INTRODUCTION TO MEDITATION, CHI AND CHI KUNG
“ Know the mind through internal wisdom;
Cultivate the body with external discipline,”… Bodhidharma
In order to understand the meaning or the purpose of chi-kung, one must first understand the concept of chi. Chi is a term, which has a very wide use and understanding. It is used to describe many things in Chinese culture, especially in the arts of science and medicine. The exact meaning of chi varies from individual to individual based upon the context it is used. Translations may vary from gas, breath, air, blood, energy, etc. Invariably though, the term in reference to the art chi kung, refers to the “life-force” which is present in all animate and sentient beings. To say chi is a concept used exclusively by the Chinese would be in error. Many cultures in the past and present have similar views on this energy. In Indian it is referred to as “Prana”, in Hebrew “Ruakh”, in Greek “ Pneuma”, in Polynesian “ Mana”, in Japanese “ Ki’, and in western society it would be best viewed as “ Biomechanical Energy”. All of these concepts are very close to the principle of chi.
Kung fu, simply meaning, hard work and time in togetherness as a martial endeavor is almost totally dedicated to the development and use of chi. To understand why this is so, think of chi as the energy which travels through our neuro networks to stimulate the muscles. In order for any action in the body to occur, the mind must first send an impulse of energy through the nervous system to the muscles. In turn the muscles carry out the command of the brain as a physical function. It is common knowledge in the present age that most humans use only a small portion of the capacity of their brain. Understanding this, if we could develop more mental energy within our body and train our minds to use this energy, then we will enhance our ability to use our mind and the amount of energy directed by it to supply our body. It has been known for an extensive period of time, in chi kung circles that breathing, the development of chi and the training of the mind are directly interrelated. It is essential then to train the breathing pattern of the body to be regulated and controlled by the mind, as well as training the individuals mental discipline and awareness at the same time. Thus the very essence of chi kung (energy work) is to harness, direct, and control this energy (chi) from the patience and discipline of training the mind through breathing exercises.
“Breathing for peace, strength and kindness;
Meditation for the mastery of the mind, for wisdom and
for the understanding which encompasses the circle of life.” O.E.Simon
THE THREE PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES
Chi kung is based on the understanding and application of three ancient Chinese philosophical theories. These 3 theories are the yin and yang theory, the 5-element theory and the 8-trigram theory. These theories lay the foundation for safe, structured and successful practice. The yin and yang theory is based on the concept of balance, the interrelation of these bi-polar opposites. The 5-element theory is based on the concept of mutual productivity and destructively, the interrelation of the primal opposing forces of creation. This is generally represented by the relationships of the five natural elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth). The 8-trigram theory is based on the concept of continual change, the interrelation of the primal opposing forces of creation and the bi-polar opposites of yin and yang. The 8-trigrams represent the range from extreme yang to extreme yin and are compared to different aspects of nature (heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain and earth).
THE FIVE ANIMAL THEORY
The five animal theory more or less encompasses all three of these theories but is primarily derived from the 5-element theory. The five animals relate to five different aspects of the human being. The practice of all five of these aspects as one will eventually develop a healthy, balanced and skillful individual on the whole, rather than focusing solely on individual aspects that fit into only particular situations in life. The five animals are the dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane. The dragon, snake and tiger represent in chi kung circles the three treasures. The three treasures being the dragon (shen) spirit or consciousness, the snake (chi) mind or internal energy and the tiger (ching) body or original essence. It is said that “ a person whose ching is full is physically fit and healthy, one whose chi is plentiful is emotionally stable and full of vitality and one whose shen is abundant is mentally fresh and spiritually mature.” The leopard and the crane represent more physical aspects of motion and form, the leopard dexterity and fluidity and the crane elegance and tranquility.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CHI KUNG
Chi kung is divided into two categories external and internal which can also be referred too as hard and soft chi kung. External chi kung aims at maintaining health through exercises applied in both a static and kinetic fashion. These tensing and relaxing exercises focus on training the chi in the limbs and torso through the muscles and tendons. The main purpose being to increase the chi and energize the body to a greater efficiency. Internal chi kung aims at longevity by keeping the chi running smoothly through the body. In keeping the chi flow smooth the organs will function more effectively and the chi can be efficiently directed to the marrow in the bones or to the hair on the skin. Chi kung benefits the individual by strengthening the body, strengthening the mind and focusing the spirit. All of which prepares the practitioner for the training of wushin, which will be discussed later in this article.
CHI FLOW – VESSELS, MERIDIANS, AND CHANNELS
To start the discussion of chi, we must first discuss the natural flow of chi in the body, the Dan Tian, and the aspects of the “Three Partners”. There are 8 vessels and 12 meridians as well as millions of channels in which the chi flows based on breathing and the 24-hour cycle of the day. The 8 vessels are where the major chi flow occurs. Out of the 8 vessels 3 are used predominantly in this form of chi kung. They are the conception vessel, the governing vessel and the thrusting vessel. The conception vessel is located on the front of the body along its centerline and is linked with the governing vessel, which runs along the centerline on the back of the torso. These 2 vessels form the largest vessel in the human body. This vessel surrounds the centre line of the torso, creating a circuit, which allows the Chi to complete a full circulation. This circulation is known as the Greater Heavenly Circle. The path of circulation in the Greater Heavenly Circle is: up the Governing Vessel, beginning at the bottom of the torso, moving over the head, and down the Conception Vessel, returning to the bottom of the torso. The thrusting vessel is located in the middle of the torso along the centre line and draws original chi from the lower Dan Tian through the marrow, up the spine to the upper Dan Tian in order to nourish the activities of the brain. The 12 meridians connect the vessels. Chi flow switches from one meridian to the next every 2 hours, again completing a full revolution in 24 hours. The tiny channels direct the flow of chi from the meridians to the skin or to the marrow in the bones depending on the natural breathing cycle. During inhalation chi is drawn into the marrow through the bones, during exhalation chi is drawn to the skin.
The human body has 3 energy centers where chi is stored. They are referred to in Pinyin as “Dan Tian”, which translates as “calm point” or”elixir field”. The 3 energy centers are the lower, middle and upper Dan Tian. The lower Dan Tian is situated around 2-3 inches below the navel and is the home of original chi. Original chi, also known as water chi is chi that has been converted from original essence. The middle Dan Tian is located at the solar plexus and is the home of post-birth chi. Post-birth chi, also referred to as fire chi, is chi, which has been derived from the conversion of the essence of food, water and air. The upper Dan Tian is located on the forehead and is home of the spirit and the chi that is necessary to supply energy to the brain. These three dan tians are three of the nine singularities that I will discuss later on in this work.
THE THREE PARTNERS
In chi kung chi is viewed as 3 separate aspects, which create a whole. These aspects are completely interchangeable and have the capacity to become the state of each of the other two. These 3 aspects are Ching, Chi, and Shen. They are known as the 3 partners.
Ching is considered the densest aspect of chi and is situated in the lower Dan Tian. Ching is the original essence, which is considered the base energy of all life and is the source, which the life force is created from. Chi is the energy derived from the conversion of original essence and from the essence of external substances, such as food, air or water. This concept of chi is divided into two entities, fire and water chi. Fire chi is situated in the middle Dan Tian and water chi in the lower Dan Tian. Shen is the spirit; it is situated in the upper Dan Tian and is responsible for governing the mind so it can regulate itself, the interaction of the 3 partners and the flow of chi in the body. Shen is the most ethereal aspect of chi and is most commonly associated with the concept of consciousness.
The roll of shen in governing the mind is best understood when one understands the concept of the mind as viewed in the practice of chi kung. In chi kung the mind is broken into 2 aspects they are Yi and Hsin. Yi refers to the wisdom mind, which is the state of consciousness produced from mental balance and clarity of thought. Hsin is the emotional mind, which is the state of consciousness produced when the emotions are allowed to govern the process of the mind. It is then important for the shen to govern the wisdom mind in order to control the emotional mind. The best way to visualize this relation of these two minds with shen is to view the wisdom mind as the control center of the body. It must control the emotional mind; as well as order the chi to circulate. The shen is the control center of the wisdom mind and helps to raise the morale of the chi, keeping the circulation efficient. Shen is also responsible for governing the interaction of the 3 partners and the flow of chi within the body. This is best understood when we see the rolls of the 3 partners and how they effect life. When the production of ching in an existing being ceases, the being ceases to exist. This is because there is then no base substance for original chi to be converted from and there is not enough essence in post-birth chi to supply the being independently. It is also a problem when post-birth chi becomes deficient, since it is derived from the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. If we are denied its substance there is again not enough essence to convert to chi to supply our existence, even if we have a healthy supply of ching. The shen is then responsible for being aware of the interaction of ching and chi in the body by maintaining mindfulness in the governing of the mind, the state of health of the body and the circulation of chi.
“ A person whose ching is full is physically fit and healthy, one whose chi is plentiful is emotionally stable and full of vitality, and one whose shen is abundant is mentally fresh and spiritually mature.” Wong Kiew Kit
Thus the strategy of chi kung is to balance the water and fire chi in the body so it does not become excessive or deficient which will allow a healthy and efficient flow of chi through the vessels, meridians and channels. This is accomplished by first developing an abundant chi through the cultivation of ching and then converting this essence into original chi. Followed by the combination of fire and water chi in order to maintain chi balance. All the while both phases are regulated by training the shen to govern the mind and to raise the moral of the chi in order to permit a strong flow of chi within the body creating an efficient circulation, which will nourish the body, reducing the process of natural degeneration. So it is important to make sure the ching, chi and shen are abundant by maintaining a proper exercise program, a healthy diet and a regular practice of chi kung. There are four stages followed to accomplish this goal: 1) yi (mind or thought) combines with shen; 2) yi/shen combine chi and jing; 3) yi/shen combine with chi/jing; 4) yi/shen/chi/jing combine with li (muscular strength). The fourth combination not only refers to energizing the musculature system for increased physical strength but also the skeletal structure, the viscera and all other soft tissue inherent within the body for increased vitality and longevity.
YIN AND YANG – FIRE AND WATER
When the chi is drawn to the marrow it causes the body to become yin. Which has the characteristics of calm, cool, slow, light or condensed. When the chi is drawn to the skin it causes the body to become yang. Which has the characteristics of excited, hot, fast, heavy or expanded. The yin and yang of the body are the results of the flow of chi in the body and are manifested through these characteristics. Thus the one of the main goals of chi kung is to maintain the harmonious balance between these two forces in the body, mind and spirit of the individual. How yin and yang effect the body is directly related to what the body does when these manifestations are noticed in the mind of the individual. When the mind is yin it is calm and relaxed, this is referred to as the wisdom mind. When the mind is yang it is exited and restless, this is referred to as the emotional mind. The best way to visualize connections between body, mind, spirit, and chi, is to view the wisdom mind as the control center of the body. It must control the emotional mind; as well as order the chi to circulate. The spirit is the control center of the wisdom mind and helps to raise the morale of the chi, keeping the circulation efficient.
Now we must understand the causes, which result in the yin or yang of the body. These causes are referred to as fire and water. They are the methods of strategy the wisdom mind uses for the withdrawing or expanding of chi. Water is related to the chi in the kidneys (also referred to as original chi or water chi), it is pure and clean chi and is associated with the inhaling of the breath. Fire is related to the chi from the heart (which is referred to as fire chi), it is gained from external influences (such as eating, breathing, or environment) and is associated with the exhaling of breath.
To summarize then, in chi kung the wisdom mind controls the entire body and uses the strategies of fire and water to balance the chi in the body so it does not become excessive or deficient. Which results in the body becoming yin or yang. This is usually done through breathing where fire is associated with the exhaling cycle and water is associated with the inhaling cycle. Then if the spirit is raised and combines with the chi, the chi will circulate through the vessels, meridians and channels more efficiently.
To successfully train in chi kung we must first learn to regulate our breathing. This is done by practicing specific breathing patterns. As soon as the regulation of breath is achieved we must learn to regulate the body, mind, spirit, and chi.
Regulating the breath uses a specific breathing pattern to massage the internal organs, invigorate the abdominal muscles, increase the efficiency of chi flow from the kidneys to the lower tan tien and increase water chi.
Regulating the body means to learn how to relax. Relaxation in this case refers to relaxing the body from the outward appearance of posture, to the internal relaxation of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, organs etc.). This relaxed state allows the blood, oxygen and chi to flow smoothly through the body which enhances vitality.
The regulation of the mind entails regulation of the emotional mind so that the wisdom mind can govern the processes of the body. If the emotional mind is allowed to take control our thoughts will become excited, erratic and uncontrollable. This makes our ability to rationalize, think clearly and concentrate very hard because our body becomes to yang.
Regulating the spirit means to combine the spirit with the wisdom mind so they can govern the emotional mind and assist the chi through its regulation allowing the mental and emotional processes to be balanced.
Regulating the chi is the ability to smoothly circulate the chi within the body to nourish the body from the marrow in the bones to the hair on the skin.
“Life and death, day and night;
Water flows and flowers fall.
Only today I know that my nose points downwards.” Hanshan Dequing
The final stage of chi kung is mind training, or stated more accurately training the mind of “no-mind”. This training focuses on attaining the state of “wu’, which is the pure state of silence and clarity, referred to as enlightenment. The exertion of effort to achieve this goal is referred to as practice. Originally there is nothing in the mind, but as the years in ones life accumulate ego develops. Ego as understood in this method of thought refers to a collection of mental events, which create ones perception of existence, and hence the path their life will take. Ego if left to grow unchecked creates within the mind illusionary perceptions of reality based on passions, deluded thinking; emotional conceptualizations and deep rooted habitual tendencies. Reality then becomes relative to the individual and these perceptions they harbor will deny them insight to understand the universal laws of truth. The practice then simply returns the mind to its original pure and devoid state. This is achieved by balancing whatever state of mind one is in, so as to purify and relinquish deluded thought, self-clinging and traces of habitual tendencies. Once deluded thinking ceases awareness of the “true mind” and realization of the “true self” ensues.
“Last night I saw two iron oxen fighting with each other next to the river bank.
They both fell in the river.
Since then, I have not heard anything about them.” Hanshan Dequing
The practice itself consists of two methods meditation and koan training. Meditation consists of six levels: relaxation, regulation, visualization, circulation, contemplation and tranquility. These levels are then divided into three phases. The first phase is referred to as “ chi-breathing” it consists of the levels of relaxation and regulation. It concerns itself with the development or the breathing method, which allows the practitioner to develop abundant chi and to relax the body so the chi will flow smoothly. The second phase is called “ mind following” it includes the levels of visualization and circulation. It concerns itself with the circulation of the chi cultivated in the first phase by directing it through exercises of visualization. The third and final phase of meditation is “ wushin “ training; it consists of the levels of contemplation and tranquility. It concerns itself with training quiescence of mind; this silence brings clarity of thought and balance.
“No need at all of hills and streams for quiet meditation;
When the mind has been extinguished even, fire is refreshing.” Unknown
The koan is directly translated as a “public record”. It can range in size from single syllable to multi-syllable stanzas. It is an account of an awakening experience, which is a profound revelation of truth acquired through practice. An awakening is an instant insight into reality and is brought about when the “no-mind” state manifests itself through self-experience. It is thought that the insight revealed through this manifestation is brought about by maintaining a moderate but disciplined regimen of meditation practice and by forbearing the desire to over-intellectualize. Koan training is then, the composition and contemplation of parable like poems, which guide the practitioner on the path to enlightenment.
“If you want to write such a poem, you must first be capable of such a mind;
If you want to paint such a picture, you must first be capable of grasping such a form.” Unknown
In the training of the mind, whether only one of the methods are practiced or both. The focus of the mind is always on now. The past is behind us, the future will be based on how we think, feel and act in the present moment. To enjoy life and to be at peace, each individual moment of our lives must be experienced as if it were our last. Then we can learn from our experiences and use this knowledge to help us lead a better life.
“Breathing in I relax my body, breathing out I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, knowing it is a wonderful moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh
If one truly wishes to train and understand the science of chi kung. . One can develop quiescence of mind, the illuminating silence that brings forth understanding. From this understanding comes clarity of thought and mindfulness, which help to maintain equilibrium in ones physical, mental and spiritual beings. One can also develop a soft strength, but a full strength. Developed from the training of the mind and breathing, it is of the relaxed and flowing. Having hollowness yet fullness it has the feeling of the tide, soft and steady but with immense innate force
“Experience is everything, to learn only by reading is equivalent to listening while having ones ears covered.” Fu Yen
Abdominal breathing is the method of breath regulation throughout the entire set of exercises. It is accomplished with the inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the mouth. Certain physical requirements must be met whether the exercises are trained in a sitting or standing position in order to create a proper body alignment and a strong chi flow; 1) the back must be straight, allowing the spine to follow it’s natural curvature up the back. 2) the head is raised up as if suspended from a string hanging from the sky, with the chin tucked inwards toward the chest. 3)the shoulders are relaxed and pulled slightly back. 4) the tongue is rested with the tip sitting on the top of the mouth behind the top front teeth. 5) the eyes will remain open or closed with the focus changing depending on the exercise involved.
The breathing regulation works with the abdomen expanding on the inhalation cycle and then contracting to the calm point (lower dan tien ) with the timing of the exhalation cycle. This breathing method is the foundation of all the following exercises it must be trained in order to become a natural function of the body. At first the practitioner either sits in a half Burmese position ( cross legged position ) or stands and simply concentrates on timing the breathing cycles with the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. ( All breathing is done from the diaphragm and not the chest. The chest should not move and the shoulders are still. If the shoulders move it is a sign that the breathing is too shallow and coming from the chest rather than from the abdomen.) while trying to relax the body and the mind. This exercise as all chi kung exercises should be done sparingly at first and then more repetitious as experience is gained. If at any time one starts to feel light headed stop breathing and do not continue until at least the next day, since muscles and organs are being exercised that are normally neglected. Watch carefully for the signs the body gives when it becomes fatigued so you can monitor the exercises and not harm yourself during chi kung training.
The mind should also be free of expectations and be focused on the exercise at hand. Allowing the mind to follow expectations or wander during the course of chi kung or meditation can lead to possible chi kung deviation which is a form of kundalini syndrome or spiritual crisis that manifests itself in psychosis. It is not a rare phenomena but quite common in individuals with a history of mental disorders or who have latent disorders. This is not to say that these individuals cannot train and gain the benefits of chi kung and meditation only that the rules should be followed and a qualified teacher should be present until the individual has a proper grasp of the techniques.
SIGHING AND YAWNING
When practicing all the meditation exercises we always begin and end the exercise with a sigh. This relaxes the mind and prepares the mind to begin an exercise as well as prepares the mind to end an exercise. A sigh naturally relaxes the body and mind refreshing both. It is a natural function and in meditation signals the mind that an exercise is beginning or ending this allows the mind to begin circulating or stop circulating the chi. Drawing the chi from the lower dan tian and returning it to the lower dan tian with the bodily function.
Inevitably every meditation and chi kung practitioner will yawn. Again this is a natural bodily function that should not be worried about. When it happens simply continue on with the exercise but do not force the yawn to stop go with it until it finishes its course.Where the sigh cools the front of the body and organs regulating the blood and oxygen levels the yawn does much the same . The yawn cools down the brain by regulating the oxygen levels which prepares the mind for a return to the focus that had been disturbed. As a matter of fact the yawn is a mechanism that brings attentiveness to a dull state of mind brought on by sleepiness. Both the sigh and yawn are then tools to be used for meditation practice.
CIRCULATING THE CHI
Chi breathing is now the first attempt at developing chi and working on the expansion of the conscious mind. This exercise must become part of you so you will do it naturally in everyday life. It is an exercise with many layers and levels that are difficult at first but become easier with practice and time. In the beginning we focus only on the abdomen and its natural motion during breath at infancy. By breaking down the breath and finding its origin we can build upon that base. The abdomen expands with the in breath and contracts with the in breath all slightly rolling from the diaphragm to the solar plexus and back. The chest remains still the whole time this is a deep rhythmic breathing motion like a gentle belly dancer the abdomen oscillates. Like a wave concentrate on expanding the belly breathing in through the nose allowing the abdomen to roll expanding all the way to the solar plexus. Then exhaling through the mouth roll the abdomen downward ending with a gentle crunch on the diaphragm. Once the basic motion and light pressure to the stomach muscles being used in the exercise becomes comfortable try timing the inhalations and exhalations. The inhalations through the nose should be natural whatever few seconds is needed to accomplish a smooth breath timed to the complete rolling expansion of the stomach. The motions and the breath must match each other, one stops the other stops, one goes the other goes. At the beginning of the inhalation you now also place your tongue from the start of the cycle to the end of the exhalation where at the very end of the breath and stomach crunch you make a “Tuh” sound breaking the contact of the tongue to the top of the mouth behind the teeth . Then with the inhalation it goes back to its position the tongue breaking the circuit ending the cycle. The exhalation should now become a ten second count ending with the tenth second being the “Tuh” sound breaking the circuit. But we want as we get better to get the cycle to continue even though there is a break. So we can make an exercise out of a technique. Up until now you have been doing single cycles perfecting the basics to build slowly up to an meditation exercise. You should now be comfortable Inhaling a smooth expanding breath that rolls to the solar plexus taking enough seconds for a natural breath with the tongue behind the upper teeth. Changing into a ten second contracting exhalation crunching at the end to the diaphragm ending with the “Tuh” sound from the ending of the circuit. Now we learn how to cross the gap and continue the circuit. This is a crucial part of the whole exercise it is called the dream cycle it controls the drowning phase which we want to avoid while doing the exercises. We can not gasp for air or the circuit will be broken and you achieve nothing from the exercise the cycle must be smooth and relaxed yet firm in posture( whether laying, sitting or standing). How we move through the dream phase is by mentally and physically applying the pressure on the diaphragm and the end of the breath and the crunch. You gasp for air in the crunch for there is none there but if you focus do not panic and relax the diaphragm a smooth inhalation will occur because the body realizes that there is still a bit of air in the lungs. When we crunched the diaphragm with no breath left the mind reacts by going into the drowning phase and makes you want to gasp. This is the first step to learning to control your wind.
After being able to cycle through the breaths properly it is time to put the mental aspect in and learn the exercise. First place yourself in a sitting cross legged position with the spine straight, the chin slightly tucked in and the right leg forward. Your eyes are focused forward at some indistinct point to the forward at eye level. We begin the exercise with a sigh, on the first inhalation after the sigh your peripheral vision expands outward and stays there through the exercise which is thirty six breaths with two sighs. Let your mind be aware of everything around you but do not pay attention to any particular thing. Empty your mind and being completely aware watch with indifference. If a thought arises acknowledge it then let it go random thoughts are like clouds passing in the sky making interesting shapes that are constantly changing. On the last or thirty sixth exhalation the mind draws back from the expansive indifferent awareness to the single indistinct place it started its journey from then end with a sigh. Once the breath and mind are linked together through this exercise it can be practiced naturally at any point of the day or night. Just by drawing your awareness to being mindful while being mindless breathing natural breaths without counting. Chi Breathing starts as an exercise that grows into a state of mind that encapsulates a whole philosophy. In the end the exercise is lost but the benefits continue to grow with time.
Nourishing the Organs
In Nourishing the Organs the practitioner learns to use a different method to place the body on the ground, assuring that both feet touch at the soles, the walking surface ( not crossing the limbs any longer ). It is believed that sitting in such a fashion, the chi forces of the left and right sides of the body will not oppose each other, making it possible to achieve a closed circuit of that energy.
In the first exercises Buddhist and chi breathing simple breathing methods were taught not directly addressing the mind . Nourishing the Organs concerns itself with the conversion of jing to chi . In order to understand how this is done first we must look at the theory of the three treasures. the three treasures are the ; jing, chi and shen. Jing is the original essence, the sexual or pre-birth energy that forms life, the practitioner whose jing is full will be physically fit and healthy. Chi is internal energy, a practitioner whose chi is plentiful is emotionally stable and full of vitality. Shen is the mind or spirit, the practitioner whose shen is abundant is mentally frees and spiritually mature. In the process of chi kung training four steps are needed to achieve the goal of enlightenment ; 1) to convert the jing into chi; 2) to nourish the shen with chi ; 3) to refine the shen into emptiness; 4) to crush the emptiness. The jing or original essence becomes chi only by exercises in which the mind will guide the chi to wherever it desires it to be. Only through repetition will the mind be able control this function at your command.
To begin the circulation do the chi breathing exercise for 36 cycles, when this is finished adjust to the tripod sitting position. The first inhaling breath is soft becoming slightly more forceful as the exercise progresses. The normal energy is at the beginning to the left side of the body by slowly inhaling and while exhaling sending a wave of muscles contracting down the left side thinking inwardly of the spleen. This is done by slightly tilting the torso to the left side, the mind remaining on the organ, do not allow it to follow the contraction of the muscles going down the side of the body as the exhaling cycle ends.
Inhaling more sharply now, the mind is directed towards the most lower portion of the body, contracting all lower muscle tissues, forcing them mildly to follow the breath. This type of inhaling is done to cause a muscle contraction in all lower areas of the torso; this involves all organs ( including the sexual organs ) and all muscles which are able to move in that region; they will all rise slightly with the inhaling action. The muscle tissue above the bladder should noticeably contract. The wave of the expanding muscles of the abdomen that follows will continue until it reaches the area below the solar plexus. The mind will concentrate on the spleen for four cycles, then move for four to the left lung, finishing for four on the left kidney.
After these twelve repetitions the body should then shift to the center for the same amount of repetitions. The first four focusing on the stomach and the upper and lower intestines,the second four on the heart and the final four on the bladder. Then the body shifts again ending up on the right side for an additional twelve repetitions. Beginning with four focusing on the liver, then with four focusing on the right lung , finally ending with four focused on the right kidney.
Throughout the thirty six cycles of this exercise the mind must address each organ individually it is important the practitioner is familiar with the exact location of each organ in order for the benefits of this exercise to be reached. For better relaxation during each sitting and each particular phase it is important to allow additional Buddhist breathing cycles as soon as one has the feeling that a breathing cycle creates conflict or change from the normal state of well being. Always pay attention to the signals the body sends for a safe practice of chi kung.
LESSER HEAVENLY CIRCLE
The Lesser Heavenly Circle utilizes the same tripod position as Nourishing the Organs, though the mind now leads the converted chi through the Lesser Circulation. The path of this circulation is up the back and then down the front of the body beginning and ending at the lower dan tian. There are three dan tian’s in the body the upper, middle and lower. The lower dan tian is referred to in Chinese medicine as the “ chi ocean “ it is located about three inches below the navel and about two inches deep, it is considered the well-spring of human energy. It is the residence of original chi which has been converted from original jing. The middle dan tian is located at the solar plexus and is considered to be where the post-birth chi is produced and gathered. Post-birth chi is the energy which is converted from the essence of air and food. The upper dan tian is located on the forehead and the shen is thought to reside there. The chi in the lower dan tian is referred to as water chi and the chi located in the middle dan tian is referred to as fire chi . It is believed that if a chi kung practitioner can smoothly circulate the water chi of the lower dan tian up the governing vessel ( located on the center line of the back of the body) and down the conception vessel ( located on the center line of the front of the body ) that the vessels will become full of chi, allowing the chi to flow through all eight vessels of the body as well as the twelve meridians promoting greater health. This process is called the “:pure breath of chi”.
There are two methods of accomplishing the Lesser Heavenly circulation. The first method divides the circuit equally between the inhalation and exhalation the second accomplishes it entirely on the exhalation using the inhalation to bridge the gap of the lower dan tian completing the circuit ant the lower dan tian rather than at the transitions where the governing and conception vessels meet.
In the first method the visual focus starts at the lower dan tian and with the inhalation the mind directs the chi up the spine to the upper dan tian and through the exhalation descends down the front of the body to the lower dan tian again. The transitions are important and must be smooth with no holding of the breath between the inhalation and exhalation phases. Both the inhalation and the exhalation should be 10 seconds each.
Throughout the second method of the Lesser Circulation the inhaling cycle should be approximately five seconds and never extend for a longer duration to prevent medical difficulties ( hyperventilation, hypoxia ). As the inhalation begins the mind is relaxed and the mental focus is drawn to the lower dan tian, then the inhalation is cut and the exhalation begins the mind now begins to lead the chi from the lower dan tian around the lower torso ( passing the sexual organs and anus ) to the lower back then up the back around the head and then following the path of the front of the torso to the naval. At this point the eyes which were open staring at a fixed point at eye level at the appropriate distance in front of the body begin to close and a mental bridge is formed from the navel directing the chi back to the dan tian continuing the cycle without letting the chi flow dissipate in the transition of breath, which took place as the exhalation cycle ended when the mind reached the navel after approximately twenty five seconds had elapsed. The inhalation cycle taking place as the eyes were shut , making sure the inhalation is relaxed and calm ( this is called the dream cycle) , the shoulders and chest do not rise with a gasping for breath ( this is called the drowning phase ). The eyes again open to begin the exhalation cycle again. Even though this exercise is called a mind following exercise by the ancients the mind actually leads the chi by mentally moving the focus of the mind around the torso by visualization. In the relation of the shen, yi and chi remember that the shen directs the yi which in turn leads the chi. This is translated as the spirit directs the mind which leads the chi. The chi cannot be forced but it’s relationship with the mind is inseparable so where the mind moves the chi will follow that is what is meant by the ancient masters referring to this and the later exercises as mind following.
This exercise should be repeated twelve times , the preceding exercises being completed first in their proper sequences with the proper amount of repetitions.
In time the number of repetitions can be raised to 36 following the rules of the preceding exercises but not exceed that number in one sitting. Here is a another explanation adding a different dimension.
The Lesser Heavenly circle is the most complex of the exercises and the most demanding. The exercise revolves around the circuit of energy up the spine ( the governing vessel) and down around the front of the body( the conception vessel) beginning and ending at the lower energy center. Introducing the concept of the ‘no point’ which is like a black hole on the circuit which has to be passed through in order to complete the circuit. Much like the dream phase which is combined with a concentration technique to achieve this goal. The exhalation now becomes a 25 second cycle while the inhalation remains the same though requiring a deeper more concentrated breath. Again you sigh to begin then with the inhalation you bring your mind to your lower energy center while staring at a point straight ahead at eye level. On the exhalation you slowly move your mind around the torso from the lower energy center moving around to the tail bone then following the spine up to the top of the head then down the front of the body to the naval. At the navel you should have balanced your journey to about 20 seconds and you slowly close your eyes for the last 5 seconds. Then in your mind imagine a dot or a whole at the navel that you pass through to the other side bridging the gap and finishing the breath with the “t” sound then using the dream cycle to smooth the transitions to avoid gasping. The exercise can be practiced in three sets of twelve eventually working up to thirty six breaths beginning and ending with a sigh. If you divide the body into five parts starting at the lower dan tien you can track your journey using mind following in order to push by pulling the chi along the cycle. At first as you exhale you bring your mind to the huin point which is the lowest point on the torso, by doing this for 5 seconds you draw chi from the dan tien and build it up at this point then for 5 seconds you focus on the middle of the spine drawing the chi to this point and energizing it. Then the focus turns to the top of the head for 5 seconds, the chi follows the mind to the crown and vitalizes it , for the next 5 seconds the chi is brought to the naval the reservoir, the deep within, the chi wants to naturally disperse itself here. To blend with the emptiness within. This brings us to the final 5 seconds the mind must find its starting point again the lower dan tien so you close your eyes and imagine, visualize a point that point is the dan tien, move to it and pass through it when you pass through your mind and chi will arrive at the dan tien completing the cycle. With a “tuh using the dream cycle theory you relax the diaphragm physically before inhaling, it will relax the tension in the lungs allowing air to expand so a gentle in breath controlled without gasping is possible. After the in breath a gentle sigh for the exhalation and you are done. The visualization is called “mind following” once you get the basics down with the exercise you can then add in the mind training from natural breathing being aware of everything but paying no particular attention to one thing. I call this “mindful empty awareness” if you can accomplish this both mental training’s combined in these exercises you will find you are always doing it. So the need to sit or stand simply becomes a mental discipline for conditioning the body nothing more.
I have given two descriptions of the traditional method of this exercise because each one focuses on different key points a thorough read through both descriptions will give the reader a better understanding of the exercise. After this meditation has been mastered in the way it has been introduced we are now ready for a third level to the exercise. Since this meditation is the key to physical, mental and spiritual development I have devoted more description to it.
In this third method we will now learn how to activate and fill all of the important points on the path of the circulation, this will clear out all blockages and increase the chi feeling during the flow. There are fifteen points that we will focus on along the greater heavenly circulation. Once this third exercise has been accomplished this is how the adept will begin each meditation session of the greater circulation. Once around the circuit focusing on each of these points then onto the regular method of circulation.
At each point we will dedicate one full breath, we will start and end with a sigh. We will begin at the lower dan tian after the sigh we inhale through the nose and focus our concentration on it, with the exhalation through the nose this time we relax our focus and let the chi circulate in that point still being consciously aware of the point even though our focus is relaxed. With the next inhalation we lead the chi to the point between the genitals and the anus, with the exhalation again we relax our focus but not our attention. This method of moving from one point to the next is followed all the way until we reach the lower dan tian again finishing the circuit. Always breathing in and out through the nose, relaxed deep breaths and as always ending the exercise with a sigh. Now from the last point I mentioned we move to the tailbone area, then along to the point on the spine level with the top of the hips near the kidneys. We now move to the middle of the spine , then onto the middle of the shoulder blades, then along to the point on the spine where the neck meets the shoulders. Then we move to the base of the skull where the spine ends and then along to the crown of the head. Now moving down we move to the upper dan tian then to the upper lip, moving along we go to the adams apple area then moving down further we move to the middle of the chest. From the middle of the chest we move to the solar plexus or middle dan tian then along to the naval and then we arrive back at the lower dan tian and finish the circuit with a sigh.
Practicing this final part of the meditation first will guarantee a smooth and regulated flow along the circuit when practicing the greater heavenly circle meditation. How this exercise becomes an integral part of spiritual development I will discuss later in this work.
THE GREATER HEAVENLY CIRCULATION
The Greater Heavenly Circle is accomplished by the Yi Jin Jing sets or Muscle/ tendon Changing classic and Lohan Embraces Heaven and Earth. These are taught only in private instruction because of the complexity of the exercises. The Yi Jin Jing is a hard set of exercises and the Lohan Embracing heaven and earth is a soft breathing form. They lead the chi to the extremities completing the Grand Circulation.
PROCESSING JING AND REPLENISHING MARROW
MIXING THE CAULDRON TO BREW THE ELIXIR
The basis of this exercise is to mix the fire and water chi in the body , then lead it to the sexual organs thereby energizing them to create more original essence. This is accomplished by sitting in the tripod position. inhale and pay attention to the fire chi in the middle dan tian, then relax the focus and exhale smoothly. Inhale again using the mind to lead the fire chi from the middle dan tian and the water chi from the lower dan tian to the huang ting cavity which is in the area of the navel, when the exhaling procedure begins allow the mind to relax and let the two chi mix (interact) together. Inhale once more and mentally lead the mixed chi to the groin, and when exhaling relax the mind and allow the groin to expand with chi which energizes the sexual organ creating essence.
ABSORBING FROM NATURE
The main sources of energy to try to absorb are the sun, moon, earth. Depending on the yin or yang state of the body will determine what source to be used. The sun is related to yang energy and the moon to yin energy, the earth is a balance of the two. If the essence of the sun is what is to be trained it is recommended that training takes place on the first day of the lunar month and the best time to absorb is when the sun has just risen. When training the practitioner should stand or sit facing the sun. The training of absorbing moon essence is the same as the sun except the practice time is from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. To accomplish this the practitioner should sit the ground in the half Burmese position or stand facing the object of energy that is wished to be absorbed. Form the Ch’an or Zen hand position right over left with thumbs touching and place them over the navel. When inhaling use the mind to lead the external chi through the nose and the upper tan tien to the huang ting cavity, when exhaling lead the chi from the huang ting to the groin , then hold the breath for a couple of seconds imagining the chi is expanding the groin and energizing it.
In chi kung it is believed that when the excess chi is lead to the brain there will be a sensation of internal awareness like lightening in the brain. Scientifically this could be understood as the excess energy when transferred to the brain activates the brain cells , this energization is perceived as lightening or o visual flash in the brain. Practice of this exercise should be maintained until this feeling of lightening in the brain has been reached seven times. Posture is not significantly important in this exercise practice can be held at any time or any place that is desired. However it should be understood that the body must be very relaxed. From my personal experience assuming a laying posture with the hands resting on the naval with the thumbs touching resting on the middle dan tian allows the best feel for the sublimation exercise. Close the eyes and use the mind with the inhalation to lead the chi from the groin area up the thrusting vessel ( which runs up the marrow of the spine ) to the upper dan tian , then when exhaling relax the mind and allow the chi to mix with the spirit ( shen ).
This same exercise may also be done by leading the chi to the top of the head which will nourish the brain , or to each individual bone in the body which allows the practitioner to nourish the marrow throughout the entire body. When nourishing the marrow the training should begin at the hands then move to the arms, shoulders, waist, legs, feet, spine, skull, breast bone , rib cages and collar bones in this order. This exercise can also be used to lead chi to the skin and outer hair follicles as well. The advanced practitioner should be able to lead the chi from the deepest part of the body ( marrow ) to the outermost part of the body ( tips of the hair and finger nails ). With brain and marrow nourishing the repetitions could be adjusted to the individual I prefer from my own experience to do four repetitions for each section being nourished. Then followed by 12 repetitions treating the whole skeletal system and body tissue as one. Inhaling the first time visualizing the jing spreading from the central point of the groin and moving up the spine and then to the skeletal extremities condensing deep into the marrow with the exhalation relaxing the focus and allowing the essence to energize the cellular tissue. With the second inhalation expanding the energy to the outer skin hair and follicles visualizing the whole body being energized from the very innermost cells to the outer cells, then with the exhalation relaxing the focus allowing the outer cells to be energized by this essence.
NURTURING THE IMMORTAL SPIRITUAL EMBRYO
This meditation is the spiritual cultivation climax of the sitting meditations. Its whole purpose is to nurture and nature the shen. We join the greater heavenly circle meditation along with figure eight breathing utilizing all three meditation vessels in one exercise developing the spiritual body of the shen. We begin with a sigh as always then with the first inhalation and exhalation , both through the nose we get the greater heavenly circle spinning by breathing in and focusing on the lower dan tian and breathing out completing the full circuit. From this point one we keep our awareness focused on the spinning circle now keeping the circle spinning we draw the chi with the next breath up the thrusting vessel to the pineal gland, exhaling we energize the gland. We keep the circle spinning with our awareness and our focus is on the drawing of the chi to the gland. Do this meditation 36 times then end with a sigh. The sigh will bring all the energy back down to the lower dan tian if this does not work and you feel supercharged in the brain do a couple more breaths and lead the chi down until the feeling settles down.
RETURNING TO NOTHINGNESS
This section and the last section of the classic is the practice of “wushin” or wu meditation. The process of wu meditation is the easiest of all the exercises in theory but probably the most difficult in application. This meditation can be accomplished from a sitting, standing or laying position depending on the preference of the practitioner at the time of practice. Simply assume the desired position for the practice session , close the eyes and begin basic Buddhist breathing with the abdomen with the exception that the mouth now remains closed and both the inhalation and exhalation cycles are accomplished through the nose. The hands are placed in the Ch’an position(right over left with thumbs touching forming the shape of an egg between the thumbs and hands) resting near the lower dan tian. Breath deeply relaxing the mind and body, allow the thoughts of the mind to drift away . The purpose of the exercise is to empty the mind and becoming aware of the self through quiet observation but not being directly involved mentally with the process of doing so . If undesired thoughts enter the mind do not become disturbed either embrace the thought and let it go or if possible just let it pass by , by trying to fight thoughts and put a control on the brain will just excite the mind and allow more thoughts to disturb you . The focus of the exercise is to become detached from the mind and body allowing them to become refreshed and rejuvenated. After a desirable amount of time has elapsed , the mind being aware only that time has passed and being not involved in keeping time, slowly take four breaths focusing the mind on the lower dan tian , then a few more normal breaths to re-orient the mind and then slowly stand up and go about the affairs of the day. This exercise is of enormous value and will finish the circle of internal meditation exercises.
THE NINE SINGULARITIES
In the above exercises I refer at times to Traditional Chinese Medicine Terms and concepts for example meridians, channels and vessels. In the exercises three main reservoirs are referred to the lower, middle and upper dan tian’s. These are only three of the nine I have found on the human torso. From the genital area to the top of the head there are exactly nine singularities.
They are all measured by placing the hands together in the shape of a triangle called the “sign of the temple”. From the thumbs to were the two index fingers meet on each individual is the exact distance between singularities. Using the naval as a bench mark all nine can be found.
Each has a different function and so far I have only discussed the three relevant for jing replenishment and chi circulation. All of the singularities are nurtured in the previous exercises but some have other esoteric significance.
For example the throat singularity if activated by using sound during meditation like chanting a mantra or simply holding certain vocal notes within the basic chord adds a entire new dimension to the meditative practice. It allows you to audibly hear the resonance and regulation of your breath as well as gain the soothing benefits of the sound itself.
The upper lip to base of the skull singularity is related to the pineal gland and melatonin release. Lucid dreaming and sleep regulation are activated by this excretion. Some will claim more mystic applications of this gland or even relate it to the third eye which is untrue it is different in humans than reptiles and birds. The longevity and lucid dreaming benefits are enough.
The longevity comes from following and understanding ones internal clock which is this glands purpose. Keeping proper nightly sleeping habits is the best way to meditate and nourish this singularity. Sleep meditation is just as important as regular meditation. This way you are becoming aware in the conscious, subconscious and unconscious states.
The ability of subconscious to manifest itself in the conscious state and the conscious to manifest itself along with the subconscious in an unconscious state I call Dream Meditation. We exist as conscious sentient entities always in the present. There is in truth only the present state of mind in all of its forms. The manifestation of visions, the dreaming, day dreaming and memory phenomena are the way the subconscious interacts with the present state of mind.
Seeing into the future (deja vu and clairavoyance) and worrying about or trying to predict the future are needless wastes of energy and shouldn’t be given to much mind for the future is always happening now. Even deja vu like the past are only memories in the present that is now. We are forever changing and what we do and how we think in the moment will determine our possible future.
Memories and dreams teach us alternate realities and of the illusion that is life. Life is real our senses prove that but reality is relative to the individual perception of each individual. It is based off of experience which is formed by these memories and dreams. Contemplation on this phenomena is useful but shouldn’t be given to much weight. It is the same for intuitive thoughts and thoughts in general. If a lesson is to be learned glean from this lesson what is relevant then let the thoughts pass away. Refocusing on the present that is now while contemplating is Dream Meditation and like regular meditation is a valuable tool for growth of self.
Nurturing the higher self , the spiritual embryo requires meditation and contemplation. Emptiness is not vacuity. Nothingness is not nihilist. The end goal is training a mind that is empty, mindful and aware. A mind that is present and invigorated by the senses and a spirit that is vital. So that life may be enjoyed to the fullest. Circulation of chi through the nine singularities and replenishing them rejuvinates the body and mind. Practicing mindful empty awareness refreshes the mind. When the mind and body are vital the spirit is as well and one learns to feel alive in the moment. For moments are all that we have.