Ch’an Yoga

BASIC BREATHING

 

ABDOMINAL BREATHING

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

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 out 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, you will feel the sphincter slightly lift ( this is very important) once it lifts relax the abdomen so the muscles will smoothly roll up to original position. 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.

 

XI SUI JING ( Brain/ Marrow Washing Classic)

The Yi Jin Jing ( Muscle/ Tendon Changing Classic) consisted of the three meditation exercises posted previously. The Xi Sui Jing also consists of three meditation exercises; Brewing the Elixir in the Cauldron, Absorbing from Nature and Sublimation. 
 

BREWING THE ELIXIR IN THE CAULDRON

In this exercise we deal with the mixing of water and fire chi and converting them into ching ( the Elixir). We use the method of Chi Breathing as a base but the visualization and mind following mix the two chi’s and convert and store them as sexual energy. We place ourselves cross legged on the floor following the rules of proper positional alignment. Starting with a sigh we then proceed to the inhalation cycle, as we inhale through the nose we form the circuit with our tongue and follow all the rules of chi breathing but we visualize the fire chi in the solar plexus and the water chi in the lower dan tian travelling to the naval ( the sea of chi). With the exhalation we mix and circulate the two chi’s inside the naval area. With the second inhalation we lead the chi from the naval to the genitals in men and the ovum in women. We repeat this two breath cycle thirty six times ending with a sigh.
 

ABSORBING FROM NATURE
 
In this exercise we again use the base of chi breathing following all of the steps and rules. I have mentioned we are surrounded by Heavenly and Earthly Chi. The purpose of this meditation is to absorb these energies into the body and then again convert and store them as sexual energy. Heavenly chi enters through the Crown Point or top of the head. Earthly chi through the middle of the soles of the feet. We begin with a sigh, on the first inhalation we draw the Heavenly chi through the Crown Point to the naval area and at the same time draw earthly chi through the soles of the feet up the legs to the naval. With the exhalation we visualize mixing and circulating the chi’s in the sea of chi. On the second breath we do exactly the same as we did in Brewing the Elixir in the Cauldron. Again repeating the two breath cycle thirty six times followed by a sigh.
 


SUBLIMATION
 
In Sublimation we use this converted and stored energy to nourish and wash the brain and marrow. Again we use chi breathing as a base but sit ourselves in the tri pod position. We begin with a sigh, with the inhalation we draw the ching up through the thrusting vessel which resides along the inside if the spine and through the center of the body to all of the bones of the body and the brain focusing on the location of the pineal gland. With the exhalation we relax the mind and circulate the ching inside the cells of the brain and marrow. Finish with a sigh. Again practice thirty six times. The better understanding of the skeletal structure and organs you have the more beneficial these exercises will be. 
 
 
CONCLUSION
 
The Yi Jin Jing and the xi Sui Jing in this style are very simple as you can read this allows one to be able to practice them to maximum benefit. With the Chi Kung and Internal Kung fu forms they form a complete system. It is suggested to still find a capable adept to teach you for there is much more to these exercises than can be written down. It is also necessary to learn by transmission which can only be accomplished through one on one training. You must feel through experience what an adept can offer learning by reading only is very superficial training. It takes about one hour of continual meditation to go through these six meditations. This includes the forms which accompany them. The chi kung forms are; 10 Muscle Change classics, Hundred Dragons or Tiger/Crane Breathing, Lohan Embraces Heaven and Earth, Dragon Form, Slow Form or Tai Chi Ch’an Kung and the Holy Mountain Breathing Form ( Shao Shi Mountain Form). Six Meditations and six Chi Kung Forms. With Circle Walking and it’s Twelve Hand Position a complete system is formed.

 


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