Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Qigong

Hu Xiaofei; Beijing Sport University

What are Inverted-Sequence Exercises

Inverted-sequence exercises refer to exercises like handstand, crawling, backward walking, and barefoot walking. These exercises provide body-strengthening, health-improving, and disease-removing effects for which they are deeply welcomed by people. Inverted-sequence exercises were carried out in our country as early as the ancient times. Various forms of inverted-sequence exercises were included in “Wu Qin Xi” composed by Hua Tuo in the Han Dynasty and recorded in Daoyin Illustrative Plates unearthed from Mawangdui and General Treatise on the Cause and Symptoms of Diseases written by Chao Yuanfang in the Sui Dynasty. These exercises not only provided guarantee for the health and longevity of our ancestors with their body-strengthening and health-improving efficacy, but also played an important role in the life, multiplication, and evolution of the Chinese Nation with their unique biological efficacy. And inverted-sequence exercises are easy to practice and deserve to be popularized.

Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Health Qigong

Health Qigong exercises are based on theories of bionics. And man is the most fully-evolved and advanced creature in the biological world having many habits and body postures that are quite contrary to those of animals. This result in many inverted-sequence exercises in Health Qigong, such as “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber”, “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, in “Swinging the Tail” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, “Tiger Exercise”, “Deer Exercise”, “Bear Exercise”, “Ape Exercise”, and “Bird Exercise” in Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, “Hiding the Head and Shrinking the Neck” in Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, and “Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress” and “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin. All of them will provide good effects on the exercisers of Health Qigong during their practice.

Functions and Principles of Inverted-Sequence Exercises

(I) Balancing nervous systems and removing fatigue

Most of the daily activities of people are done with a straight body or adductive, head-lowering, or forward exercises. Therefore the nervous systems controlling such muscle exercises will be constantly in a highly excited state on a long-term basis. On the other hand, the nervous systems controlling the body-bending, abducing, head-lifting, and backward muscle exercises will be in a low-excitation state. The long-term excitation imbalance among the nervous systems will inevitably cause tiredness in local muscles and nerve centers and thus result in sub-health and even diseases. Researches have shown that “inverted-sequence exercises can comprehensively regulate the nervous systems of the body and establish a new balance”. Therefore the crawling movement of “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, the body-unfolding movement of “Tiger Pouncing”, the backward-leaning and abducing exercises of “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” and “Bird Stretching”, the backward movement of “Ape Picking”, the head-hiding and neck-shrinking exercises of “Si Zi Jue”, and the looking-back movement of “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” in Health Qigong can effectively stimulate those muscles that seldom move, exercise the nervous systems more comprehensively than normal exercises, and thus help the exerciser eliminate nervous fatigue and establish a new balance.

(II) Dredging the Twelve Channels and protecting the health of viscera

According to the Channel Theory, the fingers are the start and end points of the three Yin and three Yang hand channels, and toes are the start and end points of the three Yin and three Yang foot channels. For example, the Lung Channel ends at Shaoshang and the Large Intestine Channel starts at Shangyang. They serve as connecting links in blood and Qi circulation and most origin acupoints of the Twelve Channels are distributed around the wrists and ankles. According to the theory of the traditional Chinese medicine, “diseases in the Five Viscera shall be treated at their twelve origins” and “pains are caused by obstruction”. Stimulating these points can effectively dredge the three Yin and three Yang hand channels and improve the functions of the viscera. In the “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey” exercise of Health Qigong, it is required to exert the fingers, wrists, toes, and ankles in order to effectively stimulate the start and end points of the tree Yin foot channels and three Yang channels and thus dredge the channels and protect the health of the viscera.

(III) Improving systemic circulation and promoting metabolism

The lower limbs of the human body are the major active organs and blood tends to flow into the lower limbs when a man moves with an upright body. In this case, the heart has to work against the pull of the gravity of blood in order to drive the upward circulation of blood and return blood to the heart. This will add to the burden on the heart and cause reduced blood supply for the heart and organs above the heart, exposing the body to the risks of diseases like CHD, AS, varicose veins, arthritis, and haemorrhoids. Exercises such as “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, “Swinging the Tail”, “Tiger Pouncing”, and “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” in Health Qigong effectively lower the heart, promote blood flow into the heart and parts above the heart, and thus improve the blood circulation of the entire body and facilitate the control and prevention of above-mentioned diseases. When one reaches the middle age, the deficiency of blood and Qi and lack of exercise will prevent blood and Qi from reaching the distal joints and thus result in the stasis and obstructed circulation of blood and Qi. And the “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey” exercise of Health Qigong can effectively enhance the stimulation on the wrists, fingers, ankles, and toes of the exerciser, open more capillaries, improve the microcirculation of the human body, and reduce the blood pressure. This is of more significance for the old and middle-aged people.

(IV) Strengthening muscles and bones and benefiting the brains

Long-term bad habits will cause injuries to local bones and muscles of the human body. For example, bending over the desk for a long time will strain the neck, shoulder, and back muscles. Together with the invasion by wind-pathogen and cold-pathogen, it will cause muscle injuries and local disorder of facet joints. In addition, long-term upright postures will also cause injuries to the vertebral column and especially the lumbar vertebra. Relevant researches have shown that: when looking at a the profile of the vertebral column of a normal person standing upright, the gravity center of the upper part of the body is located in front of the vertebral spine. The gravity line of the body usually goes through the ventral side of the center of the fourth lumbar vertebra. In other words, all segments of the vertebral spine bear a constant anteflexion moment. Therefore the pressure on the vertebral spine is not only from the weight of the human body itself, but also from the convergent force of the back muscles used to balance the gravity. When the human body is upright, the vertebral body and the intervertebral disks almost bear all the pressure. The pressure on different segments of the vertebral column gradually increases from bottom to top. Therefore people standing upright all the time will easily suffer from diseases in the vertebral column and especially the lumbar vertebra, such as lumbagos and back pains. And the crawling movement of “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, the body-unfolding movement of “Tiger Pouncing”, and the backward-leaning and abducing exercises of “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” and “Bird Stretching” in Health Qigong will not only effectively help the exerciser relieve the tension on the above-mentioned parts of the body and improve the local circulation of blood, but also disperse the gravity of the body to the four limbs to greatly reduce the load on the spine and lumbar vertebra. And they are very good exercises for the waist and back muscles and especially beneficial for old and middle-aged people suffering from diseases in the waist, back, and vertebral column. They can also stimulate “Dadun” of the liver channel (liver governs the tendons) and “Yongquan” of the kidney channel (kidneys govern the bones) to drain the liver fire, enhance kidney Qi, improve the hepatic and renal functions, and thus slow down the aging process, strengthen the bones and tendons, boost the spirit and energy, and benefit the brains.

(V) Promoting the peristalsis of the stomach and intestines and preventing constipation and piles

The upright posture of the body will impose pressure on the stomach and intestines, cause difficulty in their peristalsis, and due to their low positions, add to the difficulty of venous reflux. This will easily lead to constipation, rectocele, piles, and endless accompanying trouble. By lowering the body position and inverting the sequence of exercises, “Tiger Pouncing”, “Swinging the Tail”, “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, and “Bear Carrying” in Health Qigong can effectively stimulate the stomach, intestines, and anal sphincter, promote the blood circulation, improve venous reflux, and thus prevent the above-mentioned symptoms.

(VI) Eliminating weak links and preventing accidental injuries

Unbalanced forces on muscles will cause local injuries to the muscles. For example, taking a sneeze may cause a sudden sprain the lumbar region, stepping on a stone may spray the ankle, and looking back may injure the neck. To prevent these injuries, we have to strengthen the local muscles. The “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber”, “Plucking a Star and Exchanging a Star Cluster”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, “Deer Wrestling”, “Hiding the Head and Shrinking the Neck”, and “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” exercises in Health Qigong can effectively strengthen the local muscles, eliminate the weak links, and thus prevent injuries.

Matters to be Noted about Inverted-Sequence Exercises

(I) Carefully choose exercises

There are a lot of inverted-sequence exercises in Health Qigong, and different people have different conditions. Therefore it is not advisable to practice aimlessly. The best way is to choose inverted-sequence exercises under the guidance of specialists and according to the specific conditions of the exerciser in order to suit the exercises to the symptoms. Inverted-sequence exercises are against people’s habitual movements. Therefore physically weak and disease-susceptible exercisers shall use caution while choosing such exercises. For example, physically weak and powerless people shall use caution while choosing “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, patients with severe high blood pressure shall use caution while choosing “Swinging the Tail” or “Deer Wrestling”, patients with severe cervical spondylosis shall use caution while choosing “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” or “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, and patients with severe lumbar disc herniation shall use caution while choosing “Swinging the Tail”, “Tiger Pouncing”, or “Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs, and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys”.

(II) Make full preparations

Since inverted-sequence exercises usually mobilize the nerves, joints, muscles, and tendons that we seldom use under normal circumstances, we need to take proper warm-up activities to excite the nerves, warm up the muscles, reduce the viscosity of muscles, activate the tendons, and lubricate the joints in order to improve the practicing results and avoid injuries.

(III) Make progress step by step

Inverted-sequence exercises have high requirements on the difficulty of movements, intensity of practice, and amount of exercise with regard to the practicing methods, nervous systems, and organs. Therefore inverted-sequence exercises shall be practiced in a step-by-step and gradually way. This means to: 1. Progress from easier methods of movements to the more complicated ones.. 2. Progress from lower difficulty levels of movements to the higher ones. 3. Progress from lower intensity of practice to higher intensity. 4. Progress from smaller amounts of exercise to larger ones. It is only in this way that we can gradually master the techniques, improve our skills, improve the balances between nerves and the motor system, and thus protect the body and improve health.

(IV) Perseverance

Peoples living habits are not formed within a day or two. And specialization of work is also something we need to carry through on a long-term basis. Therefore, many problems such as mental fatigue and weak muscles cannot be easily alleviated or solved and gradual transition will be required. That is why we need to achieve our goals through repeated practice. Specifically, we should practice 2 to 3 times per week and use 4~8 repetitions for each movement or body part.

(V) Reasonable sort-out

The inverted-sequence exercise involves a certain intensity and workload. Failure to take any sort-out or relaxation after the exercise will reduce the practicing effects and may even cause new fatigue and injures. Therefore, it is necessary to sort out and relax all parts of the body by patting, massaging, shaking, stretching, and swaying. Physical methods of relaxation such as hot water bath after the exercise are even better.

Reference: Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Health Qigong

On Basic Essentials of Health Qigong

Wei Yongzhong; Tangshan College

The second basic essential of Health Qigong is to enter serenity. Compared with the first essential “relaxation”, serenity is mainly focused on the regulation of mental activities. Entering serenity mainly means reducing and stopping the conscious activities of the brain or, in Qigong terms, attenuating and eradicating the postnatal conscious spirit (also known as “external mind” or “external spirit”).

Consciousness is acquired during social activities. It is specific to the human kind and influences and determines other natural instincts of man. Therefore it is an essential quality of man. Whenever we are awake, the brain always thinks one thing or another. On many occasions it will keep thinking even if you don’t want it to. And the thinking is completely irregular. This can be seen from both the ECG and EEG. When one gets excited, the mind will be difficult to calm. When one gets troubled, many thoughts will possess the mind. Therefore it is really difficult to enter serenity, which seems to be against the instinct of man. But the real problem is even worst. The so-called conscious spirit includes the thinking spirit and the lust spirit. In other words, we should not only eradicate conscious activities, but also eradicate emotional experience during Qigong exercise. The former belongs to IQ and the latter belongs to EQ. They are owned by all normal people and should be cultivated since childhood. Animals also have emotions and feelings. Isn’t it against the nature to eradicate them? Why do we have to enter serenity above all?

The direct purpose of serenity is to mobilize and enhance our self-regulating functions or, in Qigong terms, excite and activate the congenital primordial spirit (also known as “internal mind” or “internal spirit”). The primordial spirit exactly controls and regulates itself. This function is inherent with everybody and should not have to be excited. But it has been inhibited and even degenerated by the strong postnatal consciousness and excessive lust spirit of man. Therefore it has to be mobilized and excited. We will not be able to preserve health unless we manage to do so. And we will not have Qigong if we fail to do so. How to mobilize it? It is excited just the way it has been inhibited. As it has been inhibited by the mutual growth and reduction, it should be activated through mutual growth and reduction. In the basic Chinese terms, it is called mutual growth and reduction between Yin and Yang. Among the various types of spirit in the human body, the conscious spirit belongs to Yang and the primordial spirit belongs to Yin. To boost Yin or to excite and activate the congenital primordial spirit, we need to reduce Yang or, in other words, attenuate and eradicate the postnatal conscious spirit.

It seems difficult to eradiate the conscious spirit. Therefore some people completely give up the idea of entering serenity. They think: “It will be OK if I don’t think about anything!” As a matter of fact “thinking about nothing” is just the hardest part, and thus the highest degree of serenity. All Qigong exercises involve serenity. Any exercise without serenity does not belong to Qigong. This is an inevitable step. Relaxation and serenity are like two thresholds to the hall of Qigong. The first threshold is low and we can easily cross it. The second threshold is high and easily daunts us. But it is the most important and critical basis essential. Why is serenity the most critical essential? We have to analyze the reason from the perspectives of both health preservation and Qigong.

First let’s take a look at health preservation. Health preservation is a modern term. In ancient times it was referred to as “physical cultivation”. Qigong is called “life cultivation”. In the introductory chapter of “Xiu Qi Zhi Ping” in The Great Learning, the first of the Four Great Books, it says: “Self-cultivation is the foundation for all people from the emperors to the common people.” But it also stresses: Self-cultivation should be carried out on the basis of a righteous mind.” This is because “the heart is the master of the body.” (annotated by Zhu Xi). This is no longer Confucian but involves medicine. Nei Jing explicitly says: “the heart is a monarch organ.” A monarch gives orders. The heart does not give orders; the brain and the central nerves do. How come the heart becomes the monarch? This is because “the heart is the container of spirit” and “the origin of spirit”. The spirit in the brain is originally stored and originated from the heart. This is why we call it primordial spirit. Let’s make a metaphor. Although the spirit works in the brain, the heart is its home. And this home cannot be changed. Therefore spirit is the master but when it comes to organs, the heart is always the monarch which governs the entire body. Being in charge of the entire body, can it have a rest? No. Even if it takes a nap, “all internal organs will be endangered”. Therefore the heart does not have a rest for even one second. The cerebrum, cerebellum, and all other organs have rests and at least work shifts. Now that the heart is the master of the whole body, we should never ignore the health of the heart and erase it from the list of our health-preservation items. Otherwise, health preservation will be just a joke. We have always wanted to realize “Fitness of the nation” and the United Nations have also proposed “Health for all” and made new annotations of “Health”. But health is far from being realized. When will it be realized? How? As far as I am concerned, mental regulation is the key to health preservation and health. Some Health Qigong specialist have long pointed out that: The life of a man is a contradictor yet unified entity dominated by the mind. The key words here are “dominated by the mind”. This means the main aspect of the mind-body contradiction is the mind rather than the body. And it also annotates the “simultaneous cultivation of both Xing and Ming” which has been pursued by Chinese Qigong exercisers since the ancient times: Cultivation of Xing and mind is dominant and cultivation of Ming and body is auxiliary.

The same conclusion will be reached when it comes to the treatment of disease. But we have to begin with the dialectics of traditional Chinese medicine. According to traditional Chinese medicine, diseases are caused by “seven emotions from the inside and six evils from the outside.” The endogenous factors are in the first place and the exogenous factors are in the second place. This is because endogenous factors are the basis and the exogenous factors are the conditions. The exogenous factors do not take effect unless through endogenous factors. Western medicine does not explain pathogenic factors this way. It only involves germs and viruses. However, traditional Chinese medicine never mentions these. It focuses on wind, cold, summer heat, damp, dryness, and fire, the “Six Forms of Heaven Qi” and “Six Forms of Earth Qi”. They fill up the entire universe and do not carry benign or malignant properties. They do not harm people unless they are surplus. Surplus leads to excess, excess leads to pathogens, pathogens lead to toxicity, and this is how harm is eventually done. However, if we do not have excessive emotions, we will never be affected by the six excesses. If we preserve health according to the four seasons, we will never get sick. This is why Taoists believe “life is controlled by oneself instead of God”. And as a matter of fact, there were many Taoists and doctors who did manage to master their own lives and lived long lives until their painless deaths. How did they manage to do so? They did not rely on sterilization. On the contrary, they knew that many germs were good even if they were toxic, as toxic things could be utilized to counteract toxin. Therefore they did not try to kill them but did whatever they could to find and utilize them. As a matter of fact, such things have always been with us or inside us since the very beginning of our history. They could never be eliminated. If we do want to kill them, they will get stronger and stronger and more and more diverse until they completely go out of control. And us human beings will be victims when that day comes. Taoists and doctors of China would never get the worst of it, neither would the Confucians, Buddhists, or the I-Ching practicers. The key to their longevity was: avoiding being impaired by the seven emotions. Emotions originate from the heart. The seven emotions are activities of the mind.

This is also true when it comes to happiness. Happiness does not lie in excellent material conditions but lie in the delightful feeling of the mind. Therefore, a person always in a good mood is far happier than another person having delicious food and drink everyday. As the saying goes “laugh and grow fat”, we will never feel at east or happy if we do not have an open mind.

From this we can see that the mind is always the dominating one in the physical-mental entity under any circumstances. Therefore we need to cultivate our mind if we are to preserve health. This is the key that we have to grasp. Then why do we have to enter serenity before mind cultivation? To answer this question, we need to start with some detailed information of Qigong.

Qigong is the manipulation of Qi. Once the body is relaxed, Qi will start to circulate. This is easy to understand. But how do we master, control, rein, and apply Qi once it starts to circulate? This is a complicated but most critical issue. Fortunately, many health-preserving schools of ancient China, such as Qigong, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, I-Ching, medicine, and Wushu, have provided us with clever methods to rein and control Qi. There have been countless grand masters that had profound knowledge about the mechanisms of Qi. Even if we ignore the time before the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, there were Guan Zhong, Lao Tzu, Kuei Ku-tzu, Confucius, Yen Hui, Bian Que, Wang Qiao, Qu Yuan, Liezi, Chuang Tzu, Mencius, Hsun Tzu, Dong Zhongshu, Wang Chong, Wei Boyang, Zhang Zhongjing, and Hua Tuo between the Spring and Autumn Period and the Qin and Han Dynasties. After the Wei and Jin Dynasties, there were fewer grand masters but numerous famous masters. And we had many hermits who concealed their identities or left their works but not their names. And countless ancient people knew how to control Qi. Below are just some examples:

The Guan Zhong, the great politician of the 7th century BC wrote in Nei Ye Pian that: “Qi cannot be spoken, seen, or heard.” This indicates how difficult it is to control Qi. “Therefore this Qi cannot be stopped with force but can be calmed with virtue. It cannot be vocalized with the mouth but can be expressed by the mind.” “When the mind is serene, Qi will come into order and stay inside you”. “By cultivating our mind and tranquilize our thought, we will be able to achieve Tao.” This indicates that Qi can be controlled. But how do we control it? With “serene mind” and “cultivated mind and serene thought”. What Guan Zhong meant was that: Qi cannot be spoken, seen or heard. Therefore this Qi cannot be stopped with force but can be calmed with virtue. It cannot be vocalized with the mouth but can be expressed by the mind. But we can calm it with virtue and cater to it with thought. When the mind is serene, Qi will come into order and stay inside you. And when you cultivate your mind and enter serenity, you will achieve Tao and Qi and be able to control Qi.

Mencius is as good as Guan Zhong with it comes to the Qi-driving skills. Although he too though it was “difficult to explain” what was “the Great Qi”, when asked by his disciples he still dared to say: “I am good at nourishing the Great Qi.” The Great Qi is “extremely tremendous and firm” and “fills the entire universe”, while Mencius were able to “nourish it without being harmed” and convert it into “filling material of the body”. How did he manage to do so? Mencius says: “Aspiration is the master of Qi” and “focused aspiration will help control Qi and focused Qi will help control aspiration”. Aspiration is will. Nei Jing: Ling Shu: Ben Shen says: “persistent intention is called aspiration.” Put in a modern way, aspiration is very similar to intention. In other words, Mencius use focused intention to control Qi, driving the endogenous factors with exogenous factors and converting external Qi into internal Qi. It should be noted that according to Mencius, Qi and aspiration are interactive. (See Mencius: Gong Sunchou I)

According to Chuang Tzu: Ren Jian Shi, Confucius also used focused intention to drive Qi. One day Yen Hui asked him what was “pre-occupation”, he said: “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.” From this we can see the keys to pre-occupation and serenity. And we can also see that the Qi-driving techniques of Confucius described by Chuang Tzu were more than a health-preserving method or a Qigong exercise used to cultivate the mind and build up the body. They are a great way to master everything, properly treat everything, adapt ourselves to everything, and contain everything. And they are also the life philosophy of both Taoist and Confucianism. This was exactly why Chuang Tzu named this Chapter as Ren Jian Shi. How did they realize the great leap from a health-preserving method to great Qigong? They grasped the common things between Qi and mind, the coupling joints between Qi and mind, and coordination between Qi and mind. According to Mencius, Qi and aspiration are interactive and coordinated. None of Guan Zhong, Mencius, Chuang Tzu, and Confucius was a scientist and none of them knew any physics or systematic sciences. But they all knew coordination-the great coordination between Qi and mind and between nature and man. Only these great thinkers could manage to do that.

All roads lead to Roma. The Qi-driving techniques and methods of the great thinkers came from various origins but were based on the same mechanism. This can be summarized with four words: “Driving Qi with spirit”. This sentence was frequently seen in many Qigong classics such as Zhou Yi Can Tong Qie and Xing Ming Gui Zhi. The spirit referred is only the primordial spirit that lives in the monarch organ. And to sum up the Qi-driving mechanisms of all Qigong schools, we can describe them with a single sentence in Nei Jing: “A tranquilized mind will cause vital Qi to flow normally in the body.” According to my understanding, quiescence, peace, vacancy, and inaction are four levels of serenity in ascending order. In other words, we should first achieve quiescence, and then move from quiescence into peace, from peace into vacancy, and finally vacancy into inaction. Inaction is the ultimate level that we need to climb up to. Buddhists call it “void”, Taoists call it “inaction”, and common people call it “having nothing on mind”. This is the highest level of serenity. And all the way to serenity, Qi will follow you. The word “follow” means Qi only follows you when you try to enter serenity. And it will not follow you and listen to your orders if you do not enter serenity.

From this we can clearly see the critical role of serenity in the entire system of Qigong. “Driving Qi with spirit” and “Vital Qi in the body flowing normally” are both based on serenity. Therefore once you circumvent this threshold, you will never enter the hall of Qigong.

As a matter of fact, it is not difficult to enter serenity. Since it is easy to learn the rudiments of Qigong, it is totally possible to go further. Readers may still remember the rudiment keys to Qigong that I presented last time. Now we may name them as “Trilogy of Relaxation”: 1. Calm the mental state; 2. Coordinate respiration; 3. Command the intention. The first and the last steps are all about serenity. It has also been mentioned earlier that the neck is the key and has to be relaxed in particular during the practice. Why? Once the neck is relaxed, an expressway from the brain to the heart and from the heart to the brain will immediately come into being. And the spirit will be able to go home from time to time with ease. Once it’s home, the conscious spirit is returned to its original position and serenity will be achieved. In addition, relaxation of the neck will drive the relaxation of the brain. And once the cerebral cortex is relaxed, serene you will immediately be. This is because once the cerebral cortex is relaxed, Qi will start to circulate there and driving power will come in to convert essence into Qi and Qi into spirit. And spirit will be able to get home in no time. In other words, serenity is a natural process which takes place with the relaxation of critical parts of the body.

However, serenity of Qigong is an attenuation of the conscious spirit. It has to face complicated factors such as the brain, spirit, thought, and emotions. Therefore it is easy to achieve rudimentary serenity, difficult to achieve in-depth serenity, extremely difficult to achieve ultimate serenity, and desperately difficult to maintain the ultimate serenity. It is most difficult to maintain and experience the ultimate serenity everyday.

Now that serenity is a prerequisite of Qigong, how can we enter it better? What are the methods to enter serenity? Generally speaking, there is no definite method. But we can learn from the experience of predecessors in Qigong and may make our own innovations. Next I will offer five methods.

I. Internal and external consignment. This means to consign all your thoughts to a certain place inside or outside the body. Inside the body, it may be the tip of your nose, the area between eyebrows, the arch of your foot, Dantian, a Zang or Fu viscus, the Ren or Du Channel, or the focus of a disease. Outside the body, it may be the sun, the moon, a mountain, a river, a flower, a grass, a sweet moment, or a beautiful scene. Internal consignment is also called “internal concentration”, “inward vision”, “internal scene”, “aperture adherence”, and “pivot adherence”. External consignment is also called “external concentration”, “external scene”, and “mental consignment”. Both of them are called “mind concentration”, “consignment of thoughts”, “consignment of mind”, and “meditation”. Nei Jing says: “When mind is concentrated inward, how can disease take place?” This is just an example of the health-preserving and disease-preventing effects of internal consignment and internal concentration. External consignment and external concentration are also a good and indispensable method to capture, collect, and input benign information. However, as the methods to achieve serenity, both internal consignment and external consignment are elementary approaches to temporary replacement of multiple thoughts with one single thought. And such methods are optional and differ from person to person. However, any method will contribute to your accumulation as long as you use it to enter serenity. Even the elementary exercises may lead to perfection after being practiced again and again. They may also be universal and good for the cultivation of both the mind and the body.

It should be noted by readers, and especially foreign readers that: The intention of oriental Qigong does not equal thinking or consciousness, even if they all belong to the spiritual world. All Qigong intentions are peaceful and between adherence and non-adherence. They seem to exist and yet not to exist. And they are half-hidden and always kept at arm’s length. As Mencius put it, “neither forget it nor support it”. As Lao Tzu put it, “keep between concentration and absent-mindedness”. The so-called mind concentration means concentrating the mind to a certain place instead of having distracting thoughts on the mind. Otherwise you will not be entering serenity, practicing, or cultivating spirit. On the contrary you will consume life and spirit. Some hold that: mind concentration also includes rich imagination which enhances attention and imagination. This is wrong. Mind concentration should never involve imagination, let alone rich imagination. The “richer” you get, the far away you will deviate from Qigong. In one word, the boundary between thought and consciousness must be clearly defined. Although the mind concentration is described as a method to enter serenity, it is actually directly used to control Qi. All techniques of Qigong are Qi-driving techniques. And it is the thought rather than the consciousness that drives Qi. The primordial spirit rather than the mind drives Qi and the heart rather than the brain drives Qi.

II. Coordination of mental activities and breathing. This is also called mental and respiratory interdependence. In other words the mental activities are dependent on respiration and coincide with the breathing process. This is advocated by almost all schools of Qigong. Liu Zi Jue and the Buddhist “Liu Miao Fa Men” are both based on coordination of mental activities and breathing. The practicing process is divided into six stages and six levels: Counting breaths, following breaths, stopping breaths, observing breaths, returning breaths, and clearing breaths. Counting breaths means counting silently how many times you breathe. By replacing all other thoughts with this one thought, you will be able to reach serenity. Following breaths means no longer counting breaths but having the mind follow the exhalation and inhalation to ascend & descend, open & close, or enter & exit. Stopping breaths means stopping the thought at a certain position where the breaths pass by and keeping it from leaking. It may be stopped at the tip of the nose, between eyebrows, in the bottom of the heart, or in the lower abdomen. Observing breaths means meditation and inward vision of your own respiration. For example, you can observe exhalation when turbid Qi is exhaled from the body and observe inhalation when genuine Qi is inhaled into the body. Returning breaths means returning to the source of breaths. The source of breaths is the congenital Qi of the universe. Clearing breaths means clearing all breaths and thoughts. This is the ultimate result of Liu Miao Fa Men. In addition, Chuang Tzu says: “immortals breathe to the ankles while common people breathe to the throat.” Then is “inhaling to the top and exhaling to the bottom” no more than the mental-respirator interdependence of these “immortals”?

III. Kung fu comes from outside the exercise. The great Qigong master and poet Lu You enlightened his sun by: “Kung fu comes from outside poets.” This is of profound meaning. The serenity Kung fu of Qigong comes from outside Qigong. The key to the practice of Qigong is mind cultivation. Serenity only calms the mind. Therefore a man with a dirty mind will be stuck in obstacles during the practice of serenity. And people with bad moral characters or selfish thoughts will find it difficult to enter serenity. And if we become capricious during practice, we should know how to restrain and lock the distracting thoughts.

Looking back into the history, we will find that the best practicers of Qigong were philosophers, great writers, medical masters, thinkers, and politicians. “Ge Wu” has existed in China since the ancient times. This is science. The Great Learning says: To cultivate the body, we must clear our mind. To clear our mind, we must be sincere. To be sincere, we must get informed. To get informed, we must learn science. In other words, the entire “Xiu Qi Zhi Ping” is based on science. Philosophy is the highest level of thinking but it is by no means unfounded thinking. Thinking comes only from learning. The philosophy of Lao Tzu was exactly obtained by “learning Tao”. Body cultivation, mind clarification, and sincerity are all within the framework of Qigong but learning and science are outside Qigong.

How to make efforts outside Qigong? We can start with the following three aspects. The first is mental cultivation, the second is moral cultivation, and the third is daily cultivation. Mental cultivation includes philosophy cultivation and science cultivation. All these three levels of efforts are based on both learning and mental exercise. Therefore both the inside Kung fu and outside Kung fu belong to one Kung fu. And philosophers are often Qigong masters too. Daily cultivation is called “mental refinement through things”. Exercise is different from refinement. Exercise is like bleaching a silk cloth with water, while refinement is like smelting metal with fire. I’m afraid that the human mind has to be both bleached and smelted. Cultivation means learning. Learn proficiency for officialdom. Chinese Qigong was called refinement in ancient times but now considered an exercise. But if we only exercise the body and fail to refine the heart, it will be like strengthening only the body and ignoring the spirit. And the tradition of cultivation and refinement is not an ordinary culture or spirit. It is a symbol of the civilization and spirit of the Chinese nation. Refinement is very difficult, we need to be serene, clear, precise, and humble and persevere on a long term basis, so that we could be pure, noble, generous, and good for others.

IV. “Achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true serenity”. In the strict sense, this is more a goal than an approach. It is the ultimate serenity that can be hardly achieved by normal people. Adhering to the true serenity is more difficult than achieving the ultimate vacancy. The ultimate serenity of Chuang Tzu is “utterly dead mind”. But this mind has to be revived for if it does not, serenity will be absolute. And as we know, serenity is always relative. Just as there is no absolute quiescence in the material world, there is not absolute serenity in the spiritual world. But Chuang Tzu did not say how long we should adhere to it before its revival. The longer we adhere to it, the closer we get to the “immortal” state of health preservation. And this is surely difficult to achieve. “I’m number one in the universe”. This is true. He might be the first one in the world’s history to interpret the dialectics. Was Chuang Tzu the second one in the universe? As a top philosopher under the sun, he also made it to the ultimate serenity. This is a secret in which methods are hidden.

V. Assume a humble attitude. As far as I’m concerned, these four words are both keys to the elementary hall of Qigong and the keys to the serenity of Qigong. And they are a clever way of cultivating the mind and body, preserving health, prolonging life, and staying happy and delighted. Why do we have to be humble? This is because “Human hearts are evil”. This maxim was said to have been spoken by Shun when he handed over his crown to Yu in the ancient times. Evil is height. And height is evil. Our great ancestors knew the human heart profoundly. Human hearts are even higher today. Many children are customized as scientists when they just enter the kindergartens. Their parents wish they could sign a contract. Some country kids were forced to answer to the question “who will you make money for when you grow up” when they don’t even know how to speak. They parents wish they could make money right now. Why are human hearts so high? This is because the heart belongs to fire and fire easily leads to inflammation. However, Shun also said to Yu that contrary to the human heart, “the Taoist heart is humble”. The Taoist heart is also surrounded by shadows and contains pure essence. Taoists also pointed out that we should be as noble as water, which facilitates everything but does not snatch anything. Here is the solution. Water restraints fire. However, we cannot live without fire. We cannot keep the kidney and heart in balance unless we have both water and fire. It is just that we have to keep the water on the top and fire on the bottom in order to cook rice thoroughly. This is also the case with us human beings. We will not be “mature” unless we lower the fire-natured heart. If one can remain as mentally serene as water, he will definitely be able to find Kung fu in the finest places and get closer and closer to the Taoist heart. Taoists heart is not only humble, but also very, very low. It always stay when it belongs. Besides the Taoist heart, the Confucian heart is also low. It’s just that Confucianism did not come into the world in the times of Shun and Shun could not speak it. Mencius believes that we should just lower our hearts. Lowering our hearts means lowering our attitude.

To sum up, the key to the serenity of Qigong is to overlook the bottom of the heart from a philosophic perspective. As Taoists put it, we start with action, return with inaction, and thus achieve “No willful action and nothing without willful action”.

Reference: On Basic Essentials of Health Qigong

How to Enter a Relaxed, Serene, and Gentle State of Exercise As Quickly As Possible

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.

Practicing Method

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

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

Using a Five-step Relaxation Method to Regulate Your Moods

When we feel down, depressed, or distressed, we need to fully exert our subjective initiatives, strengthen our self-control, control the nervousness, anxiety, and pain through our self-consciousness, and do the best to eliminate the adverse effects of passive thoughts. We can use the five-step relaxation method for the adjustment. Choose a suitable posture by sitting on a chair or standing naturally.

(1) Inhale through the nose and slightly turn your face upward. Keep still other parts of the body. Keep yourself relaxed. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”. Relax the head and neck and put them back to the original position. At the same time imagine that the back of the body is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization until the tail bones are relaxed. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(2) Inhale through the nose and keep your body in the original posture. Keep yourself relaxed and do not take any movement. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha” without moving the body. Imagine that the front of the body is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization from the chest to the lower abdomen. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(3) Inhale through the nose and slightly turn your face upward. Raise both arms from both sides of the body until they are higher than the head. The palms centers should face downward during this process. Relax other parts of the body and keep the original posture. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”, and return the head and arms simultaneously. At the same time imagine that upper limbs and body flanks are slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(4) Inhale through the nose and turn your face upward. Arch the waist and cock up the tail bones. Raise both arms towards the front. Slightly bend the legs (You don’t have to move legs if you are sitting). Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”, and return the entire body to the original position simultaneously. Slowly lower the arms. At the same time imagine that the entire body, especially the legs, is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(5) Inhale through the nose. Close the lips and teeth. Raise both arms from the flanks of the body until they are higher than the head. The palm centers should face each other at a certain angle as if hugging something. Keep still other parts of the body and keep yourself relaxed. Exhale through the nose and close the lips and teeth. Bend the elbows at the same time and press down with both arms from the front of the body to the lower abdomen. The finger tips should point at each other during the process. Then relax them naturally and return them to the body flanks. Repeat this step for 3 times. Be gentle and slow with the movements. Do not use strength. Keep yourself relaxed. (written by Hermit of Mt. E’mei)

Reference: Using a Five-step Relaxation Method to Regulate Your Moods

A Brief Discussion of the Three Stages of Qigong

Zhang Guoming; HuangHe Science and Technology College

Health Qigong is a traditional sport of our nation with body movements, respiration regulation, and mental regulation as the major forms of exercise. By practicing Health Qigong, we can dredge the channels, harmonize Yin and Yang, strengthen the body, eliminate diseases, and prolong life. And during the practice of Health Qigong, body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation must be coordinated in order to exert the health-preserving effect of Health Qigong and achieve harmonious development of both body and mind. Therefore the practice of Health Qigong shall be divided into three stages. The first stage involves body regulation; the second stage involves coordination between body regulation and respiration regulation; the third stage involves coordination of body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation. Through these three stages, the three regulation items can be gradually integrated.

Stage 1: Body Regulation Plays the Principal Role and Respiration and Mind Regulation Play the Supplementary Role

Body Regulation Is the Focus

In the initial stage of body regulation, the exerciser often attends to one thing and loses another. He or she tends to forget the next movement while doing the current one or forget certain details while doing a certain movement. With the increase in the number of repetitions and duration of exercise, the exerciser gradually masters the essentials of movements and no longer focuses on the memorization of movements but the accuracy and coordination of movements, and begins to enjoy the comfort brought by the exercise to the body. At this point, the exerciser will occasionally coordinate some movements with respiration and thought but still be in a twilight state. During this stage, the exerciser shall pay special attention to relaxation. Relaxation involves the following two aspects: physical relaxation and mental relaxation. Physical relaxation helps relax the blood vessels and promotes the circulation of blood and Qi. Mental relaxation helps the brain to enter quiescence, promotes the excitation of nerves to achieve a moderate balance, enhances the interoceptive feelings of the brain, strengthens the perception and control of the brain on the body, and thus improves the accuracy, coordination, and appearance of the movements of the exerciser.

Stage 2: Body and Respiration Regulation Plays the Principal Role and Mind Regulation Plays the Supplementary Role

Coordination between Body and Respiration Regulation is the Focus

When the movements become accurate, well-coordinated, and good-looking, the exerciser needs to move on to the exercise of coordinated body regulation and respiration regulation. The movements shall be carried out to the extent that the timing of inhalation and the time of exhalation are perfectly coordinated with the movements. During the coordination exercise of body regulation and respiration regulation, the exerciser is required to move gentle and slowly and breathe evenly, softly, and deeply. Do not take over-fast or over-deep breaths in case of suffocation, chest distress, and hyperventilation. The coordination between body regulation and respiration regulation cannot be natural and harmonious without a long period of efforts. Therefore, during this stage the exerciser needs to practice step by step according to his own specific conditions and by strengthening the regulation of respiration, increase the oxygen intake of the body, discharge the waste gas from inside the body, enhance the regulating functions of the sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves, improve the functions of internal organs and central nervous system, and thus further improve the health of the body.

Stage 3: Coordination of Body Regulation, Respiration Regulation, and Mind Regulation

Gradually Achieving an Integration of three Regulations

After body regulation is naturally coordinated with respiration regulation, the mind regulation shall be stressed so that body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation can be well coordinated. Good coordination shall be achieved between the timing of inhalation during movements and the focus of thought and between the timing of exhalation during movements and the focus of thought. Through long-term practice, organic connections between the Three Regulations will be gradually created to promote the coordination and synchronization of the Three Regulations, and rhythmic movements will be gradually formed. With the constant improvement of skills in the coordination of the Three Regulations, the organic connections between these Three Regulations will completely replace the conscious practice and the exerciser will enter an advanced state of integrated Three Regulations. At this point, both the body and mind of the exerciser will make qualitative leaps forward and the movements of the exercise will proceed with the relaxing and contracting forces that naturally connect the Three Regulations.

The three basic elements of Health Qigong are body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation. Body regulation means to regulate the limb activities, respiration regulation means to regulate the respiratory activities, and mind regulation means to regulate the mental activities. The coordination and integration of these Three Regulations have to be achieved through a gradual and step-by-step process. If we emphasize the close coordination between the Three Regulations at the beginning stage of Health Qigong exercise, we will easily attend to one thing and lose another or spoil things by excessive enthusiasm. Therefore during the practice of Health Qigong, we have to follow the fundamental rules of the exercise and practice in different stages and steps in a gradually way in order to achieve the best exercising effects.

Reference: A Brief Discussion of the Three Stages of Health Qigong

An Analysis on Integration of the Three Regulations of Qigong

By Liu Feng and liu Tianjun

At present, widespread Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, Wu Qin Xi, Liu Zi Jue and Ba Duan Jin etc. are based on dynamic exercise of body regulation. Body regulation refers to the regulation of postures and movements and is one of three elements of Health Qigong. However, it is not enough to only regulate body by this exercise. It would be better to achieve the state of integrating three regulations into one. This is because integrating three regulations into one of Health Qigong is to integrate body, breath and mind and is essential characteristics that are different from ordinary physical sports.

Integrating Three Regulations into One is a Kind of State

Integrating thre regulations into one is a type of state and subjective experience in the course of Health Qigong exercise. Exercisers can experience and judge whether they are alraedy in this state by one way or another. There are many ways: be it sates descriptions, be it process narration, or creating an instant environment, but the exercisers should not purely imitate postures and movements of the body regulation.

In the state of integrating three regulations into one, three regulations coexist yet all disappear. We say coexistence of three regulations for the reason that from the perspective of formality and exercisers, body regulation, breath regulation and mind regulation can be described clearly. On the other hand, we believe that they do not exist for the reason that independence of three regulations disappeared. In this state, it is done in a sef-running course, and the alternation of which can have an impact on the other two. Therefore, under this circumstance, the only thing of exercisers need to do is in fact to watching the self-running of the three regulations,

If three regulations were seen as a happing family, the contents of three regulations would be three kids. Three kids can deal with their correlations and live harmoniously. You can only look at them nearby or take part in and being one together with no need to guide any of these three kids in any way.

In this sense, integrating three regulations into one is also a lively state full of fun because it is a coordinate process of your own kids. In the beginning, like a parent, you may think your kids can not solve the problems themselves. Gradually, you find that these kids can correlate themselves and all you need to do is to waiting for them to grow up and to be a part of your family. You are likely be influenced by their fun of correlations and forget you are one of them, but the family is still in forever growing process. Therefore, in this state, all operators are in a natural process of constant development.

All kinds of disorders in human body can be released and disappeared in this natural regulation. This is an adjustment among three regulations but not impairing or enhancing any one. All that man can adjust is postures, breath, psychology and movements. Once coordinated relations are set in them or a balanced state is achieved, then this state is tending to be stable. This is also one of the advantages of Health Qigong– stability with no negative effect.

In the course of Health Qigong exercise, to obtain these experience of three regulations is the essence of Health Qigong which is also the regimen’s forever objective. Then, how to obtain this sate of integrating three regulations into one?

Basic Methods for Obtaining the State of Integrating Three Regulations into One.

There are many ways to get to the state of integrating three regulations into one, and they all can be obtained from three integrations, which, Generally speaking, can be categorized into tow basic ways: Integration and extension.

I. Integration

Integration means integrate three regulations sequentially into one process. It may be long or short, easy or difficult for different people. It contains three sections as follows: firstly, understand the exercising contents such as the correct postures, movements, breath methods and consciousness, then perform all the movements and methods coordinately and finally obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one. To be more precisely, the three sections can be concluded as the separation of three regulations, coordination of the three regulations and the integration of three regulations. The last section is a higher stature above the second, so the second section is a fundamental transforming part to obtain the state of the integration of three regulations into one.

There are two methods to define the performance of three regulations, from above to below or from below to above. The former indicates the coordination state of three regulations, while the latter refers to the separation state.

From above to below, there is a method to strictly perform three regulations individually in accordance with the standards till it finally fulfills the requirements of their coordination state. Taking the comparison mentioned above, the three regulations are compared to three kids who have their own characters and are supposed to carry out their own duties carefully. The advantage of this method is that, it has a pattern to follow, so it can easily avoid problems. As long as it is carefully and strictly performed according to the requirements, the coordination state of three regulations will be obtained. Nevertheless, the disadvantages are also as obvious as its advantages. The performing standard is only one coordination states of three regulations in many. It may be suitable for some people, but not for the other. So for the people who are suitable, it is easier and faster to obtain the state, while for the people who are not suitable, it will be much difficult.

From below to above is a method to reach the state of integrating three regulations into one by defining a general three regulations’ performing standard, and trying to find the best way among the three regulations’ performing requirements. To coordinate with the comparison above, it is a method to tell the three kids to build a harmonious family and peaceful integration state by allowing them to cooperate and coordinate with each other with ample trust and freedom. This method can help the exerciser to find the most suitable way of three regulations performing pattern quickly, but as it is judged and exercised by the exerciser’s own experience and practice, the state of integrating three regulations into one may vary in accordance with the constitution of each individual.

II. Extension

Extension is a method extending from point to the whole. To be more precisely, it is the perfection state obtained by performing the movements and contents of one regulation in the three. When the regulation is perfectly performed and the perfection state is achieved, the state of integrating three regulations into one is obtained. To correspond with comparison in the previous text, it is appointing one kid to be the leader to coordinate with other two kids.

This method has its own reason to be recognized. Actually, there are some similarities among the performance of the three regulations, such as exercisers will hold breath when they fears, which is the coordination of the regulations of heart and breath; the exerciser will breath out when he thrust fists, which is the regulation of body and breath; while people will wave and dance when they are happy, which is a coordination of heart and body. Extension is an integration state of three regulations into one achieved through these natural coordination.

The key point to a successful extension lies in finding the best regulation and taking it as one’s exercising focus. Generally speaking, one’s favorite is one’s most suitable way. So for people who are active, dynamic exercise is the best one to start; while for people who are quiet, static exercise is much better. Of course, the cases are not all the same, for instance, for the cancerous patient, dynamic exercise is a better choice, because body regulation is complicated but much easier to learn and to practice.

State of Integrating Three Regulations into One in Health Qigong Practice

We are informed from the previous text that the state of integrating three regulations into one is the basic state for any Health Qigong, and any exercise or method is a media to enter this state. In the following passage, the writer will take “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” movement in Health Qigong•Ba Jin Duan as an example to explain how to practice it to obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one.

The body regulation movement “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” can be divided into three parts. The first part covers from the very beginning to the movement of holding two hands to chest; the second part starts from the move where the first part ends, flip palms and pulling them up till perfection. In the last part, two hands fall from the body sides.

Firstly, I will explain the method of from above to below of the integration. In the state of integrating three regulations into one, the heart is supposed to be regulated to be calm and peaceful. Under this mentality, the respiratory rate will decrease and the breath rhythm is slow and steady, deep and long. As for the movements, each movement of up-raising or out-pulling will guide the Yang Qi out of the body, while each move of downward and inward will guide Yang Qi downwards and save it in the inner body. Generally speaking, up-raising or out-pulling movements are coordinated with breath-out, so they will guide Qi-blood to our limbs and make them strong; while movements that downward and inward are coordinated with breath-in, and thus they can gather Qi-blood into the inner organs and do them good.

In accordance with this state, the three regulations of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” can be defined as follow: breath in, and raise two hands till the chest; hold breath and flip palms and pull them up till perfection, and imagine that one is standing between the sky and the earth with two hands up, forming the skyreach pillar with the body; breath out and draw back the hands to the beginning posture. There are many movements that can be adjusted, such as the notion of holding the sky when pulling up two hands above till the perfection and the position of elbow and knee; or breath in till pulling to the perfection; and the time to flip the palms, etc.

The general method of from below to above of the integration is described as below: what kind of notion can best coordinate with the up-pulling movement, and make it to be more effective; how to regulate the exerciser’s breath when pulling up the hands; what posture will be more comfortable when the hands are pulled up to the perfection; whether it should be coordinated with notion, and what notion; how to control the breath so the exerciser will feel better; how the two hands should be put down, and how to control the breath, etc.

If the extension method is employed, any practice to perfection is capable of obtaining the state of integrating three regulations into one. Although the practice of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” is mainly composed of motions, it can obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one by starting from body regulation, breath regulation and heart regulation, and performing it to the perfection.

The performance of extension method includes following ones: how the exerciser feel when breathe-in and pull-up hands, or breathe-out and downward the hands? What is the best and most effective time to start the notion when pulling up? How to perform the following movements so it will be more effective? Including the way to breathe-in and pull-up, and the way to breathe-out and downward the hands, etc. The exerciser is supposed to find the best practicing way in the process.

The extension of body regulation is as follow: The movement of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” is a process of the hands from below to above and then from above to below, which is aiming at regulating the internal organs. To be more precisely, it aims at guiding the Qi in our body and making it smooth. In order to achieve this final aim and obtain the regulation of inner organs as well as to find the best feelings of holding the sky, the exerciser should clearly understand the route of the movements, the practicing force, and the transformation of the movements and the coordination of the whole body. There are details that should be paid close attention if the exerciser wants to achieve the effectiveness of regulating the inner organs. For instance, the degree of tightness when raising the hands from the chest, the best position to flip the palms, the state of elbow and knee to feel the notion of holding the sky, and the most suitable position of erecting head.

The extension method of heart regulation is as this: the exerciser should concentrate all his attention to the effectiveness of the practice, and try to find and feel the comfortableness of the regulation of the inner organs. It is a state with relaxing body, peaceful mind and comfortable inner organs. Under this state, the breath and movements will naturally appear as soon as the exerciser starts the practice of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs”.

To sum up, the state of integrating three regulations into one is creative and changeable, but it is always in a steady state of balance and regulation. The state will be changed if the aim or the notion is changed, which is accompanied with the change of movements and breath; the adjustment of movements can cause the change of effectiveness and breath; and the regulation of breath can also change the practicing effectiveness and the force of the movements.

Reference: An Analysis on Integration of Three Regulations of Health Qigong

Experience of Improving Exercise Effectiveness

By Lei Zunting

How is the effectiveness of exercise? I think it mainly embodies on three aspects. Firstly, how the effectiveness of health condition and disease prevention and cure is, which is closely related to the exercisers’ fitness condition(body regulation).Secondly, whether it can draw breath into the lungs, which is closely related to the exercisers’ ideation and will(breath regulation ). Thirdly, how the mentality and moral cultivation is, which is closely related to the exercisers’ impression (mind regulation). The three elements of ideation, qi and form are inseparable in the course of exercising .Among them body regulation is the premise and basis, and is the key point for beginners; and gradually through regulation of breath, ideation and will and the mental and physical health condition named “Three Regulations” can be achieved. By so doing the effectiveness of exercise will not be bad. However, desirable effectiveness won’t be achieved without a series of theory. Exercise requires great efforts and workable methods. Therefore, we need to pay attention to each detail from the beginning to the end. Any detail should not be neglected because every little effect makes mickle.

Pre-exercise Preparation

Pre-exercise Preparations shall begin physiologically and psychologically. Psychologically, Exercisers must calm their mood down firstly, and stop any psychological activity unrelated to exercise. None of ages of successful exercisers emphasized that illuminating distractions and keeping quiet mind is the right way to the static state of exercise. Quiet environment should be chosen and intense sound avoided when the exercise is going on to ensure mind tranquility of the exercisers. No matter the exercise is carried out indoors or outdoors, the light should not too strong and ventilation should be ensured but direct blow shall be avoided. Physiologically, piss and defecate before exercise or it is easy to lose breath. In Yizhousantongqie, it reads that “Closing upper organs means being healthy while closing lower organs means not.” Here “upper organs “means seven apertures in the human head while “lower organs” means front yin and back yin. This indicates that if you want to learn Health Qigong well, you must practice closing upper and lower organs, and closing the former can prevent Yuan qi from leaking while closing the latter can prohibit essential qi from losing. Open the collar; the bent should not tie too tight and get off all the decorations such as bracelets, glasses, and necklace that affect the operation of meridian and the running of blood. Besides, warm-up exercise is necessary. Have the body and mind gradually meet the requirement of the exercise through the ease movement and deep breathing.

Attach Importance to Ready Posture

Many exercisers should attach great importance to imitate the act of exercise and make it skillful but always neglect the ready posture. As a result, perform of the whole set of exercise is undispclined and essence and spirit run freely. Finally the style and features of Health Qigong is lost. The so called Ready posture is adjustment of the mental state of exercisers to the official exercise state. Only by the mental state adjustment through prepare potential are kept throughout the process of exercising, can the goal of prepare exercise be achieved. Accordingly mind、qi and form of Health Qigong should be prepared from three aspects. Firstly, adjust the body to the proper state through ready posture. In ready posture, bent knees slightly and stand relax and quiet; keep head and neck straight and chin close lightly; remain chest and back straight and waist relax and hip up , all of which is the demands for body position. However, the essence of the demands is to keep Baihui point and Huiyin point on the same line, which is the point of body straight. Secondly, regulate breath to the deep and fine state through ready posture. The saying goes that if the form is not right breath will setback. The right posture of the body in ready posture to some extent is to regulate breath. Because of the emphasis on natural breath it is easy to regulate. Thirdly, adjust mind from distracted state to concentrated state through ready posture. The ready posture emphasizes contained eyes. Eyes are the window of heart, the expression of which can be found its element in eyes. The contained eyes help to keep mind tranquil. If exerciser keep looking around with wide open eyes, which is comply with the saying in Zhouyinsantongqi: mind is distracted and thought run freely, their mind is disciplined and distracted. The disciplined and distracted state is uneasy to come to the element. Of course, the ready posture can’t be learned overnight but require a lot of time and effort. However, the significance of it is worth what we have paid.

Pay Attention to Action Norms and Transform Movements to the Required Point

Generally, Health Qigong method is easy to learn, but to master it exactly needs some skills. According to my experience, it is better to start from action norm and movement transformation.

The so called action norm is to do each action on the exact rules. In simple word, three points are necessary. First, make sure the form is right. The action of Health Qigong seems to be easy but in essence it embodies profound meaning. For example, Holding the Sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs in Ba Duan Jin, while the arms-up to requires the arms be straight and chest and back pull, the purpose of which is to regulate upper, middle and down qi. The physiological function of the Internal Organs is to make various qi smooth and liquid run freely. The smoothness of the three points is helpful in liquid movement and spread, turbid liquid discharge and Organs and tissues functional operation. another example, the action of Holding Up a Single Arm to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and the Stomach in Ba Duan Jin, while one palm is up to support and the other down to press, elbow should bend lightly and the force should be from palms root. Only by this way, can the body be extended and the back pulled. If the force is not strong enough to the palm root while arms are up to support or down to press, the effectiveness of the Spleen and the Stomach regulation would be reduced greatly. Surely, any actions should be based on the right and proper body posture. Secondly, deal with the relationship between tight and loose properly. The three element of tight and loose, Rigid and flexible, virtual and real is closely related but the relationship between tight and loose is of the greatest importance. While Rigid and flexible, virtual and real is easy to do. How could we deal with the relation between tight and loose? The point is that our body is in relax state in the most time of exercise process and only a short period is in tight state. Take the action of Holding up a Single Arm to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and the Stomach as an example, there are two joint points can be considered as to be tight. One joint point exists when one palm is up to support and the other is down to press; the other point exists when palms are on either side of the body pressing the ball in water. The relax state is in domination in other time.

Apparently, the tight and loose here is comparative. It does not mean that when in tight state the force should be strong to extreme and when in relax ,the body is slackened and limp. It does mean that relax but not limp and that tight but not rigid. Thirdly, evenness, slowness, consistence and softness are very important. Evenness means that actions should be done at even speed; avoid sudden fastness and sudden slowness; slowness means that the action is carried out slowly to get si; consistence means that the action should be done without cease; though there is pause in some static posture, posture is at static but the force can’t cease or the force ceases the spirit doesn’t; softness means flexibility and it is not stiff or rigid; evenness, slowness, consistence and softness are an integrated unit; any element is Indispensable.

Movement transformation in place expresses double meaning. One meaning is that the action of the exercise method, breath and mind should be done just in place. For example, the action of Monkey Picking Fruits in Wu Qin Xi, when hands are up in hooks needs to shrug shoulders, shrink neck and chest and group two cubits within clip. Breathe and then hold breath when breathing; what is on mind is to conceive you as a naughty ape on branches looking around. Another meaning is that the action, breath and thought shall coordinate and be in place. Make sure the thought conform to the body, thought and qi are coordinated and in union. Also take Monkey Picking Fruits as example, when hands are up in hooks needs to shrug shoulders, shrink neck and chest and group two cubits within clip at the some time hold breath instead of breathing. The essence is on branches looking up. In the coordination process of breath, thought and action, my experience is that master the evenness, slowness, consistence and softness and the coordination of evenness, fineness, depth and length of the breath first. Then we can pursuit the union of thought, qi and form.

Pay Attention to Guide Qi to Return to Yuan

There are narrow and broad senses of guiding qi to return to yuan. The narrow sense indicates the act of finishing action; the broad sense indicates both what the narrow sense expresses and guide qi to return to yuan in exercise process. Here, the emphasis is on broad sense.

To guide qi to return to yuan in exercise process is achieved by the regulate action of breath, thought and act, and promote blood and qi of body circulation around original routine. It is much the same as the car on the road. If not carefully handled, it will pull off to the sidewalk and cause accident when coming the rigged part of the road. Only the smooth and broad road is easy for cars to pass though safe. Similarly, Meridian operation is of the same rule. Meridian system is cleared by Health Qigong exercise, which is helpful in getting rid of fatal threaten and improving health. Besides, there are, actually quite a few, actions of guide qi to return to elixir field in exercise. For example, when each action in Ba Duan Jin is finished, palm over the navel, a seemingly action of guiding qi to return to yuan, keep accompany. Palm must be aligned the navel and avoid being over high or over low when the action is done.

To guide qi to return to yuan account for small part of exercise. Therefore, when the exercise comes to an end, there is finishing action for any exercise that gathers grains to Granary. Some make such an analogy that starting posture is as if spring plowing, exercise as if field management and finishing action as if harvest; if plowing and management is done perfectly but harvest is neglected, the gathering won’t be satisfactory. Thus, finishing action is indispensible for the whole set of exercise. Four styles of Health Qigong attach great importance to finishing action. For example, the finishing action in Yi Jin Jing, Wu Qin Xi is to cross hands pressing down with mind concentrated, body relax and arms up gradually. All the actions should be finished evenly and consistently so as to guide qi to return to yuan; While the finishing action in Liu Zi Jue and Ba Duan Jin is to press pubes for a second minute with hands accompanied by great attention. Though various styles of Health Qigong are different in exercise and method, they share commonness. That is exercise of mind, breath and body regulation conform to the natural rule of qi production, operation and returning to yuan. Definitely, each exercise has its own requirement on finishing action and the rule and scale shall be well grasped.

Reference: Experience of Improving Exercise Effectiveness

How to Regulate Mind Effectively in Exercising Health Qigong

by Zhang Jun

Mind regulation is a critical point of Health Qigong distinguishable from other body movements and exercises. However, in practice, the so-called “exercise” mostly emphasized on how to meet the specifications of body movements and the mental and meditation regulations were forgotten, which undoubtedly may affect the interests and effectiveness of Health Qigong exercise and become a bottleneck of the practicers in improving their practicing levels to some extent. There are two reasons for this status: first, the instructors failed to clearly introduce the importance of mind regulation and caused the learners to pay less attention to this invisible mind regulation practice; second, the instructors failed to tell the learners about the approaches of mind regulation, the learners know that the mind regulation is important but lack of specific operating approaches, so they have to focus on the body regulation and breath regulation. How to regulate “mind” effectively in exercising Health Qigong? Hereby I would like to make a brief introduction to my individual knowledge and understanding.

First, the mind regulation is a gradual process, which must be achieved through intuitive understanding. China’s Daoyin, meridian and collateral theory and Indian yoga are discovered and invented by intuitive experience of life, and the western anatomy or cytology was unworkable. Japanese philosopher Yasuo Yuasa also stressed and pointed out that “the real knowledge cannot be obtained just relied on theoretical thinking but should obtain through the body’s understanding or comprehension ”. Therefore, the “mind regulation” process is understood through intuition. A Health Qigong practicer should have a different body and mind feeling after every exercise. This sort of body and mind feeling is a simple understanding, which has a good effect of unifying state of mind. Only through long-term practice of the exercising methods can we truly realize the inherent mystery of Health Qigong and can the life state be optimized continuously in the process of self-regulation. Inspired by the sentences of Zhuangzi • Da Zong Shi (Great and Venerable Teacher)that “staying out of the world; staying out of things; staying out of life; perceiving the light of dawn; seeing the oneness; staying out of past and present; seeing no life and no death”, I think that the mind regulation of Health Qigong should be a gradual process. Only through the tempers of “staying out of the world; staying out of things; staying out of life” can the realm of “perceiving the light of dawn” be achieved, that is to say, achieving a sort of peace and quiet, untamed and unblocked mental state through exercise.

Second, the mind regulation should pay attention to “reducing desires”. As early as over 2,000 years ago, Lao Zi said, “the man’s desires are insatiable; people are always chasing fame, interest and richness endlessly, which is not only unprofitable for the preciousness of life but results in moral hazard and loss of fortune and honor. Huai Nan Zi also stressed the importance of reducing desires on health and pointed out that, “remaining empty-minded, tranquil, detached and pleasant, while reducing appetites and desires”. Health Qigong, as an exercise emphasized on body and mind regulations, should reduce desires to play the best function of mind regulation. The “reducing desires” includes two aspects: first, the “ignoring the materials while emphasizing the life” should be achieved, don’t damage the value of your own life because chasing secular materialism, that would be ignoring what is near and seeking what is far away; second, the “being contented and knowing where or when to stop” should be achieved. In Lao Zi’s opinion, all disputes in the community were derived from the people’s “insatiable”. If a person is “insatiable”, he will inevitably ask for troubles; the person who is able to reduce desires can achieve the state of “staying out of the world”. The so-called “staying out of the world” means excluding everything in the world that can trigger all sorts of people’s desires, such as fame and fortune, etc. and achieve “cultivating mind and reducing desires”. Only when a person reduces his desires can he regulate mind to a state of “contented”. Thus it can be seen that, the practicers of Health Qigong exercise who want to regulate the mind effectively must first achieve a state of “staying out of the world” and reducing desires. In today’s complex society, only a person who does not pursue money, wealth, fame and status excessively can his body and mind obtain peaceful and create good conditions for deep-seated mind regulation.

Third, the mind regulation should achieve the state of “sticking to one principle”. “Neither using ears to listen nor using mind to think in treating outside interference” but using “empty-mind” to experience, thus to seek for learning from virtue and awaking to truth. Therefore, In the Broad and Sacred Teachingsof the Perfect Book of Dao and its Virtue (Daode Zhengjing Guangsheng Yi), Du Guangting reiterated that “one who cultivates his moral character should take his heart as the king and the internal organs as princes. If he enables the heart king to maintain tranquil, and adheres to truth and keeps the right way, the Qi of original essences of the universe will be incorporated into his body and converted into jade pulp and sweet dew therein.” That is to say, only by excluding the interference of external substances and achieving the state of “sticking to one principle” can one achieve the unity of essence, Qi and spirit and can the body’s vital functions be better adjusted, thus prolonging life and dispelling illnesses and strengthening health naturally. As a matter of fact, no matter what kind of Health Qigong exercise, no matter what sort of mind used, in the final analysis, is to help the practicers to exclude distracting thoughts and make the mind enter the state of “sticking to one principle”. However, this state of “sticking to one principle” does not occur in exercise every time, sometimes occurs occasionally, sometimes occurs frequently, although this situation is related with our own conditions and exercise environment, one thing is for sure that this state of “sticking to one principle” is an important goal of mind regulation in exercise, which is obtained through the practicers’ continuous trial and error and accumulation in practice and occurred in conscious exercise and unconscious circumstance. Only the “sticking to one principle” was achieved through the use of a variety of ideas that the mind regulation in exercise can achieve the desired goal.

Finally, the self-restraint and morality is the highest state of mind regulation.

The ancients said, the practicers must accumulate merits before exercise. Health Qigong exercise is a fashionable health-preserving exercise and a lofty moral self-restraint practice. Although the purposes and levels are different, the self-restraint and morality must be observed consciously. The weakling people do exercise for the sake of disease-preventing and body-building, the emotional disorders may lead to imbalances in internal organs and Qi and blood and make the body weaker and even lead to occurrence of diseases. People with certain practicing foundation have stronger regulation ability in mental activity than ordinary people, if the emotional disorders occurred due to bad self-restraint and morality, the suffering will be more serious than ordinary people. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhou Yu died due to his anger to Zhuge Liang, that’s the evil consequence triggered by rage. When the practice reached a higher level, the self-restraint and morality have become major practice contents, the practicers are required to maintain the mental balance, cool and refreshing moral nature and even lucid and unobstructed awareness. “If regarding this mental activity free from direct stimulus of external conditions as the exercise of self-control ability, the self-restraint and morality can be regarded as the exercise of mental activity self-control ability under the interference of external environment. Thus it can be seen that the self-restraint and morality are mind regulation, the extension of mind regulation in exercise, and the mind regulation at a higher level”. Hence, the good self-restraint and morality are essential for regulating the mind effectively and achieving the effect of physical and mental health.

Mind regulation is the key and core for practicing Health Qigong exercise. We should take the initiative and consciously enhance mental regulation to conform to the requirements of exercise and life harmonious movements, especially when the vacant and lucid mind of “transforming the outside world into oneself, transforming oneself into outside world, forgetting both the outside world and oneself, and unity of the outside world and oneself” is achieved through all sorts of endeavors, the good health effects of “long-lived, mind-nourishing and virtue-preserving” will be achieved naturally.

Reference: How to Regulate Mind Effectively in Exercising Health Qigong (pdf)

The Ten Chan Pictures

(1) In the Wild(1) In the Wild

Troubled by all kinds of thoughts and desires, people are liable to get nervous anal disturbed in daily life and with their natural character con-fused and the ability to sustain themselves lost, they are quite ill with vari-ous worries and diseases. The poem reads:
Displaying its horns, the buffalo bellows aloud,
Running along the mountain path into the distance.
A patch of black clouds overhangs the valley,
The buffalo tramples wheat seedlings wherever it goes.

(2) Initial Training(2) Initial Training

When you start qigong practice, place your mind under control and set strict demands on yourself, as if fastening the buffalo with a rope. Af-ter persistent practice, you will become disciplined and avoid unnecessary losses. The poem reads:
Controlled by a rope through its nose,
The buffalo runs swiftly under the whip.
It is no easy thing to overcome a willful temper,
As the boy struggles hard to lead the buffalo.

(3) Under Control(3) Under Control

After some practice, you will find yourself calm and stable gradually. But you cannot slacken your efforts at this moment, anyway. Be sure to forget fatigue and feel at home. The poem reads:
Under constant training the buffalo stops dashing,
Following the boy across streams and through clouds.
Not daring to loosen the rope in his hand,
The boy tends the buffalo all day in spite of his fatigue.

(4) Turning Back(4) Turning Back

When you reach a certain stage in practice, a turn for the better will take place and the destination of your life’s voyage will appear before you. In so doing, you can grow out of recklessness and act in conformity with nature. At this juncture, keep your mind steady and consolidate the origi-nal ring and strengthen the original qi. The poem reads:
A long time has passed before the buffalo turns back,
Its reckless temper has gradually grown gentle.
Not trusting the buffalo completely to itself,
The boy has not yet unfastened the rope.

(5) Tamed(5) Tamed

When you return to the true nature, you will enter a state of freedom; and when you combine the inside with the outside, you will not find yourself shrouded in dust any longer but see the light. Now that you have found your true character, you can do away with those strict demands. The poem reads:
Under the green poplar, by the ancient stream,
The buffalo moves in harmony with nature.
Returning at sunset over the fragrant meadow,
The buffalo follows the boy, who has dropped his rope.

(6) Getting Free of Hindrance(6) Getting Free of Hindrance

Getting free of hindrance is a state of penetration and evenness, and real control of both the body and the mind. Then try to enter a state of void through qi and shen practice and you will feel the inherent rhythm of life. The poem reads:
Sleeping contentedly under the sky,
The buffalo needs the whip nevermore.
The boy, sitting under the pine tree,
Starts to play a peaceful, happy tune.

(7) In Control(7) In Control

A man’s potential is boundless, and exploiting and making use of it will lay groundwork for the distillation of life. As the “buffalo” has been tamed and is free from worldly hindrance, it is time for you to enjoy the power of freedom and stroll in the realm of life. The poem reads:
Bathed in sunset, the river floats past the willow tree
Under the fragrant meadow in light mist.’
Totally at ease, the buffalo drinks when thirsty, eat when hungry,
And the boy is lying on a rock, deep in sleep.

(8) False Reality(8) False Reality

What is above everything is the true reality and observing various things in the world with a tranquil mind. Attaining the “union of man and heaven,” an advanced state in qigong practice, you will be in harmony with yourself and with nature. The poem reads:
The white buffalo stays in the white clouds;
The boy is free of concern, and so is the buffalo.
Penetrated by moonlight, the white clouds grow whiter;
The moon goes its way, and the clouds drift by.

Single Light(9) Single Light

With the buffalo and its master in perfect harmony, there is not any difference between the outside and the inside. Shen merges with the body and willpower with qi. Whenever illumination comes, you will feel at ease and full of go and vigor. The poem reads:
After the buffalo has vanished, the boy enjoys leisure;
A solitary cloud drifts across the hill.
Clapping his hands, the boy sings under the moon,
Though he has another portal to cross before reaching home.

(10) Rest in Sleep(10) Rest in Sleep

The mother of nature is formless, and everything may be back to the original purity and simplicity. The circle in the diagram shows a state of purity and perfection so that existence is non-existence and vice versa. Re-maining quiet and still, you will gain ultimate wisdom and enlightenment and the purification of your life will draw to an end. The poem reads:
Both the boy and the buffalo are nowhere to be found,
The moon illuminates the vast void.
If in search of the meaning of all this,
Look at the wild flowers and fragrant grass.

Chan (meditation) is a state in which you gain wisdom and enlight-enment through self-cultivation. There are many methods of achieving this state, including zuochan, xingchan (walking quietly)and wuchan (con-templation). Self-cultivation is an advanced skill in Buddhist qigong. Bojo Guksa, a Buddhist monk living in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), wrote ten poems and drew ten pictures to describe the steps to enlightenment through contemplation. The buffalo in the pictures stands for the natural character of man or the source of life.

The Ten Chan Pictures ( 十禅图 , shí chán tú ) also known as The Ox Herding Pictures originally comes from China.

Reference: Chinese Qigong Illustrated by Yu Gongbao

Ten Bulls – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Sensaki

Hsin Hsin Ming

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things nor in inner feelings of emptiness.

Be serene in the oneness of things and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity your very effort fills you with activity.

As long as you remain in one extreme or the other you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way fail in both activity and passivity, assertion and denial.

To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.

At the moment of inner enlightenment there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.

The changes that appear to occur in the empty world we call real only because of our ignorance.

Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state — avoid such pursuits carefully.

If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong, the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.

Although all dualities come from the One, do not be attached even to this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way, nothing in the world can offend, and when such a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise, the old mind ceases to exist.

When thought objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes, as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.

Things are objects because of the subject (mind); the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).

Understand the relativity of these two and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.

In this emptiness the two are indistinguishable and each contains in itself the whole world.

If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way is neither easy nor difficult, but those with limited views are fearful and irresolute; the faster they hurry, the slower they go, and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited; even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray.

Just let things be in their own way and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of things (your own nature), and you will walk freely and undisturbed.

When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.

What benefits can be derived from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.

Indeed, to accept them fully is identical with true Enlightenment.

The wise man strives to no goals but the foolish man fetters himself.

There is one Dharma, not many; distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.

To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion; with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.

All dualities come from ignorant inference. They are like dreams or flowers in air: foolish to try to grasp them.

Gain and loss, right and wrong: such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps, all dreams will naturally cease.

If the mind makes no discriminations, the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence.

To understand the mystery of this One-essence is to be released from all entanglements.

When all things are seen equally the timeless Self-essence is reached.

No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless, relationless state.

Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion, both movement and rest disappear.

When such dualities cease to exist Oneness itself cannot exist.

To this ultimate finality no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way all self-centered striving ceases.

Doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible.

With a single stroke we are freed from bondage; nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.

All is empty, clear, self-illuminating, with no exertion of the mind’s power.

Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.

In this world of suchness there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’

In this ‘not two’ nothing is separate, nothing is excluded.

No matter when or where, enlightenment means entering this truth.

And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space; in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small; no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries are seen.

So too with Being and Non-Being.

Don’t waste time with doubts and arguments that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things: move among and intermingle, without distinction.

To live in this realization is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.

To live in this faith is the road to non-duality, because the non-dual is one with trusting mind.


The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.

Reference: Verses on the Faith Mind by The 3rd Zen Patriarch, Sengstau

How to Successfully Lower Qi to Dantian

Lowering Qi to Dantian can dredge the channels of the entire body, harmonize blood and Qi, prolong life, eliminate worries and fatigue, calm the bad emotions like anger, fear, and worry, open the mind, and boost wisdom. As far as I am concerted, lowering Qi to Dantian means: the exerciser has made a certain progress and entered the deep relaxation and serenity in the exercise, as mentioned in Lao Zi “empty the heart and fill the abdomen”. Lowering Qi to Dantian means to meet the requirements of “keep the head and neck straight and lift the head as if propping up something”, lowering the shoulders and elbows, drawing in the chest, straightening the back, relaxing the waist, and keeping the coccygeal end in the middle after long-term persistent practice, so that the entire body is completed relaxed inside out and a serene, calm, and worriless state is naturally achieved. With the “Bird Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi as an example, this paper dwells on how to relax the body and mind and lower Qi to Dantian to achieve serenity during practice.

Initial Stage

After the exerciser has got familiar with the movements of the exercise and has begun to comprehend the key points to the exercise, relaxation exercises such as lowering shoulders and elbows can be introduced. In the first movement of “Bird Flying”, both legs are slightly bent, both palms are closed in front of the abdomen, the centers of palms are obliquely directed toward each other, the eyes are directed at the lower front. After the posture is established, attention is first drawing to the lowering of shoulders and the mind is concentrated on the tips of elbows to feel them lowering. This feeling is brought by the relaxation of the elbows. As both palms are pushing upward on the lateral sides of the body, both shoulders will be lowered and kept from rising. The elbows should not be raised. And the back is straight and eminent. Then the head slowly moves into the straight position and the chin is slightly withdrawn. The neck is relaxed and the small ligaments of the C-spine joints are loosened so that the suspended top is not stubborn. At the moment when both palms move laterally like spread wings, the shoulders are lowered and the mind is concentrated on the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Lift the wrists to move the palms like waves and you will feel an indistinct force transmitted from the wrists to the ends of the thumbs and index fingers. As both arms are lowered and the shoulder joints are opened, the shoulder blades will be loosened horizontally with the tend so that both shoulders will be slightly withdrawn, both flanks are slightly contracted, and the thoracic skeleton is slightly withdrawn. Therefore there will be a slight tensioning sensation towards the left and right on the shoulders and back. This relaxation will be naturally transmitted to the elbows, wrists, and fingers and the process will be too quick for the mind to stay. In this way the shoulders will be lowered and the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally. The shrinking bosom and straightening back results will be naturally produced. Shrinking bosom and straightening back shall be completely compliant with the natural form of the human body and shall not be arched back and shrunk chest. Do not deliberately produce it. On the basis of shrinking bosom and straightening back, slightly draw in the buttocks. While doing this, relax the muscles in the buttocks and waist as much as possible so that the muscles of the buttocks are spread downwards. Then gently retract them forward and inward as if propping up the lower abdomen with the buttocks. This will restrict the projection of the buttocks and ensure the straightness of the lumbar vertebrae and the coccygeal end. By combining lowering shoulders and elbows, shrinking bosom and straightening back, and loosening waist and contracting buttocks, we can help lower Qi to Dantian. In this way the reversely ascending pathogenic Qi caused by bad emotions will be gradually lowered and eliminated and the harmonious Qi will be gradually distributed throughout the body. During the breath regulation of Bird Exercise, the body and mind will have an other experience: The body will be light and delightful. The respiration will be smooth and stable. The exerciser will temporarily forget all worries and sorrow and become carefree and cozy. This is the initial stage of lowering Qi to Dantian.

Intermediate Stage

After the key points to the practice are comprehended, the movements can be further refined. During practice, the exerciser will be able to actively eliminate the distracting thoughts, focus the mind on the practice of the exercise, and maintain a peaceful and serene mind, and achieve a leisurely and calm look. In the first movement of “Bird Flying”, the palms are obliquely directed towards each other and the eyes are directed towards the lower front. No mind guidance is required and the exerciser should naturally meet the relaxation requirements such as lowering shoulders and elbows and shrinking bosom and straightening back. When both palms are moved up laterally, the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally towards both sides to drive the shoulder to move down. At the moment when both palms move laterally like spread wings, the shoulders are lowered and the mind is concentrated on the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Lift the wrists to move the palms like waves and you will feel an indistinct force transmitted from the wrists to the tips of the ten fingers. This sensation is especially obvious with the thumbs and index fingers. As the palms move downward, the brain is between mindful and mindless. And the brain knows where the mind goes. Before the brain realizes the concept of “relaxation”, the body movement will suddenly relax the muscles in the shoulder blades. All of a sudden the entire body will receive the transmitted relaxation. A slightly numb sensation comes across the entire back. These are the results of the force of Qigong. The force is the force produced suddenly when the mind guides the circulation of the clear and harmonious Qi in the body when both the body and mind are relaxed and serene. It is the result of appropriate mind, appropriate Qi, and appropriate strength. Therefore it is also known as internal force. This practicing experience does not occur during every practice. As the shoulder blades are loosened to drive both shoulders to lower, the horizontal relaxation caused by the internal force will promote the natural extension and slight upheaval of muscles in the back. The sensation of straightening back will come along. Once this sensation occurs, the chest will be naturally relaxed and contained. The criterion for shrinking bosom is: At the moment the shoulder joints are opened and the shoulder blades are loosened horizontally, you will feel as if a round door is opened in the chest and the long-standing worries in the heart are discharged. The chest is slightly empty and the heart will suddenly feel relaxed and easy. The internal Qi that sways between both arms when they are moved upward and downward seems to be blocking the arms. And driven by the internal force of Dantian and Mingmen, the softened arms will be like the wings of the light crane that are spread in the air. When both arms are moved upward and downward, the entire body is relaxed and kept down. At the same time Baihui Acupoint on the top of the head will always feel a slight propping sensation instead of an imagined up-propping force. Baihui is suspended on the top, the coccygeal end is in the middle of the lower body, the shoulders and elbows are lowered, the chest is shrunk, the back is straightened, the waist is relaxed, the bottoms will be contracted, and the spinal column will e naturally relaxed segment by segment to form an up-down pulling posture. The state of “keeping the head and neck straight and lifting the head as if propping up something” will be naturally achieved and the heart will be suddenly enlightened. At this moment, the turbine Qi in the body will be lowered and eliminated. The clear Qi will be raised and infused into all parts of the body. The external form and the internal Qi will be gradually merged. Although we cannot clearly feel the incoming and outgoing movements of genuine Qi during this stage, the lower abdomen will feel the numbness, heat, and swelling caused by the swarming internal Qi. This sensation is generated because after entering serenity, the interoception is improved and the proprioceptive sensitivity is increased. The experience varies from person to person and should not be deliberately pursued. Otherwise deviations like “abnormal sensory perception” will be easily caused. After breath regulation of Bird Exercise is completed, the exerciser will unconsciously enter the intermediate stage of lowering Qi to Dantian: The body is soft and comfortable, the breath is even, gentle, and long, the brain is clear, and the chest is relaxed and empty. The gloom accumulated in the chest will be eliminated. All constraints of material desire are suddenly removed. The mind is suddenly opened. Dantian is filled with internal Qi and begins to communicate with the Qi of Mingmen. The facial appearance is calm and stable. The exerciser will look both mighty and easy.

Advanced Stage

With the refining of movements, the exercise enters the automation stage. All distracting thoughts are eliminated during the exercise and even the movements as well as the ego are forgotten. But all movements are still in line with the standard requirements and will still represent the verves of the five animals. After the last movement of “Bird Stretching” is completed, both hands will be naturally lowered at the lateral sides of the body, the eyes will be directed at the front, the entire body will be completely relaxed inside out, the mind will be free of worries, and Yang Qi will be calm and harmonious. Linked with the previous posture, both legs are slightly bent, both palms are closed in front of the abdomen, centers of the palms are obliquely directed at each other, and the eyes are directed at the lower front. The exerciser is still in a relaxed, serene, and gentle practicing state. When both palms are moved up laterally, the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally towards both sides to drive the shoulder to move down. Lowering means the lowering sensation of muscles in the relaxed and gentle state and is the criterion for relaxation. The relaxation in this stage has transcended lowering and is mainly represented by looseness. Genuine Qi flows throughout the body. The entire body is relaxed and loosened. Relaxation is driven by the internal force from the muscles to the tendons and bones and from the exterior to the interior to penetrate the body bit by bit and segment by segment. When both palms are lowered, the relaxation and looseness produced by the internal force will be even stronger. The mind already knows everything before the thought is moved. The interior of the shoulders will be automatically relaxed and loosened. The relaxation and looseness will be suddenly transmitted to every part of the body. The chest will be vacant. The back will be filled up with internal Qi. It seems that the muscles and bones are missing. Shrinking bosom and straightening back has exceeded the body form requirements. Baihui Acupoint on the top of the head will be vacant and unobstructed. And almost no up-propping force is felt because the channels around Baihui are smooth. The exerciser will begin to comprehend the true meanings of “Achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true serenity”, “coordinating the mind with Tao”, and “clearing the mind to gain insight into nature”. At this moment, the Qi activity will be smooth. “Man resides in Qi and Qi resides in man”. As the internal Qi is unsettled and breaks through the body surfaces, the body will be merged into Qi between heaven and earth and the feeling of boundaries of the body will be lost. This state does not run through the entire practicing process as Qi activity is transient. It shows up at different moments for different people. And it differs even in the same person with the different serenity states during exercise. After breath regulation of Bird Exercise is completed, the exerciser will unconsciously enter the advanced stage of lowering Qi to Dantian: The body will be naturally relaxed and gentle and the respiratory Qi will directly reach Dantian. The targets of “Exhale softly, inhale slowly, stay between consciousness and unconsciousness, and remain continuous and unbroken” will be truly reached. The brain will be clear and free of thoughts. The mind will be vacant and ready for everything. Wisdom will appear in the vacant mind and shine the interior and exterior of the body like bright sunshine (deficiency of the upper portion of the body). Qi circulates smoothly in Dantian and merges with the Qi of Mingmen. The facial expression will be calm and imbued with supreme heroism and mightiness (excess in the lower portion of the body).

Reference: How to Successfully Lower Qi to Dantian by Zhang Caiqin, Inner Mongolia Normal University Chinese Health QiGong Association

Exploring Analysis on Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field

No matter you are a Health Qigong beginner or an experienced exerciser for years, you might not feel unfamiliar the term “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(qì chén dān tián)”, because nearly every stance emphases that “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is essential for exercising Health Qigong. However, few of exercisers can clearly explain how it is when asked how is ” Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Analysis finds that it is influenced mainly by conventional way of thinking, which results in a tendancy of ambiguous perceptual mastering of many terms of Health Qigong, and just making use of it rather than discussing it in depth. In fact, with the change in the context of modern people, if some classic terms originated from tradition can be illustrated with modern language, it can not only enrich the basic theoretical knowledge of Health Qigong so as to promote discipline building and scientific development of Health Qigong, but also help people correctly understand Health Qigong and scientifically exercise Health Qigong. In order to arouse people’s serious attention to this issue, I hereby attempt to make a brief analysis of ”Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”, hopefully it could serve as a modest spur.

I. Location and Functions of Cinnabar Field

According to the origin of history, Cinnabar Field is an important position for Taoist practitioners to regulate mind and build up will. In A Brief Talk on Diantian Theory by Chinese Taoists, Xiao Zhicai expatiated the records in various ancient literatures about the location of Cinnabar Field and its important functions. Cai Mingzong also made meticulous discussion on Diantian in his doctoral dissertation “Discussion on Cinnabar Field Mystery and Research on the Function of Delaying Aging of Female Ovariectomized Rats by Catgut Embedment in Cinnabar Field Area. In their opinions, Cinnabar Field is a very special and important position in one’s body. It is called “Mingmen (Life Gate)” in Neijing, located between the eyes and joining in encephalon, which is the vital position. It is called ”Dynamic Qi between Kidneys”, located between the two kidneys, for men to store essence and women to tie ovicell, which is the origin of vitality. One is the Upper Cinnabar Field, and the other is the Lower Cinnabar Field; between the two there is the Middle Cinnabar Field, which is in charge of human being’s Qi, blood and water and food, covering heart, lungs, liver, spleen and stomach, etc. These three need and work mutually, containing human being’s essence, Qi and spirit. The three Cinnabar Fields are not a point but an area. The Upper Cinnabar Field is located in Yintang Area, the Middle Cinnabar Field is located in the Area below Heart and the Lower Cinnabar Field is located in the Area below Umbilicus. The ancient literatures gave the most detailed description of the Lower Cinnabar Field Area, pointing out that that the Lower Cinnabar Field is located three cun (Chinese inch) below Umbilicus, between the two kidneys and back, and in the middle of human body, covering an area of four cun.

The Taoist cognition of Cinnabar Field is somewhat different from Medicine’s cognition thereof. Specifically, the common standpoint of both lies in that Cinnabar Field is the residence of original essence, original qi and original spirit. According to this standpoint, Taoism regards Cinnabar Field as the position for keeping qi with ideation, as well as a main site and fundamental place for condensation of essence, qi and spirit. This kind of cognition produced profound influence on the Qigong Science and even Neijiaquan (internal boxing) of later generations. Medicine regards Cinnabar Field as the origin of life, which dominates all activities of life. In terms of physiological structure, it is “the foundation of five viscera and six bowels, the root of twelve meridians, the gate of breathing and the source of triple energizers”, and it is the physical basis for the formation of human body. In terms of functions, it is the innate level higher than the acquired level of five viscera and six bowels, and it dominates the growth, development and functions of five viscera, six bowels, limbs and skeleton, and plays decisive roles on short or long lifespan, disease and death of human beings.

II. Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field in the Eyes of Researchers

What does “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” refer to specifically? How can we “Sink Qi to Cinnabar Field”? Through consulting literatures, we find that, different researchers have somewhat different views. In the article “Can Air be Inhaled into Cinnabar Field?”, Lin Yongjiang believes that, air breathing can be conducted only in lungs, while Cinnabar Field is located in lower abdomen, and air cannot enter lower abdomen directly. Breathing not only functions exchange of air, but also results in a series of phenomena of physiological changes. He further points out that, so called “internal work” means that, under the domination of “ideas” “which use ideation but no force”, taking actions as the guidance and breathing as the driving force, so as to enable internal qi to run in the whole body at will, which is the mechanism of running of internal qi.

In the article New Comprehension of Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field, Zang Baodong believes that, the qi in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is not the air breathed, but a reflection of a kind of biological pulse which is transmitted into nerves and to cerebral cortex after various receptors of nerve endings receive external and internal stimulations of human body; qi can also be regarded as a kind of special reflection of nervous function under certain condition. When human body is exercising under a relaxing and quieting state, capillaries open under such impacts as innervation, muscle flexing and biochemical and bioelectrical changes, these perivascular nerve receptors are stimulated and then transmit nerve impulses to the brain’s sensory center, causing such feelings as “numb, hot and distending“, which is “qi” or so called “internal qi”. The running of qi is closely related to the running of blood, which coincides with the views of traditional Chinese medicine that “Blood runs if qi runs, and blood stagnates if qi stagnates”, and “Blood is the mother of qi”. He also emphasizes that both air inhalation and air exhalation can “sink Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Upon air inhalation, due to that rhythmic slow actions cause breathing to gradually become natural, deep and long, inspiratory diaphragm moves down more, and will give a kind of beneficial gentle extrusion massage to abdominal organs, thus transforming the stimulations of intra-abdominal receptors into bioelectrical impulses, which are transmitted via sensory nerves to the sensory center in brain, hence causing the feeling of “qi” rushing to the lower abdomen, which is the so called “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Upon air exhalation, due to that diaphragm moves up, sphincter ani relaxes, lower abdominal pressure reduces, and the closed capillaries in abdomen suddenly open, there will be a kind of warm nerve feeling in abdomen, which means a success in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”.

In the article Cinnabar Field·Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field·Ideation of Cinnabar Field, Jiang Shan points out that, the Cinnabar Field referred to in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” can be located in the lower abdomen and the entire pelvic cavity of human body, namely the area in abdominal cavity below umbilicus till the bottom of pelvic cavity. In the infra-umbilical abdominal cavity, there are mainly such organs as small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, nephric duct, etc. In the pelvic cavity, in addition to bladder and rectum, a male also has an ampulla of deferent duct and a seminal vesicle; the pelvic part of deferent duct ranges from sidewall of pelvic cavity, upper back part of bladder to the bottom of bladder; and there is prostate below bladder. In the pelvic cavity of a female, there are also ovaries and oviducts, and there are uterus and vagina between bladder and rectum. “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” means that genuine qi sinks from thoracic cavity via adbominal cavity down to the bottom of pelvic cavity, and it sinks slowly among various organs in thoracic, adbominal and pelvic cavities. Ideation of Cinnabar Field means that using an idea to think of that genuine qi is filled among the aforesaid organs in infra-umbilical abdominal cavity and pelvic cavity, and genuine qi gently infiltrates these organs.

III. Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field and Abdominal Breathing

The term “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(qì chén dān tián)” sounds very abstruse at first, actually it means deep breathing in modern language. Generally normal breathing is thoracic breaghing, which is shallow breathing relative to abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing not only makes thoracic cavity to expand and contract more fully, and improves the air-inflation rate of pulmonary bubbles, but also causes various viscera and bowels as well as various tissues and structures such as secreting glands, junctional membranes, membrane envelopes, nerves, meridians and muscle fibers in abdominal cavity and thoracic cavity to generate relative movement, and hence gently squeeze and massage each other, which is the so-called “surging of Cinnabar Field(dān tián gǔ dàng)”. The air inhaled into pulmonary alveolis by a person in breathing is impossible to enter adbominal cavity through the tissues in his body.A person has the feeling of sinking qi when he “sinks Qi to Cinnabar Field”, just because that the tissues in abdominal cavity relax and sink down. The aforesaid viewpoint was also proved when I interviewed experts, and it is found that, when a person sinks Qi to Cinnabar Field, his caudal vertebra sinks downward and contracts forward, which changes the backward bending radian of the waist, and is more advantageous to relaxing and sinking of abdominal organs.

Different breathing patterns produce different impacts on human body. “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is a manifestation of deep breathing, and it can help human body strengthen oxygen supply and discharge large amounts of carbon dioxide, so it plays very big roles in the metabolism exchange process. The reasons lie in that, on one hand, slow and conscious deep breathing can improve the alkali content in human body, accelerate heart beating and blood circulation, thus transmit more oxygen and nutrients to human body through blood; on the other hand, trash and toxins in body are discharged out of body through deep breathing and sweats, which can effectively reduce the acid content in body, and maintain a balance of chemical compositions in human body. In addition, deep breathing can also promote shock of blood and lymphatic fluid and hence free circulation thereof, restore the connections among various nervous systems, as a result, various nerve endings also cheer up, and directly or indirectly stimulate blood vessels, which enhances the nutrition of muscle due to improvement of metabolism. Furthermore, abdomen is the place where the yin meridians among twelve meridians of the conception vessel joint together, and where many important acupuncture points and autonomic nerve plexuses of human body are distributed; deep breathing makes abdominal muscles to generate regular ups and downs, which can not only effectively stimulate relevant acupuncture points and autonomic nerves, but also massage the liver, intestines and stomach. Thus it can be seen that, abdominal breathing is a kind of scientific method in life nurturing and health care through Health Qigong for promoting the running of blood and qi.

It can be found through the aforesaid discussion that, the feeling of sinking qi in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” does not mean that the air in breathing enters abdominal cavity, but mean that various tissues in abdominal cavity relax and sink downward, due to the change in intra-abdominal pressure caused by increase in the amplitude of up and down movement of diaphragm. For beginners, they can succeed in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” from two aspects, namely changing the external shape of spinal column and changing the breathing pattern. In aspect of shape of spinal column, it focuses on changing the radian of thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebra; while in aspect of breathing pattern, it focuses on changing thoracic breathing to abdominal breathing.

When an exerciser succeeds in reaching the state of “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” through efforts, he not only makes his thoracic cavity to expand and contract more fully, and improves the air-inflation rate of his pulmonary bubbles, but also causes various viscera and bowels as well as various secreting glands, junctional membranes, membrane envelopes, nerves, meridians and muscle fibers in abdominal cavity and thoracic cavity to squeeze and massage each other, which exerts active roles in life nurturing and health care.

Reference: Exploring Analysis on Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(pdf) by Lin Zhihua Chinese Health QiGong Association

Awakening to Reality Wuzhen pian

1 If you study immortality,
you should study celestial immortality:
only the Golden Elixir
is the highest principle.
3 When the two things meet,
emotions and nature join one another;
where the five agents are whole,
Dragon and Tiger coil.

5 Rely in the first place on wu and ji
that act as go-betweens,
then let husband and wife
join together and rejoice.
7 Just wait until your work is achieved
to have audience at the Northern Portal,
and in the radiance of a ninefold mist
you will ride a soaring phoenix.

Notes on Poem 3
In this poem, Zhang Boduan uses traditional images to describe the main features and benefits of the Golden Elixir. There are several grades of transcendence, but for the very fact of being graded, they pertain to the realm of relativity in which we live. Only “celestial immortality,” says Zhang Boduan, grants complete transcendence, the removal of distinctions between the precelestial and postcelestial domains. Fulfilling the Way of the Golden Elixir is analogous to ascending to Heaven as an immortal and having audience with the highest deities.

1 If you study immortality.
The word translated as “immortality” (xian) means, more precisely, “transcendence.” In the view of the Awakening to Reality, celestial immortality is the highest degree of realization. Taoist texts contain several descriptions of the grades of transcendence. For example, the Zhong Lü chuandao ji (Records of the Transmission of the Dao from Zhongli Quan to Lü Dongbin), a work probably dating from the tenth century, states in the section entitled “On True Immortality”: “Immortality is not of one kind only. . . . There are five degrees of Immortals, namely, the demon immortals (guixian), the human immortals (renxian), the earthly immortals (dixian), the spirit immortals (shenxian), and the celestial immortals (tianxian).”

3 When the two things meet, emotions and nature join one another.
The “two things” are, fundamentally, True Yin and True Yang. Inner nature (xing) is essentially pure and unaffected by phenomena or events of any kind. Emotions (qing, a word also translated as feelings, sentiments, or passions) are often impure and tend to disjoin from one’s nature, to the point that they may become uncontrolled. According to many Neidan texts, the separation of inner nature and emotions is a feature of the conditioned state in which we live. Only when True Yin and True Yang merge can one’s inner nature and emotions be not independent of one another, but in agreement with one another.

The Chinese view of “emotions” is more complex than it might at first seem. Emotions are not seen as merely psychological phenomena, but rather as pertaining to the sphere of existence, of one’s being in the world as an individual entity. For this very reason, emotions are often at odds with one’s inner nature, which is inherently transcendent. When emotions and inner nature join one another, emotions turn into qualities — personality, temperament, attitudes — that allow a person to express his or her inner nature in life, according to his or her individuality.

4 Where the five agents are whole, Dragon and Tiger coil.
The five agents are Wood, Fire, Soil, Metal, and Water (see tables 2 and 3). They represent the differentiation of the One into the many, and the diverse qualities taken on by Original Breath (yuanqi) in the conditioned state. Soil is an emblem of the original unity of the five agents. “The five agents are whole” refers to the reversal to unity, which is performed first by reducing the five agents to three, and then to one (see Poem 14). Therefore the undividedness of the five agents is analogous to the joining of Yin and Yang.

The Dragon stands for True Yin within Yang, also symbolized by the inner line of the trigram Li , and the Tiger stands for True Yang within Yin, also symbolized by the inner line of Kan . They are the “two things” mentioned in the previous line. Kan and Li are born from the union of Qian and Kun , the True Yang and True Yin of the precelestial state. To generate the world, Qian entrusts its creative essence to Kun, and becomes Li; Kun receives the essence of Qian to bring it to fulfillment, and becomes Kan. In Neidan, Kan and Li newly join together (“coil”) and return their essences to one another. Symbolically, this liberates True Yin and True Yang from their residences in the conditioned state, and reestablishes the original pair of trigrams, namely Qian and Kun.

5 Rely in the first place on wu and ji that act as go-betweens.
Wu and ji are the two celestial stems related to the agent Soil (see table 4). Soil, which is placed at the center, is an emblem of the One giving birth to multiplicity. To generate the “ten thousand things,” the One first divides itself into the Two, or Yin and Yang. The stems wu and ji respectively represent the Yang and the Yin halves of Soil, or the One.

In the human being, Soil is associated with the intention (yi), the faculty of focusing the mind on a goal or an object. In Neidan, the True Intention (zhenyi) brings about the union of Yin and Yang. This is possible because intention, just like Soil, embraces both Yin and Yang, or wu and ji. For this reason, wu and ji are often said in Neidan texts to be the “go-betweens” (meiping) that allow the conjunction of Yin and Yang.

6 Then let husband and wife join together and rejoice.
Husband and wife respectively stand for the Yang and Yin principles, which join to generate the Elixir.

7-8 Just wait until your work is achieved to have audience at the Northern Portal, and in the radiance of a ninefold mist you will ride a soaring phoenix.
The expression gong cheng, translated above as “your work is achieved,” can also mean “your merit is complete.” — The Northern Portal (beique) is the gate of Heaven, and an emblem of the Center: the symbolic center of Heaven is at due North.

The imagery of these lines is similar to the one found in this passage of the Cantong qi (Token for Joining the Three, chapter 8):

With the Way completed and virtue fulfilled,
withdraw, stay concealed, and wait for your time.
The Great One will send forth his summons,
and you move your abode to the Central Land.
Your work concluded, you ascend on high
to obtain the Register and receive the Chart.
The last line of the Cantong qi passage refers to receiving consecration as an Immortal.

Commentary by Liu Yiming

[Commentary on line 1: “If you study immortality, you should study celestial immortality.”]

Those who fulfill both their nature and their existence, who have a body outside their body, whose form and spirit are both wondrous,(1) who are joined in their reality with the Dao, are celestial immortals. . . . Only the celestial immortals shed their illusory body and achieve a dharmākaya (fashen, the body of Buddhahood), go beyond creation and transformation,(2) and are without birth and without death. Being able to shed life and death, their longevity equals that of Heaven, and they last eternally without decaying.

(1) As remarked above, this expression — which authors of Neidan texts use often — refers to the state of non-duality between formlessness and form, the Dao and the world, the absolute and the relative.

(2) I.e., they go beyond the manifested cosmos, which is ruled by change and impermanence.

[Commentary on line 2: “Only the Golden Elixir is the highest principle.”]

Human beings receive this Golden Elixir from Heaven. It is perfectly good with nothing bad in it, it is innate knowledge (liangzhi) and innate capacity (liangneng).(1) It is the Numinous Root, entirely achieved and with nothing lacking. It is the Breath of precelestial Perfect Yang. . . .

Golden Elixir is another name for one’s inchoate fundamental nature (xing).(2) There is no other Golden Elixir outside one’s fundamental nature. Every human being has this Golden Elixir complete in oneself: it is entirely achieved in everyone. It is neither more in a sage, nor less in an ordinary person. It is the seed of the Immortals and the Buddhas, the root of the worthies and the sages.

However, when it is not refined by fire, Yang culminates and necessarily becomes Yin, completion culminates and necessarily becomes lacking. One falls into the postcelestial state. . . . Therefore the sages of antiquity established the Way of the Return [to the original state] through the Golden Elixir, so that everyone could go back to one’s home and recognize one’s ancestor, and revert to what one fundamentally and originally has in oneself.

(1) The terms “innate knowledge” and “innate capacity” derive from one of the main Confucian texts, the Mengzi (chapter 7): “What one is able to do without learning is called innate capacity; what one knows without pondering is called innate knowledge.”

(2) By using the adjective “inchoate” (hun), Liu Yiming immediately suggests the affinity between one’s original nature and the Dao. “There is something inchoate and yet accomplished, born before Heaven and Earth. . . . I do not know its name, but call it Dao” (Daode jing, chapter 25).

[Commentary on lines 3-4: “When the two things meet, emotions and nature join one another; where the five agents are whole, Dragon and Tiger coil.” This passage provides an example of how Liu Yiming explains the relation between the precelestial and the postcelestial states of being.]

The Way of Cultivating the Elixir (xiudan) is nothing more than harmonizing the firm and the yielding, making strength and compliance match one another, and making nature and emotions join with one another. When nature and emotions join, Yin and Yang meet and the five agents are whole. This is the boundless norm of Heaven.

The five agents are the five breaths of Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Soil. In the precelestial state, these five breaths are the five origins,(1) namely Original Nature, Original Emotions, Original Essence, Original Spirit, and Original Breath. In the postcelestial state they are the “five things” (wuwu), namely the wandering hun-soul, the ghostly po-soul, the Yin essences, the cognitive spirit (shishen), and the errant intention.(2)

The five origins include the five virtues, which are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity.(3) The “five things” include the “five thieves” (wuzei), which are pleasure, anger, grief, joy, and lust. When the five agents are whole, the precelestial and postcelestial are gathered together, and the five origins control the “five things.”

(1) I.e., the basic constituents of the human being in their original, uncorrupted state.

(2) On the hun-soul and the po-soul see above the note to Poem 10, lines 3-4. On the Yin essences see above the note to Poem 9, line 1. The “discriminating spirit” is the thinking mind. The “errant intention” is the common intention, different from the True Intention that makes the joining of Yin and Yang possible; see above the note to Poem 3, line 5.

(3) These are the five so-called “Confucian” virtues.

[Commentary on lines 5-6: “Rely in the first place on wu and ji that act as go-betweens, then let husband and wife join together and rejoice.”]

After the original fundament of the precelestial state is lost and scattered, nature goes east and emotions go west,(1) and the firm and the yielding do not respond to one another. If there is no harmonizing thing that goes back and forth and mediates,(2) “that” and “this” separate and do not know one another.(3) What harmonizes is the two Soils, namely wu and ji.(4) The wu-Soil rules on movement and pertains to Yang. The ji-Soil rules on quiescence, and pertains to Yin. . . .

Within the five virtues, the two Soils, wu and ji, are true sincerity. When true sincerity is in the center, one’s nature is stable. When true stability functions on the outside, one’s emotions are harmonized. When nature is stable and emotions are harmonized, nature and emotions go back to the root: husband and wife join together and rejoice.

(1) These words should be understood in a quite “literal” sense. See table 3, which shows that nature corresponds to the agent Wood (east), and emotions to the agent Metal (west).

(2) The term translated as “mediate,” tongxin, literally means “to transmit a message,” and refers to the function of Soil in bringing Yin and Yang to join one another (see the note to Poem 3, line 5). At the same time, xin also means “sincerity,” the virtue associated with Soil mentioned by Liu Yiming in the next paragraph.

(3) “This” (ci) and “that” (bi, lit. the “other”) are conventional terms in Neidan for the postcelestial and the precelestial, the “ten thousand things” and the Dao, the relative and the absolute, and other analogous pairs of notions or entities.

(4)See the note to Poem 3, line 5.

[Commentary on lines 7-8: “Just wait until your work is achieved to have audience at the Northern Portal, and in the radiance of a ninefold mist you will ride a soaring phoenix.”]

When benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom go back to the oneness of sincerity, and when nature, emotions, essence, and spirit meet in the One Breath, “the three families see one another,”(1) and “the five breaths have audience at the Origin.”(2) You return to the origin and revert to the fundament, and the Golden Elixir coalesces; some call it the Embryo of Sainthood.

Continue to advance in your practice, passing from “doing” into “non-doing.” Nourish [the Embryo] warmly for ten months, keeping it tightly closed [within the womb].(3) Lessen the excess of strong emotions, and augment the insufficiency of compliant nature.(4) Using the celestial True Fire, and relying on the hexagrams Zhun in the morning and Meng at night, smelt away the postcelestial Yin breaths.(5) Generate the immaterial from the material, passing from the subtle to the apparent. When the Breath is complete and Spirit is whole, “with a peal of thunder the golden cicada sheds its shell,”(6) and you have a body outside your body.

When the work is completed and your name is recorded,(7) you will have audience at the Northern Portal and will ride a soaring phoenix. You will fly and rise in the broad daylight,(8) and will become a Celestial Immortal of Pure Yang, free from death. Wouldn’t that be pleasant?

(1) These words are quoted from Poem 14, line 6.

(2) This expression is found in many Neidan texts.

(3) Note the emphasis given on “closing,” also found in texts of external alchemy where it applies, in a literal sense, to hermetically sealing the crucible.

(4) “Lessen” (chou) and “augment” (tian) are two other technical terms used in many Neidan texts. At this stage of the practice, Lead should be “lessened” and Mercury should be “augmented.”

(5) This sentence refers to one of the ways in which the “fire times” are represented in internal alchemy. Sixty of the sixty-four hexagrams are associated with the thirty days of the lunar month. One pair of hexagrams, therefore, rules on each day; the first hexagram rules on its first half, and the second one, on its second half. Zhun and Meng are the first two hexagrams used in this cosmological pattern.

(6) This is another expression found in many Taoist texts. It alludes to achieving an “immortal self,” which Liu Yiming refers to at the end of the present sentence by saying, “you have a body outside your body.”

(7) That is, one’s name is entered in the “registers of immortality,” according to the classical Taoist image for the achievement of transcendence.

(8) This sentence, which is frequent in Taoist texts, alludes to attaining the highest state of transcendence.

Reference: Awakening to Reality (Wuzhen pian) Poem 3 translated by Fabrizio Pregadio