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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Qigong and Meditation: Relaxation is the Key

by Glenn Gossling
Qi Magazine - Issue 20 (1995)

Meditation and the movements of the forms are yin and yang aspects of Qigong. You need both to balance your study. The movements unblock channels, open acupoints and stimulate the organs. Meditation allows you to center and collect energy. The stillness of your meditation posture also allows you to feel the effects of the forms as Qi circulates around your body. The combination of the two exercises will give you completely different experiences to meditation on its own.

It is essential that you maintain good posture during meditation. Initially this may be uncomfortable but you should not give in to backache or other irritations. It is only by committed regular practice that you can improve your posture and remove the root causes of these problems.

Correct posture and breathing are interlinked. If you allow your shoulders to hang forward they close the chest. If you sit in a slouched posture your rib cage compresses your abdomen. Your posture and breathing also affect the way that Qi flows around your body. Poor posture and restricted breathing will cause Qi to stagnate. Once your posture is correct and your breathing relaxed, meditation becomes an engine for clearing problems. Deep breathing and relaxation are difficult without good posture.

Some people with previous experience of meditating find Qigong meditation difficult because we use no mantras or visualization techniques. Visualization and mantras are often used badly, as a way to ignore what is happening in your body and mind. It is not healthy to suppress these things. You should just let your emotions and physical sensations arise so that they dissipate or you can deal with them. Mantras and visualization techniques focus the mind and can cause side effects if used too much. Any mental techniques will eventually upset the stomach if used too much. In Qigong, a thorough knowledge of our physical selves is the foundation from which we advance to higher levels of study.

Some people wonder whether this might make us too body orientated and not mental enough. It should be remembered that in Chiense medicine there is no mind/body dichotomy. It is well known that the heart rules your shen (spirit) and the liver harmonizes your emotions and so on. By concentrating on your physical sensations you are dealing with your mind too. 

In Qigong we lightly focus on the Dantien or breathing. The trick is just to relax and let it all happen. For sure, to begin with, you are going to find that your mind floods with all kinds of thoughts - what am I going to have for tea? What is the sound? How long have I been sitting here? etc. If you persist in your study eventually these thoughts will settle down. Then you will be able to observe yourself. This is the original use of visualization - you concentrate on an image (such as the meeting of a tiger and dragon, which are symbols of yin and yang, a visual metaphor for the process of meditation) just long enough for the mind to settle and then you get on with the real process of meditation (listening to your body). Don't simply expect the mental visualization to do the work for you.

It can be very hard to maintain this 'unfocussed' concentration. It is all too easy to let your mind wander. One possible solution to this can be to keep a meditation diary. Knowing that you are going to have to write something down at the of your meditation can help keep your thoughts on what you are doing. It gives you a record so that you can examine how your experiences change and develop over a period of time. It will also allow you to discover patterns in your experiences which add to your knowledge and understanding of Qigong.

Relaxation is the key to meditation. Once you are in a relaxed state you can 'watch' what happens and experience the different effects of Qigong. By keeping still you let your Qi flow naturally to any part of your body that needs it so that you can heal yourself. Over long periods of time you can store your Qi in your Dantien to raise your energy level. Eventually maybe, you might even form a crystal there.