can help you enter tranquillity? Before starting to use the brush, you wash your hands, dust the desk and lay down the paper. In the old times, people also lit incense. You then sit straight and hold your brush. Now you concentrate on one thing only ‐ doing your calligraphy well. That’s it! The numerous thoughts are now replaced by only this single one, and you easily enter the state of qi.
By experiencing, we mean that when you are practicing qigong, try not to involve any intellectual analysis. Forget all that you have learned and known. Of course, when you are not doing the routines, you should learn as much as possible about qigong theory. Think about it. Talk about it yourself. Listen to others talk about it.Turn it over in your mind.Try to understand it.But when you are doing the routines, think of nothing. No theory. Instead, experience every movement.
This perspective may not be shared by some practitioners. That is all right. Even so, try not to think too much. Just keep it in mind. Sooner or later you will experience its meaning. If not,keep on and it will sink in.It is most important to experience with your heart and with your soul.
In qigong practice, “nothingness” cannot be overstressed. We need to set aside all our attachments to levels and achievements, even to qigong itself. “Nothingness” is really a transcendental state, a natural state of being. For instance, a group of people gathers together. Somebody in charge tells them not to stand too close, sothey quickly disperse. Now the person in charge asks them to please stand more naturally, and everybody begins to assume a more natural posture. They probably did not realize that the way they stood before making the adjustment was the most natural, since nobody was conscious of it. As soon as they were reminded to “be natural,” the spontaneity was lost.
The moment of spontaneous posing can be referred to as “nothingness,” the most natural state of being. It is also analogous to our qigong practice. You do not have to be too fastidious about each move. Just try to relax. Flow through it.
I have gone into great length on this topic in the previous section so I won’t repeat myself.
While we maintain an empty state of mind, our bodies undergo certain changes. They are involuntary. I will not go into details since that may create certain visions, which may be come a hindrance in our practice and lead us astray.
Just pay attention to the changes that take place in the state of pure emptiness, that moment of divine inspiration.
No matter what school of qigong we follow, it is essential that we experience its origin. The same is true with looking at our world: go beyond the surface, the image,and the perception until you get to its origin.
A book is produced with paper. The paper is made of trees, straw or other materials. The trees and straw are grown in nature. Nature forms part of our universe. And where does the universe come from? On and on we reflect on the original state of our world. In the qigong state, we can often experience miraculous phenomena.
Let me first show you an experiment that can be done during mediation. As soon as you calm down, try to imagine that you can see the meridian points in your body. Some of you may be able to actually look inward and see the channels. When the images of these points appear, imagine again that all the points in your body are open and connected. If you keep on visualizing, your body will experience certain changes. You then imagine that not only your body organs are linked, but your mind and body are connected, too. Through this experiment, you may experience the wonder of qigong.
My research tells me that whenever our minds are blocked, our bodies will be affected by the blockage as well. When you are caught in a difficult situation,you may pull al ong face. Don’t think it is just your face showing the anxiety; your entire body also is burdened. If you ease off your facial muscles, your look will be relaxed and your body will in turn loosen up. Life is a material form of interrelations.Your facial expression is connected with your body organs.
It is known in modern medicine that through a single hair we can know the health of a person. Similarly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine,the ear-acupuncture therapy, with needles applied to one’s ears, can cure ailments in other body organs, for example.
When your brows are knitted because of worry, not only is your body knitted, but your internal organs are also tightened into knots. We often use such phrases as”my heart was in my mouth ,” ” it makes my blood curdle,” “ it delights the cockles of my heart,” and so forth. These are not just descriptive terms. They relate to certain body and mental states. When a person is fearful, his face shows it. His heart also feels the dread. On the other hand, when a person is serene, not only his facial expression tells it but his body feels the peace as well. We need to observe and understand our body-mind relations.
In my work, The Decoding of Human Metaphysical Phenomena, I wrote that “our facial expression is our transient and changeable physiognomy which is in turn our permanent and fixed facial expression.”
A person may be born with a good looking face, but if he or she has been over burdened by the hardships of life , then gradually the look becomes one of distress. A sad face does not look nice. Sometimes the genes may carry it to the next generation.
When you feel mentally distressed, your digestive system may also suffer. Stomach disease, indigestion, and distress are all related. Long term depression may lead to heart ailments. This is now common medical knowledge.
Pay special attention to keeping a peaceful mind. When practicing, signal your self to open up, to connect every artery and channel of your body.
To be one with the universe is the ultimate state of qigong. Many qigong guidelines tell us to merge ourselves with heaven and earth, be in harmony with man and universe, and embrace the cosmos. These are some basic principles of qigong practice. However, at higher levels of practice things may be different.
These guide lines are a good way to initiate practitioners into qigong. On the other hand, their over emphasis can be paradoxical. It may become a subjective desire rather than the actual experience, which can lead to illusions. It is important that we reach a state of pure harmony with the universe through our own practice and experience. Do not rely on what the masters say or what the books say. We need to experience this by ourselves.
To be compassionate and loving means that we should be kind to everything and everyone. Those who have a kind heart can be close to the state of qigong even without practicing. On the contrary, a person who always harbors unkind thoughts may find it extremely hard to do well even with incessant practice.
From a macro viewpoint, compassion and love form the psychological mainstay in our daily lives as we practice qigong. Of course, for a compassionate and loving person, there will be unavoidable moments of trouble, suffering, anger, or narrow‐mindedness. It is perfectly understandable and we should not be overcritical.
Say for example a person gave some much needed assistance to an old man who is in a life threatening situation; the giver would feel very happy and in a good state of mind. If he did his qigong routines at such a time, the effect would be very good, too. He may have a marvelous experience. On the contrary,if aperson was engaged in something shady and then did his routines, a negative effect could result.
To be compassionate and loving enables us to better receive energy from the universe. Vicious thoughts make us out of sorts with our environment, hence attracting negative energy. Being compassionate and loving is not only a psychological requirement but also a basic practicing skill.
The concept of harmony should be understood in the context of qigong. It does not mean that we should not fight against the evils in our daily life.
To maintain harmony is more than what etiquette requires in our speech and in how we deal with people. More importantly, we need it in our qigong practice. Maintaining harmony all around us is in itself a state of being. In Chinese language, harmony contains the meaning “soothing the qi.” Cultivate harmony with your‐self and the universe. When you are in harmony with heaven, the earth and all beings, you harmonize the various life forces into yourself. Try to experience it , feel it and understand it.
While in a group,an adept qigong practitioner can immediately sense from its energy field whether the group is in accord. When we detect disharmony, then we do our best to bring back the harmony, to synchronize the energy flow. It is a way to practice and improve oneself. If a practitioner diffuses discord everywhere, he causes pain. He is then far away from his goal of maintaining harmony.
“Man models himself on the Earth; The Earth models itself on Heaven; Heaven models it‐self on the Way; And the Way models itself on that which is so on its own.” — Lao Tzu
This means man should observe the ordinance of heaven and earth, while heaven and earth operate on the laws of the cosmos, and the cosmos complies with the principles of the Tao. Ultimately, the Tao follows the prescript of nature.
Following nature is the ultimate achievement of qigong. Model ourselves on that which is so on its own. Accept and take whatever is natural.
Reference: The Essence of Qigong By Ke Yun Lun
p. 53 – 63
by Gong Lihui 2012
Breathing practice is one of the important exercises in practicing Health Qigong. Only when the exerciser is aware of the importance of breathing, using the correct breathing posture with right methods to make the most of breathing, can he learn Health Qigong well and reach the goal of dispelling diseases and strengthening his body.
Breathing is an Important Part of Health Qigong
Health Qigong is a traditional Chinese physical exercise, the movements of which mainly combine exerciser’s body movement, breathing and psychological regulation together. Health Qigong is characterized by its breathing exercise, which makes it fundamentally different from other physical exercises. In a sense, Health Qigong is the practice of inhaling and exhaling. Therefore, before practicing Health Qigong, one should be clear about the importance of breathing, and take it as a key exercise in Health Qigong.
The Breathing of Health Qigong is an Active One
Different from our normal breathing, which is inborn, instinctive, automatic and unconscious, the breathing of Health Qigong is active, conscious and can be regulated by the exerciser. The instinctive breathing of human beings is controlled by nervous centralis in lower brain stem such as medulla, mesocephalon, and spinal marrow. The breathing regulated by Health Qigong is controlled by the upper brain respiratory center like cerebral cortex. These two control centers are totally independent. And this is the difference between the kind of breathing system and some biological systems controlled by automatic nerves, such as cardiovascular system, digestive system and endocrine system. Health Qigong is just based on the regulatory subjective awareness of the breathing system. By making full use of this regulatory subjective awareness of the breathing system and through conscious practice, Health Qigong helps one regulate and strengthen his breathing activity in a scientific way, facilitate the flow of one’s qi and blood so as to achieve the aim of dispelling illness and keeping fit.
Breathing Regulation is the Central Link of the “Three Regulations”
The regulations of body movement, breathing and psychology are the three elements of Health Qigong, which are also known as “three regulations”. The regulation of body movement means adjusting the figure and posture of body to make it suitable and relaxed to do the practice. Breathing regulating means adjusting the rhythm of breath, making it flow naturally to promote blood circulation and massage internal organs, meridian and collateral. Psychological regulation means adjusting one’s mental activities through eliminating distractions to improve the practice effect. The regulation of body movement is the premise; the breathing regulation is the core, dominating the other two; and psychological regulation is the guarantee and is subordinate to breathing practice. The three regulations are interrelated, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. They combine with each other organically and none of them is dispensable. As ancient people put it, “without correct body movement, your qi will not flow well. Without a well flow of qi, your mind will get no peace. Without peace in mind, you will have your qi decentralized.” Only when your spirit and body harmoniously combine together, can qi flow smoothly inside your body, thus achieving the effect of keeping in good health.
Breathing Makes Health Qigong Safe and Effective
Breathing is the Key to Keep Vitality
According to the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, “the qi between heaven and the earth keeps a man alive.” “Men live by the qi between heaven and the earth according to the law of four seasons” (Su Wen• Bao Ming Quan Xing); “qi is the foundation of human beings” (Nan Jing • Ba Nan); “Everything in the universe relies on qi.”(Lei Jing • She Sheng Lei); “Human beings live with qi, and qi is inside one’s body. None can live without QI.”(Pao Pu Zi by Ge Hong in the Jin Dynasty). All these sayings show that “qi” is the living root of human beings and every other thing in the universe. Qi is the way how life exists. With good qi, one can keep fit; otherwise, one will get disease. Without qi, one would die. The end of breath means the end of life.
The theory of traditional Chinese medicine also believes that genuine qi, the qi inside one’s body, is consisted of source qi, ancestral qi, nutrient qi and defense qi. Source qi is the intrinsic qi, which is the qi of kidney. Nutrient qi is made of the qi generated from digesting food and water; it is the nutrient qi that moves through blood and across five internal organs. defense qi is generated from the qi of water and food, running outside the veins and across the skin; it is defense qi that protect one from disease. ancestral qi is the qi one takes from nature; it is breathed into one’s lung and heart, promoting the movement of nutrient qi and defense qi. This is to say that ancestral qi, which comes from the breath, is the fundamental drive to maintain one’s life. This is where the medical science of keeping fit lies by using breathing to guide qi and blood flow.
Breathing Helps One Keep Healthy
Talking about learning Health Qigong, some people will ask, “Is it safe? Can you feel the qi?” People raise such questions because some exercisers of Qigong suffered instead of gaining health because of their misbehaviors during practice. Therefore, they do not dare to practice Qigong any more.
The feel about qi is the feeling exercisers sensed about the movement and concentration of qi and blood inside their bodies. Only when exercisers have practiced Health Qigong to a certain level and only when there are abundant qi and blood inside their bodies with smooth meridian and collateral and high concentration, can they have this feeling of qi. Ignoring assiduous and hard practice, trying to find a short-cut way to keep fit and just pursuing the feeling of qi will do no good to one’s health. In the past, some people got hurt during the practice of Health Qigong, mainly because they ignored the dominant position of breathing and only pursued the feeling of qi.
Since 2003, the GASC Health Qigong Administration Center has successively introduced four sets of methods to practice Health Qigong, that is, Yi Jin Jing，Wu Qin Xi，Liu Zi Jue，Ba Duan Jin, and five new sets of methods, that is Health Qigong • Da Wu, Mawangdui Daoyin Shu, Shi Er Duan Jin, Dao yin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa and Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang. These methods have absorbed the essence of traditional Chinese Qigong methods, basing on Chinese and Western medicine, physical exercise and related modern scientific theories, and have established the core position of breathing regulation among three regulations. These methods are not only scientific, effective, with diversified types, but also easy to learn and can effectively prevent improper practice and safety risks.
The Breathing Methods of Health Qigong
The Categories of Breathing
Health Qigong is a physical exercise focusing on breathing practice. Therefore, one must thoroughly understand and master different methods of breathing and practicing tips. The breathing of Health Qigong has two basic methods. One is thoracic breathing，that is natural breathing. The other is abdominal breathing, which can be further divided into smooth abdominal breathing and reverse abdominal breathing. And reverse abdominal breathing can be divided into loose anal reverse abdominal breathing and levator anti reverse abdominal breathing.
The natural breathing used in Health Qigong is almost the same as people’s instinctively natural breathing. The two breathing styles are all relaxed, natural, with exerciser’s chest rising up and down at a relatively higher rate, and his defense has the slightest movement. The difference between these two breathing styles is that the breathing rate of Health Qigong is relatively slower, and it has to change according to the body movements, and between inhaling and exhaling there are transitional movements such as breath-hold and pause, which is completely absent under the instinctive state of natural breathing.
When the exerciser uses abdominal breathing, his abdomen will rise up and down with the breathing rhythm, and at the same time, his chest will also expand and contract. Smooth abdominal breathing means exerciser’s abdomen is adducted when he inhales, and bulged when he exhales. On the contrary, if exerciser’s abdomen is adducted when he exhales, and bulged when he inhales, he is doing reverse abdominal breathing. What’s more, if his muscles of the anus and perineum get loose when he inhales, he is using loose anal reverse abdominal breathing; if his anus and perineum muscles tighten up when he inhales, he is using the levator anti reverse abdominal breathing.
Basic Exercise and Requirements of Breathing
The breathing of Health Qigong, regardless of its styles, is made up by four movements: inhale, exhale, breath holding and breath pause. When you inhale, holding the air you breathe in for a very short time is called breath holding; when you exhale, stopping your breathe temporarily is called breathing pause. An inhalation and an exhalation make up a breath. A breath must include one inhale and one exhale, but not every breath must include breath holding and breath pause. Breath holding and breath pause should be practiced in a flexible way according to needs of body movements such as when you stretch your limbs with tension, lift or twist your body, and when you want to have a rest or relax yourself. According to ancient people, “improper exhale of breath and breath pause would do harm to one’s health.” Therefore, your inhale and exhale should go slowly and smoothly, without straining yourself by inhaling too much air and exhale all you have. Breath holding and breath pause should also be practiced in a gentle way. Doing this for too long or with too much force is not good for your health.
Breathing is usually done by inhaling and exhaling through nose. For those with needs to make sound, such as the Health Qigong • Liu Zi Jue and Three Plates Falling on the Floor in Yi Jin Jing, the exerciser should inhale through nose and exhale through mouth. As an energy-saving and low-oxygen physical exercise, Health Qigong will help exercisers gradually develop a deep and fine breathing style, with their breathing rate dropping from 16 to 18 times per minute (the normal rate for natural breathing) to 5 to 6 times per minute. However, this must be a gradual process of practicing, and the exerciser should not hurry and rush to next stages. Otherwise there will be three uncomfortable responses, that is “wind response”(with sound in your breath), “puff response”(breathing without sound but feel stagnating and dry in your nose) and “gasp response”(with your nose flapping). These will do no good to your health, but also will upset you and reduce the effect of exercise.
The basic requirements of Health Qigong for breathing is that when practicing the thoracic breathing, the exerciser should breathe according to his body movement, naturally and gently in a coordinated way without gasp or stagnation; when practicing the abdominal breathing, the exerciser should keep his movement and breath in line with each other, with gentle movement and deep breath, guiding every breath to his navel. No matter which method the exerciser adopts, he should let his body movement guide his breath, and let the breath flow all over his body, reaching the goal of harmonizing both the outside body and inside breath in the end. The basic law to keep body movement and breath in line with each other is to inhale when one starts, to exhale when one finishes, inhale first and exhale latter, inhale to store qi, and exhale to deliver air. Exercisers should follow this law instead of practicing against it. Otherwise, the exerciser will feel uncomfortable such as suppressed in his chest, be short of breath, oppressed in heart and palpitate.
The Similarities and Differences between 9 Breathing Methods
Health Qigong has four breathing methods and five new methods. All breathing styles are determined by the characteristics of each method, which generally can be divided into the following three types.
Using One Kind of Breathing from the Very Beginning to the End
This type can be further divided into another two styles; one is using natural breathing from the very beginning to the end, for example, Health Qigong • Yi Jin Jing and Da Wu. Since this method involves very big body movement with complicated changes, excessive pursuit of deep and fine breath will result in “wind” “puff” and “gasp” responses. Therefore, natural breathing is required through the very beginning to the end. Only in this way can body movement and breath always become gentle and coordinated.
Another style is using abdominal breathing from the very beginning to the end, such as the Health Qigong • Liu Zi Jue and Dao yin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa. Dao yin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa uses smooth abdominal breathing from the very beginning to the end, keeping body movement and breath in line with each other, with gentle movement and deep breath, guiding every breath to the navel like divine turtle breathing. The Health Qigong • Liu Zi Jue uses reverse abdominal breathing throughout the whole process, which is the only one out of the nine methods that specifically focuses on inhale and exhale exercises. From the very beginning to the end, the exerciser inhales through nose and exhales through his mouth, and at the same time making a sound (one can also only exhale without making any sound after he is very skilled in this practice), paying attention to the deep and fine breathing.
Gradually Transition from One Method to Anther
This type of method means the exerciser starts from the natural breathing, and latter gradually transits to abdominal breathing, mainly including Health Qigong •·Ba Duan Jin, Mawangdui Daoyin Shu, Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang these three methods. Ba Duan Jin and Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang require using natural breathing at the beginning stage and gradually transiting to abdominal breathing as his body movement is more skillful and get into a higher practicing level. Mawangdui Daoyin Shu requires exercisers use natural breathing as a base, letting the body movement guide the breath, using his mind to guide the flow of breath inside his body, and finally harmonizing both the body movement and breath. In this way, his body will become gentle. As the body movements such as pitching, reversing, lifting, landing and folding intensify, his breath will become more deep and fine. Then his breathing will transit to abdominal breathing. The difference between the two is that Ba Duan Jin and Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang begin from natural breathing; and transit to abdominal breathing when the movement gets more skillful, while the Mawangdui Daoyin Shu is based on natural breathing, and transits to abdominal breathing with the intensification of body movement.
Frequent Transition between Different Breathing Methods
This type of breathing includes natural breathing, smooth abdominal breathing, reverse abdominal breathing, levator anti breathing and so on, with Health Qigong·• Wu Qin Xi, and Shi Er Duan Jin as two main methods. The transition between different breathing styles doesn’t need to follow any fixed order, and it changes according to the needs and changes of body movements in different practicing methods. In Wu Qin Xi, the body movements of “colliding with the antlers” and “picking fruit” use natural breathing; “seizing the prey ” and “stretch upward” use smooth abdominal breathing, and other six movements use reverse abdominal breathing, among which only “lifting the monkey’s paws” uses reverse abdominal breathing plus levator ani breathing. In Shi Er Duan Jin, “Ming Xin Wo Gu”,“Kou Chi Ming Gu”, “Yao Shen Huang Hai” and “Bei Mo Jing Men” use natural breathing; “Wen Xu Ji Lun” uses smooth abdominal breathing, and the other seven movements use reverse abdominal breathing plus levator anti breathing. No matter what kind of breathing the exerciser adopts, he should relax himself without suppressing his breath. And it is better to inhale and exhale neither too fast nor too slow. By using different breathing methods, the exerciser can regulate the qi and blood in five internal organs, dredge the meridian of his body and reach the effect of physical fitness.
Three Stages of Breathing Exercise
The Initial Stage of Unregulated Natural Breathing
Beginners of Health Qigong can use people’s instinctive natural breathing without subjective control to focus on learning body movement instead of breathing exercise. In this way, exercisers can not only grasp the tips of each movement quickly, but also can keep a smooth and stable breathing. The natural breathing of most people is thoracic breathing, and a small number of people who have received special training can also use natural abdominal breathing. Mankind used abdominal breathing in their early evolution period as natural breathing. After mankind evolved to homo erectus, their lungs rose up and expanded, thus changing from natural abdominal breathing to natural thoracic breathing. New-born babies usually use abdominal breathing at first and slowly change into thoracic breathing. This phenomenon confirms this evolution pattern of human breathing.
The natural breathing of Health Qigong and the completely instinctive natural breathing are not the same. The initial stage of natural breathing naturally follow the principle of letting body movement guide breath, and letting the breath flow all over his body, inhaling when one starts, exhaling when one finishes. This kind of breathing can also be reached naturally by following the body movements. And inhale, exhale, breath holding and pause can also be automatically applied. The basic characteristic of the initial stage of breathing is breathing naturally without any control.
The Intermediate Stage Focusing on Self-regulated Abdominal Breathing
At the intermediate stage, all the nine methods of Health Qigong, except Yi Jin Jing and Da Wu, require exercisers to transit from using natural thoracic breathing to automatic abdominal breathing. At this stage, breathing has changed from the laissez-faire state of unconsciousness back to the central role of subjective concern, with the breathing method shifting from thoracic breathing to abdominal breathing. The depth of breath has been greatly increased, and the amount of oxygen exchange doubled. Breathing slowly becomes deep and stable, with the breathing rate falling, getting closer and closer to 5-6 times per minute.
Health Qigong • Yi Jin Jing and Da Wu, using natural breathing from the beginning to the end, also intensify the breathing in the intermediate stage, with internal mind and external body harmonize with each other, the breath flow throughout the whole body and the dominant role of breathing increasingly strengthened. At this stage, the focus of the mental activities shift from body movement to breathing, with every the slightest attention concentrated on breathing. It gradually shows that the body movement serves to breathing. As breathing is intensified, and oxygen is fully exchanged, the regulation and protection effects of breathing towards qi inside one’s body and the five internal organs will become more apparent. As the ancient practice formulas put it, “exhale slowly, and inhale deeply, the inborn qi will be spurred by the cultivated qi.” At this stage, the health effects brought about by Health Qigong will become increasingly apparent. The basic characteristic of breath in the intermediate stage is the “self-regulation”.
The Advanced Stage Focusing on Breathing with Automatic Frequency
At the advanced stage, breathing with automatic frequency is used. It mainly uses abdominal breathing, but can freely switch between a myriad of breathing methods and automatically adjust the breathing rhythm. The human body is a most sophisticated, harmonious, efficient, and automated organism, owning the most perfect self-regulating mechanism that can help the body adapt to various complex environments and maintain a variety of states function well. In the intermediate stage, the self-regulation of breathing is a supplementation and reinforcement to body’s auto-regulation mechanism. This kind of supplementation and reinforcement is very necessary and very useful when one gets sick or is in the state of sub-health, or when the automatic regulation system inside one’s body is imbalanced or lack momentum. But when the automatic regulation system inside one’s body functions well enough, this kind of supplementation and reinforcement is redundant and unnecessary, which may even become unharmonious regulation. Therefore, at the advanced stage, exercisers should breathe naturally, shifting self-regulated breathing back to natural breathing without any regulation.
However, this kind of shifting back is not retrogressive, but a return leaping to a more advanced stage. It is a return looking like the previous one but with totally different nature. It is the negation of negation, a wave-forward progress and upward spiral. The breathing at this stage without regulation does not mean breathing as you like, but breathing naturally, following the whole condition and shifting between various breathing methods. Its rhythm rate may change at random, with body, breath and mind perfectly combined together. The exerciser’s subjective intention is completely in line with the automatic regulation rhythm of the body. Therefore, practicing Health Qigong has become a process of automatically keeping fit and intensification of the body mechanism under the guidance of subjective intention. The basic characteristic of the advanced stage of breathing is “breathing with automatic frequency”.
All in all, those who know the importance of breathing, the key aspect in practicing Health Qigong, have mastered the core skill of the breathing, and give full play to the role of breath regulation, will enjoy greater benefit with less effort.
Reference: Breathing Methods and Practice Tips of Health Qigong jsqg.sport.org.cn
by Zhang Mingliang & Cheng Yunhua
When people begin to learn Health Qigong，many people may wonder that why the movements of Health Qigong is always slower than other exercises. Many exercisers who have practiced for many years may come to realize that why they feel comfortable when they exercise slowly. In fact, Practicing Health Qigong is a process which is marked by “slowness, pause, flexibility and observation”. We may discuss it hereon in four aspects as well.
Visually, the slowness in practicing Health Qigong Is mainly refers to moving slowly, which is the outstanding feature that Health Qigong is different from other exercises. Traditional Chinese Health Qigong and the theories of life nourishing of TCM believes that the human body is a single whole. It is composed of three parts, one of which is the visible body and the other two are invisible Qi and mind. The body is visual and QI can also be experienced by breathing. Mind may understand by insight only and be difficult to express, but everyone can sense its existence. If we experience the motion speed of the body, Qi and Mind, we can easily find that mind is the fastest (having one’s head in the clouds, which may change quickly), the body is faster (the movements is controlled by the mind and they can be fast and be slow), Qi is the slowest (Qi moves in the meridians of the body at an inherent speed).
As we all know, the goal of practice is to “three regulations”: regulating the body, regulating of breathing and regulating the mind. The high level of practice is the unity of the three. The motion speed of the three should be about the same to achieve the unity. Because the speed of breath cannot be changed, then we can only change the speed of the body and mind. Hence, the exercisers should find a way to slow down the mind (calm down) and the movements (be relaxed). So slowness is an important means of practice. Therefore, judging from the nine sets of Health Qigong which is promoted successively by the Health Qigong Management Center of the State Sports General Administration, the “slowness” is their common feature and the moving speed of the recent five sets of exercises are much slower than that of the previous four sets. Leading the students, I have performed Health Qigong•Da Wu with the music “See steppe with you”, which is praise for its grace, stretch and presence of mind.
When people practice the nine sets of Qigong, a lot of movements should be exercised slowly or even pause. The most obvious one is the Health Qigong `Liu Zi Jue, in which there are short pauses after almost every action set. In general, the action is always faster than the breath. The ancients said: when people Breathe out breathe in, Qi goes six inches (equal with the height of a person). And the range is much greater when people move and exercise. So sometimes we need pause slightly and wait for the intersection of the breath. For example: there are many short pauses that have been marked in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, Ba Duan Jin, Shi Er Duan Jin, Da Wu etc. Although the pauses are not specified in some stances, there also are short pauses after every action set in general. If the exercisers do not understand the mysteries in them and move fast and versatilely, it would come to naught. Therefore, no matter what exercises we practice, we had better know that where we should pause, what changes of breath after pause in practice and what kind of effect it has achieved after a long time.
Maybe the beginners are too late to comprehend because they are eager to be familiar with the routine, then if the skilled exercisers are not good at summing up the experience, or even always imitate others. It is really a waste of time to exercise.
What should be indicated hereby is that the pause is just a short time pause of movement, but the breath did not stop. Thus “be continuous” that we demand in the practice, mainly refers to the breath. Although the routine is paused, the breath is still continuous.
The so-called “flexibility” mainly refers to that the movements should be stretch and flexible, but not stiff. After standing up, the human brain is smarter, but it has also paid a price and the spinal column did bending deformation. So many movements in the routines of Qigong are intended to stretch the tendons and pull the bones to facilitate the flow of blood and Qi. Sometimes reverse movements are needed distinguishingly to be corrected.
“Two points stretching method” will be introduced here. For example: When standing, you can imagine that the head stand up to the heaven and the feet grab the earth, then head and feet are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint; Another example: When both hands flat on the formation of a Chinese character “Da”, you can imagine the left and right hands are toward the most distant places, then the middle finger of the right hand and left hand are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint; Another example is the stretch waist stance in Health Qigong•Da Wu, the body bend forward about 45 degrees, put the palms together and stretch out forward and upward until the inner sides of the upper arm is near the ears. Meanwhile, coordinating with inhale, the heels go backward and downward, then the middle fingertips of the palms and the heels are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint. Next, the arms continue to move to the top of the extension, the heels lift and the soles grip the earth, then the middle fingertips of the palms and the soles are also the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint. There are many similar movements in the nine sets of Qigong exercises and we will not list all of them here.
What should be noted is that not all movements require the “two points stretching method”. We stress that alternating tension with relaxation in practice and the tension is just in the short time pause, the followed relaxation can facilitate the flow of blood and Qi better. In the state of relaxation, the arms stretched as cylindrical arc and the moving route is also cylindrical arc, which embodies the feature of the stance e.g. loose, round, soft, flexible, graceful and stretch. “Exercises practice in a flexible way and achieve success finally.” Therefore, the range of movements is very large, which includes not only “straight” but also” round”.
Just as its name suggests, the notes of “observation“ in Xinhua Dictionary is view (observation, sightseeing); the scene (spectacle, spectacularity) people viewed; the understanding and views (viewpoints, ideas) of things; abbey (Taoist temple). The “concept” we discuss in this text only means “observation”, and “looking on” with imposing conditions.
After we practice for a long time and with proper methods, we will experience the feelings: “air-feeling” and “insight” etc. The more obvious and common feeling is “air-feeling”, and sometimes the exercisers feel throbbing, sore, numb and ache in the points that Qi flows in the meridian. At this time, if the practitioners did not have enough skill to regulate, they can simply look on and let these feelings in the body sweep over quickly. Heart is like a mirror. Just let the feelings go away and the exercisers need not bother to worry or command. Otherwise, people may deviate and possessed by the Devil. However, having feelings is better than no feeling. An important reward resulted from the progress of practice is that exercisers are more sensitive to their bodies and are able to observe the blood flow of their own, in order to facilitate us to adjust the method in practice.
“Observation” means observing the inside of the body. The practitioners who have been practicing for a long time can experience a sense of quiet. For example: there are movements, such as holding upward and falling, in the closing forms of most of the stances. While holding upward, hold both hands with both arms in the shape of arc and coordinate with the breath, exercisers can observe that the fresh air that we breathe in meet the Qi from cinnabar field of the human body in the chest. . While falling, then just breath and both hands free fall effortlessly. Coordinating with omphaloskepsis, the gas in the chest also comes down to the cinnabar field.
What should be noted is that the beginners had better practice in the order of “three regulations” first, namely regulating the body (doing body movements), regulating of breathing (coordinating with breath), then regulating the minds (considering appropriate ideas), and finally achieve the unity of the three.
In fact, the beginners just practice it under the correct guidance of teaching books and CD-ROM or the masters and eliminate the distractions, rather than thinking over too much. Practice must be harvested.
In conclusion, “slowness, Pause, flexibility and observation” is the effective routine in practicing the Health Qigong. As long as we practice and digest constantly, the skill that we practice will be improved a lot.
with Robert Peng
The Dao is nonaction, yet nothing is left undone.
Purity of mind does not come from knowledge and wisdom.
What is knowledge? What is purity?
Knowlegde is to give up all wisdom. Purity is to be empty in going along.
Going along, not following: this is pervasion of mind.
Pervade the One and all affairs are done!
The One is the root, affairs are the gate.
When affairs return to the One, the One is always there.
From Annotated Mysterious Pearly Mirror of the Mind by Jiao Shaoxuan
Reference: Sitting in Oblivion by Liva Kohn 2010 p.66