As traditional medicine and religion undergo major revision in Western cultures, space has opened for many ancient Eastern practices to come into the mainstream. Qigong is one of the most powerfully effective forms to make its way to us. In this article, you’ll learn the basic principles that make qigong such an important system of self-care, personal development, and spiritual growth.
First, what is qigong?
Kenneth Cohen translates qigong as “working with life energy, learning how to control the flow and distribution of qi to improve the health and harmony of mind and body” (The Way of Qigong, New York: Ballantine Books, 1997, p.3). Such practices have been prevalent in China for 2000-3000 years. The term qigong in the sense that we are using it, the practice of cultivating and refining qi, is a relatively new usage. In ancient China, these exercises were commonly called “dao-yin” which Cohen translates as “leading and guiding the energy” (The Way of Qigong, p. 13).
The grandfather of Chinese Daoist philosophy, Lao Zi (or Lao Tzu), describes dao-yin practice in his Dao De Jing (or Tao Teh Ching) written in the third and fourth centuries B.C. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine recommended dao-yin exercises in the first and second century B.C. to cure colds and fevers, to attain tranquility, and to cultivate vital energy.
A folded piece of silk from the second century B.C., called the Dao-yin Tu, shows four rows of painted figures representing “all major categories of modern qigong: breathing, stances, movement, and self-massage from standing, seated, and supine positions. . .Of great interest are the captions that name specific disorders, such as kidney disease, flatulence, painful knees, lumbago, rheumatism, gastric disturbance, and anxiety, suggesting that by 168 B.C. specific exercises were used to treat specific illnesses” (The Way of Qigong, p. 18).
Today, according to Qigong Master Tianyou Hao, there are over 35,000 different forms of qigong exercises. Master Hao says that “A Qigong form is a specific mental and/or physical exercise or coordination of a series of exercises all prescribed to train, develop and condition the mind and body for the purpose of health, healing, longevity, and opening wisdom” (from Master Tianyou Hao’s Qigong Instructor Training Course).
THE BENEFITS OF QIGONG MEDITATION:
1. Reduce stress and create vitality in your body. Qigong meditation relaxes tension, improves blood and lymphatic flow, improves nerve conductivity, positively affects brain waves, brain coherence, and brain chemistry, enhances the efficiency of all physiological systems, and increases immune response and longevity.
2. Balance your emotions and open your heart. Qigong releases emotional holding patterns and opens appropriate emotional responsiveness.
3. Clear, expand, and focus your mind. Qigong is a great meditation system for active minds. It develops your ability to focus your attention, release from negative mindsets, and observe yourself with detachment.
4. Develop spiritual empowerment. Qigong enhances your spiritual awareness by producing a feeling of wholeness and integrity. It improves your ability to cultivate and refine the universal life force within you. Qigong empowers you to actively participate in creating the life you desire.
Although there are so many forms of qigong, the underlying theory, energetic anatomy, and principles of practice are common across most forms. Meditative qigong is called jing gong or quiet form (with standing and seated versions). This is in contrast to moving qigong forms, such as Taiji (or T’ai chi), which use bodily movement to mobilize qi. The rest of this article will focus on meditative qigong.
The emphasis in meditative qigong is the development of mind and spirit through the calm entrainment of body and emotion. This is accomplished by using your mind to relax your body, adjust your emotional attitude, and lead qi along specific pathways through your body.
Qigong meditation develops our ability to feel qi, build and store qi, and circulate qi smoothly throughout the body. The effects of meditative qigong are holistic: they positively affect all four levels of our being. The smooth flow of qi is the key to physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual integration. Cultivating awareness of qi flow is a path of personal growth.
BASIC QIGONG THEORY:
Qigong is a truly holistic philosophy and system of health care and self development.
The primary principle of qigong practice is this:
“Where qi flows smoothly there is health, happiness, and well-being.
Where qi flow is impeded, there is disease, distress, and conflict.”
Smooth qi flow is regarded as a natural state of being. This natural state is affected by our responses to the demands of life. When we become sick or have dis-ease on any level of our being the questions in this system are:
1)Where is qi flow impeded?
2)What is impeding smooth qi flow? and
3)How do we facilitate smooth qi flow?
Qi flow is interrupted by the way that we handle internal and external stressors. Qi can be impeded by physical tension, emotional holding patterns, rigid thought patterns, and patterns of spiritual resignation. The more general pattern of impeded qi flow is experiencing yourself as a passive victim of circumstances that cause the conditions of your life. By contrast, in qigong we learn to experience ourselves as empowered participants in our health and self development.
This leads us to a second qigong principle:
“The mind leads the qi and the qi follows the mind.”
The term mind here means mental powers and spiritual intent. In qigong, we learn to use powers of mind and spirit to feel, gather, store, cultivate, refine, and circulate universal qi. The circulation of qi leads the circulation of blood, lymphatic fluid, and nerve impulses along their respective pathways. We lead qi in qigong meditation by following these cues:
1)Relaxing and aligning posture,
2)Smiling and breathing consciously,
3)Visualizing qi pathways, and
4)Imagining and feeling universal qi flowing smoothly along these pathways.
One further note on this principle: It may be more accurate to say we “allow” qi to flow smoothly rather than we “lead” it, because smooth qi flow is natural. We allow this natural process to occur when we stop restricting it. When we live in stress mode we restrict qi flow. When we center our awareness in universal qi, we allow a greater wisdom to work through us. We let go of ego control and allow higher powers of mind and spirit to come forth. Letting go leads us to the next qigong principle.
The third basic principle of qigong is active relaxation.
The ability to actively relax is the first step toward a Core Energy State. When practicing, Master Tianyou Hao says “Don’t forget, don’t pursue.” In qigong one is present and aware while being relaxed and calm. We learn to detach from our patterns of stress so we can recover the original joy and vitality which resides steadfastly ever-available at the core of our being.
What does smooth qi flow feel like? Most commonly the positive feelings of smooth qi flow are warmth, fullness, tingling, and a sense of overall happiness and well-being. Many people who begin qigong meditation tell me that they didn’t know that they could feel so good!
To get started with a comprehensive, qigong-based, energy meditation visit: Core Energy Meditation
Copyright Kevin Schoeninger
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