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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Qigong Meditation: An Ancient Art Comes Alive

From Qi Magazine (Issue 43 - 1999)

Qigong is the study of energy in the universe and our relationship with it. It is a form of meditation which seeks to make us aware of our bodies and how they are affected by internal and external forces. Qigong also teaches us to listen to our body and its messages and then provides techniques to help insure that we remain in a balanced condition.

Qigong meditation as a study is on an evolutionary journey. In ancient times, Qigong was a closely guarded “secret”. Teachings were confined to inner sanctums of monasteries, passed from father to child or teacher to disciple and so forth. Today there is an ever-increasing supply of books and information on the subject and people are studying Qigong for health, self-fulfilment, spiritual goals, to become healers, and the list goes on. Qigong is emerging as a well-respected tool in the increasing array of techniques available to assist wellness; it is also becoming an important part of integrative medicine (the integration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and western medicine). I welcome this newfound acceptance of a very old friend. The current interest in Qigong has provided wide spread interest and an expanded student base. The increased focus and attention must, over time, result in advancement in Qigong techniques through increased interest in Qigong as a field of study, a science and an art. In ancient times the search for a wellness elixir began through the search for a magic elixir, herb or pill which, when consumed,would insure health and longevity. However as time passed, it was discovered that an elixir could not be found in an external process or product, rather it was concluded that the elixir could only be found within. It was realised that each person contains a personal internal elixir that can be identified, strengthened, balanced and used to create wellness and increase longevity. Qigong meditation is one of the best methods of accessing our internal elixir and helping us to identif your personal internal strengths. Through Qigong’s ability to link the Qi and the mind, a person can learn to guide the body to turn to wellness and longevity. The Qigong meditative practice, like all studies, has progressive levels of execution and understanding. When a person begins Qigong practice they first learn what the energy is, how it flows in the body, how to access the energy and connect the mind and Qi and so forth, in order to produce balance. At the intermediate level the student expands this knowledge and continues to learn to lead and focus the energy throughout the body. At advanced levels students’ attention often turns to higher level physical and spiritual goals. I believe that all students should begin at the beginning, progress slowly and proceed step by step through advancement in Qigong study at a pace appropriate for them. A teacher is needed and should be the critical guide on this journey. Generally Qigong exercises move from the general to the specific, that is in the initial practice larger areas and more general approaches to the energy are learned. As experience is gained through practice the student then is able to focus on more specific energy(ies), areas, circulations and goals. The broad phases of Qigong study are often defined in terms of the three treasures. The three treasures simply defined are Jing/essence, also related to sexual energy; Qi/vitality; and Shen/ spirit. Each of these exists in the prenatal (that with which a person was born) state and the acquired (that which is obtained after birth) state. The process of nurturing and moving between the three treasures on their two states leads to the ultimate goal of meditation – the obtainment of the void, their return to nothingness: Jing (essence) becomes Qi; Qi (vitality) becomes Shen Shen (spirit) becomes nothingness (the void). A person affects their prenatal and acquired Jing, Qi and Shen positively based in the choices they make in living their life. It is important therefore that we choose how we live wisely so as not to damage any of the three treasures.

Qigong at all levels directs attention to the nurturing of the three treasures. In addition through the progressive study of Qigong, a student works to move through the three transitions noted above. One stage should be successively achieved prior to moving to the next. Therefore students at the beginning levels first work on issues related to nurturing and balancing of Jing and Qi in terms of their prenatal and acquired states. Then as experience is gained as students move on to themore advanced levels of dealing with Qi and Shen and finally moving from Shen to nothingness. Further in moving through the process outlined above a person needs to take each step at a time (e.g. Jing becomes Qi) and insure that they are well and balanced at each stage prior to moving to the next. Students generally begin Qigong study working with a meditative practice that allows them to work on issues related to Jing and Qi. It is primarily the beginning practice that will be discussed for the remainder of this article. Qigong practice can be considered to be a meditation on several levels. First as practices in Xuan Ming Dao Qigong. Qigong as a whole is a meditation. In addition within the Qigong practice there are active (Yang) and passive (Yin) aspects. The Yin aspect can be thought of as a specific meditation segment within the total practice. On a larger scale, as Qigong becomes part of a person’s life and accessible and usable in daily situations, the Qigong meditation becomes an ongoing method of establishing and maintaining balance throughout the day – or more appropriately Qigong becomes an approach to living. At this level life itself can be thought of as a meditation because the individual has come into harmony and balance with the universe and is therefore one with everything around them, adjusting and adapting naturally as needed. In Xuan Ming Dao Qigong study, prior to beginning the Qigong practice, students strive to attain a level of relaxation, quiet and naturalness. This approach assists students in preparing for the practice by beginning to physically andmentally prepare themselves for themeditative practice session. Relaxation means not being in a stressed or nervous condition. Many factors can prevent relaxation; for example,weakness or fatigue can prevent one from relaxing (since the mind has more difficulty controlling the body when one is fatigued). Three things are necessary to relax completely: 1) the mind and emotions must relax; 2) the joints of the whole body, especially the waist, the neck, and the shoulders, must relax; 3) the internal organs must relax. Quiet can be thought of as a state which is peaceful, free from disturbance of noise, emotions, the mind’s chatter and so forth. Three types of quiet can be considered: a quiet environment; and physical quiet of the body; and a quiet of the mind. Many practitioners pay attention to the environmental and mental quiet, ignoring the lack of physical quiet in the body. A serious practitioner must pay attention to all three kinds of quiet. Naturalness is to be in our essential form, unaltered, not artificial, in harmonywith nature and the environment. Four aspects of naturalness can be considered: 1) the surroundings must be natural; 2) the posture must be natural; 3) the breathing must be natural; 4) the thoughts (one’s mind and mood) must be natural. During the practice of Qigong, everything has to be natural. Human beings are an inseparable part of the universe, not distinct entities existing apart from nature. In practising Qigong, a person strives to become aware of and sensitive to this connection to the universe, to understand the relationship. The ultimate goal of Qigong practice is for the body, mind, spirit and universe to become one.

By HuangYu-Cheng, LAc 
Adapted to English by Laurie Manning and Robert Poile

About theAuthor: HuangYu-Cheng, L.Ac. has a background that combines aspects of both traditional Chinese healing and Chinese Martial Arts. He is a 31st generation disciple from the Shaolin Temple in China, Qigong Advisor at the South China University, NCCA certified in the US, as an author and lecturer in his field and Master of the Jing Ying Tai Qi Kung Fu Association in Stickie, IL. 
Email address: chinaqi888@aol.com