"The people of ancient times who knew the Tao, used the concepts of Yin and Yang and methods of Chi Kung. They had proper food intake, a well-regulated daily life, and did not overwork, so their body and mind remained healthy. They died at age one hundred."
--Yellow Emperor's Classic on
Internal Medicine (2,690 - 2,590 B.C.)
CHI KUNG or Qigong (pronounced "chee-gung") means "energy exercise," a powerful ancient Chinese healing art that cultivates the intrinsic natural energy within the body that the Chinese call "chi," or vital life force, to impart many profound health benefits-- both curative and preventative. Since time immemorial, Qigong has been practiced to provide good health and increase longevity.
Asian cultures--Chinese and Indian in particular--have long recognized the paramount importance of breath-related energy to health and longevity, and developed yogic techniques to heal and strengthen the body. In India, these techniques were collectively called yoga. In China, breath-power techniques are called "Chi-Kung", and they evolved to become the secret "generator" that has empowered the Chinese martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine, and served as the meditative vehicle for all Chinese philosophical and spiritual insight.
For more than 5,000 years, Chi Kung has been practiced for:
A person might wonder how one discipline can be so versatile. Chi Kung is a foremost holistic therapy--imparting such a remarkable range of benefits--because it brings the body's organic functions under the regulation of the subconscious mind. By conditioning and perfecting the nervous system's regulatory function, Chi Kung balances the internal energies throughout the body and so enhances every physiological function: respiration, circulation, metabolism, skeletal strength, posture, neuro-muscular function, endocrine function, and most notably, the immune system.
In Chinese, the term ch'i means air, breath, power, effervescence, combustion, electricity, energy. It is the fundamental bio-physical energy that sustains life and is associated with breath, blood, and nerve. What the Chinese call ch'i is the same vital life force that the ancient Indians termed prajna, that the ancient Greeks termed pneuma, and the not-so-ancient French call elan vitale. The ancient Chinese sages saw all of human existence in terms of ch'i, and human health as a delicate balance of subtle energies conducted throughout the organism through specific channels or meridians. Just as Albert Einstein demonstrated the elegant unity and constant inter-relationship of all matter and energy, the ancient Chinese intuited a correspondingly delicate and interdependent web of energy patterns flowing through and forming the basis of all that exists.
One of the great contributions of ancient Chinese culture was the discovery of precise patterns of vital energy within the body--and the means to direct these energy flows in specific ways. Internal energy (ch'i) could be nurtured to prevent disease and premature aging. It could be made to flow from one person to another to heal injuries. It could empower the martial arts to supernormal capabilities. It could also be tempered and purified through ascetic practices and moral devotion to heighten awareness and develop spiritual potential. Chi Kung is an esoteric practice that induces internal energy to manifest in awareness, and then ingeniously focuses the mind to strengthen the chi by increasing its promoting circulation throughout the body.
The famous philosopher Mencius wrote long ago:
Our willpower can control the flow of energy,
When we think of a certain organ or area of our body,
energy will flow to that part.Energy is the basic ingredient
of our whole body. All our organs,tissues and cells as well
as all our physiological functions and mental activities are
the products of energy.
Chi kung is a generic, far-reaching term that represents an enormous range of disciplines that develop ch'i. There are many, many techniques that induce chi flow, each giving rise to a distinct style of Chi Kung. All methods of chi kung involve regulating the mind (consciousness), or "Yi", the body (shape-posture"), and the breathing process, or "Chi". Chi Kung styles vary greatly from one to another according to esoteric formulas by which they regulate these three processes. Chi Kung styles are characteristically described as Quiescent, Dynamic, and Quiescent-Dynamic, as they utilize sedentary postures (ching), or movement (tung), or, as in most systems, both static postures and movement.
Any particular style of Chi Kung is distinguished by its unique formula combining breath control, relaxation, mental concentration and bodily movements to achieve powerful synergistic effects. Within this universe of chi kung, there are three general forms: (1) therapeutic or medical chi kung, (2) martial chi kung; and (3) spiritual chi kung. The most popular and widely practiced styles of chi kung in China and in the west are medical forms. This is because the martial and spiritual chi kung systems are jealously guarded within China's martial fraternities and spiritual orders--as they have for thousands of years, while medical chi kung knowledge has been widely disseminated and its practice strongly encouraged by the Chinese government. As a result, over the last two decades, (medical) chi kung has become a mass phenomenon--the exercise rage--throughout China that has spread to many neighboring and foreign countries. Today, it's marvelous benefits to health are being discovered by more and more people in the west.
Chi Kung's wide range of benefits is due to its fundamental principles of natural balance and cyclical polarization: stasis and movement, creation and destruction, death and rebirth, exhaustion and rejuvenation--as expounded in the indigenous Chinese philosphy known as Taoism.
The cosmos is a body of chi. Chi has the properties of yin and yang.
When chi is spread out, it permeates all things; when it coalesces it
becomes nebulous. When this settles into form, it becomes matter.
When it disintegrates it returns to its original state.
- Zhang Dai, (11th Century)
While innumerable schools of philosophy and natural science were active during China's long history, all forms of Chi Kung have, to varying degrees, an underpinning of Taoism. The workings of Chi Kung is thus classically described as developing three aspects of human potential-- Jing, (metabolic essence), Chi (energy), and Shen (spirit). The ancient Taoists saw human existence in terms of this triune nature and developed means to nourish and cultivate these essential components of health and longevity. The esoteric processes by which Jing, Chi, and Shen are refined and strengthened (involving the regulation of eyes, mind, movement, breath and shape/posture) are based on natural law and are best described as "alchemy," or "all-chemistry." They utilize and are governed by the same laws of cyclical polarization that determine energy transformations at every level in the universe. Because of this fundamental view of man's nature--his life and health--held in relation to the cosmos, chi-kung directly taps into the universal, world-creating power. For this reason, advanced Chi Kung methods are carefully guarded by its preservers, and transmitted through a private oral tradition between master and apprentice, in the same manner as the Chinese martial and healing arts.
Recent scientific research has shown that Chi Kung works by conditioning the human respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems to effectively accelerate and increase the supply of oxygen to and the elimination of carbon dioxide from the human system. Specifically Chi Kung's patterns of deep breathing, postures and movements are designed to maximize vital capacity of the lungs and their efficiency in gas exchange; and the circulation of blood throughout the body. The gradual conditioning of daily Chi Kung exercise permanently expands the vital capacity of each breath (called tidal volume by medical researchers) while decreasing the frequency of breathes over any period of time (measured as breath cycles per minute, or MRC for "minute respiratory cycles"). This increase in respiratory efficiency directly enhances human metabolism --the process by which the body converts nutrients into energy--and does so on the cellular level.
After several decades of long-term medical studies conducted in China and the West, Chi Kung is now considered "scientific breathing therapy", for it has been found to be effective in curing many chronic and degenerative diseases such as arthritis, rheumatism, insomnia, migraine, asthma, diabetes, neurasthenia, ulcers, hypertension, "chronic fatigue syndrome", lupus, sexual impotence, osteoporosis, tuberculosis, and some forms of cancer in their early stages.
While modern science can observe, measure, and explain some of the physiological effects of Chi Kung--primarily the increased efficiency of respiration, circulation and metabolism--it cannot fully explain how Chi Kung imparts such a remarkably wide range of health benefits. It is also at a loss to accept--let alone explain--the super-normal capabilities consistently demonstrated by some high-level masters of the art. Some of the most commonly demonstrated energy skills include numerous types of spontaneous healing, healing-at-a-distance, hei-gung (martial dexterity), nei-gung (internal kung-fu), telepathy, psychokinesis, levitational movement, astro-projection, psychometry, clairvoyance, clairaudience, aurory, mind control, lucid dream-works, and exorcism.
These latent powers can only be understood in terms of the alchemical nature of Chi Kung. Alchemy, be it Asian, European, African, Australian or Native American, operates on the premise that forms of energy can be determined by the mind. In other words, the principles of physics are on the plane of mental control, and can be used to regulate the energy system of the body or of any life form. Unlike the western (Aristotelian) philosophy of science that semantically distorts the universe by creating an artificial duality based on the supposed struggle of mind over matter, the art of Chi Kung--and all the world's hermetic philosophies--start from the basic premise of mind and form. Once health is mastered, the Chi Kung practitioner can apply these same principles to regulate energy processes outside of one's body. This is the nature of healing in traditional Chinese medicine. Thus the entire tradition of Chinese healing and martial arts is a science of mind.
The Universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the world of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the world of matter."
-- Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe, 1937
All Chi Kung systems thus begin and end with regulation of the mind's power ("Yi"), for it is the mind that can regulate bodily posture and movement, as well as control the breathing process. For the intrinsic energy to flow unimpeded through the human body, certain natural postures are assumed and perfected over a long course of training. Breathing must be regulated according to natural rhythms in order to muster and strengthen the chi flow. Most importantly, the mind must be quiet and calm yet focussed, in order to perceive the subtle flows of internal energy, and to ultimately direct its movement.
Chi-Kung is thus pre-eminent in training the mind, and its practitioners develop a mental clarity and focus far beyond the norm. People lacking in concentration have untrained minds, which the Chinese say are like "monkeys and wild horses," running everywhere. Chi Kung calms the mind through discipline, integrates it with the body, and thereby cleanses the nervous system so that erroneous thinking is reformed, obscuring passions are subdued, and common sense and wisdom arise to guide one's actions.
For thousands of years, Taoists and Chan Buddhists have known that calmness (mental quiescence) and wisdom is like a lamp and its light. Along with its great health benefits, the deep, meditative practice of Chi Kung is an invaluable means of achieving this essential calmness throughout one's total being. Total calm leads to inner awareness, outer awareness and spiritual insight. Life is imbued with a structural sensitivity--an integrated awareness-- that experiences one's being as a conscious energy process continuous with all life, and this universal awareness operates from the celestial to the cellular level. This experience of continuity as at the heart of Chinese philosophy and culture, for it raises man's existence to the transcendent planes of universal consciousness and harmony. By becoming one with universal laws, one attains true personal power and gains mastery over one's fate.
Take emptiness to the limit; Maintain tranquility in the center.
the ten thousand things-side-by-side they arise; And by this I see their return.
Things come forth in great numbers; each one returns to is root
This is called tranquility. "Tranquility"-this means to return to your fate.
To return to your fate is to be constant; To know the constant is to be wise.
Not to know the constant is to be reckless and wild;
If you're reckless and wild, your actions will lead to misfortune.
To Know the constant is to be all-embracing;
To be all-embracing is to be impartial; To be impartial is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be like Heaven; To be like Heaven is to be one with the Tao.
If you are one with the Tao, to the end of your days you'll suffer no harm.
-- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
The fruit of diligent Chi-Kung training and life-long meditative works and is the unified mind-body-spirit, the fully actualized, creative totality of oneself, and is symbolized in Chinese culture as the "peach of immortality".
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