David Cowan - A Beginner's Guide to Chinease Gigong
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The Art of Self-Healing:
“As Supple as a Child”
A Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Qigong
David Cowan, RN
Acknowledgments This book comes directly from my experience with Zhening Qigong—a modern form of medical qigong created by living Grandmaster He-Ming Pang and taught to me by Master Hao-Hee Chan. Any errors you find in this material are my own, not those of my teachers. I also wish to express my gratitude to The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and St. Anthony Memorial Health Centers for supporting my training and providing me with such a loving environment to practice holistic healing! I am grateful for my wife Patti Shaffner for her support as I suffered through the many self-healing struggles that accompany a work like this. (Thank you for believing in me!) Special thanks go to Tom Serynek for photography and editing assistance and also to my many friends who read draft after draft of this work and offered creative feedback. (I am in your debt!) Last but not at all least I wish to thank my many patients and coworkers for asking me: “When are you going to write your own book?” I guess someday finally arrived. I hope you are able to recognize my voice in these pages.
Relax your low back! Drop your shoulders!
Introduction As more and more Baby-boomers search for alternative methods to manage pain and chronic stress and live healthier life-styles—Tai Chi, Yoga, and Qigong are growing in popularity as never before. In my experience, Qigong is far and away the easiest to learn and its health benefits are realized much faster. Unlike Yoga and Tai Chi, many Qigong exercises are so simple they can be taught in a single lesson. According to my teacher—Master Hao-Hee Chan, Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches the true medicine is already inside you. That is why the word ‘Medicine’ begins with ‘Me.’ Sometimes in life we can get sick or injured and then we may need help from another to get well. That is ‘Alternative Medicine.’ Whenever we need help from another that is ‘Alternative.’ The word ‘Alternative’ begins with ‘A’ and ‘A’ always stands for another.
But Qigong is ‘Integrative
Medicine.’ The word ‘Integrative’ begins with ‘I.’
Medicine’ always means ‘I’ has to do it! True ‘Integrative Medicine’ is when ‘I’ and ‘Me’ have to work together in order to get the Qi. Qigong is traditional—at least 5000 years old! Western Medicine is barely 200 years old! I would say Western Medicine should be ‘alternative.’ It is not always good for you. It has so many harmful side-effects… Western Medicine has very few answers for those suffering from chronic pain and stress-related disease. In our culture, pain is routinely neglected, marginalized and medicated. Surgery is often the first non-drug intervention offered those seeking relief. Chronic pain is the number one cause of adult disability in the US with an estimated cost to society of over 100 billion dollars per year. Pain is a nation-wide epidemic affecting the lives of millions of Americans. Therapies that treat neuromuscular pain represent a commercial growth industry of more than 5 billion dollars a year. In other words,
Neuromuscular pain is big business! 2
The fact is: Western Medicine is woefully inadequate when it comes to treating chronic pain and illness of any kind. Allopathic Western medicine is the very best in the world at treating trauma and acute illnesses. As recipients of allopathic medicine we may be tested, poked, prodded, medicated and injected, but where we actually hurt—in our muscles, joints, tendons and soft-tissues—is left untouched, uncared for and neglected. This is where I come in. I manually treat people in pain. In my alternative pain clinic I see people in pain everyday—young people, old people, middle-aged people—all suffering from chronic disabling physical, mental, and emotional pain. When pain-breakthrough is finally achieved, most of my patients ask me the same question: “Are there any exercises I can do at home to help keep the pain from coming back?” Each time I am asked this, I hear myself giving the exact same answer: Now it is time for you to learn Qigong. Qigong is traditional Self-healing. You will find this material is widely available. There are many experts writing on the subject of Qigong-Healing. A casual search of the Internet will immediately connect you with thousands of websites offering books, tapes, DVDs, clothing, equipment, inspiration, advice and assistance for would-be ‘Qigongists.’ All serious students should gather as much information as they can from as many resources as possible to achieve a comprehensive overview. Self-healing is our natural life-long process—The Journey of a Thousand Miles—it is not a destination. There is no there to get to! You are already here! Self-healing is a courageous act of Self-Discovery that leads inevitably towards Self-acceptance, Self-Forgiveness, Self-Awareness and Self-Realization. The real ancient Chinese secret is: Relax! The starting line is the finish line! Begin to practice a little each day. As my teacher says, “If you do your Gong you will get the Qi.” It is that simple! That is the promise of Qi (‘Life-Energy’) and the gift of Gong (‘DailyPractice.’)
Miller Beach, Indiana June 2006
Author’s Note ABOUT CHINESE SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION: There is no single system
for transcribing Chinese into Romanized letters. The Chinese Language uses a pictographic system of writing. As ‘every picture is worth a thousand words,’ so too with the written Chinese—every character conveys multiple meanings. To complicate matters, spoken Chinese can be in Mandarin or Cantonese and the meanings of each word can change depending on pronunciation, inflection, or accent. This is how Peking became Beijing. The Chinese have always said Beijing. But to Colonial British ears it sounded more like Peking. With the advent of the Chinese Pin-Yin system we learned that Beijing is phonetically correct. Similarly, the Pin-Yin version of Qigong is sometimes rendered—Chi Gong, Chi Kung, or even Chi Gung. These variations are based on Western phonetic systems. However, according to the Chinese themselves, what they are actually saying is Qigong. (Good luck!)
Medical Disclaimer A COMMONSENSE WARNING: As with any exercise program you should consult with
your physician to determine if the methods involved are suitable for you. Medical Qigong is traditionally practiced under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher. If you encounter unusual pain or discomfort while performing any exercise—STOP IMMEDIATELY—and take care. It is not always true that no pain means no gain.
Neither the author, nor publisher of this material can be held responsible for pain or injury that may occur with unsupervised practice. Always remember the first rule of medicine: Do No Harm! But as my teacher likes to say:
Yes, it is very important that you do no harm. But while you are busy doing no harm, At least try to do some good!
The Art of Self-Healing Can you coax your mind away from its wandering and keep to the original Oneness? Can you let your body become as supple as a newborn child’s? Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but light? Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? —Dao te Ching
As Supple as a Child LIVE LONG ENOUGH AND SOMETHING CHANGES.
The thing that changes is us. We change. We transform. We literally “grow up.” Life soon sends us our share of
“It is never too late to have a Happy Childhood…” —Tom Robbins
“hard knocks” and then suddenly the same burdens that stressed our parents begins to weigh down on us. Naturally we toughen up! We even pride ourselves on our ability to ‘get tough.’ Unfortunately, as we lose our childlike innocence we begin to lose our childlike suppleness. Over time our bodies harden. We become stiff and tight under the load of grow-up responsibility. Too late we learn that being “grown-up” really means learning how to cope. But is that all Life is for? Coping? Ask any four-year old what Life is for and they will happily tell you Life is for having “Fun.” Ask them how that feels and they will tell you that Life feels “Good.” Ask them what they like to do in their ‘spare-time’ and they will tell you without a moment’s hesitation: “Play.” Now ask any adult these same three questions: What is Life for? How does Life feel? What do you do in your spare time? Most adult answers will be more complicated and won’t include the words—Fun or Play! How did we lose sight of these simple childish truths? Where did we go wrong? From my observations as a clinician, most of the adults I see are suffering from a serious-problem: Their lives have become way too serious! At some point in their lives they embraced the motto—It is better to give than to receive—too close to their hearts, so close in fact that they have become Full-Time Caregivers (Grown Ups!) with too many problems and responsibilities and too much to worry about! For grown-ups, feeling frazzled 24/7/365 is considered ‘normal’ and the many stress-related illnesses that result are simply accepted as ‘the aging process.’
In hindsight, looking back at the care-free days of childhood—most grown-ups agree—we didn’t understand how easy we had it nor did we care…
Why Grown-ups Can’t Relax! Grown-ups can’t relax because in the process of growing up we completely forgot where laxed is! Lax means: 1.) “to loosen or slacken; 2.) not tense, not firm, not rigid…” The word Re-lax just means: “lax again.” The trouble is the average grown-up can’t remember what that feels like! We have become so hard that most of us can’t physically remember how to do it. The truth is grown-ups endure too much! In fact, many adults actually pride themselves on how much they can endure. Unfortunately, to Endure means: to harden. As tight and hard as most adults are, that is as relaxed as they can be! In becoming bigger and stronger we also become fragile, prone to muscle, spine, and joint injuries. Overtime this results in negative, painful consequences. By middle age we no longer bounce back like we used to. We begin waking up sore and achy, still stiff from the day before. Sadly, many of my chronic pain patients tell they have no memory of ever being relaxed. Some stubbornly insist that they have been inflexible their entire lives and that even as children they were unable to bend down and touch their toes. I reassure them that this is not the case. They are simply not thinking back far enough. As infants, not only could every one of my patients reach their toes, but they were once able to suck on them too!
Self-Healing Tip #1: Reconnect! Reconnect with your inner-sense of childish fun. If you find this difficult, try these simple activities: Play with a balloon… Blow soap-bubbles… Bounce a ball… Ride a bike… Take a bubble-bath… Fly a box-kite… 7
Stress—the American Way Stress is a serious health problem affecting the lives of millions of Americans. As stated, unrelenting stress is considered ‘normal.’ It is interesting to consider the word origins of Caring and Carrying. We Care. This is the burden we Carry. Because we care care-givers carry stress from day to day. But as I often tell my patients and students: “There is really no need to save up stress from one day to the next. We can always get fresh stress tomorrow.” Carrying leftover stress is a form of Self-sacrifice. There is no good reason to save leftovers. Better to throw them out and save ourselves the trouble of becoming some sort of science project at the back of the fridge. All that sacrificing and takes a toll on our health! All Work & No Play doesn’t just make us ‘dull’ it makes us old and tired before our time. Sadly, most Americans don’t see it that way. We are a nation that honors Sacrifice. We equate Self-sacrifice with Ultimate Caring. This is why I believe so many of us fail to see the connection between Self-sacrifice and Stress—we consider Self-sacrifice ‘heroic’ and even ‘noble.’ By Self-sacrificing we believe we are giving our best, our ‘one-hundred-and-ten-percent’ to get the job done. We believe by Self-sacrificing we are doing everything we can to meet our “adult responsibilities.” We very easily wind up vicious cycle of chronic stress, chronic tension and chronic pain. This is ‘The American Way.’ Myofacsial Pain Syndrome, Arthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, TMJ Disorder, Migraines, Hypertension, Heart Disease, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Crones, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cancer, Renal Disease, Acid Reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Depression, Chronic Fatigue, Chemical Dependency, Alcoholism... I call these the ‘Care-givers Diseases.’ These illnesses often befall those who chronically sacrifice their health for the sake of those they love, neglecting and forgetting about their own personal health needs.
Who is Caring for the Care-giver?
Can you let your body become as supple as a
Care-givers secretly confess that receiving makes them
uncomfortable. Resting makes them restless. Taking
time-out for themselves just makes them feel guilty. Sleep deprived, caffeinated into hyper-drive, working overtime—they zoom through each day caring for everyone and everything but themselves. No surprise so many Care-givers end up giving and giving and giving until there is nothing left to give; until they are completely burned-out and spent. So let us consider the following question carefully: How can we truly hope to ever heal if we are unwilling to make time for ourselves? If you are a Self-sacrificing Care-giver, Self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity! Regrettably, not many Americans see it that way. We routinely ignore our own needs whenever there’s not enough time. And there is always ‘not enough time.’ But to put it in terms we can all agree on, being too busy to stop for Self-care is like being too busy to stop for gas—running only on fumes, chances are we will fail to reach our destination. Of course, ‘taking-better-care-of-ourselves’ is something we all intend to do—someday. We know we need Rest & Relaxation everyday if we are going to avoid the natural consequences of chronic stress and strain. And yet even though we know this, most of us haven’t gotten around to it. Not yet. Maybe someday when we catch up on our work, or the kids are finally grown, or else we win the lottery— maybe then we can relax. Until that day—to put it in a nutshell—we postpone. Why do we postpone? Perhaps the real reason is what most of us think of as ‘Self-Care’ is just plain ‘Not Fun.’
The Ancient Chinese Secret Losing one’s flexibility to stress and age is nothing new. 2500 years ago, Lao Tse, the founder of Daoism elucidates this problem by asking the question:
“Can you make your body as supple as a newborn child?” 9
Lao Tse (literally: “Old Boy”) points us directly toward the key to Self-healing, by indicating ancient yogic methods for rejuvenating the body—restoring physical and emotional suppleness—and cultivating a long and healthy life. This period in Chinese History is recorded as The Warring Years. Daoist masters sought refuge from endless warfare, imperial intrigues, and the stringent social rituals of Confucian Society. Like the Majarishis of India, early Daoists returned to the wilderness in pursuit of a more natural and harmonious way to live. Their meditative insights form the foundation for a unique philosophy known simply as Dao: ‘The Natural Way.’ Daoist Sages retired to China’s sacred mountains and bamboo forests in search of the Secret of Immortality: Dan—the ‘Elixir of Life.’ Over time this process became known as ‘Alchemy’ and is the root source of much Chinese science and philosophy. From these longevity practices came such Cosmic Principles as Yin and Yang, the famous Tai Chi Circle, and the universal Chinese health practice: Tea Drinking. Daoists practiced a subtle system of breathing techniques and yogic exercises known as Dao Yin. Dao Yin (the ancient name for Qigong) is commonly translated as “Gentle Way” but more accurately means “Energy Practice.” By performing certain stress-relieving rejuvenation rituals sages were able to extend their lives to remarkable ages. These sages are often referred to as Immortals and identifiable in Traditional Chinese Paintings by their flowing white hair and drooping mustaches. Daoism is a fascinating philosophy with a rich history, but for our purposes simply think of Dao, Dao Yin, and the Daoist principals of Tai Chi as ‘The Way of Supreme Ultimate Relaxation.’ Relaxation of the body and breath are the essential prerequisites for all longevity practices.
Self-Healing tip #2: Feel the Qi! At least once each day perform a fullbody scan. Feel the interior of your body. How do I feel on the inside? Begin at your toes and slowly move up to your head. Notice all the places you are holding inner-tension. Relax with each exhalation taking a sigh of relief: Ahhhh! Relax the body. Don’t squeeze! This state is called: Wuji.
Fitness Training vs. Wellness ‘No Pain / No Gain’ is a fitness-training maxim that entered the American lexicon during the ‘hard-body’ craze of the 1980s. Nike’s: Just Do It! ads and similar sales slogans were intended to motivate us to buy expensive shoes and home fitness equipment.
I know many people who enjoy having a Well. But I don’t know anyone who enjoys having a Fit! —Dave
Soon Americans were buying $100 running shoes, $1000 treadmills, Bow Flex weight machines, Thigh Masters, Ab-rollers and Jane Fonda workout tapes. Women joined health clubs by the thousands and started ‘Sweating to the Oldies’ so they could firm up and develop: ‘Buns of Steel.’ Men began working out and pumping up to look more like Arnold Schwartzenegger. Americans became fitness conscious as never before. People suddenly took up jogging, cycling, and drinking bottled water. They played more tennis and racquetball, joined aerobics classes, and started Tanning all in an effort to look like models and movie stars in their form revealing swim suits… Thus today’s fitness industry was created! However, what most Americans do in the name of ‘fitness’ only compounds their problems. The fitness industry, with its army of certified personal trainers places far too much emphasis on cardio-vascular conditioning and weight training. Nobody stretches enough! And what many middle-aged marathoners have learned is all that pounding is just too hard on their joints. Unfortunately, participating in a Marathon is now seen by many as an entry level feat to aspire to. For many people Marathons symbolize the peak of physical conditioning. Few recall that the first man to run twenty-six miles non-stop all the way to Marathon did so to warn Greek generals of a impending Persian invasion. Thanks to his ability to endure the miles and deliver his message he is credited with saving Western civilization. But, he also fell down dead. Now centuries later we have thousands of Iron Men & Iron Women addicted to pushing their bodies to the extreme. Ultra-marathoners who train to run 100 miles a day! But endurance training can be physically disastrous in the long haul. The body begins to break down. As a consequence, what many elite athletes ultimately gain for all that pain and suffering is to become a prime candidate for joint replacement! 11
Pain = No Gain What we have needed all along is Wellness-training not more fitness training. What we are truly aching for is Relaxation, not more punishment. Instead of exercises, we need loosercises, We already work too hard. What we really need is relaxation
“In Qigong we develop muscles of iron wrapped in silk.” —Frank Chan
training, not more endurance. Unfortunately most Americans confuse resting with relaxing. Resting in front of our High Definition Television is not relaxing! Lao Tse would not have considered watching TV, going to the movies, surfing the internet, or playing videogames relaxing at all. These leisure activities hyper-stimulate the mind and do absolutely nothing to loosen the joints of the body. Many Americans think relaxation is some sort of trick you learn to do with your mind—like self-hypnosis or meditation—or is something you do on weekends or while on vacation. What most of us consider “relaxation” isn’t very relaxing at all! Relaxing has everything to do with our muscles. In order to truly relax we must quiet our minds and loosen our bodies and breath deeply. To truly relax, we must ease our posture, lax our muscles, soften our joints, quiet our minds and release all emotional tension... Tricky! Especially if you are the type of care-giving grown-up whose mind is constantly racing a mile a minute trying to manage everyone’s affairs and solve everyone’s problems. We are too quick to blame all our problems on Stress. Enduring stress does not cause us to be chronically uptight. Being chronically uptight causes us to feel chronically stressed! It works something like this: The more we endure the harder we get, the harder we get the more we hurt—the more we hurt, the more we endure! No wonder our health begins to suffer. Relaxation means: “the act of relaxing.” This is the fundamental goal of Qigong—systematically loosening or slackening our muscles to allow Qi and blood to circulate naturally. Let me say this again: The reason we hurt is because we can’t relax. Not the other way around.
Qigong: Exercises in Tranquility Unless you become Qigong—‘Daily Qi-Cultivation’—at first sounds strange and
as little children,
foreign to most Americans. We all know we are supposed to
you will not enter
eat right and exercise regularly, but mostly we work too hard
the Kingdom of
and then watch TV. Sadly, many Americans take far better
care of their cars then they do themselves. Most Americans
would never dream of setting off on a cross-country car trip without first filling up the tank and yet routinely run their bodies on empty all day long! Qigong is really nothing more than ‘Regular Scheduled Maintenance.’ Something you set some time aside for a little bit each day. It is a familiar enough concept when it comes to caring for our cars and extending the life of our engines, however, few of us realize it is also an excellent strategy for maintaining our health. The point is: Qigong is not rocket science. It is not complicated. It is very simple and practical.
Qigong as Play What if Qigong really just means remembering how to play? What if the key to regaining our child-like suppleness is as simple as getting down on the floor to play? What if very real health benefits are available to anyone willing to sit like a child? Breathe like a child? Move like a child? Imagine like a child? Play like a child? Playing—this is really what all those gurus are talking about. Only they call it: Qigong, Yoga, Tai Chi, Tantra, Meditation… Lao Tse simply calls it: Dao—The Way… What the Old Boy meant by that was: The Way to be Happy, The Way to be Wise, The Way to Good Health, The Way to Relax, The Way to be More Natural, the Way to be Child-like… What if all that is really missing in our stressed-out grown-up lives is some free time to be creative, imagine, play and have fun? Sounds too good to be true? Too simple?
Qigong is Simple Qigong is performed in a quiet meditative state I call Open Play. One does qigong playfully as meditation, not in addition to meditation. When practicing or performing Qigong one is centered, poised, and relaxed—like a child at play. Not all serious and puckered up like an adult. This relaxed playfulness cultivates and inner quietude that promotes subtle body-awareness so we can feel the Qi. Feeling Qi flow is fun and exhilarating. Practicing Qigong correctly gathers Healing Qi directly from the Universe and makes energy immediately available for healing of the body, mind and spirit. Daily Qigong practice becomes a simple and effective strategy for helping ourselves remember to make time each day for play. Qigong brings more fun into our adult lives. By practicing daily, qigongists get their warm-ups, stretching, strength training, balance work, core work, and meditation all at the same time! It is a very practical method for managing stress. It is very simple… Qigong is like your toothbrush—it only works for you if you use it. Playing could well be the missing ingredient you have been searching for, the key to Health and Happiness. Qigong is the active ingredient in feeling younger, more flexible, vital, and alive...
Self-Healing Tip #3: Child’s Breathing. Children naturally breathe from the abdomen. The abdomen distends on inhaling so the diaphragm can drop and contracts again upon exhaling so the diaphragm can rise. This fully oxygenates the blood and gently massages the internal organs. Children belly breathe while sleeping. Try this: Lie down. Inhale 5 seconds allowing the belly to round. Exhale 5 seconds allowing the belly to become flat. Continue 5 minutes. Enjoy!
What is Qigong? The word Qigong is formed by combining two Chinese characters—Qi and Gong. Qi is vital energy or breath. Gong— short for Gongfu (or the more familiar: Kungfu)—means: spare-time, skill cultivated through daily practice, an art mastered through long-term disciplined effort. Feeling one’s Qi flowing and circulating is invigorating. It feels good! Those who regularly practice qigong report feeling more alive, energetic, less stressed, more carefree. Qigong is an ancient practice for cultivating one’s internal energy to achieve inner-balance and integration. It is a powerful tool anyone can learn to use to soften chronic pain, calm the mind, heal emotions, and restore suppleness. Qigong is by far the most popular form of exercise in the world. It is a spiritual practice as well as a medical intervention. The vast majority of qigongists are not athletes. Qigongists are more like children swinging on swings than like sweaty health-club members pedaling stationary bikes while listening to their I-Pod.
The Five Origins of Traditional Qigong
Qigong is Simple.
The most ancient qigong forms have their roots in the
But, Simple does
shamanic practices of prehistoric hunter-gatherer cultures and
not mean Easy.
are based on the movements of sacred birds and animals. The
animal-forms of bears, tigers, deer, snakes, monkeys, cranes, dragons, and even turtles were imitated to bring the shaman into accord with the special powers of these totem animals. This ancient source originates in the shapeshifting dances of tribal holy men. As such, these nature forms predate written records. This lends credence to the claim that qigong is over 5000 years old! Traditionally, all qigongs come to us from five distinct schools of philosophy—these are the Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Martial and Medical schools of qigong. Each qigong school shares similarities in form and principals of practice but emphasizes a distinctly different goal.
Confucian Qigong—as practiced by the ruling elite—the goal was to train oneself to remain emotionally detached and centered no matter what the situation. Daoist Qigong focused primarily on increasing longevity which led to the pursuit of alchemy—the turning of base metals into gold—and an attempt to discover: Dan, the ‘Elixir of Life.’ The goal of Daoist qigong is Immortality. Buddhist Qigong focuses on the attainment of Enlightenment. The goal of all Buddhist practices is to become a Buddha sustained by undisturbed inner-peace gained through the practice of meditation. Martial Qigong’s goal is to become invincible in any fight—a supreme martial artist. Kung fu masters train themselves to become impervious to injury and perform amazing feats of skill and agility due to their years of intensive physical, mental discipline, and their heightened body awareness. Medical Qigong’s goal is the alleviation of illness, freedom from sickness, good health and long life. Many Medical Qigongs are Daoist in origin, but Indian and Buddhist qigong is also strongly influential. Interestingly, the fateful blending of native Chinese Daoism and imported Indian Buddhism created a powerful new branch of Buddhism known as Chan Buddhism—or as it is more commonly known here in the West—Zen.
Self-Healing Tip #4: Dancing Trees: Take an opportunity to go outside on a windy day and observe the trees. Standing quietly with your feet firmly planted, observe the swaying movements of the branches as they “dance” in the wind. Raise your arms and imitate the movements of the trees. For 10 minutes give up the stresses of being human. Sway. Try to be more tree-like.
The Rise of Popular Qigong The term: Qigong is actually a very modern word first coined sometime in the 1930’s by Chinese medical researchers who were studying the health benefits of ancient practices like Dao Yin, Taijiquan, and Bagua. However, the term Qigong didn’t really come into popular usage in China until the 1970s in the wake of Nixon’s historic meeting with Chairman Mao and the World’s sudden fascination with Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. Qigong then became an umbrella term used to refer to all traditional forms of self-healing Qi-cultivation practices. By and large, the cancer treatment benefits of Qigong first gained the attention of the Chinese government through the grass-roots efforts of one woman named Guo Lin who began teaching her Walking Qigong lessons in the famous Purple Bamboo Park about the same time. Master Guo Lin’s courageous story includes the details of her triumph over cancer and the compassion of her grandfather—a classically trained Daoist Priest. Her story begins with a diagnosis of uterine cancer and a hysterectomy. When her cancer metastasized and returned—this time in her bladder—she remembered the exercises she had learned from her grandfather in her youth and turned to those lessons for treatment. Guo Lin’s grandfather had broken with tradition not only by teaching Qigong to his favorite grand-daughter and then upon his death leaving Guo Lin valuable Daoist texts on ancient self-healing practices. She used these secrets to heal herself and in the process created for herself a new modern form of qigong. When her health improved she began teaching her walking method to anyone who wanted to learn. News of her successes spread all over China and was reported to the West and eventually the Chinese government began an exhaustive scientific study of what were seen as ‘folk-remedies,’ ‘superstitious practices,’ or even ‘witch-craft.’ Their goal was to distill the healing essence from traditional qigong and share its health benefits for the good of all the People. Researchers approached qigong with extreme scientific skepticism. Can Medical Qigong still produce positive results if stripped of its traditional beliefs? 17
Are the successes attributed to Medical Qigong merely the result of the placebo effect? Is there a rational scientifically sound theory that accounts for Qigong’s legendary ability to heal people and cure diseases? Does it work? And if so: How? Guo Lin believed her qigong healed in part due to the physical exercise and Qi-cultivation, but she also strongly emphasized the benefit patients received from the positive social energy generated among the walking groups. She recognized the healing power of unconditional love and compassion and credited it with offering optimistic attitudes to the individual walkers. Guo Lin had rediscovered the ancient secret to the healing power of Qigong: the true power to heal could be found in the power of the mind, in the power of our thoughts. Master Guo Lin was the first teacher of popular qigong to be recognized by the Chinese government due to her self-less contribution to the good of the people. Her Medical Qigong has positively affected the lives of millions all over the China and the world. According to my teacher, all popular qigongs owe her their thanks.
The Qigong for Incurables Think Blue Sky... The form I learned, Zhening Qigong, was created by
Grandmaster He-Ming Pang. Grandmaster Pang’s
—Dr. Pang Ming
Zhening Qigong is rated first among all traditional qigongs by the China Sports Bureau and his Huaxia Zhening Qigong Research Center was once known as ‘the world’s largest medicine-less hospital.’ Zhening Qigong is credited with successfully healing the symptoms of over 450 disease conditions and so became known widely in China as the ‘Qigong for Incurables.’ Around the world, Zhening Qigong’s health benefits are being realized by millions of people from different faiths, backgrounds, and cultures. You do not have to be Chinese to benefit from Traditional Chinese Medicine! He-Ming Pang’s personal story starts with traditional ‘straight path’ training at an early age and subsequently put him under the tutelage of nineteen Grandmasters, all of whom trained him to becoming a traditional healer and acupuncturist. By the mid 1970s, Dr. Pang found himself at the forefront of a modern qigong renaissance as Chinese officials began to look seriously at these 18
traditional practices. Dr. Pang—called Lao Shi (Teacher) by his thousands of students—was first to coin the term Qigong Science. By 1979, Dr. Pang—a one time collaborator of Guo Lin—announced he had distilled the essence of all five traditional qigongs into a modern form of Medical Qigong he called Zhening (‘Intelligence’) Qigong. No special belief system was required. In fact, to achieve political correctness in the eyes of Chinese government officials, rather than God or Buddha, practitioners are simply asked to “Think Blue Sky.” After receiving government approval, Lao Shi assembled a large team of dedicated physicians who set out to scientifically validate the efficacy of Zhening Qigong. And so using amplifiers and loud speakers and with microphone in hand, Dr. Pang began to teach Zhening Qigong en masse to large groups of people, sometimes numbering in the thousands! Dr. Pang’s group healing methods produced many documented successes in healing cancer and other ‘incurable’ diseases. His test subjects—literally thousands of patients—had to meet three requirements before participating in the research program. First, they had to be tested and examined by Western Medical practitioners to prove they were indeed sick. Each subject was diagnosed— according to Western medical understanding—with an illness that is considered incurable. Secondly, they had to agree that the only treatment they were to receive during their stay at the center was Zhening Qigong—no drugs, no special diets, in fact, no heat! (They had to close the center during the winter.) Thirdly, after qigong treatment at the center, each patient was asked to submit for reexamination using Western methodology to verify and document the cessation of their symptoms. Lao Shi’s personal healing skills are legendary. He is highly regarded by his peers for his self-less contribution to qigong science. He is the published author of many volumes of writings and has presented hundreds of hours of lectures (all in Chinese) on qigong theory. After more than twenty years of rigorous scientific scrutiny and massive clinical trials, Lao Shi’s Zhening Qigong is credited with curing thousands of patients. As one of China’s foremost experts of qigong, acupuncture, and TCM, Pang Lao Shi is considered a ‘National Treasure.’ 19
Lao Shi’s achievements do not end there. Dr. Pang Ming also
Go out in Six
founded the China Qigong Science Correspondence Institute and
and was chief lecturer for the first class of college-level qigong
students at the Haidian Day University. He is one of the original
—Dr Pang Ming
founders of China Qigong Association and is the acknowledged creator the Qi-field Technique—applying and teaching his pioneering method in 1984—and publicizing his theories and treatment methodology in 1986. Additionally, Dr Pang is the originator of “The Hunyuan Entirety Theory” published in nine volumes over a nine year period. In 1997 he helped to compile and compose the National Teaching Program of Qigong Science and in 1998 participated in the examination and approval of student course-work authorized by the China Association of Qigong Science for fitness qigongs. To this day, Dr. Pang and his wife (a renowned healer in her own right) remain dedicated proponents of traditional healing practices and have trained thousands of Zhening Qigong teachers who in turn have shared Dr. Pang’s methods with literally tens of millions of students all around the world. Despite current political restrictions on large group-practice as a result of official government ban on the cult movement Falun Gong, Lao Shi and his wife continue to tirelessly explore, refine, practice, and teach these time-honored traditional techniques for the common good of all.
Self-healing tip #5: Sit on the Floor! As the Zen master said: “Don’t just do something: sit there!” 15 minutes of silently sitting and observing your external world (eyes open) or your internal world (eyes closed) can restore inner-harmony and balance. Observe your thoughts and emotions as if they were temporary energy sensations (because that is what they are!) Just sit and breathe! You will see—like clouds in the blue sky—thoughts and emotions in the body/mind come and go!
THE FIRST TIME I SAW LUKE CHAN, he was standing on top of a
table in the middle of a conference hall presenting the Friday-night keynote address for the American Humanistic Psychologists symposium on alternative medicine. All the chairs in the room had
Healing happens now! If you wait, you will miss it…” —Luke Chan
been set into a large circle with a conference table setup in the center room. Master Chan was using the table as a small stage and was presenting his speech in the round. I knew we were in for something out of the ordinary… Master Chan’s English was good, but his Chinese accent was very thick. It took some getting accustomed to. He joked about the “slight” language barrier: “If you have trouble understanding me that only proves I am ‘au-then-tic’ Chinese.” And so occasionally during his talk he would stop to spell out words that were trickier for him or if we seemed to be confused; (like: “hell,” h-e-a-l-t-h: as in the phrase: “hell tan happiness”) After a few words about himself and a brief introduction to the concept of Qigong, he showed the group a video he shot of his first visit to Dr. Pang’s research center. The video showed large groups of student-patients—men, women, and children of all ages—performing elegant slow-motion exercises, standing together in group meditation, participating in healing circles, or “wall squatting” (a very ancient temple exercise.) We saw teams of physicians moving through rows of seated patients directing healing energy to hundreds at a time. This was a unique form of Laying-on-of-Hands very few Westerners had ever seen. In another scene we saw a team of four doctors performing a clinical “Fa Qi” treatment for a patient with bladder cancer. As the doctors worked with their hands several inches above the patient’s abdomen, an ultra-sound technician trained her imaging wand over the walnut-sized tumor in the patients bladder, holding the tumor in the center of her screen. Master Chan kept his camera on the ultra-sound monitor, while he maintained a peripheral view of the doctors as they huddled over the patient on the table, energetically chanting while waving their hands in synchrony above her lower abdomen. With the Luke’s camera in position, at a signal from the
group’s leader, the doctors suddenly quickened their pace; working more and more intensely, concentrating their combined energies on the bladder tumor. To our amazement, on screen, the tumor began to suddenly “shift” and to change shape. And then it appeared to be dissolving. In a matter of moments, (maybe 3-4 minutes) the tumor completely disappeared from the screen! This announcement from the Ultra-sound technician created even more excited energy among the doctors who applauded each other and celebrated as if at a sporting event with many shouts of “Hao la!” “Hao La!” To our American eyes, the only thing missing were “High Fives.” We then saw Dr. Pang personally treating an assembly line of patients with people filing passed him, each receiving his touch, his smile, and his encouraging words—perhaps for only a minute each as they passed. The only thing I had ever seen even closely resembling what we were seeing on the big screen was a charismatic televangelist—though in this case nobody swooned, there were no deacons standing at the ready to catch those overcome by Spirit; no pile of discarded canes and walkers as at Lourdes or Sedona... After viewing the video, Master Chan told the incredulous and curious audience about his experience video-taping the healing of the bladder tumor, and more generally about his experiences at Dr. Pang’s center. He then he told us about his book: 101 Miracles of Natural Healing—in which he recorded one-hundred-andone interviews with patients who had been successfully healed at the center—and finally, how he had received Lao Shi’s permission to teach his New Qigong methods in the West. Then to our collective surprise, Master Chan announced that since we had such a large group of caring people (over 500 therapists), he wanted to make use of so much loving energy, and demonstrate the healing method used in the videotape by actually treating a number of people at the conference who were also suffering cancer. This turned out to be the reason the auditorium had been arranged into a circle—to concentrate the group’s energy in the middle. Master Chan lightly hopped down from the table and helped several people in need of treatment to seats at the center of the group; nearest to his makeshift stage. He then stepped lightly 22
back onto the table as easily as if it were a single stair-step and not almost half his height! He then, like the conductor to a symphony orchestra, gave us his instructions for how to create the healing Qi-circle. He said: “First, I want to teach you about the ‘magic’ of a foreign language. The word I want to teach you is ‘Hao La’; which means in Chinese: ‘mission accomplished’ or ‘job complete’ as in: ‘Did you make tea?’ Then we say: ‘Hao La.’ but, for our purpose here tonight, when you say ‘Hao La’ you can think Hao La means: ‘Healed!’ Really the word doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we use Hao La to synchronize our hand movements together as a group. When we are synchronized, it makes the Qi much stronger. During World War I, they discovered this by accident. When the soldiers march to the same rhythm to show off their training and then they marched like that across a bridge, it made the bridge fall down. Many soldiers were lost. So now they know instead of marching together, each unit marches to their own cadence so even though they are marching together, each unit marches separately. Otherwise it is too dangerous because marching synchronized together is too powerful. Tonight—because we want to heal cancer and other illnesses—we need for our hand movements to be together so we can gather more Qi as a group to help the persons in the middle. But we don’t want to only heal the persons in the middle. Tonight we want everyone here to receive plenty of healing Qi... When we say Hao La in the Qi-circle, we are praying and affirming four things. Qi healing happens because of the mind, through visualization and affirmation. The first thing we want to affirm is: ‘All meridians open!’ That means all your energy channels open up. The second thing is: ‘Qi and blood are plentiful!’ What that means is, because our meridians have opened up and relaxed, the Qi and blood are free to circulate. The third thing is: ’All body functions return to normal!’ This is because the Qi and blood are reaching to all the cells. And the forth thing is: ‘All illnesses disappear!’ All this is what ‘Hao La’ means. 23
Not long ago I taught at another conference and we did a healing circle. Later, one woman wrote me an email to say when she got home she wanted to do a Qi healing for her husband but couldn’t remember the right word to say in Chinese. So instead, she said she just moved her hands—open and close—and said ‘Voila’ ‘Voila’. She said she hoped it still worked. Really, the word itself is not what’s important; it’s what you’re thinking that’s important. ‘Voila’ or ‘Hao La’ makes no difference. You could say, ‘Amen’ but you already have an idea what Amen means. There is a certain magic in a foreign language because you don’t already know what the word means, you do not already have an idea in your head. So ‘Hao La’ is much better. And you don’t have to remember the four affirmations either, you just say: ‘Hao La’. So tonight, we say: ‘Hao La’ because you are with me, and I know what it means. When you get home and want to practice, you can say any word you like!
Master Chan taught us how to do La Qi, showing us how to open and close our hands at heart level—like playing an accordion. Then as we chanted; opening and closing our hands in synchrony with the words—opening on Hao and closing on La—he skillfully guided us through a visualization process designed to unite our group intention into a single energy-field of concentrated Love and Compassion. An intense energy began to fill the auditorium. It grew very warm. Then Hot. Suddenly, it began to feel like electricity was moving through me. I got chills and goose-bumps. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and stood up. Tears began to well up in my eyes. I had never experienced anything like it before. I could feel how we all wanted to relieve all the pain, the fear, and the sickness caused by Cancer. The power of so large a group was amazing! I have never experienced anything like it before or since. I could feel my heart going out, as usual, to everyone around me. But more importantly, for the first time, I felt my own unconditional love returning to me—but amplified 500 times!
Everywhere around me, tears of compassion were streaming down faces. We were all chanting and weeping and praying in Chinese! Our hands opening and closing in perfect harmony with our “Hao La, Hao La, Hao La…” And then somehow it was over… It is hard now to remember the event clearly; maybe the whole experience lasted 20 minutes, maybe 30? I don’t know. But I do remember Master Chan telling us to nourish our own energy by placing our hands on top of our navels after the chanting ended. I remember as he finished his presentation he said something that has stayed with me ever since:
“Spontaneous Healing happens now! If you wait, you will miss!” Later on, I introduced myself to Master Chan and told him why I was at the conference; explaining how I was a nurse in charge of creating a hands-on healing center for our hospital. He asked me only one question: “Will you also be doing the therapy?” “Yes.” I replied: He then said matter-of-factly: “Then you need to learn Fa Qi or else you will give all your Qi away.” Shortly after this—while surfing the Internet—my wife discovered that Master Chan comes to Indiana twice a year to the Oakwood Retreat Center near Muncie, offering 3-day or 6-day Qigong retreats. This seemed too good to be true! “You have to go.” She said. I attended my first 3-day Intensive that following November and began to learn Dr. Pang’s methods directly from Master Chan. I was so excited. I wanted so much to learn and understand. Out of the group of 45 students, I soon noticed that I was the one student asking the most questions. After two days of this, Luke became so frustrated with me that he took me aside and said: “David, you do not know enough yet to ask so many questions!” I was stung! The next thing I know, I found myself separated from the larger group
with about ten other “first-timers” and placed under the tutelage of Luke’s older brother Frank. Frank was knowledgeable, Frank was funny, but more importantly—Frank was patient! That’s when I decided that Frank Chan was the true teacher—Laoshi— while Luke Chan was the Shifu—the Master. Presently, Luke lives full-time in China where he hosts month-long intensive training retreats for American and European students. While Frank still runs retreats, continuing to travel the US teaching Chilel™ Medical Qigong. Frank operates a website: www.chilel-qigong.com where you can purchase Luke’s book about Dr. Pangs Center: 101 Miracles of Natural Healing, plus DVDs and audio CDs for self-training in Dr. Pang’s main methods—“Lift Chi Up & Pour Chi Down,” “The Body-Mind Method,” “Three Centers Merged,” “La Qi,” and “WallSquatting.” If you want to learn Laoshi’s Zhening Qigong the same way I did, that’s where you have to go.
Waiting for my Horses to Die When the Student is My Medical Qigong instructor’s name is Hao-Hee Chan.
ready, the Teacher
Master Chan has been teaching Zhening Qigong in the
United States since 1995. In my opinion he is one of the
most unassuming masters you could ever hope to meet. Master Chan says: “I am no Sifu! I am still just a student like you. I have only been practicing for 40 years. I teach qigong because it is the best way for me to learn. Really I have just learned something a little before you. That is all. That is why I consider myself a Lao-shi (‘Teacher’) not a Sifu (‘Master’).” In China, Master Chan’s students affectionately call him—Chan Lao-shi. But here in the United States he tells his American students: “Just call me Frank.” Frank tells the story that back in Hong Kong he had the same Taiji teacher as Bruce Lee. He says: “Look at Bruce Lee. He is very very famous. He is known the world over. And we had the same teacher in Hong Kong. Bruce Lee becomes famous. Does anybody know who Frank Chan is? No. But! Bruce Lee is also very 26
dead. So, maybe it is not such a bad thing to be Frank Chan…” He tells this story to prove a point: It is the efforts of the student that makes all the difference. In America, Zhening Qigong is known as Chi-lel™ Qigong. Chi-lel translates as: ‘Qi Therapy.’ I once asked Frank why he didn’t just use the name Zhening Qigong. He said, “Marketing! You’ve got to call it something. That way if someone calls me and says they have studied Chi-lel, I know they are my student. If they said: I am studying Zhening Qigong, I do not know what they think they have learned. So I would not be able to help them?” The main practice form of Zhening Qigong is a healing form called Lift Qi Up & Pour Qi Down. LQU&PQD borrows deeply from Taijiquan and White Crane Qigong. Early in my training, on retreat, I was performing LQU&PQD with a large group of students—some of whom were quite ill. Honestly I was having a very difficult time with it. After a long day of practice, both of my arms had become so heavy and tired. Just holding my arms up became impossible. At last I could not take it any more any with a wincing sigh I let my arms drop. I opened my eyes to see how well the others were doing… Now bear in mind: I was not sick. I was not there seeking a cure for anything. I was there because I wanted to learn how to help others—or so I thought. Throughout my life I have been involved in one sport activity or another. I am a decent athlete and at 6’2” 240lbs I am neither frail nor weak. Generally speaking, I am what you might call a ‘big and strong guy. So imagine my amazement and chagrin as the muscles in my arms began to scream with tension and my shoulders started to ache with so much pain that I had to drop my arms. That was embarrassing enough. But when I opened my eyes, there to my left is this extremely thin woman in her mid to late seventies wearing a chemotherapy-pump around from her bony shoulders! Not only are her emaciated arms still up in air, but she is smiling! I thought: “What is on earth is wrong with me that I can’t even hold my arms up to do the complete 16-minute version of the form?”
Later during a break I asked Frank why it was so difficult for me to keep my arms up. Oh!” he said. “Your Qi is blocked. It cannot flow through the meridians so you are using your muscles instead. You need to relax and let the Qi take over. Then the Qi will do it for you not the muscle.” “And how do I do that?” I asked in frustration. “How does the Qi take over?” To help explain, Frank asked me a question: “Do you know the difference between a donkey and a horse?” “Probably not,” I said sullenly. “Well, you know a donkey. You can get a donkey to work hard for you. But once the donkey gets tired—it will sit down! It will not move. You can hit it with a stick. You can push it. You can tie a rope and try to pull it. But if the donkey is tired the donkey will not move. Do you know why? Because the donkey is smart! Until it feels rested the donkey will not get up. There is nothing you can do about it.” “But a horse…” He continued. “You can get a horse to run and run and run for you until it falls down dead. Do you know why? Because basically: the horse is stupid. The horse loves you. It wants to work for you. It will feel bad if it lets you down. It will try and try and try.”
“You just get the Qi in there. The Qi knows what to do”. —Frank Chan
“Do you see?” “Not exactly,” I admitted.
“Your muscles are like the horse. Your muscles love you. They think they know how to do everything. You say to yourself: ‘I am going to hold my arms out.’ And your muscles say: ‘Oh, we know how to do that. It is simple.’ And then they try to do that. So you have to learn how to relax. Don’t use the muscle.” “But,” I asked. “How do you raise your arms and relax your muscles at the same time?” He said, “It is your mind’s intent. You just keep trying. In the beginning your muscles will try and try and try. Oh! It will hurt. Believe me. It will feel terrible. Your muscles will get so tired. Eventually they will want to fall down 28
dead, but— your arms will still be up in the air. That’s when you know the Qi has taken over for you. It is the mind’s intent. Really your muscles have nothing to do with it. Your mind learns how to lead. Your body learns how to follow. Now, does that make sense?” “I guess so. Sort of…” “You just keep on trying. One day you will see. Your arms will become so tired. You will not be able to hold them up. Suddenly instead of dropping them you will relax them. The meridians will open up. Then the QI will flow and it will not hurt. You know your horses are dead. But your arms are still floating there.” “It is a strange thing.” He said at last. “But that is how you learn to let the Qi take over. Just keep practicing. Keep on relaxing and relaxing. It is bound to happen sooner or later. ‘If you do the Gong you will get the Qi.’ Don’t worry! You just get the Qi in there. The Qi knows what to do…” After nearly thirteen years, to this day, whenever I practice Qigong I always hear Frank’s voice in my head. His Chinese accent is contagious. His training sutras go on repeating and repeating and repeating in my head reminding me to: “Drop shoulders…” “Relax low back…” “Raise Bai Hui and tuck in chin…” “Withdraw vision inward…” “Feel as if you are sitting but not sitting…” “Relax the knees…” “Go out in six directions…” “Think Blue Sky…” One more Frank story… Frank’s wife Eva is a MD. Not long ago the two of them were invited to the wedding of two of her colleagues. Frank said afterwards at the reception he was the only person at his table who was not a doctor of some kind. As he tells it: “There were MDs and PhDs and all those kinds of ‘Ds’ and then there was me.” And as they were going around the table making formal introductions he learned there was a cardiologist, a neurologist, two internists, a 29
pediatrician, and so on… Finally it was Frank’s turn to introduce himself to his table mates. “I am Frank Chan. I teach Qigong.” “What kind of work is that?” They asked out of curiosity. “Qigong is traditional Chinese healing.” He replied. “It is my job eventually to put you all out of business!”
Self-Healing tip #6: Stay with it! When uncomfortable emotional states arise— try to stay with the feeling! Meditate upon the physical sensations or energy of the disturbing emotion. Remain centered, aware and observant. Suppressing unwanted emotions creates stress! Do not try to avoid emotional energy as this will not help! Instead stay with the feeling! Relax! Do not squeeze! Breathe! Open your heart and exchange Qi with nature. With a little practice, unwanted feeling states will pass through you in a single Day. Think Blue Sky!
The Spread of Popular Qigong In the beginning With the publicized success of Guo Lin’s ‘Walking Cure’
was the Dao.
qigong clubs began to spring up all across China. Dozens
All things issue
of prominent masters were drafted by Communist Leaders
from it; All things
to devise a scientific-based training system. One designed
return to it.
for the general population that could relieve the growing
health-care crisis in the wake of China’s urban population explosion. Practices which just decades before could lead to internment in Maoist ‘re-education camps’ were now embraced. Qigong masters once persecuted were now sought out, their qigong forms hurriedly videotaped before their special lineages could fade away. National programs were developed promoting the health benefits of Taijiquan and Medical Qigong. More and more common people began to enter the local parks to study with the masters in their community. In fact, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, just as Kung Fu movies were introducing martial arts qigong to Western movie-goers, the Chinese people themselves were also rediscovering the health benefits of medical and martial qigong with growing public awareness and pride. The time had come to teach qigong to the People. And the party most responsible for disseminating medical qigong research to the world is the Chinese Communist Party. This was accomplished with one very simple decree from the ruling council: The People’s Republic of China can no longer afford hidden secrets. This is the true origin of Popular Qigong. The challenge facing researchers were many. Most traditional qigongs survived the centuries by maintaining certain closely guarded secrets. These were often affiliated with religious cults, medical and martial schools or the educated elite. Secrecy served as a rudimentary ‘patent system.’ By passing certain secrets on to carefully selected students masters hoped to guarantee the purity of their Lineage. Dozens of new forms began to appear in the parks—One Finger Zen Qigong, The Zen-Secret Practice Form, The Spontaneous Five-Bird Game, Wild-Goose 31
Qigong, The Empty-Power Form—each designed by an accomplished Master. So many, in fact, that Chinese Officials created a Top-Ten list of approved medical qigongs to help give people guidance. Out of this mix arose Dr. Pang’s Zhening Qigong to the Top-Ten. The popularity of many of these newer forms is no doubt due in part to the difficulty in learning traditional Taijiquan and other Martial-style Qigongs. These martial forms, generally speaking, were either too strenuous or else realizing the health benefits required years or sometimes even decades to achieve. Communist officials and qigong researchers agreed this was too long a time table. Dr. Pang’s medical form takes many health variables into consideration to make Zhening Qigong accessible to all people. It can be adapted to almost any level of health or physical fitness. LQU&PQD can be performed standing, sitting or even lying down. It can be practiced in a wheelchair or from a hospital bed. In fact, Zhening Qigong is designed in such a way that it will benefit you even if you have no idea at all what you are doing or have yet to learn the rudimentary form. However, the true genius of Dr. Pang and perhaps his greatest contribution to Qigong Science is his Hunyuan Entirety Theory and his Qi-field Technique which masterfully raises Zhening Qigong above the field of ‘folk-remedy’ and places it squarely at the forefront of 21st Century medicine. Popular qigongs have now spread around the world and Chinese and Non Chinese masters are teaching throughout Europe, The US, Canada, The UK, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. Hundreds of millions of people practice this Self-healing Art everyday.
Self-Healing Tip #7: Get Enough Sleep! Sleep studies show that the average person needs at least 6 hours of recuperative sleep a night. Eight is even better. If you must miss sleep—make it up! Nap! Even a 20 minute power nap can be enough to restore mental clarity. Enjoy…
The Hunyuan Entirety Theory Many qigong secrets—as previously mentioned—come directly from devout schools of Daoism, Buddhism, and Chan Buddhism and were frequently referred to as: ‘Temple Exercises.’ But with an official government ban on religion government scientists took
Religion is the opiate of the masses! —Chairman Mao
great pain to remove all references to God or else modernize all references to religious philosophy in order to establish credibility among the international scientific community. This allowed researchers to mine very deeply without interference from Communist Party officials. Anywhere secret ancient healing knowledge lay hidden its methods were carefully tested by medical researchers using standard ‘double-blind’ methodology. All over China, qigong masters were studied. Their claims to heal others were tested and verified in every conceivable way. Qigong masters were wired, scanned, recorded and photographed using various spectrums of light. The energy emitted by qigong masters hands was measured and duplicated using sound wave frequencies. Monks in deep meditation were monitored and analyzed electromagnetically. Many studies were made on the level of brain-waves, microwaves and radio-waves. More mundane studies determined the healing effect qigong master’s positive energy-fields had on tomato plants, lab rats and petri-dishes full of bacteria, enzymes, viruses and cancer cells… All traditional assumptions were put to the test. Researchers asked such questions as: What happens on a physical level during qigong practice? How does qigong practice affect the mind and emotions? Does qigong have a positive effect on stress-related illnesses such as high bloodpressure, diabetes, heart disease, and depression? Can meridians and acupoints be detected and verified electronically? How does acupuncture really work? What was needed was a single science-based theory that encompassed all qigong theories. Researchers discovered they need not look further than their own immortal classic—the Dao te Ching.
The Dao gives birth to all beings, Nourishes them, maintains them, Cares for them, comforts them, protects them, Takes them back to itself, Creating without possessing, Acting without interfering. That is why love of the Dao Is the very nature of things.
The great Dao flows everywhere. All things are born from it, Yet it doesn’t create them. It pours itself into its work, Yet it makes no claim. It nourishes infinite worlds Yet it doesn’t hold on to them. Since it is merged with all things And is hidden in their hearts, it can be called humble. Since all things vanish into it And it alone endures, It can be called great. It isn’t aware of its greatness; Thus it is truly great.
The Dao gives birth to One. One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three. Three gives birth to all things 34
Daoism in its original purity is a non-theistic philosophy. Rather than conceptualizing ‘god’ who ‘commands’ nature into existence, the ruling force in the universe is Nature itself. In Daoist theory, Formless Space is not only conscious—it is ‘super-intelligent.’ The formless knows how to become form.
In the beginning was the Dao. All things issue from it; All things return to it.
This is how Yuan Qi (Primordial Qi) had the ability to transmute
itself into the infinity of all things. Qi is the formless—neither particle nor wave—a ‘no-thing’ that has the ability to transmute through consciousness into all forms. It is the most fundamental element in the universe. Yuan Qi (Spirit) is the pure undifferentiated energy which is present everywhere equally throughout the cosmos. The similarities between the ancient wisdom of Lao Tse and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: E = mc2 (where ‘E’ stands for energy, ‘m’ represents mass and ‘c’ stands for constant—the speed of light squared,) is difficult to overlook. Daoist theory sates that Qi is the raw energy of existence—the ‘no-thing-ness’—which makes up and sustains all material things. In essence: Qi = E = mc2 The Chinese word Hunyuan means: ‘To form a new oneness by blending and transmuting three or more substances together’ as when two hydrogen atoms combine (blend) with one oxygen atom to form a single water molecule, thus forming the Hunyuan Entirety of Water—H2O. Dr. Pang’s Hunyuan Entirety Theory translates Daoist insights into modern science, effectively excising all references to ‘God’ or even ‘divine ruling principal’ or ‘universal consciousness.’ Dr. Pang’s fundamental theoretical cornerstone established the foundation for modern qigong science. The universe itself is one super-conscious entity and a Hunyuan Entirety! According to Hunyuan Entirety Theory, the universe is an unceasingly evolving single Hunyuan Entirety and all the celestial bodies and all the things within them and upon them evolved from the original Hunyuan Qi (Primordial Qi). This is completely in accord with the Big Bang Theory of Creation.
The Dao gives birth to One. The Chinese confirm the Big Bang theory of Creation which is at its essence in perfect accord with ancient Daoist cosmology which asserts that out of the Primordial Oneness (Pre-Big Bang) arose the fundamental duality known as Yin and Yang (Post-Big Bang).
The One gives birth to Two. From Yin and Yang—arose the duality of Space and Time—and from there arose all material and nonmaterial things: The Three
Two gives birth to Three… From the Three arose the infinity of the physical and nonphysical universe. The Macrocosm—sometimes referred to as Tian (Heaven). Tian therefore also refers to the relationship between Man and Nature as well as the natural environment. Tian—among other things—is concerned with three basic ideas: 1.) Man and Nature comprise an organic unity. 2.) Man and society comprise an organic unity. 3.) The human body constitutes an organic unity. The basic premise of the Hunyuan Entirety Theory as concerns Man and Nature is that our understanding of the universe cannot be separated from the understanding of man himself. Man and nature are One. Man is then viewed as a Microcosm of the Macrocosm—the natural human expression Hunyuan Qi in a physical form and the highest form of consciousness to evolve on Earth. Man is the resulting Hunyuan Entirety that comes from blending Tian and Earth. The essential energy of the earth comes from the sun. Man directly and indirectly absorbs the solar energy and then releases this energy back to nature through all types of human activities. Man and all other beings arise from the same source and exchange energy in the same way. Because man and all other things 36
from the source of Hunyuan Qi (Primordial Qi), Hunyuan Qi forms the connective matrix that links man with all other things. Man absorbs external Hunyuan Qi to nourish his well-being. All of human life then is the process by which man unceasingly absorbs Primordial Qi (Hunyuan) and then blends and transmutes it into human Hunyuan Qi. As Frank would say, this is how an apple breaks down to become nourishment in the blood so it can become the body of Jane Doe. According to the Hunyuan Qi Theory space is not a vacuum but is the source of all Hunyuan Qi. Space, in other words, is not what separates all things but is in fact the very thing that connects all things. This is what enables Man to exchange Qi with nature and also explains how Man results from the evolution of nature. Man and nature and all things form a unified Whole or Entirety. This is fundamentally a holistic view of the universe. Qi then is regarded as the basic building blocks of all things and have evolved from the original Hunyuan Qi into individualized fields of Hunyuan Qi. This mysterious substance: Qi manifest by absorbing and assimilating substances that are themselves condensed from Primordial Qi
Three Treasures Traditional Medicine and modern science agree that human life consists of complex multi-level processes that function in accordance with nature and manifest in the activities of human a physiology of subtle consciousness and unconscious activities. According to TCM theory, the human body consists of three key substances or elements: 1.) Jing—the physical body. 2.) Qi—the non-physical form or energy. 3.) Shen—the Spirit or consciousness. All three blend to form one new Hunyuan Entirety (Man).
Qi According to TCM, Qi is the energy that connects and animates everything in the universe, including universal Qi (Hunyuan Qi) and individual Qi (personal Lifeforce). Qi is the circulating energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things. Qi is also seen as the breath of Life—what in Ayruveda is called Prana or Pneumena to the ancient Greeks. Qi is most often defined as ‘air’ or ‘breath’ or ‘vital energy.’ In Mandarin, the term for ‘weather’ is tian qi which means: ‘the breath of heaven’. It also means: ‘life force’ or ‘spiritual energy.’ Someone with good or strong Qi exhibits signs of vim, vigor, and vitality and yet is calm and at peace with themselves. Hunyuan Qi is the primordial essence, the basic energy of the universe and everything in it. It forms a matrix out of which energy and matter are formed. Man receives all nourishment from universal Hunyuan Qi. Hunyuan Qi is the origin of all, the Prima Mater which coalesced into the infinite multitudes of Hunyuan Entireties—traditionally called: The ten thousand things or Infinity Hunyuan Qi condenses and coalesces to form Human Qi.
Jing Human Qi is able to solidify because of Jing—our physical body, all its organs and delivery systems; our Blood and Qi Meridian systems all depend on Jing. Jing is called the greatest of the three treasures because it makes the physical form possible. Jing is the substance that underlies all organic life and is the sourse of all organic growth and change. It is thought of traditionally as being fluid-like. Jing is supportive and nutritive and is the basis for reproduction and development. It is thought to reside in the kidney region. Jing is derived from both our Yuan Qi (‘inherited energy’ or ‘ancestral qi’) and from the Qi we acquire daily from the air, food, water, and physical labor or exercise. In Kung Fu Jing also means: Power. Any strength or ability developed as the result of practice can also be Jing. It can refer not only to the skilled movement but also to the ability to perform the particular movement or posture correctly. 38
Jing is formed from a blend of Pre-natal Qi and Post-natal Qi. Pre-natal Qi refers to the Hunyuan Qi we receive from our parents—our genetics and physical characteristics. Post-natal Qi is the Hunyuan Qi that sustains and nourishes us. Post-natal Qi is what grows our physical bodies. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and—here is where qigong science enters—the energy generated by our physical movements, our breath, our mind, our posture… Through our natural intelligence our bodies know how to convert Post-natal Qi into Jing. This is in part the essence that heals and mends the body.
Shen Shen—simply stated—is consciousness or awareness. Shen (pronounced: Sun) refers to man’s inner- dimension: one’s ‘spirit,’ ‘soul,’ ‘vitality,’ ‘will-power,’ ‘intelligence,’ ‘intuition,’ ‘wisdom’ as well as one’s personality, charisma, and disposition. Traditionally, ‘Raising one’s Shen’ could mean: Kundalini-energy, Ultimate Enlightenment, or else refer to such martial qualities as Courage, Fighting-spirit, Tenacity, or Ferocity. Shen generates our personal quality of Life. The degree to which one cultivates one’s Shen is the degree to which one enjoys a harmonious life. Shen is also known as the Psyche or Mind and is said to be the driving force behind all our activities and creative endeavors.
Three Treasures of Daoism The Three Treasures of Daoism are three different forms of energy. According to the Theory of Relativity—despite appearances—mass is actually energy. According to the Hunyuan Entirety Theory, all mass in its essence is Hunyuan Qi. Jing forms our physical body and determines our state of health and length of life. Jing condenses and arrives prior to the body and is responsible for its growth, development, and physical well-being. It is both energy and substance. The body cannot survive without Jing.
Qi is the calories we burn in daily life—essentially our life-energy or fuel source. Qi moves, transforms, protects, holds, and warms our body. Qi comes in many forms—Hunyuan Qi, Yuan Qi, Gu Qi, Zong Qi, Zhen Qi, Ying Qi, Wei Qi, Zheng Qi, Xie Qi, Li Qi, Di Qi, Ren Qi, etc… It can be detected in its simplest form as heat, light, or electromagnetic energy. Though often referred to as ‘invisible’ energy the Qi-field can actually be seen condenced around humans, animals, plants, trees, and even crystal or stones with the naked eye or else photographed using specialy sensitive cameras or development using processes such as Kirillian photography. Shen is the non-material mental, emotional, and motivational aspect of consciousness and creativity. Shen also refers to our relationship with our Heart and implies our thoughts, emotions, and or ability to learn. Shen is the ‘light of consciousness’ resulting from the transubstantiation and combustion between Jing and Qi. Because of this burning aspect, the Three Treasures have been compared to a candle—where Jing is the wax and the wick, Qi is the flame that consumes the fuel source and Shen the heat of the candle and the radiant glow of illumination.
Meridians There are twelve major meridians or energy channels that run throughout the body. Because they conduct Qi energy, it is tempting to think of meridians in terms of electrical wiring and conductivity. But for ancient masters, meridians were better thought of as irrigation channels and the organs they serve were thought of as reservoirs or literally “Seas of Qi.” In actuality there are many energy channels running throughout the body, but for simplicity sake TCM considers the twelve meridians as being comprised of six Yin channels and six Yang channels which terminate at either the fingers or the toes and unite the whole body as one. Meridians channel Qi energy to and from the body externally as when we are working and they also circulate the Qi internally to the organs system and to the three Dan Tians of the abdomen, thoracic cavity, and cranium. For health purposes, the primary usage of the meridian system is to relax and open the meridians so that Qi and Blood can flow freely. This enhances our 40
metabolism and nourishes our cells. If Qi cannot flow then blood cannot flow. If blood cannot flow then blood stagnation occurs and illnesses develop within the body. In order to relax and open our meridians, the muscles and soft tissues which surround the energy channels must be relaxed. Master Chan says that if we can open our meridians by just an additional 10% then tremendous health benefits are available to us and physical and emotional self-healing proceeds very quickly. Open the meridians wider and special abilities known as Siddhis in yogic tradition can begin to develop such as enhanced intuition, the ability to heal others, and the special ability known as Seeing Through or X-ray vision.
Ordinary Mind: Samsara, Maya, Karma. IN TRUTH, WE ARE ALL ALREADY PRACTICING SELF-HEALING ALL OF THE TIME. However the vast majority of this healing
process happens on a subconscious cellular level. Self-healing
is our natural Life-long process. You are healing right now!
Life is but a
Your body is constantly balancing, repairing, righting, self-
correcting; in short, you are already doing everything in your
power to keep body and soul together all the time... Our physical bodies are marvels. No one can say with certainty how bodies work. They just do! We do know a lot about bodies. As I write this, medical scientists are busily at work trying to map the entire human genetic sequence. But even if they succeed, this will not successfully explain how our bodies work, and it certainly won’t get us any closer to understanding why body’s work. A thousand years from now we will still be studying the dynamic subtle energies and innerworkings of the human body. Likewise our spirits are miraculous. No one can say where our souls come from and we certainly don’t know what will become of our soul once we die. The best we can do is to preserve our faith through belief and hope that our soul continues on after death. We are not the creators of our human nature. We are the inheritors. There is very little that can be said with certainty about how our human 41
bodies and souls work. They just do. Somehow, against all odds, we just are! The how of it will remain forever a Mystery. Like the riddle of the Sphinx—we are enigmas that cannot be explained. But, there are many things we can say with absolute certainty about the human mind. The human mind is: Thought-full, Bright, Intelligent, Clever, Decisive, Dull, Ignorant, Stubborn, Calculating, Crafty, Cunning, Forgetful, Persistent, Inventive, Intense, Precise, Sluggish, Magnificent, Beautiful, Blundering, Impatient, Creative, Self- Destructive, Patient, Self-Aware, Unaware, Conscious, Unconscious, Attentive, Morbid, Addicted, Morose, Depressed, Tenacious, Strong, Willful, Deceptive, False, Dishonest, Regretful, Honest, Remorseful, Fearful, Afraid, Self-serving, Unforgiving, Sympathetic, Prejudiced, Concerned, Caring, Kind, Cruel, Vindictive, Ruthless, Hopeful, Compassionate, Angry, Distraught, Brilliant, Forgetful, Negligent, Insensitive, Sensitive, Defensive, Scattered, Focused, Bored, Distracted, Excited, Ashamed, Proud, Spiteful, Loving… Get the picture? Adjectives that describe the workings of the human mind are endless! This list goes on and on... To state the obvious, adult minds are complicated. They are by nature conflicted and confused. And, if left to their devices—they obviously prefer to stay that way! Grown-ups must navigate within a complex system of “ups” and “downs” we call the Human Condition. We live in a constant state of contradiction. We are Self-divided. This of course generates tension, unease, anxiety, fear, dread—in a word: Stress. Consequently most adults feel the need to stand guard 24/7/365 just in case something goes wrong. In case something “bad” happens. This defensive posture against Life’s challenges promotes emotional turmoil. Quite frankly, it is very hard work. Over many years it begins to take a terrible toll. My point here is this: Since we really don’t know how our bodies heal, they just know what to do, and since our Spirits are already Holy, they just come that way “factory fresh,” true Self-healing is really only possible through the mind. But, what a mind?! Let’s face it. Much of the time our adult minds are perfectly puzzled and perplexed. This of course makes healing through the mind a very difficult and tricky business because basically adult minds are Self-Opposing. 42
As grown-ups we live our lives in a state of constant tension: “past tense,” “present tense,” and “future tense.” From all this tension and friction we create our own personal story. We develop into characters, playing our parts in the great play called Life; through work, through roles, through relationships, through identities. These identities are not us. They are who we think we are. What makes or breaks us as a person is how we ourselves rate our own success, how we ourselves interpret our own history. We decide who is right and who is wrong. As authors of our own story we decide if our Life is meaningful or not! Everything we perceive is filtered through the colored glass of our grown-up personality. Each adult you see is busily creating their own personal reality from scratch, from their personal experiences, applying their own inner-sense of “right” and “wrong” and deciding for themselves what is “true” and what is “not true.” This in fact is how we derive meaning in our life, through our conflicts, through the constant tension of opposing forces. This dualistic way of perceiving is the adult thinking process. Constantly measuring, weighing, comparing “good” verses “evil,” hoping to always come out on top, we go from day to day as main characters of our own Dream. This is what the Chinese refer to as the Cosmic Dance of Yin and Yang. This is what grown-ups do! This is why our “personal problems” always seem so real, because we take them personally. This is the true cause of our fall from Grace. By tasting the forbidden fruit of “Good” and “Evil” we generate our own unease. Perceiving ourselves as separate individuals we are forced to stand alone against the World. Ancient Masters tell us this Illusion of Separation lies at the root of all suffering. We suffer in fact from the way we think! This need to Guard against ourselves is deeply embedded in the software of the thinking adult mind. It is like a flawed computer program that cannot be shut down. Thinking mind tries to will itself “never let-go!” This is how we identify ourselves. We define ourselves by our “personal problems.” This flaw is so common that Zen just calls it: Ordinary Mind. The truth is our Ordinary Mind needs an endless parade of problems in order to exist. Thinking about our “problems” is what we do in order to exist as a problematic identity. This is how grown-ups function—ever-busy solving problems
while simultaneously ever-busy creating new problems to solve! No wonder we are so uptight! This point-of-view offers no way out. We become myopic, near-sighted. We simply refuse to see that our fragile sense of self is completely dependant on maintaining a “personal reality.” By surrounding ourselves with people who share similar beliefs we create and share a consensus reality. This is the “more-themerrier” approach to avoiding Reality. Or we may simply choose to isolate ourselves. This is the “woe-is-me” approach. Either way, what we wish most avoid is the Void called: “No-Mind. We avoid the Void by avoiding Reality, by actively ignoring its very Presence! Ancient Masters tell us that Ordinary Mind is blind. This is what Christ meant when he said: “The Kingdom of Heaven lies all around yet men do not see it.” When we insist on believing we are lowly separate creatures then even though all the wisdom traditions of the World teach us that we are all is in fact One, we find no comfort in that! How do we heal this narcissistic bipolar disorder? How do we mend our thinking? First and foremost, by believing it is possible to heal the split within. All spiritual teachers throughout the history of the World have attempted to plant the same seed—the belief that we can end our own suffering. By implanting this new desire—the desire to be whole again—religious faiths teach us it is possible to heal the divided-self and restore our childlike wonder. Most faiths have this at least in common: Atonement. For when we atone, instead of our normal bipolar split we reintegrate again and become One. The daily practice of physical, mental, and emotional atonement is what Zen-style Qigong is all about. The ultimate goal is to experience Life moment by moment with undivided attention. Zen means living in the present un-tense! Not thinking about Life, not dwelling in the past, not somewhere off into the future, but actually living fully in the Present moment. “Present and accounted for” as the saying goes. Cultivating a Zen-mind means training one’s awareness to remain firmly rooted in the Now. For Ordinary Mind, this is not possible. Ordinary Mind, by its dualistic nature, is bound to The Wheel of Samsara. Samsara means the Endless Cycle of Death and Rebirth. According to Buddhist 44
philosophy, Samsara is an illusion. A very complex illusion that is created by the family we are born into, the community we grow up in, the tribe or nation we belong to, the language we speak, the times we are part of, and our belief in who we are. Samsara sets the stage for all our Life’s experiences. Then, like the children’s song says: “Life (Samsara) is but a dream.” When we are lost in Samsara, then—just as when we are dreaming—we become the central character in Life’s drama. When we are lost in Samsara we are the central figure for the entire Universe! Samsara informs and sustains our false identity. Thus, losing oneself in Samsara means that even when we are wide awake we are still Dreaming. Samsara is the Buddhist prototype for all vicious circles… How well we fare in our Dream of Samsara is called: Karma. Karma is the Universal Law of Cause and Effect. The Law of Karma determines whether or not our dream experiences are good or bad; positive or negative. Karma for the western mind is often illustrated with the Christian maxim: As ye sow, so shall ye reap. But it is perhaps better exemplified by the popular saying: What goes around comes around. To succeed in any system we must abide by the rules of that system. As long as we choose to identify ourselves with Samsara, Karma, like the first law of thermodynamics—for every action there is an equal and opposite re-action—is unavoidable. In other words there are inescapable consequences to all our actions. As John Lennon said, “Instant Karma’s going to get you.” This is the foundation of morality. The true source of Rabbi Hillel’s “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Maya is what sustains the Illusion of Separation and Individuality. Maya basically means forgetfulness. Maya is the name of one of the most powerful Hindu gods and the Buddhists concept of Illusion. Maya essentially means: becoming so enamored with what we are Dreaming, that we choose to remain asleep! In the Hindu pantheon, the ultimate God beyond all other gods is Atman. According to Hindu philosophy, Atman, the True Self, is simply playing a game of hide & seek, pretending to be everything else in the Universe. While Maya, the god of Illusion, has become so lost in the game that he has forgotten that he is God.
In the Buddhist myths Maya plays the same role as the Christian Devil. Maya tempts Siddhartha under the Bodhi tree, offering him worldly power in exactly the same way the Devil tempts Jesus in the Wilderness, in an attempt to prevent him from “awakening” to his true nature. The word Buddha simply means: “The Awakened One.” Maya, like the Devil, therefore represents Temptation; the temptation to forget oneself, one’s true nature—Atman—thus perpetuating the round of Samsara with all its subsequent Karma. Maya then is a tragic game of hide & seek, one in which no one ever comes to find you! An endless round of illusions for which there is no “home-base,” and no “Olli, Olli, Ox-in-free…” Because of Lord Maya we remain asleep to our true nature and our True Self—the Atman—remains unrealized… According to Ancient Masters, these three concepts, Samsara, Karma, and Maya combine to create the continuing drama commonly called: The Human Race. For simplification, Samsara translates as our “personal reality.” Karma translates as our “personal problems.” And Maya translates as “forgetfulness.” These are the three conditions we live under that keep us bound to our dreams and illusions and according to Zen are the true source of human suffering. This, then, as they say in Zen is Ordinary Mind—Samsara, Karma, and Maya. This is how we make ourselves miserable… In the Grand Scheme of Things, in the “Big Picture,” there really are no problems—no problems at all! There are only situations, there are only circumstances. Situations and circumstances are not “problems,” they are the stuff of Life. Understanding this simple fact could lead to spontaneous Liberation— Moksha, Samadhi—the big: Ah Ha! Unfortunately though, for most adults, it has just the opposite effect. The prospect of seeing all our “personal problems” as only illusions is very threatening. Without my problems, who then would I be? How would I identify myself? If I am not my problems, if I am not my father’s son— David—if I am not my sister’s brother, my uncle’s nephew; if I am not a nurse, a musician, a healer, a writer, then who am I? The more threatened our identity feels the tighter Ordinary Mind grips. In fact, for Ordinary Mind, the single greatest 46
threat we can ever face is the loss of our “personal problems.” For with it we suffer the loss of our precious self-identity. It turns out Ordinary Mind needs problems in order to survive. The more troubles we face, the more problems we perceive, the more “real” our personality feels to ourselves. “Personal problems feel very real! Therefore we must be real!” No where is this more obvious than our emotions. For Ordinary Mind, this illusion feels normal. We pretend to be ourselves. This is just how it is. This is how we row our boat: Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily; Life is but a Dream. And so the cycle continues… Zen tells us that Ordinary Mind is the obstacle. Ordinary Mind, literally hangs on to its “personal problems” for dear life. Our misguided “woe-is-me” digs in its heels and refuses to relax! Damn the consequences! Not only does this habitual way of thinking cause our Body to suffer needlessly, but our poor Soul— constantly trying to express itself by feeling—finds its deepest needs sacrificed. The vast majority of our true emotions are suppressed in the service of our fragile selfimage. In order to meet our own self-imposed agendas, adults become more and more rigid, more inflexible. As we age we not only lose the physical suppleness of a child, we lose the emotional suppleness as well. By constantly suppressing, constantly stressing-out, constantly ignoring our authentic feelings, our true human nature gets neglected… If you ask any adult: Would it kill you to stop every once in a while and take better care of yourself? They will answer, logically: No, of course not. But then, if you ask: Well then why don’t you do that more often? Ordinary Mind takes over and says: “Not enough time…” This self-defense tactic, suppressing all unwanted or “negative” emotions, forces adults to forget all about Spirit. Life then either seems hard and intense, or else, dull and meaningless. In this way we unwittingly trap ourselves in a “personal reality” filled with nothing but “personal problems.” Once trapped there, adult minds unconsciously suffer from the way they think! Since our mind’s basic instincts tell it to avoid pain at all costs and seek pleasure instead—we armor ourselves against Pain. And since we cannot 47
successfully avoid painful situations and circumstances we try instead to avoid painful emotions. Our deepest feelings, our secret desires, our painful memories are then swept under the rug. These things Ordinary Mind labels: “Stress.” For our mind then the problem seems to be solved. The mind reasons: “I can handle stress.” “Stress is normal.” “Stress is part of Life.” “Everybody has stress.” “There is nothing you can do about stress, you just suck it up.” Our poor mind sets out to “endure stress.” But! Enduring stress creates an even bigger problem! Enduring means: “to harden”. This hardened mind requires a life approach of constantly managing stress instead of relieving it. This fosters a life strategy of will-power, emotional suppression, and ignorance. Ignoring emotional pain in order to hold-it-all-together is an even tougher job! Not feeling “feelings” takes tremendous strength. So naturally, most adults “get tough.” We purposefully harden ourselves, defend ourselves, and steel ourselves against further pain. Unless we somehow learn somehow to break this vicious cycle then with each passing year we become more and more rigid, more and more controlling, more and more adult. “Grown-ups” learn how to control pain by denying, by distracting, by drinking, by self-medicating, by any number of simple avoidance techniques, by essentially “sweeping it under the rug” and forgetting about it. Then, if amnesia doesn’t work, most adults try to settle for anesthesia instead. We numb-out. We tell ourselves: “The Pain is not there! I can’t feel a thing!” But this is more than just a lie. If we somehow come to truly believe it, it becomes an Illusion. That is Lord Maya again! The real tragedy of all this emotional suppression and ignorance is even if we succeed in avoiding our most painful memories and unwanted feelings we also unknowingly manage to avoid the very things that make us human: our emotions. This is a sure recipe for disaster... In the Tao te Ching, “The Way of Changes,” the author Lao-tsu (literally: “Old Boy”) points out how we can change this wayward recipe. He asks us: Can you coax your mind away from its wandering and keep to the original Oneness? By “wandering” Lao-tsu means: squandering our precious Life energy by living in a 48
state of constant mental and emotional turmoil. Lao-tsu asks if we can quiet our inner-turmoil. He asks us: Can we become still? Can we remain Undivided? This, obviously, is difficult enough. But then Lao-tsu raises the bar even further. He then asks: Can you let your body become as supple as a new born child’s? Meditation alone is not enough! In other words, can you also relax? Can you live undefended? Can you live your Life without controlling? Can you live without manipulating your emotional experiences? Can you allow life-energy to flow through you unrestrained? Can you be your Natural Unadulterated Self and allow Life to move through you unopposed? Through his simple questioning Lao Tse is telling us: It is not enough to simply realize the original Oneness, you must also embody it! And that all depends on who you think you are… “A-Hunting,
Our Beginner’s Mind
we Ego…” MOST OF OUR SUFFERING IS DUE TO A SIMPLE CASE OF
MISTAKEN IDENTITY. When we believe we are an individual
ego, separate from all others, separate even from the Universe—we suffer. Thinking we are somehow different from everyone else and unique in the entire World is isolating. This unfortunate mental projection of Ordinary Mind leaves us to feeling lonely, a wanderer through Life; a stranger to ourselves. Viewed from this perspective of ego, our skin becomes a barrier that separates our inside from the outside. When in reality, our skin is the very thing that allows us to connect. As Allan Watts summed it up, most Westerners see themselves as “skin-encapsulated egos.” Cut off. Separate from nature. Separate from their body. When we believe we are an ego—singular, noun, a thing—then even though we may be surrounded by thousands of others, we still think and feel as if we stand alone. This mistaken identity sets us up to endure a World of Hurt. We suffer because of a fake ID... As Human Beings we are born into the process of human communication and human interaction known as the “Human Condition.” We are conditioned by our basic human need to have others treat us favorably. We learn how to behave 49
and abide by the norms of our particular social group. How others perceive us greatly influences how we perceive ourselves. Through our social interactions we gather the raw material—information—necessary to form our self-identity. Others mirror us. From their reflection, a self-image is born. . This is how children learn to identify themselves—through relationship— me/mother, perceiver/perceived, observer/observed. We learn to see ourselves as the object of someone’s affection. By becoming an object in someone else’s mind we become a subject in our own. Little by little, to our own mind, we become a thing. Once we acquire language, our conditioning begins in earnest! With apprehension of the word “me” we become individuals. It works something like this. As a child we become self-aware by seeing ourselves through our mother’s eyes. Through her eyes, our “me” becomes a good girl or a bad girl, a big boy or big baby, depending on the subsequent outcome of our interactions. If we behave appropriately we meet with mother’s approval. Mother then seems like a wonderful extension of me. But if mother disapproves— big problem! Mother and child enter a contest of wills. Mother overrules. The child then perceives two mothers: good mom and bad mom. The child separates. This is just how it is! All civilized cultures condition their children to operate through a false center, a mental self-image, a persona we call: “me.” “Me” is who we think we are! “Me” looks out upon the World and thinks: mine! Here, from the vantage point of our false identity, we make our first mistake. My mother may be mine. My blanket may be mine. A favored stuffed animal may be mine. But the World is not: mine! Nature is not: mine! The Universe will never be: mine! This is like a wave suddenly proclaiming “the Ocean is mine!” People, like waves, are verbs not nouns. There are no such things as individual waves. Waving is something the Ocean does. It is more correct to say the Ocean waves. Waving is the result of forces that naturally cause water to swell, crash, subside, and swell again. Likewise, trying to maintain an individual sense-ofself on a planet that “peoples” is tricky. Our egos naturally swell, crash, subside, and swell. In reality, our self-image breaks down again and again and again. Just look at the word: “Human Being.” Being is obviously no noun. We appear to be individual things but appearances can be deceiving. We are no more singular than 50
individual grapes on the vine. We are the fruiting of the vine. Human beings, like each single rose, are the flowering of root, branch, and thorn. But let us return to our Ocean analogy. Another way to say it is this: Trying to become an individual ego is a bit like trying to become a single drop in the Ocean. Unless you somehow separate yourself from the Ocean you remain unformed. In order to become a single drop you must break free. But even if you managed to separate yourself from the anonymity of Ocean to hang free as a suspended perfect individual drop. What then? You are still in your very essence: Ocean. And once you drop back in again, who then can find you? Appearances notwithstanding, we are each like tiny individual drops in a Sea of Humanity. The singular ego is such an illusion. Like fish, we are both in the Sea and of the Sea. Everything we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and sense around us occurs within one immense thing called: the Universe. This concept—Universe—is grossly misunderstood by egos. Egos agree intellectually that the word “Universe” means: One. But then go right ahead carrying on as if everyone and everything in it is still somehow disconnected. This is Samsara again. By definition one can never be separated from the Uni-verse. Uni- means one as in uni-cycle. The appearance of “separation” is a mere trick of the eyes, a fundamental mistake in thinking, a vague feeling of loneliness. We are all part of a Unified Field. Yet despite all reassurances of a loving omnipresent universal “Oneness” our adult conditioning has us stubbornly insisting that Life is the Uni verses us! The concept of Separation is an illusion that results from our point-of-view. Let us use rainbows for an example. When viewed with the human mind rays of sunlight shining through raindrops at just the proper angle creates a prismatic display of color. We think we see a rainbow arching across the sky. We see it with our own two eyes! The illusion of rainbow is very convincing. The separate ego seems very real, as “real” at least as rainbows. We think we are egos. But egos, like rainbows, exist only in the mind. We are optical illusions. Everything we view through the prism of ego is colored by our own perspective. To be free of illusion we must learn to look beyond form.
Twenty-five centuries ago, Greek philosophers theorized and deduced the existence of universal infinitesimally small building blocks of matter they called: atoms. The Vedic Upanishads, the first written records of Hindu philosophy dating back to that same period describe a similar universal concept they called: atman. Atman is a universal divine consciousness that animates all things—the supreme god beyond all the other gods—the underlying intelligence which causes all things to be. Atman: our true Self, is never ending. Atman was never born and never dies. It pre-cedes and super-cedes all things. The word Upanishad means: seed. The writers of the Upanishads were “planting seeds” that “germinate” and correct Ordinary Mind’s “mistaken identity,” leading to Yoga, Ultimate Enlightenment, the Embodiment of Truth: Tat Tvam Asi! “Thou art That!” You are It! The Truth is non-dual. Love tolerates the knowledge of Good and Evil. Language—Logos—creates Time and Space. Language creates and divides me and other. Or as Einstein demonstrated so succinctly: Reality is Relative. Language creates one and the many for implied in the concept of one is two. This is Taoist cosmology. Out of the Void arose Yin and Yang. The Chinese are firm believers in the “Big Bang” Theory. From the One arose Two. From the Two arise the infinity of things. The Illusion of Separation is just That! An Illusion! Ancient Masters tell us that in order to become free of the suffering caused by the Illusion of Separation we must go beyond form and words.
The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao. The Universe cannot be grasped by thinking about it! Duality cannot describe what is essentially non-dual. Non-dual Reality refuses to be confined or defined by word, concept, or logic. It is ineffable. No one can say what IT is. But, if you can drop the ego (enlightenment), you can become IT! Tat Tvam Asi! “The Father and I are One...” If one reads widely enough, Greek, Hindu, and Buddhist
philosophers, Taoists, Zen Masters, Christian Saints and Sufi Mystics, all start sounding suspiciously like Quantum Physicists. In the twenty-first century even the most conservative scientists agree that the fundamental building blocks of Life are actually “cosmic dust.” Elements, our astronomers tell us that can only be formed in the cataclysmic explosions of gigantic stars called Supernovas. We human beings are made from stardust. We are atoms, molecules, complex DNA strands, amino acids, proteins, neuropeptides, carbon, iron, water, and breath. We are vibrations, frequencies of light, particles and waves. As any Quantum Physicists will tell you, in Einstein’s equation—E = mc2—the E stands for Energy. Or as the Ancient Chinese Philosopher would say, we are Qi… Therefore, referring to someone as an ego is intrinsically misleading. Speaking of egos leads one to think we each have only one ego when the truth, as Jesus said, they are “legion.” We each have a multitude of “egos” inside ourselves. Remember, we live on a planet that “peoples.” As social creatures we are egoing most of the time. Egoing is how get along. The ironic thing about all this egoing is we really have no where to go! We are already “here.” There is no “place” to go. As Jon Kabot-Zin cleverly pointed out, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Egoing, like People, is also a verb. Egoing is a mental construct, a personal experience, a mental activity that maintains our ego-centric identity. Whenever we are comparing, discriminating, suppressing, dictating, manipulating, managing, controlling, etcetera, we are egoing. The ego in and of itself is a myth. This is why running from our personal suffering ultimately fails. Until we do something about “me,” there is no where we can actually “go.” When we e-go we tend to see only what is ego-sanctioned and ego-approved. In our misconceived egoic attempts to avoid suffering we point-in-fact guarantee future suffering. Whenever we to cling to our false-identity, when we believe that we are an ego, and attempt to live according to our self-image, we unknowingly choose to suffer. Suffering is also a verb. Suffering means: “to carry our fear and pain.” We suffer from ego-suppression and become less of a fully functioning 53
human being and more like a foolish human doing. What exactly are we doing? We are trying exactly NOT to be human! All our egoing is an attempt to spare our selfimage from the embarrassment of being too human. When we ego, we are actually of two minds. There is the mind that accepts and the mind that rejects. There is the person we pretend to be and the person we hope to become. There is the person who feels deserving Love and the person who is afraid they are unworthy. One moment we are rational, analytical, and sure of ourselves. The next we are irrational, distraught, and full of self doubt. This inherent schizophrenia results from operating a dual mind. We call it “human nature” but then condemn ourselves, complaining “I am only human!” Zen challenges us to embody this fact by just being Human. This after all is the essence of Self-Healing:
Be yourself. Act naturally. So, “OK” you’re probably thinking. That sounds easy enough: Just Be Human. Just be myself. That seems reasonable; simple enough. What’s the catch? The catch is simply this: You already are Human! So, being Human actually requires no effort at all! You can’t become something you already are! Zen Masters have attempted to teach this amazingly simple secret for centuries. All we really have to do according to Zen is: STOP! Be Silent... Be Still... Meditate... You are already home... If you are ready to hear this very simple truth it can instantly
“The One you are
release all the suffering caused by Ordinary Mind. If you are
searching for is
not ready to hear it the truth simply flows in one ear and out the
the One who is
other and you remain unchanged. It is again like “the finger
pointing at the moon,” only now the finger is pointing directly at us. We are the answer. You are the answer. I am my own answer. First, you must become the answer. And so first you must become undivided. Then you will suddenly stop egoing and “see the Moon…”
According to the Ancient Masters, what prevents us from seeing things clearly is our ego. This is such a central notion for the understanding of Zen Qigong™ that I ask you to bear with me as I labor this point a little longer. If however you find this chapter tedious, by all means—skip it. Turn directly to the exercises, look at the pictures. Begin. You do not have to understand Zen to benefit from these Zen Qigong practices. If you wish, you can return to this material more at your leisure… “Ego...” What do we mean by it? There are many misconceptions surrounding the term “ego.” Sigmund Freud would hardly recognize the word ego as we use it today. In popular culture, ego has become synonymous with “personality.” In Freud’s system, however, “ego” merely described the go-between one’s “id”—our “undifferentiated primitive self-will”—and one’s “super-ego”—a sort of all seeing “internalized parent.” Freud’s “ego” was never seen as one’s “personality” or “character” but was seen rather as an indispensable tool for socializing. You may think you are your ego, but your ego is not your personality! “Self-Actualization,” to push all psychiatric jargon aside, is not some far-off difficult therapeutic goal that only occurs with really well-adjusted egos. SelfActualization means: actually being your Self. Not who you want to be. Not who you pretend to be. Not who you think you are. Just who you are! For Ordinary Mind, this is not possible.
Egoing becomes our “second nature.” The real you is not an ego! Egos are actors and reactors. Egos are not real in and of them themselves! They are habitual responses to stimuli. They are modes of behavior and ways of thinking. Our true nature is undivided. Egos are divided. So egoically there is a tremendous fear, resistance, and mistrust of the Undivided State for atonement supplants our dual natured ego! Without duality our self image has nothing to compare itself to. Without an other we cannot ego anywhere… Trees have personalities but no egos. Trees do not live with an internalized self-image of themselves as a tree. They are unconcerned with whether they are 55
good trees or not. No tree is thinking: “I must devise a way to become a better tree.” Likewise, every dog or cat—every newborn baby—is born with its own distinct personality, its own distinctive character traits, its own spirit. For the human baby, all that will change one day. The baby will learn how to ego. The baby will grow to see itself through a self-image. The baby will come to believe it is an ego. The baby ego will co-opt the child’s personality. It will take the credit and the blame for his or her innate character. The young ego will try to “live up” to social expectations. It will struggle to become a successful “personality” and not the true person it was meant to be. Its burgeoning ego will attempt to control others. The child will strive to “fit in.” A new “ego” is born! It grows into the one we mentally identify ourselves with, the one who is franticly trying to maintain its own self-image. Habitually coping, we ego… How do you know if you are egoing? Whenever you believe you have to somehow change in order to become yourself or whenever you compare yourself to others. When you feel better than or not-as-good-as someone else—there you ego again! My ego is afraid it’s not good enough! It worries about getting things right! My ego is afraid no one will ever publish this book. It is frightened of rejection. My ego hates making mistakes! It is ashamed of embarrassment. My ego doubts. It loses faith again and again. My ego crashes sometimes. It fears being misunderstood. Sometimes my ego despairs and I can’t believe becoming whole again is even possible! See how easy it is to slip right back into my ego, mine, me-me-me? “Ego” is a verb not a noun. Egos are not real things. They are imaginary. That doesn’t mean egos don’t exist, they do. They are like characters, masquerades, Pinocchios, tied by invisible strings to society, to Samsara, Maya and Karma. Like Pinocchio, our egos hunger to be real. But trying to satisfy ourselves by gratifying our ego is exactly how we lose our way. Never satisfied, never at peace, never at one, never at rest, never at ease, never whole no matter how hard we try. Ego is something we do, not who we are. This is why it is so confusing. You cannot be an ego, but you can use one. 56
Ancient Masters discovered by becoming physically supple again (yoga) they could become emotionally vulnerable once more: “As supple as a Child.” Emotional vulnerability is not what egos want! Emotional vulnerability this feels like weakness to most Americans. We are conditioned to stay in command of our feelings. Openly expressing our “humanness” leaves us feeling unprotected and exposed.
Failure to control our emotions commonly generates shame. Egos want
protection from out-of-control behavior that can get them into trouble. Egos want to save us from ourselves by safeguarding us from mistakes, from making any error that might threaten our success or survival. Egos conclude all we need to do is avoid being who we really are and then everything will be alright. So they develop defense mechanisms and elaborate coping strategies to help maintain cohesion and control. Make no mistake about it. This is the opposite of Self-Healing... What kind of coping devises help support our sense of ego? Well, how about chronic dissatisfaction for starters? Constantly feeling dissatisfied with our self-image, our life situation, our body, job, friends, family, spouse, children; our politicians—or whatever—makes egos seem so real. Dissatisfaction always keeps the ego going. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are many defensive strategies. Take Craving for example, constantly craving diversions, distractions, addictions. Addicted to nonstop activity; constantly keeping ourselves occupied by reading, shopping, thrill seeking, exercising, watching television, going to the movies, going to church, going on a spiritual quest, meditating, or even writing a book. What about nursing a broken heart? Succumbing to depression? Sinking into self-loathing? How about constantly blaming others? Carrying anger or rage? All these activities and feelings support the illusion of oneself as an ego.
Suffering makes egos seem so real… The goal of Zen is not to do away with ego! Many people labor under this misperception that Zen is opposed to ego. Zen is not opposed to ego. In fact, the
goal of Zen is to perfect ego, help us realize egos’ relationship to Reality and finally put it in its proper place! Life is not perfect. It is unpredictable. No matter how hard we ego we will never control it. Life is in constant flux. It is impermanent, constantly changing. Ordinary Mind abhors change. With each new change Ordinary Mind egos through a period of adjustment, an uncomfortable time when they don’t know how to behave, when things are unfamiliar, and they are not sure how to re-act. Ordinary Mind craves the familiar. It can only re-act to old patterns, old habits, or old roles. Since it cannot re-act to new situations change is unsettling, disturbing. Being disturbed is what Ordinary Mind is trying to avoid! In Zen, we develop a mind that is at peace with change, an ego like the eye of a storm—calm and still. Stillness is the Achilles’ heel of Ordinary Mind. Learning to live without a self-image gradually erases our false identity. Egos are like clouds that block the sun. The sunlight does not stop shining because our ego gets in the way! The ego simply evaporates in the light. No ego has ever been enlightened and survived. When the clouds part we realize: the sunlight has been shining the whole time. Zen tells us despite our egoing we are enlightened beings already but Ordinary Mind clouds this. This is why the Buddha asks us, “Can you be still long enough to allow your mud to settle and become clear water again?” Accepting the challenge of becoming “fully human,” this is Zen. It is the undoing of Ordinary Mind, the self-wounding grown up within. Accepting ourselves in all our egos is all that is needed. This is the Zen the turning-point. The point in your Life where you realize enough is enough. The point when instead of suppressing your emotions, you actually try to become fully aware of all your emotions! By far the most difficult aspect of Zen Qigong™ is to free yourself up to feel again—without discriminating—unencumbered by the desires and dictates of ego. Zen is practicing Open Presence. Zen is just noticing, just watching; just being, just breathing, just feeling—just human. To the egocentric, that sounds crazy! Why would anyone want to be open to all their unwanted feelings? How about in order to free yourself from endless egoing, from endless suffering… This is the greatest 58
obstacle. On the quest of becoming oneself we encounter so much feeling. Too much feeling! Feelings we thought we rid ourselves of a long time ago. Purposely allowing ourselves to feel our unwanted feelings takes tremendous courage. Doing so requires one to keep careful attention in the Now. When we manage to calm and still ourselves we come to realize—in this present moment— nothing “bad” is actually happening! All that is needed to accomplish this is to remain egoless. So it should come as no surprise that “skin-encapsulated egos” choose to escape the present moment by retreating into the past or projecting themselves into the future. Anything so we feel “back to normal.” Ordinary Mind resumes “screening-out” unhappy emotions in a misguided attempt to be: “Happyall-the-time.” But this is not what “happily-ever-after” means at all. Happily-everafter means: “Whatever is happening now, I am still OK.” The truth is Happiness always happens by accident. Happiness happens by chance: Happenstance. One doesn’t create happiness by rejecting unhappiness or exercising one’s willpower. One must allow for it. Happiness always happens when we lose our egocentric sense of reality. Happiness happens when one loses oneself in the present moment. Happiness happens when we accidentally forget to be dissatisfied NOW! With Zen you come to realize that whenever you feel stuck with “unhappy” feelings you are polarized by a self-image. This is when the True Self gets neglected… When we are busy egoing, emotionally troubled, when we feel lonely, lost and alone with our negative unhappy thoughts, we stifle ourselves physically, hold our breath, and squeeze out our Life energy. This is when our mind needs to become silent. In Zen practice, this is when it is time to breathe and simply observe all our egoing. It is no more complicated than watching clouds in the blue sky form, take shape, dissolve, move on, and disappear. In Zen Qigong™ we practice awareness of egoing, awareness of feelings. For beginners, the thing to pay attention to foremost is PAIN! For when we ignore pain and painful emotions we force ourselves to separate again from our true feelings. We separate from ourselves until we feel “back to normal” with our ego on top. We forget ourselves…
First amnesia, then anesthesia; comfortably numb… 59
Why Amnesia first? Because first we have to forget Anesthesia never works. Despite our temporary numbness, despite our best efforts, we are still painfully human. But, as human beings we can exercise free-will. We can choose to “not feel” almost any time we want to. This free-will is both a blessing and a curse. The saddest thing about not-feeling is we unintentionally shut-out the most honest and truest ally we will ever have: Pain. Pain goads us to find a way out of suffering. It motivates us to move beyond pain and that is good! But when we “kill” our pain, or deny it, we unwittingly turn our backs on our closest and dearest friend: our body. And by doing so we refuse to listen to our own inner-wisdom telling us: “Something is wrong.” “We have been injured and hurt.” “Some thing needs our immediate attention, our awareness, our compassion, our Love.” My final words concerning: becoming and egoing. There is a charming Tibetan phrase about “Flying your windhorse.” Every year, Tibetan boys make and fly beautiful hand-painted kites. A “windhorse” is your kite. Well, one day, not long ago, my wife and I were having a heated argument. In fact we were fighting. What it really boiled down to was this: I was trying to defend my ego. I accused her of being a “bad wife” for not properly supporting my ego. What I said to her was: “You enjoy crashing my ego don’t you?! You’re like that kite-eating tree in the Charlie Brown cartoons and my poor ego is just a flimsy little box-kite I made myself. Every time I try to fly it you come along and wreck it! You cut my string! You make me crash it on the ground!” My wife looked at me patiently and said, “The ego is a myth.” “You see?!” I said. “There you go again! Well I’ve had enough! I’m not building box-kites anymore!” And I stopped egoing. The ancient way to train the mind to stop egoing is by focusing your awareness of your breath. Your breath is the string that helps you control your windhorse while your body keeps you firmly rooted to the ground. This is the proper way to fly your ego. Not carried away by it! Not upset when it breaks! Not losing your grip on the string! And not of necessity! Just for fun! When you realize 60
your ego is about as substantial as a flimsy little box-kite, then crashing one becomes half the fun. You get a chance to build a newer even better ego. Instead of having to ride the same old tattered and faded windhorse next season. This is called: “The Art of Self-Healing”. If you allow yourself to keep reading, I promise to show you how you can train your mind to relax your body— instead of chronically stressing it. I will share with you simple and practical methods for healing your emotions instead of chronically suppressing them. And I will show you how you can increase your vital energy and healing abilities by cultivating Inner-Peace. But don’t take my word for it. Read on, try the exercises yourself; give it some time—100 days—and discover for yourself just how simple it is to free your self from Pain. Lastly, at my clinic we have an inspirational poster showing a man climbing the side of a mountain alone under a full moon; it reads:
“Goals: first ask yourself what you want; then you have to do it.” Can you become “As supple as a child?” If so, then you can become free from suffering and free from pain! You can let go! All you have to do is take enough time to test it for yourself. We stand and fall, stand and fall, Like children first learning to balance. This obstinate courage: to stand and fall like children, Is all it takes to rejuvenate and be “born again”. Like children taking their first steps—there is no obstacle, There is only not being afraid to fall… Again, and again, and again, and again
Zen-Mind WHEN YOU TRY THESE SELF-HEALING TECHNIQUES PLEASE BE AWARE: In
order to heal yourself, you will have to work through the ego—not without it, as some meditation teachers and traditions seem to suggest. You have to learn to cooperate with your ego before your ego will allow change. Egos are very clever. They know when they are being threatened and a defensive ego is dangerous! It says: Oh! So you think you’re ready to try and be the boss? You think you’re ready to feel your feelings? All the feelings I have been hiding from you all these years? Well alright then: Go ahead then and: FEEL THIS! And it sends all your bad feelings at once… In this strategy, the ego floods you with emotion. It is betting you will back down! Once it overwhelms you, ego believes you will “think again” before you choose to “feel again.” It hopes and trusts you will retreat, like you have done so many times in the past. Ego wants you to “thank your lucky stars” that it is there to guard you and protect you and keep you safe from “uncomfortable feelings.” Ego forces us to change our mind and “think twice before we do that again.” This is called: Postponing. Zen Qigong is how we learn to stop postponing. Ego is Beginners-Mind. This is where we all must start from—the beginning. Ego arrived sometime during our “terrible twos” when we first learned to say: No! When we learned to say: Mine! When we learned that we were separate from those who love us. Despite this, try as hard as it might, the ego is not the Boss! The ego has to get used to this idea. Ego thinks it’s the Boss because it’s the part of us doing most of our thinking. It’s the part of us that is busy talking to itself. But really it has no idea what is going on. No, that’s not right. The ego has only ideas about what’s going on—ideas and ideals that it struggles to live up to. But the Heart does it’s thinking too and the same goes for the Gut. So the ego keeps hoping and pretending that maybe no one will notice we are not really “in charge” of our lives.
It is our Soul that has the final say so… 62
Even when we are completely I-dentified with Ego, the world is not mine! Ego can never be “master.” Some crucial “part” is always missing—our true Self. The only things egos are ever master of are” Illusions. We begin to get a handle on this—the root cause of most of our pain and suffering—when we realize this: Egos are meant to be servants, not masters. The reality is our social-ego’s real job is to protect and serve us, not to Interfere. Egos were meant to defend us from harm; not become Defensive. Why do you think egos need so many fences? Because your ego sees what it is not! Your ego feels threatened by reality. So it argues. Meditation, like the word healing means to make
yourself whole; to know your true Self. This is the goal of
argue with Reality,
Meditation, the goal of Zen, the goal of Qigong: to heal the
we lose; but only
errors in our thought. In Zen they say: “To give a turning
100% of the time.”
word.” In Qigong they say: “Withdraw vision in-wards.”
Both sayings point us in the right direction. Meditation teaches us to go within and see the truth revealed. Egos detest Meditation. Meditation transcends ego. Meditation reveals the field in which thought occurs. It shows us that we are more than what we think— much more. In time it can reveal the real you to yourself. When you learn how to witness the activity of your mind—your ego and all its mechanisms—you become more than just an ego. What they call “Enlightenment” is really just seeing through the Illusion of Separation, the illusion created by our ego—by our history, by our thoughts, our feelings and experiences. Zen asks us to “re-turn” to our true inner-awareness of a child, to know our original face before our ego—our beginner’s mind—was born. Zen helps us see with “real-eyes” that our egos are nothing more than the frightened little “me” hiding and trembling behind the curtain. And not, as they claim to be: “the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.”
The Birth of Zen
BUDDHA ONCE GAVE A SERMON TO AN ASSEMBLY OF THOUSANDS
not what you
OF HIS DISCIPLES BY HOLDING UP A SINGLE LOTUS FLOWER. Only
one student got it. Only one smiled. His name was Kashyapa, the
first Zen Patriarch. Seeing his smile Buddha renamed Kashyapa: Mahakashyapa—the Great Kashyapa—and declared him his Dharma successor. Ever since that first silent exchange between Guatam Buddha and Kashyapa, Zen has been known as “the straight path to enlightenment that is beyond scripture; having no dependence on words or letters.” Trying to learn Zen Qigong from a book would be like trying to learn to ride a bike by going to the Library and reading about it. You could read all you want about bicycles, bicycle-riding, bicycle-making, bicycle-maintenance, bicyclehistory, but until you actually put your feet on the pedals, your hands on the handlebars, and your butt on the seat, you will never truly learn how to ride. The only way to learn Zen is by doing Zen. We all learned how to balance on a bicycle by first losing our balance, just as we originally learned how to walk by falling. In the same way we can only learn Zen—how to balance our lives—by first losing our balance and then finding it again. In Zen one first learns sitting-meditation by sitting Zazen. There is no other way! Still, I believe there is value in talking about Zen. I believe it is important for you to know something about the history and tradition of these practices and where they originated. If however you disagree or feel bored by this information—move on; move on… If your curiosity gets the best of you, you can always come back to this section later. REMEMBER: You can’t learn Zen from a book. Zen teaching is beyond thinking and beyond reasoning. When Zen teaching occurs, it occurs though something called: Transmission—an instantaneous glimpse or intuitive insight into the reality of thought. Just a wink or a nod or an all-knowing Buddha smile between master and disciple—and there it is: sudden realization; Instant Enlightenment! The student suddenly sees what they have been missing all 64
along. They then take the lesson to heart; make the awareness their own and grow wings. But, there’s more involved than that. There is preparation! Discipleship means “to practice self-discipline.” Religion too, means “to practice religiously.” So this “sudden occurrence” of “instant enlightenment” between any master and any disciple often only comes after years of dedicated faithful practice. But once ready… Then, just Buddha holding-up a flower and winking, and if the student is properly prepared: “Ah! Just be like a flower! How simple? Then there are no more problems.” This legendary teaching is the pure essence of Zen. “Even when a It is said that Buddha “preached” this sermon toward the end
flower is dying, it
of his life and the legend says in order to accommodate the
is not a problem; it
huge numbers who of disciples crowding to hear him. The
Buddha Shakyamuni “preached” his sermon from the top of
Mount Gridhrakuta. As a Christian, it strikes me that this story about the Buddha is reminiscent of the story of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. But the case with Buddha, instead of telling his disciples to “consider the lilies of the field;” Guatam simply holds up a single flower and—without using any words at all—says the exact same thing: You worry too much; you need to relax and trust more in Life. Try being more like the flowers! That will surely help! After his death, Buddha’s teaching left Nepal and spread to millions of people across the East. This wordless transmission of the True Dharma between Guatam and Kashyapa is commemorated in many lands, but few have summarized it quite as neatly the Tibetans in what is considered their National Mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum—Hail, the Adamantine Diamond at the Heart of the Thousand-Petaled Lotus! As an American—you might be asking yourself—what on earth do I have in common with Tibetans and Zen Buddhists; be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or otherwise? How can these outlandish ideas, philosophies, and practices help me reduce my stress and heal or eliminate my pain? Where is our common ground? Well, how about the earth for starters? That should be common ground enough? But I understand the problem of cross-cultural differences. And because 65
of it I believe that rather then focusing on the differences between people we are far better served by examining the similarities. For example, my Chinese teacher told me that when he was a little boy, sometimes he and his brothers would dig a deep hole in the backyard just for fun. And when his parents would ask them what they were up to they would say: “Digging a hole to America.” Children are the same everywhere, their first word is: mama. People are the same everywhere; they are fascinated yet suspicious of all things foreign. No place is this truer then when it comes to the World’s religions. Don’t forget, even Christianity was once considered a dangerous Eastern “Mystery Cult” and its followers were seen by Jews, Greeks, and Romans as religious fanatics and long persecuted by authorities before finally being embraced by the Emperor Constantine and made the cornerstone of his Holy Roman Empire. Zen predates Christianity and originates west of the Himalayas, in what the Chinese call: “The Land of the Buddhas.” Interestingly, in China, popular imagination and legend usually places its magical or spiritual realms—somewhere in the West. While conversely, our tales of exotic lands usually lie somewhere in the Far East, the Near East, or the Middle East; in India, Africa, Arabia, or China. It’s helpful when looking for commonality to keep in mind that if you travel far enough to the East or West, North or South, you will arrive back where you started out from. For in truth, there is no North, South, East, or West. These are only agreed upon conventions used by travelers to describe their experiences and their travels to “foreign” lands. The earth is round. It is a globe, a sphere; that always brings us back full circle. So in truth, there are no foreign lands. Just think for a moment of the earth spinning in space. You will clearly see in your minds eye: there is only one land, consisting of five great continents and countless islands, full of mountains, forests, rivers, prairies, swamps, deserts; and despite all the varied names there is only one ocean, and two polar icecaps. There is only one beach made up of trillions upon trillions of tiny particles of sand. In reality, all lands interconnected by the ocean’s floor and all are combined to create only one Holy Land. 66
But for the sake of argument, let’s look at the similarities between two such “Holy Lands”—the Sacred Desert of Palestine and the Sacred Mountains of Tibet— and you will see that we have much more in common with these foreigners than you probably ever realized. To do that let’s begin by comparing to two pivotal prayers from our “Western” & “Eastern” traditions. Let us compare The Lord’s Prayer with the Tibetan National Mantra:
OM MANI PADME HUM. OM: “the Sacred Sound of Primordial Oneness.” When Tibetan monks chant Om, it is to say: “Hail! The Supreme Presence of the Divine Spirit.” This is equivalent to beginning of our Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name. Mani: “Adamantine Diamond”: is the diamond-hard truth “that cannot be cut or broken” and so is called: “adamantine” or “the pure everlasting essence” in nature. This fits nicely with: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth—as it is in Heaven. Padme: “The Thousand-Petaled Lotus”: gets right to the “heart” of the matter! “Save us from the ‘Thousand Illusions’ of Mind.” Give us this day our daily bread, and deliver us from Evil. Hum: often called “The Tibetan Om” (and pronounced: “HUNG”) is the seed syllable for all Tibetan Tantra (“techniques”)—but is primarily associated with Vajrayana Yoga—“The Diamond Path.” Also known as “the straight path to true enlightenment in this body in this Lifetime!” For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever. Hum is the closer (Amen). When we begin to see the similarities between peoples and stop being distracted by the appearance of so many differences, we can see that Human Beings are really one big unhappy family. We begin to see we all live together on one planet: “Earth.” And that aside from all our apparent differences, we are really one people: “Earth-people.” And there is only one Human Race, with all of us struggling
to find Health, Happiness, Freedom, and Peace. To help us further see the similarities between peoples let us look a little closer at Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism are two branches of the same tree; both schools of discipline originally founded by Buddhist missionaries, “Bodhisattvas” traveling from India. Tibet—which lies much closer to Guatam Buddha’s birthplace—received their “Dzochen” teaching through Saraha: the 4th Lineage holder descended through Buddha’s son: Rahul Bhadra. While China, Korea, Japan and others received their “Dharma” teaching through Bodhidharma: the 28th Zen Patriarch in direct lineage from Mahakashyupa. Once firmly rooted in Chinese soil, Indian Buddhism blended with native Chinese Daoism and gave birth to Zen Buddhism. While isolated on their high Himalayan Plateau, the Tibetans preserved what they believe to be the “purer form” of Buddhism (Vajrayana). And with it, they created the mythical kingdom of “Shangri-La.” Hopefully by all this you can see that any one of us “earthlings” can gain the health benefits that these traditional “religious” or “spiritual” practices have to offer. From these brief insights into the religious history, from examples from Buddhism or our own Judeo/Christian/Islamic traditions—I hope you can see that the techniques presented in this hand-book do not belong to any one group, race, nation, or spiritual tradition. And if you travel far enough back in time, you can clearly see these practices are common to all peoples. Zen as it is practiced by most Americans here in the United States is pursued not so much a religion but as a method for gaining insights into the psychology of the human mind. The fact that people everywhere usually choose to remain safely within their own belief system or tradition does not change a thing. We have so much to learn from one another. In Meditation, beliefs are neither help nor hindrance. You can meditate to calm the mind by focusing on your breath just as easily as focusing on Jesus. Emotions are Universal Truths. Any Christian, Muslim, or Jew may safely practice Zen and happily ever after remain a Christian, Muslim, or Jew. No single tradition can rightfully claim a monopoly on what are considered by all to be Universal 68
Truths (though unfortunately many still do!) Universal Human Truths are Universal—the most common everywhere! Around the world, if you just look with open eyes you will see the sacred mudra we call Praying Hands in use everywhere! Down through the ages, no matter what religion, no matter in what land, monks everywhere live just like monks everywhere. Mountain hermits everywhere live on their mountains just like mountain hermits everywhere. Whether in the high Himalayas or the Coptic caves of the Egyptian desert—singing is still just singing; chanting is still just chanting— whether singing to God in a cave or in a church; or chanting in a temple, a mosque, a cathedral, or forest—the quintessential truth, “The Fifth Element,” is essentially one and the same: Love is Love; Energy is Energy; Spirit is Spirit; and Qi is Qi. By now you may have noticed that the word “just” keeps finding its way into many of my sentences. This is because in Zen—in the Art of Self-Healing—there is a lot of “just” being. As in, “just being yourself.” In Zen, whether American, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Chinese— when we eat, we are to “just eat.” When we sleep, we are to “just sleep.” When we work, we are to “just work.” It’s that simple. Like the lotus flower in Buddha’s aging hand, we are to “just be!” Even like our sometimes childish and petulant ego, we are to just be: “childish and petulant.” It is not a problem. It is just the way it is. Allowing things to be: “just the way things are” can create tremendous relief. This quality, I call such-ness. Flowers— like egos—are just: such as they are. If our egos need anything, it is to be treated patiently and lovingly so they can “just be as they are.”
For the sake of a single rose, the
Being vs. Doing This concept of being vs. doing, of nurturing instead of criticizing and scolding can be quite daunting to the beginners’ mind. Mind just keep insisting on having “problems to solve.” This is how Mind derive meaning. By finding faults and comparing everything against the ideal of Perfection. 69
faithful Gardener becomes the servant of a thousand thorns. —Sufi Proverb
For beginner’s mind—thinking is always a mean thing to do. Thinking traps us in a world full of “meaningful problems.” (But, Hey! It’s not our mind’s fault; minds can’t help themselves. That’s just what they do…) So, it helps a lot in the beginning of Practice to be aware of the shortcomings of our minds. It helps if we practice observing our minds. It helps to become aware of the back-ground—of our Mind’s Consciousness—and not pay such close attention to Mind’s content. To say it more poetically, in meditating, it helps to pay attention to the Blue Sky, not the passing clouds; not the birds in flight, not the occasional jet plane. Do you remember the skies after September 11, 2001? How quiet they were? How empty? No contrails crisscrossing the sky. Zen is practicing to be that quiet, that clear, that still; as still as the World plunged suddenly into Shock and Mourning... They say in Zen that true awareness never happens “on purpose.” There is no purpose in being aware, you simply are aware. With more and more practice you become more and more aware of yourself—being aware! They say in Zen that enlightenment is like a happy accident, but that practicing makes us “accident prone;” (so the more one practices the better your chances for success.) It doesn’t really matter how you become aware. Just becoming aware is the point! The “How” doesn’t really matter at all. It can happen in so many ways and at different times in your life. One realization gets you ready for the next realization and so forth... As they also say in Zen, there are 52 stages enlightenment that one must go through after enlightenment in order to achieve full spiritual attainment. Zen says that there are really only four types of people in this world. (1) An ordinary person without enlightenment. (2) An ordinary person with enlightenment. (3) A saint without enlightenment. (4) A saint with enlightenment.
As Zen practitioners, as Caregivers, as people we are to strive to be the fourth kind of person—the true flowering of our own human potential. When Bodhidharma (Da Mo in Chinese) first arrived in China, legend says that he was invited to teach the emperor himself. The emperor at that time was a great promoter of Buddhism. Under his decrees thousands of temples with tens of thousands of monks and nuns were established across China. When the emperor asked Bodhidharma what his reward in Heaven would be for his benevolence, Da Mo replied: “None.” The emperor was upset. (And in that day, that was very very bad!) So Da Mo sought refuge from the emperor’s anger at the famous Shaolin Temple, in 527 AD. When he arrived there, he found the monks so sick from improper meditation practices and other austerities that legend says—He sat and meditated by facing a wall for 9 years!—before finally consenting to teach the monks. He then wrote two books on yoga and physical development which have become foundations for the New Qigong: The Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic and The Bone Marrow/Brain Cleansing Classic. When at last he began teaching the monks his yogic healing, he founded the first school of Zen in China and they became the first Chinese Buddhists Monks to study Kung fu. All any teacher ever has to share is how they attained self-awareness and how they learned to remain spiritually “Awakened.” How they chose to serve by teaching and living in accordance with their own standards. Buddhists chant counting their Mala-beads. Catholics pray their Rosary. Shakers shake. Even Methodists have their method… Zen teaches us how to watch our thoughts. When combined with Qigong, we then learn next how to relax our bodies. The truth is, you cannot accomplish one without the other. There is nor separation between our mind’s and our bodies. It is only language that makes it seem so… Jesus taught his disciples: Holy Prayer, anointing the sick with oil, and the washing of feet. Guatam Buddha taught his disciples: sitting meditation and following the breath. Joshu, the famous Chinese Zen Master taught his student with his great shout: “Mu!” 71
Rumi, the Sufi Master and Mystic Poet attained his
“For years I knocked and
liberation while twirling dizzily around a column in
knocked at the door of the
the mosque, pouring out his grief in spontaneous
Beloved, pleading to be let
ecstatic spiritual poetry, (thus becoming the first
in. Suddenly, a Light!
Whirling Dervish.) St. Francis of Assisi taught his
And I see that I have been
followers through his example of Christian Charity,
knocking from the inside.”
Poverty, and the Work of the Hands. The Truth is
ever before us. But it is not what we expected… In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: “Knock and it shall be opened to you; Seek and you shall find; When you find, you shall be Troubled…”
In the Presence of Pain “…For it is in giving that we receive…” —St Francis of Assisi I AM A NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED HOLISTIC NURSE. That means I have satisfied
the requirements of the national certification board of the American Holistic Nurses Association by proving my understanding and proficiency in the applied knowledge of certain accepted holistic concepts. I have been trained to meet the holistic needs of my patients. So when I say that I work in the Presence of Pain I am speaking Holistically. By that I mean all forms of pain—physical, mental, emotional, psychosocial, and existential pain. As a holistic nurse I believe it is my duty to treat each and every one of my patients as a “whole person,” not just as an example of a diagnosis, a disease, physical injury or mental illness. (Not: The diabetic in room 305; the fractured hip in 319…) As a holistic nurse, I view each one of my patients as a complex personality made up of Mind, Body, and Soul, all combined to create One Whole Human Being—Whole-ism. What all that means is like holistic nurses everywhere, I believe in the existence of Spirit and the crucial role it plays in determining our health, our wellbeing, and our happiness. No, believe is not the right word here; believing doesn’t accurately describe what I understand about Spirit. I KNOW THAT SPIRIT EXISTS. 72
Before specializing in neuromuscular therapy and traditional healing, I spent five years as a home-care hospice nurse for the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Working with the homebound and their families—the terminally ill, the dying, and those who cared for them—really opened my eyes about a lot of things. Working in hospice was totally different from working in the hospital; responding to a Code Blue, or toe-tagging the newly deceased. Home Hospice nursing is a totally different relationship with Death; a relationship that makes Life feel more precious—if that is truly possible? Most of my readers I am sure have never have the opportunity to witness death, let alone hold someone’s hand as they die. Or if you have been fortunate enough to be there for a loved when Death comes to call, chances are it is a once in a life-time experience. Not so for hospice nurses. Working with the dying brings nurses into a world of such deep suffering, pain and despair, that if we stay open—it awakens our Compassion. Hospice brings nurses face to face with not only their own fear, but the collective fear, anxiety, dread, and denial of Death that is so prevalent in our American culture. Hospice nursing is not a job. It is a spiritual path that forces those who walk it to reexamine their core beliefs and disbeliefs about Death, about Dying, about the Afterlife and the possibility of the survival of Consciousness … I have seen patients literally defy death and personally cared for many patients who managed to survive long after all hope was gone—beyond all realistic medical expectations, far beyond what seemed to be humanly possible. Others in my care somehow managed to fade quickly, passing away quietly over night as if they had simply decided it was time to go and then surrendered their will to live. I have seen so many things that nursing school never prepared me for, things only Divine Intervention or the Soul’s own Inspiration could explain how my patient managed to avoid Expiration. I have learned that Spirit is real, and if someone at Death’s door ever tells you: “Uncle Bud is here, everything is going to be alright,” believe them! I have learned whether or not you think the Spirit is—“Divine” “Human” or “Invisible”—it is still there. From my experience I have learned that Invisible doesn’t mean: “not
visible,” it doesn’t mean: “can’t be seen.” In-visible really means something is truly visible—if you only look at it from the In-side. Working as a hospice nurse and witnessing Death from the inside is directly why I am a holistic nurse today. It was in hospice that I learned the healing arts of “the laying-on-hands” and “anointing-with-oil.” It was there that I learned the hard way about “burn-out.” Where I learned ultimately that the techniques I had been trained in to ease pain and bring comfort and solace the dying—work even better on the Living! And it is directly why the Sisters of St. Francis asked me to create a hands-on healing center for easing pain. In short, hospice nursing is how I became convinced of the Presence of Spirit, where I learned the importance of “Caring for the Caregiver.” So when I say: “In my line of work I see spirit-in-action everyday,” I don’t mean I figuratively see “spirit-in-action”—I am saying because of my experience and training—I can literally see the subtle energy-fields that surround and emanate from all living things. At the risk of being discounted as “New Age” I am telling you that I can actually see auras, halos, thought-forms, and other manifestations of Energy. I am saying I can see what they call in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Qi. Not only that, but I can: touch it, move it, disperse it, gather it, store it, and emit Qi to others, and I can share that ability—to see and manipulate Qi—to others. This should not sound boastful. It should not make me sound like I am claiming to be “extra special.” It should not make me seem strange or even “out-ofthe-ordinary.” (But I know it does.) Facts are un-deniable—not un-ignorable. But the truth is we can happily ignore any fact we choose. The fact is: we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. The fact is: we are all already living inside the Kingdom of Heaven. Just look up at the stars! They don’t really disappear during the day and return again at night. Stars shine all of the time. Look at the sun. The sun has never set, and it never rises. Look at the blue sky. The blue sky is not really “blue”—it only appears that way when seen with the naked eye. And yet, during the day the illusion of “blue” sky completely shuts out our awareness of all the stars.
Have you ever seen pictures of earth taken from “outer-space?” When viewed from the space-shuttle you can clearly see—there is no blue sky anywhere— only clouds, water and snow, green and brown earth, shining like a jewel against the back-drop of black empty space. No political borders anywhere—except for the Great Wall of China! Even though as adults we may intellectually agree that the sky is not really “blue” or that rainbows do not really hang in the sky, the optical illusion of blue sky and rainbows is so convincing. Really, this is the major problem with Illusions (optical or otherwise.)
Illusions shut-out true perception and true awareness of Reality. Why am I going on about stars and rainbows? Because of this: from our adult point-of-view we rarely remember to look up at the stars anymore; we hardly even notice them anymore. When is the last time you just lay back and gazed at the night sky? When is the last time you made a wish on a shooting star? We have already seen them, and besides: who on earth has the time—except Astronomers? That’s perhaps the biggest reason it’s so easy in our culture to remain “blind” to the facts—not enough time… In our adult world of “reality,” “jobs,” “bills,” “deadlines, and “problems””—in our chaotic world of adult responsibilities, the never-ending kaleidoscope of adult diversions and adult entertainments, we can so easily become lost in our own “individual world” of illusion. We don’t just overlook universal truths, we “underlook” the entire universe! No wonder so many adults feel unsteady and unsure with the vital sensations of aliveness that come with even minimal practice of Qigong. Suddenly feeling the “Qi flowing though you” is an unusual sensation for most of us. Initially, increased Qi-flow can feel bio-electrically uncomfortable—like suddenly running 220volt current down a 110-rated wire; you tend to overheat… Unfortunately for many unsuspecting adults, we are just that good at ignoring, denying, refusing, closing-out, or in some other way—suppressing our own vital Life-energy. The sad thing is most Americans you meet are operating on 75
only a tiny fraction of their potential Life-energy. Many of us have forgotten that Life was meant to be lived outside in the real world, not inside on the HighDefinition Super-Plasma TV, in the latest GameCube, or in another “scotch-on-therocks.” Our “natural lives” were meant to be mostly fun and rewarding, not a struggle for ego-survival through distraction and diversion! Life, as nature intended it, was meant to be “seriously played”—not played so seriously and it was meant to be played outside!
Reality TV is NOT Reality! Too many of us are completely out of touch with reality. Death, murder and mayhem in the “real world” are not entertaining! As a nation of television-viewers and movie-goers, how many murders, rapes, shootings, car crashes, and explosions have you witnessed as “entertainment” in your lifetime? Think about that! It is not at all unusual for Americans to be more than a little “out of touch” with reality and more than a just a little “out of touch” with themselves. So, it should come as no surprise that the physical sensations Qi-beginners encounter often causes them to feel Ill-at-ease—literally off balance—slightly strange; kind of floaty, buzzy, tingly; light-headed; faint, or just generally “feel weird.” We are just not used to that much blood and O2 circulating in our systems. It makes us dizzy and nauseous, like suddenly discovering you have become weightless, like gravity has just lost its hold on you. That’s when you need to sit down and just breathe. (This is called: “grounding.”)
Simple truths are always obvious; once we learn to see them… What I have to share with you in these pages has been around for a long long time. It is “age-old” wisdom—Yoga, Meditation, Qigong, Tai Chi, Prayer, Salvation; all point us in the same direction. As a holistic nurse, these ancient healing methods are my specialty…
Most Americans have no idea that Shakyamuni, the first Buddha’s real name was Guatam Siddhartha and that he was born as a prince to the Shakya tribe over 25centuries ago in what is now Nepal. Even fewer know that after Guatam’s enlightenment he continued to teach for over 40 years—simple meditation devices designed to put an end to the seemingly endless Wheel of Suffering. Sadly, many Christians today think that “Christ,” was Jesus’ surname—not a Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” meaning: “Anointed by the Holy Ghost.” And that instead of saying: Jesus Christ, we would be more correct to say Christ Jesus, or even “Jesus the Christ” would put us closer to the truth. Like “Christ,” Americans fail to realize that “Buddha” was not Guatam’s name or that Buddha never claimed to be a god; that “Buddha” is a Sanskrit word that means simply: “Awakened One”. We forget these things. Or else we were never informed, or—as happens so often—we were misinformed. And we also tend to forget just how long these ideas, these philosophies and practices have been around, just waiting for us to pay attention and put these ancient teachings to use. The fact is there is nothing new about the ‘New Age’.
Spirit is the ‘Breath of Life.’ Because I work with so many people in constant chronic pain, my patients sometimes ask me: “How can you stand to be with people in pain all the time?” When that happens I tell them the truth. It is very easy to work in the presence of pain. And I tell them, whenever it feels like there are “holes” in our Life, that’s when God is working hardest on us—trying to fill in those holes and make us Whole again. “Rest assured.” I tell them, “Wherever one of us is in Pain, whenever one of us is lost in Depression, Despair, Hopelessness, or Sorrow: that is when God is most Present.” When we are suffering and in deep need of solace, Presence is there, saying: Yes! Breathe in more Life. Don’t worry. It will be alright. I’m right here.
To know this in our head as well as our heart and then trust in the Presence— the Presence of our Body and the Presence of our Spirit—that they are right here with us day-in and day-out—faithfully working to make us whole and well and good… Learning to “rest” in that certainty is the only place to we can truly “rest our head.” This Presence is the foundation of Faith and the fountain Hope. Trusting in that is the natural State of a Child; a State of Innocence, of Grace, and Wonder… No, to be with people in pain is not difficult at all—it is an honor. It is the people trying not to be in pain that try my patience and challenge the depth of my compassion. For some reason those patients always want to argue. They ask me: “What can I do to be rid of my pain?” I tell them they need to exercise, quit smoking, cut back on caffeine, cut down on their drinking, and eat right—then they don’t do it. They always have a good excuse for why they can’t do that. They have a “good reason” for why they can’t change—too much Stress! And so they tell me: “You don’t understand…” Those patients have decided that all pain is: “BAD!” They are determined to fight their pain and win—they are going to beat it and defeat it. But it is their very resistance to Pain that forces them to stay tense and remain stressed-out all the time—“in order” to suppress their life-energy and keep themselves “under control.” “Head-bound” patients are also invariably muscle-bound. Their muscles are stiff, tight, and resistant. Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud, is credited with first describing this phenomenon. He called it “Body Armoring.” An ego-defense where nothing gets in and nothing gets out! Body Armored patients accurately fit the descriptions: “wound-up,” “uptight,” and “screwed-up.” They are “bound and determined” to learn “the hard way.” Ignoring pain doesn’t work, neglecting pain doesn’t work, denying pain doesn’t work; even having surgery to fix pain doesn’t work. You still have PAIN! Often more than you bargained for… They unknowingly refuse to relieve their pain because they unconsciously refuse to relax. As a result, most of the patients I see in my office have been in pain for a very long time.
At first, those patients have no interest at all in learning how to relax. They have no idea the real reason they can’t Re-Lax is because their body can’t remember where Lax is. They have yet to learn, as tight as they are—that is as relaxed as they can be! These patients don’t want to change, they just want to: “Get-Better;” they want to be: “Out-of-Pain” permanently. They have yet to discover the only real way to defeat Pain is by going through it—not under it, over it, or around it—but through it. They want me to make their pain go away for them. They want their pain to disappear and never return. They will tell me emphatically, the goal of therapy is to be completely: “Pain-Free.” Whenever I hear that, I enjoy pointing out:
“You already get your pain for free!” Working in the presence of pain is working in the Presence. Over the years, working with hundreds of people, it has taught me Patience, Compassion, and Humility. Working as a holistic nurse has caused me to learn so much about human nature, much more than I ever intended to, and much more about my Self. Working in the presence of pain has taught me how to be “present and accounted for,” and how to stay “in the moment.” I know it sounds simplistic, but it takes courage (French for Heart) to be with someone in pain, and compassion enough to really be there in the presence of suffering, and know that just your presence there is often enough to make all the difference in the world. Eventually you learn that even when you have no idea what you are doing—Spirit knows what to do. I used to think old-time Christian “faith-healing” and “laying-on-of-hands” worked because of the placebo-effect—because the patient has faith in the healer, the patient naturally gets better. Now I know that faith-healing works because the healer has faith; more than enough for both! The faith-healer’s faith “jumps starts” the person who is lost in the pain of separation and suffering. What I have learned is that whenever a healer remains fully Present in the present moment, whenever they touch someone in pain with compassionate and prayerful hands, remembering the reality of Spirit—Life-energy just naturally flows.
In the right lighting, with “soft eyes” and a neutral colored back-ground— like a beige wall, open water, or the blue sky—you can actually see a field of Qi gathering around the two and enveloping them as One. It is literally as Jesus says in Mark: 3:18: “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there will I be in the midst of them.” That’s how it works! It is that simple. To those who would call this “New Age,” allow me to quote from the book of Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the Sun.” And so it is. There is nothing new, nothing fantastic or supernatural about the idea of Spiritual Energy, Presence and Love. Even scientists fall in Love, though they cannot measure it in the lab. (Where do you think “little scientists” come from?) Can anyone measure the love and faith and trust in the eyes of an innocent Child? There are—in truth— many holes in scientific knowledge, many unanswered and unanswerable questions scientific theory can never explain and scientific enquiry will never discover. Our emotional needs, our spiritual needs, are just as necessary for Life, for our “health and happiness,” as food and air and water. Abraham Maslow’s famous study of fully functioning healthy and happy people, determined if any one of our human needs for purpose, intimacy, relationship, understanding, love, and meaning are “left out,” we suffer. Abraham Maslow’s: “Hierarchy of Needs” is not disputed, only neglected! Whenever we fail to meet even one of our higher needs it leaves “holes” in our lives; Small holes where our vital energy leaks out; Big holes where we feel unwanted, unloved, and unlovable; Deep holes that only Love can fill… But don’t despair, as contemporary mystic, Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, reminds us:
“The ‘Winds of Grace’ blow through these holes.”
The Sea of Qi FOR MANY AMERICAN STUDENTS—realizing that we factually live in a Sea of Qi,
a Sea of Energy, an Ocean of Air, can be a difficult concept to grasp at first. But once I show my students exactly how they can feel Qi it is so obviously there that they wonder how they ever managed to over-look it before; how all this time they just “missed it.” Some even say: I always thought that was just a trick of my eyes. Once you become aware of it—you can feel it, touch it, move it, shape it, and even “swim” in it if you like. Or of course—if you choose to—you can simply continue to ignore it. Either way, the fact is: The Sea of Qi is already touching you! I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said: “the Kingdom of Heaven lies all around, yet men do not see it”. For most of my students—although seeing Qi takes a little more effort as opposed to simply touching it—they usually get the knack of “seeing bio-energy fields” in the first few lessons. We humans have never lived outside of the safety-net of the earth’s atmosphere (unless of course: you’re an astronaut). Safely shielded from the vacuum of space, we live out our lives: always breathing in earth’s oxygen (Qi), always eating earth’s food (Qi), and always drinking earth’s water (Qi). This can be a difficult concept for many of us to fully grasp: Never Not in the Sea of Qi. Unlike a fish, we will never know what it’s like to suddenly be pulled out of the earth’s atmosphere; our natural environment. A fish may be pulled from the Sea or Ocean but we can never be pulled from the invisible Realm of Spirit. We are all always living in this in-visible Sea of Qi. This very fact turns out to be the greatest mental barrier to developing the awareness of Qi. It is just too “up-close” and personal. We overlook it. Trying to convince people of the existence of Qi is like to trying to convince fish of the existence of water. For the fish, the “problem of water” is that the water is everywhere; all around the fish—inside, outside—and unseen. At times, it feels just as difficult trying to convince people of the existence of Qi—even when the Qi is always: Right-Here Right-Now… In reality, there is no trick to seeing energy-fields; no special skills needed. Your own two eyes will do. Seeing Qi with your own eyes is as easy as breathing 81
air with your lungs—to see energy, you just look. It is not as though with years of dedicated practice you suddenly develop Eyes that See, or Eyes made of Wonder. We don’t magically “recapture” the Eyes of a Child. What we have been searching for all this time has been right under our noses the entire time! This is why Jesus taught his disciples: Prayer; why Buddha taught his bikkhus: Meditation; why Mohammed taught his followers: Islam—Surrender to Allah; why the Torah tells us: Be still and know that I Am God. In Einstein’s equation: E=mc2, the E stands for Energy. The Theory of Relativity tells us what the ancient Greeks, Hindus, and Chinese already knew—the entire Universe, all of Life, is comprised of Energy. This energy the Chinese call: Qi—the Breath of Life. Qi, Vital Energy, Life-Force, Prana, Spirit—the very fact of its Presence is unmistakable once you become aware of it. The fact that it is—that you are already breathing in the Breath of Life—is undeniable. Since the day you were born have you ever been without breath? Breath is with you all the time; awake or asleep, day or night; conscious, unconscious, and all the mental states in between—Breath is available to each of us all the time; everywhere. This is why the Buddha taught his followers to meditate by focusing on the breath. This is the genius of Zen: You already have the tools (your lungs) now use them wisely… Try this: Just sit there with your hands in your lap, your spine straight but not rigid—and Breathe for 5-minutes. Count each breath—inhale & exhale—short breath or long breath—for just 5-minutes and watch what happens. If you lose count, start over again at one. How well did you do? How many breaths did you count? How far did you get? How many times did you have to start again at one because of your wandering mind? How many times in 5-minutes did your Mind tell you: this was boring, or: this is stupid? How many readers refused to even attempt this simple exercise in Awareness? Just counting the Breath? What’s so hard about that? In Zen Qigong,
breath is so very important. It is the most fundamental common denominator for all human being; just breathing, just sitting, just standing, just walking, just Zen.
So Why Should I Care? IF YOU DON’T CARE, THEN WHO WILL? That’s plain enough, isn’t it? Who knows
you better than You do? Who knows at any given moment: How you feel? What you’re thinking? What you need? What you want? What you crave or desire? Who knows You better than you do Yourself? Who knows what would be best for you right NOW? Think about it. Has anyone ever said to you: “I’m not a mind-reader you know!” “How was I supposed to know?” “Why didn’t you say something?” “You never said anything!” “Why didn’t you speak up?” Now think about this: The Art of Self-Healing is learning how to read your own mind; caring enough to be your own mind-reader; not only your thoughts, but also your feelings, emotions, motivations, intensions, dreams, hopes, desires, fantasies, memories, passions, fears… Be Your Own Mind Reader in just 6 easy lessons! It’s fun and sensational… All kidding aside, you learn a lot about “people” when you learn a lot about You. You become a better Caregiver when you practice being your own Good Samaritan; when you lend yourself a helping hand, and learn how to “pull yourself up” by your own boot straps. If You don’t take the time to care for yourself—and by that I mean: take time out or better yet, make time each day to replenish and nurture yourself—how on earth do you expect to be able to keep on Caring? If you are the type of caregiver who is constantly “burning your candle at both ends” how long can you reasonably expect to last? How long before exhaustion or illness takes its toll? Not stopping to take care of yourself is like being in too big a rush to stop for gas—chances are you’ll run out of gas long before you reach your destination. Put
that way it sounds silly doesn’t it, or at least illogical; right? That’s why it seems funny! We recognize the behavior. So, logically, NOT caring for your Self isn’t really an option is it? Like NOT stopping for gas—you don’t really have a choice, you just have to do it. Like when your tire blows out while driving—it doesn’t matter if you don’t have time today for a flat tire today, you still have to stop and change the tire. Some of us, (and you know who you are), are far more faithful about caring for our cars than we are about caring for ourselves. We may chronically neglect our own health, but we still manage to get regular scheduled maintenance for our car; like somehow the car is one of those things that somehow seems to be more important to us than ourselves. (Try this idea: Caring for our Self is like caring for our car. We need to change the oil regularly, keep it fueled at all times, replenish the fluids, check the brakes, rotate the tires, charge the battery…) How many times have you heard yourself say to someone when parting: “Take Care…” or “Take good care of yourself…” or “You take care now..?” And how many times (be honest) have you failed to follow your own advice? But let’s be generous, let’s say that you do make time for yourself on a daily basis, and let’s say you think you are pretty good at “stopping” and “relaxing” and “taking care”. How exactly are you doing that? Are you doing it by: Watching television? Mixing a cocktail? Taking a smoke-break? Eating more chocolate? Worrying all night? Making fresh coffee? Finishing the wine? Popping Anti-inflammatories? Ordering a pizza? Shopping? Procrastinating? Postponing your vacation? Sometimes the things we do in order to “take care of ourselves” just add to our problems. Although we may believe we are “relaxing” and “being good” to ourselves we may in fact be avoiding and neglecting our needs and actually making things worse. You may think your work-out is “good for you” when in fact you may be physically injuring yourself—your poor joints, your poor muscles, your poor discs, your poor bones, your poor organs, your poor ligaments and tendons—by excessive exercise.
Take a lesson from some of my chronic pain patients. Sometimes swimmers ask me: “Do you know what is causing my shoulder pain?” “Yes,” I answer, “Swimming”. Or the father of the ballet dancer: “Do you know what is causing her back pain?” “Yes,” I say, “Ballet.” Or the mother of the tennis star: “Can you tell me what causes tennis-elbow?” “Yes,” I say, “Tennis.” Sometimes our mind writes a check our bodies can’t cash. And yet as a culture we seem to celebrate those who overcome pain and triumph through sheer endurance and will-power. We admire and celebrate athletes for their ability to suffer and endure. Take Lance Armstrong for example. Seven time winner of the grueling Tour de France. Lance began riding and riding and riding until he was the best in the World! Along the way he developed cancer. But, he got cured; the doctors fixed his problem for him; he beat the odds, and then continued riding and riding and riding… Recently, I heard Lance in a radio interview, where was asked: “How are you able to go on? What drives Lance Armstrong? What makes you do what you do and be the best?” Can you guess what his answer was? He said: “I love to suffer.” Nowadays I see yellow plastic wrist-bands being worn all around the country that read: LIVESTRONG. As in: “Be like Lance Armstrong” “Live strong” “Live hard” “Push your self harder” “Just do it” “Just fight and win!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discount Mr. Armstrong’s achievement. His story is an inspiration to millions of people around the world, but—it’s exactly the opposite of truly taking care of your self! All of that hardness is very UN-HEALTHY. Lance Armstrong may be a Cycling Legend and a National Hero for overcoming cancer and—against all odds—returning to competition and continuing to win! But as a body therapist, when I think of all the abuse his body has had to endure in order for him to achieve his amazing World Record, it makes me wonder: What will become of Lance Armstrong when he retires. When he can no longer suffer the way he is used to? What will happen when he’s too old to compete? When his body can no longer suffer the grueling pace his mind sets for himself? What will happen to his self esteem when he is no longer racing; no longer winning? How will he suffer then? 85
Sometimes in my clinic, on any given day, half of the patients I see are there because of their work-out; because of their job; because of what they love to do or have to do; or even because of what they are doing to relax—martial artists, dancers, cyclists, spinners, horseback riders, golfers; weekend warriors; swimmers, race walkers, joggers, marathoners, tri-athletes; iron men and women; weightlifters, soccer players, rugby players, baseball players, basketball players, tennis players, volleyball players—they all say the same thing: they love their sports, they love their work-outs, and they don’t ever want to stop. They tell me how they are addicted to their particular sport, addicted to their passion, and they “just can’t wait” to “get back out there.” They seem oblivious to the fact that Passion means: “to suffer”. They completely miss the connection between their passion and their pain. There they are in my clinic and on my treatment table, suffering from the results of repetitive strain and repetitive injury; over training and degeneration. They are there because they have endured too much. And they have heard by word-of-mouth that I can fix them up and keep them going—so that they never have to stop. Let’s get this fact straight once and for all. Endurance means: “to harden”. Hard bodies, tight bodies, pumped-up bodies; buns of steel, abs of steel, thighs of steel are not healthy. When we harden our bodies like that, we invite pain and injury. It’s true we may be very very strong, but over time we also become very very fragile. It goes like this: The harder we get; the more it hurts. The more it hurts; the more we endure. The more we endure; the harder we get. The harder we get; the more we hurt. The more we hurt; the more we endure... Around and around and around we go in a vicious circle of pain, a vicious cycle of tightness, wear and tear, injury, re-injury, and more pain. This is not what I would call: “physically fit”. For years now I have shared this observation with my students to illustrate the difference between “physical fitness” and “wellness.” Self-nurturing, staying healthy, and remaining healthy takes daily Self- Care. Becoming better grounded, better balanced, more sensible; accepting and respecting 86
our physical limitations and our human frailty; finding a way to finally stop Suffering—that is the meaning of Wellness; not passion—but Compassion for ourselves… When someone asks me if I can cure them, I tell them “curing is what they do to hams to keep the meat from rotting.” If they ask me if I can fix them, I say “You don’t really want me to do that do you? Fixing is what they do to the dog.” I know it sounds funny, but I say it to point out something very serious. These ideas of Curing and Fixing indicate and point to the same desire—the desire to stay healthy, to stay the same, stay in shape, stay young; avoid change, avoid ageing, avoid suffering, avoid illness... Somehow we have been convinced that we are to try not to grow old; somehow, we hope be the first person in the world to never age and to never get sick. To many American’s the word impossible means: “extra-difficult” and “try harder” instead of the true definition: Not Possible. Unfortunately, Life doesn’t work that way! We cannot indefinitely avoid aging and illness. As my teacher says:
“How are you going to die if you never get sick? You’ve got to have it! That’s how it is.” Or as the joke about “health-food junkies” puts it: “What are all these health nuts going to do when they find themselves in the hospital one day—dying from nothing?” Why should we care? Because we have already suffered enough! Because it is high time that we started taking better care of ourselves. Because it’s about time we learned how to quit hurting ourselves and stop making things worse. If you are reading this, if you have read this far, that means you want to learn a better way. That way is called: Qigong
ZEN Meditation THERE IS A GAP BETWEEN EACH AND EVERY WORD—an empty space between all
the words on this page. In fact, as you can see, empty-ness surrounds every single word; holding each word separate from the others. Without this space there is little chance that you will understand what I have to say. As I write this and as you read this, there are then—gaps between and around each thought. As one thought is drifting away, there is a moment in time before the next thought begins to take shape. Emptiness is there between each th ought, before each thought, after each thought. No matter how fast we are able to read these words, no matter how fast you think we can string these thoughts together—empty space still surrounds each and every word, each and every thought. There are also gaps between each and every emotion. Lulls between our emotional states. Anger is not there all the time. It comes and goes. Depression is not always there. It appears; it disappears; it reappears. We hint at this when we describe someone as having a “bout of depression” or succumbing to a “bout of Anger”—as if somehow, life was a prize-fight and in- between rounds, we retreat to neutral corners. We may think our emotions are there all the time, but in fact, they rise and fall in this same field of Emptiness… Now think about this and believe it or not—but there are even gaps surrounding your pain, just as surely as empty space is surrounding you right now! You may not always be AWARE of it yet, but if Space is there surrounding you, surrounding me, and surrounding the entire planet, then Space also there surrounding your pain. Zen happens when we focus on this Space. When we experience being in the gaps. In reality, meditation is nothing more than learning how to observe these Spaces, and learning how not to fill-in each and every gap with thinking, worrying, stressing. Through the practice of Zen we learn how to live in this space, in the Silence, in the Stillness, and embrace the Empty-ness that surrounds us all.
The first goal of Zen is to help us realize our awareness is “the field of thought” (Consciousness), not the individual thoughts and feelings that arise from within this field of awareness. We are the stream, not the leaves that float by on the surface; not the fish that swim in the deep pools. We are the clear blue sky, not the clouds and storms that pass through it. Zen practice helps us learn how to quiet the incessant thinking, the mental “noise” created by our disturbed feeling-states; by our ego, by “the little me,” feelings that keep us disturbed, clouded, and muddied. Thoughts that make us crave what we do not have, want what we do not want, and forget the very blessings we are already receiving. Zen puts things into perspective, allows us to taste the cool clear water of our own Pure Awareness—freed from pain and problems generated by ego. This is why the Tao te Ching poses the famous question:
Can you be still long enough to allow your mud to settle, And by so doing, become ‘clear water’ once again?” Zen’s tools for achieving the state called “enlightenment” are Zazen (seated meditation), Koans (unsolvable intellectual puzzles), the Master (someone who has practiced far longer than you and gained intuitive in-sight), and the Master’s Stick (used to dispel sleep and dissuade us from intellectualizing). Zen Meditation is famous for its methodology of boring, forcing, or shocking (Whack!) the beginner’s mind into a state of Open Quietude—where we get a glimpse of the mind’s activity and recognize the ego’s fundamental error: We are already whole but we think that we are not! Zen claims nothing less than to cause us to achieve utter freedom from this error in our thinking by bringing us into a mental state that is sometimes called NoMind and sometimes called Mind-Fullness—as opposed to our usual ego-driven “mindlessness” and our painful condition of “mistaken identity.” Zen is a tool for going beyond the limitations of our ego, beyond the mind—our painful thoughts,
feelings, and desires. Because of this, Zen has been called: “The Diamond Path”” The Lightening Path” “The Gateless Gate” “The Pathless Path” Zen is very simple. Its methods emphasize: following the breath, quieting the mind, and achieving Inner Stillness. This first enlightenment—the fact that we can pause our mind—quiet the incessant internal dialog and yet remain totally aware of yourself and our surroundings, is what is meant by “instant enlightenment.” Learning how to shut- down the mental-noise and quiet the “monkey-mind” is the beginning. The second enlightenment unfolds after we then see our mental obsession for what it truly is—90% fiction. In reality, most of the problems we are afraid of and cause us such worry never actually materialize! The practice of Zen gives us freedom from the Problem-Making Mind and disengages us from past and future pain. Zen accomplishes this by helping us learn to become rooted in the present moment. Sitting in this Zen-state, we remain vigilantly present in the eternal NOW; as still and quiet as a Buddha Statue. In this state of Presence and Stillness, our pain dissolves, our muscles relax, and our problems seem to magically resolve themselves. Even Death, which to the ego is the biggest problem of all, disappears. In the state of Zen, there is no Death, no beginning and also no ending. There is only an immense Oneness and a tremendous feeling of joy, inner-peace, and aliveness in the NOW. Not only do pain and trauma and Death mysteriously evaporate, but when we practice surrendering into the NOW, suddenly there is no need to fight with Life at all! No prize to win by resisting. No need to create suffering and pain through our stubborn refusal to accept what IS. In this second stage of Zen there is only open acceptance and deep gratitude for the opportunity to be Human and experience Life in all its expressions, with all of its feelings… What I am sharing with you makes use of a number of Zen techniques. The most famous of which is the Zen Koan. You will encounter many formal and informal Koans while reading this material. They are there to help you think. Koans are intellectual puzzles; conundrums, or riddles that when meditated upon, 90
point us in the right direction. Traditionally they are used to test the depth of a student’s spiritual understanding and level of enlightenment. If you get it? Some enlightenment. If you don’t? Keep practicing! Koans are devices that push us into a state of Mental Surrender; No-Mind; Zen Meditation. The Koan traps the beginner’s mind, allowing it no way out by thinking—only by experiencing directly. The Koan forces us to recognize our mind’s limitations. It traps the ego by exploiting its basic flaw—ego wants to get the right answer, ego needs to be praised by the teacher for a job well done. But any answer you arrive at intellectually will be wrong! So eventually the ego-mind is forced to surrender and when it surrenders it temporarily shuts down. When this happens you will not immediately know it. When your mind stops, you can only realize it afterwards—when your ego comes back on-line. During the dreaded state of emptiness, there is no running dialog to tell you what is happening, no inner-voice present enough to say: “Hey, I’m Meditating!” When you achieve “The Straight Path to Enlightenment, you will only realize it—after the fact. As far as appropriate Koans for beginner’s goes, the first Koan I was introduced to and possibly—at least here in the West—the most famous one of all is:
You know the sound of two hands clapping. Now, Tell me: What is the sound of one hand clapping?” (Good luck finding the answer! It took me 20 years to get this one; that’s all!)
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies
SOME THINGS IT HELPS TO GET STRAIGHT. Human Beings
are body/mind/spirits. But we are also mind/body/spirits and spirit/body/minds. We are bodies-within-bodies-within-bodies
the body electric…” —Walt Whitman
and minds-within-minds-within-minds, yet the 300 trillion cells that combine to make up one body are inhabited by only brain and one Spirit.
We are spiritual body/minds; physical body/minds, mental body/minds; emotional body/minds; thinking body/minds; feeling body/minds; dreaming body/minds. All of these body/minds working together to create one singular Human Being. Not like Russian nesting dolls, as some philosophers would have it; not one-within-another-within-another, not hierarchical either—one greater than the other. Not Mind over the Body, Spirit above the Instincts. Humans cannot be separated so. Only through language—in the naming of our individual parts—can a person be fragmented. The truth is all the parts that are created by the naming of parts Interdigitate. Like our hands—the backs of our hands, our palms, fingers, and thumbs, unite to create something greater than the sum of its parts. All our parts— emotional, mental, physical—interlock. Nothing can be left out if we are to be Whole. This concept is known as Holism. For far too long in our Western approach to medicine has disregarded our spiritual health and separated it from the practice of medicine. As a result, our True Self has been separated into fields of specialty, creating the illusion of many different Selves—Selves we think of as separate. For example, if it’s a spiritual matter, we may seek out a minister, priest, imam, or rabbi. If it’s a physical problem, we may call a doctor or nurse practitioner. If it’s a psychological problem, we are referred to a psychologist. If it is an emotional issue, hopefully we will be guided to the right therapist. All of them will try to help us fix the part that is broken—according to the dictates of their specialty. This specialization creates a mind-set of Dis-Integration. But for true healing to occur what we require is Integration, since the very word: Healing means “to make whole”. So if we imagine Humans are like jig-saw puzzles—then all the pieces must somehow fit together or else we remain incomplete. To heal, we must become aware of all our bodies—the subtle, the gross, the etheric, the concrete, the electric—in order to heal we must “embody ourselves”; our mind, our heart, and our Soul. That makes sense doesn’t it? It sounds logical. It seems simple enough. But it is not easy!
Healing takes awareness. It takes patience. It takes compassion. It takes time! “Instant Enlightenment” may not happen instantly but it does happen all in an instant. Self-Healing requires our best intensions and our strictest attention in order to pull ourselves back together again. Re-Integration is a process that necessitates a very honest, a very serious, and a very sober self-examination. This is precisely why we need to laugh! We are never so serious as when we use humor and laughter to heal ourselves. Just the right amount of joy and playfulness, the right amount of fun, the right amount of celebration, makes all the difference in the world. Healing is far too serious a matter for us to approach it seriously. Often the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to lighten up for GOD’s sake… Through meditation and with a proper sense of humor, we begin to discover our many bodies and gradually bring them into awareness where we learn to recognize them, appreciate them, and make light of them. This is how we come to rest in who we are, by accepting our human emotions. Take the Anger-body for instance. When you are angry your body assumes a certain attitude. Your eyes carry a certain look. Your shoulders rise, your jaw sets, your teeth clench, and your hands tremble. Your breath takes on a different quality. You exhale more forcefully. Your diaphragm stiffens and your musculature tenses. When you are angry, you get ready to “blow up” about something—or worse, “go off” on somebody. But more often than not, when you are angry, you can’t afford to do either one of these things so, you learn to suppress your anger. This only compounds the emotion. You sup-press, re-press, and de-press your anger; even though may be perfectly justified, you deny it. Anger becomes oppressive. It seeks an outlet. Thus we use sarcasm (literally: to tear the flesh), we ridicule ourselves or our situation, or make the person we are angry at the butt of crude jokes. The energy that is anger finds another out-let. Pop-psychology, when not trivialized, still offers some valuable insights. It is still true: “If we can’t love ourselves, we can’t really love anybody”. Even Oprah
knows that. But when we hear something over and over again it becomes cliché. Cliché (another French word) means: trite and easily dismissed. The Self-help industry thrives on clichés. Nonetheless, it is still true that “anger unexpressed leads to depression”. Why? Because anger is a very powerful emotion! It unleashes a tremendous amount of energy, so it takes an even greater amount of energy not to be angry when we are angry. We get depressed because we are depleting our energy. Anger is like a thunderstorm, it needs to rage for a while before balance is restored. Suppressing it robs us of vitality and prevents us from healing our “anger-body.” When our mothers taught us: “it’s not nice to be angry,” they did us a terrible disservice. (They were probably angry when they said it). What they really meant to say was: “it’s not nice to hit mommy”; “it’s not nice to bite mommy”; “it’s not nice to kick mommy”; “it’s not nice to pull mommy’s hair”; “it’s not nice to throw things at mommy”; “it’s not nice to yell at mommy”; etcetera. She unknowingly taught us it’s OK for Mommy to be angry or for Daddy to be angry but WE are not allowed to be angry—ever! We are always supposed to be “good.” And who doesn’t want to be good, especially when we have to be nice-allthe-time or else people won’t like us? So, the energy that is Anger is disallowed. And yet it remains! If it goes unexpressed we redirect anger onto ourselves. We find fault with ourselves. We talk to ourselves: “It’s not nice to be angry”. We disguise it. We deny it. We say: “I don’t feel angry” or “I don’t think I’m angry”. But anger is there. It can be seen in the angry body. Somehow, anger still needs to be expressed. So we turn our anger into grief. Grief is OK. We change anger into sadness, we transform it into tears. Ah! But then we refuse to cry… In working with hundreds of men and women I have detected certain patterns. For me, this has become a truism: “Every woman is angry but she has turned her anger into Grief, and every man is grieving but he has turned his grief into Anger”. Why? An angry woman is too strong and a grieving man is perceived as weak. Both are unacceptable in our society. We are not “allowed” (we do not allow ourselves) to express our true feelings. They are unacceptable. Nice girls don’t hit, 94
and big boys don’t cry. These messages are ingrained. Our emotions are sacrifices we make in order to “get along” “keep the peace” and hopefully—gain acceptance. But what have we really gained: Tension, Stress, and Frustration. And what have we learned: Dishonesty, Deceit, and Pretense. And what have we lost: The ability to be honest with ourselves. We have lost spontaneity, self-acceptance, and inner-peace. We have lost connection with our wholeness and our holiness. As long as Anger (or any emotion) remains unacceptable, unexamined, and undiscovered, then—big pieces of our puzzle are missing. We remain unfinished and incomplete. So what to do about Anger? (I have been asked this question hundreds of times!) We don’t have to DO anything about anger. We definitely don’t need to hurt anyone, and maybe for the first time, we don’t even need to hurt ourselves. All we need to do about Anger is be angry when we are angry. Then let it pass. Denying anger is not the answer, besides, it doesn’t work. Anger is not necessarily a negative emotion. But denial can make it so. No one can deny thunderstorms. They come when they come and go when they go. Then afterwards the blue sky returns and the air is refreshed and clear. Scientists tell us that thunderstorms charge the atmosphere with negative ions. Negative ions, it turns out, are good for us. They create a positive attraction; they make us feel more alive. Does this mean there might be a positive attribute to anger? You bet! How about Self-respect? Do you know what “re-spect” means? “Look again.” Whenever you are angry—look again—that is self respect. Self-Respect means your feelings matter; your feelings count; your feelings are important; your feelings are meaningful; and often, very often—your feelings are correct! So don’t be afraid to look at old feelings—look again, look again, look again… That is selfrespect.
For Unconscious Reasons WHY AM I HOLDING MY LEFT SHOULER UP? No reason. At least, no good reason I
can think of. Maybe it is just a habit, or maybe it’s due to past sports injuries? 95
Maybe holding my left shoulder up helps me concentrate? Perhaps raising my left shoulder helps me focus? In the same way as little kids, we learned how to color and stay within the lines—by sticking our tongues out? Maybe my mind and my left shoulder are connected in the same way?
Not only do we need to ask ourselves why we are holding our shoulders up— but, why are we squeezing our hips, clenching our tailbones, grinding our teeth, clutching our throat—and why oh why are we so often holding our breath? Come to think of it, why are we doing any of the holdings? Why are we holding-on; holdingup; holding-out; holding-back? Why all this tension? What good can we possibly get out of it? Just what do we stand to gain? The obvious answer is Stress! Stress, stress, and more stress! The point I want to make is we don’t need to (S.O.S.) Save Our Stress. We don’t need to store it. In fact we need to stop saving our emotional leftovers. Just throw them out! You know you’re not going to eat that. Throw it out before it turns into a science project. Every day, as many times as possible: Stop, take a breath, and relax! Shrug off your burdens, stretch and rest! Tomorrow you can get all the fresh stress you want... As you may already know, the history books record that Edmond Hillary of New Zealand was the first man to “conquer” the peak of Mt. Everest. His world record was achieved on May 29, 1953. On that day at 11:30am, Hillary reached the summit—29,028 feet above sea level. To recognize Hillary and honor him for his accomplishment—planting a British flag at the top of the World’s tallest mountain “for Queen and for Country”—the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth knighted Hillary. The New Zealander is now known all over the world as Sir Edmond Hillary. As remarkable and heroic as Sir Edmond’s feat was—climbing to the top— we tend to forget: it was equally as challenging to turn-around and make the treacherous climb back down! Popular imagination overlooks that fact. We neglect that part of the story—the return home never seems thrilling. We also tend forget Hillary was not alone on his climb. A local Sherpa named Tenzing Norgay, a
mountain porter, was standing there with him at the peak having assisted Sir Edmond in his climb every inch of the way? Did you know in fact, that in order for Hillary to achieve his place in history, it was necessary for him to employ a great team of Sherpas to carry his tons of supplies and equipment up the side of Everest for him—on their backs—many of them in bare feet! Do you know how they did that? Simple! The Sherpas would walk for a while, each carrying their own burden. Then they would stop. They would put their burdens down! Then here is the crucial detail—they would rest and relax. They made tea, had a bite to eat, did some stretching, some traditional bone-setting for their aching backs, some self-massage. They would chat with their friends as they sipped their tea. Watch the weather... Then after they had rested and relaxed for a while—they would pick up their burdens again. Then they would walk for a while. Then they would stop. Then they would put their burdens down! They would rest and relax; make more tea… Why is my left shoulder up in the air? I don’t know? For unconscious reasons I guess. Consciously though, I know I need to put it down. Even if holding it up does help me to concentrate and “shoulder my burdens” I still need to stop every once in awhile and put my burdens down; Rest and Relax. Otherwise how long can I reasonably expect to keep on carrying it? Otherwise, how am I ever going to make my way back down from this “mountain” of responsibilities? There are two related sayings: “The straw that broke the camel’s back” and “The last straw”. In “the straw that broke the camel’s back” a few things are implied: Either you got the one camel with a slipped-disc! Or, the unfortunate beast was already so stressed by the burden it was carrying, that all it took was the weight of one more single straw to collapse its back. Or, if the merchant’s greed had not caused him to over-load the poor beast back so much that it broke—he might still have a perfectly good camel. Likewise in “The last straw”, several things are implied. Usually we mean: “That’s it! I’ve had enough!” “I’m fed up!” “I have lost all of my patience” “I am so
angry,” etcetera. But it also means—like the poor camel—we are already overburdened with much too much! But we can’t say no and we can’t put it down! Maybe that’s why sometimes we just can’t handle one more “slight” but extra problem without snapping under the pressure—even the pressure of a single straw. That’s when you know you have been saving stress (S.O.S), and standing on the edge (edgy), trying to keep it all together. Yet in spite of our best efforts—we manage to lose it anyway. I don’t know how many times an overstressed and anxious caregiver has come into my office and said to me—in all seriousness: My neck is killing me! I must have slept wrong. Do you think I need to get a new pillow? Let’s all admit something together, right here and now. If we can honestly be injured by a pillow, that’s a sure sign—somewhere deep inside—there is a much bigger problem in your Life than our pillow! Pillows are soft and nice, they can’t really hurt us. Besides, it worked fine just the other night didn’t it? It’s only when we are already way too stressed that pillows become dangerous. And we are way too stressed; all of us, much of the time. There is something “going on behind our backs”; something way deep down; something unconscious. This is the fundamental problem about having pain in the behind—in our buttocks, in our hips, back, or neck—we can’t see them and we can’t reach them. So we ignore them, deny them, neglect them, and forget them. We learn to “live with it.” That is, until we reach “The Last Straw” and everything falls down. But there is another way, another way beside neglecting and ignoring. We can engage or aches and pains. We can learn to become more aware of our pains, attend to them and care about them. We can learn to nurture and respect our very real human limitations, instead of denying them... OK, sometimes a little stress is good. But distress is always bad. We need to act now before we hurt ourselves even more. Like Sherpas, we need to learn how to put it down. Otherwise, unlike Hillary, not only do we risk failing to reach our goal, but even more we may fail to make our way safely back down. Why am I holding my left shoulder up? Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Good reason, bad reason, or for no apparent reason at all; I can still choose to 98
consciously pull my shoulder back down anytime I want to. That is, anytime I remember to, by simply checking-in with my self and seeing how I’m doing. If I am stressed I can choose to stop, breathe, and allow myself to relax. I can “decide” to stop-killing myself by being so uptight. I can choose to let go. This is the essence of Qigong: training your muscles to relax, slacken, loosen and let go. Instead of “exercises,” it would be better to think of Qigong exercises as: “looser-cises,” and avoid using the e-word all together! Qigong like all yoga is supposed to feel good while you do it… If you are already stressed to your limit, I understand—the last thing you need is more work. You are already working too hard! What you need instead is old fashioned R & R. That old saying is still true, but “all work and no play” doesn’t just make us dull, it causes stress, distress, illness, and disease. If all this is true—if we can retrain ourselves through Zen Qigong to destress instead of distress—why do so many of us then go through our day like zombies, like the walking wounded, only half there? Why do so many Americans chronically face each and every day with their neck muscles “trying their hardest” to impersonate rope? I don’t know. No good reason that I can think of. It must be for unconscious reasons. It must be because unconsciously we are ignoring or neglecting our personal needs and feelings. Because we are somehow not aware of our own aches and pains, our own stress and tension. Maybe if we could stop stuffing our true feelings and continually slapping on a brave face, maybe then we could consciously alter this recipe for disaster—by bringing what is unconsciousness into consciousness. Isn’t it time we stopped doing the rope trick and learned to unwind instead? Aren’t you already literally aching to feel better? Why knot? Stop! Take a breather! Re-Lax! Make some tea before you find yourself stuck at the end of your rope with no hope of ever getting down again…
The Guardian at the Gate THE GAURDIAN IS AN AUTOMATIC DEFENCE-MECHANISM OF THE EGO. The
Guardian’s job is to protect us—our Ego, our Self-Image, our Persona—from any and all harm, by preventing us from learning any truth about ourselves we are not ready to face. By doing this, the Guardian shields us from: disillusionment. It shields us against: hopelessness, ego-collapse, depression and despair. In other words our Guardians protect us by helping us hide from ourselves anything that does not fit into our ego’s self-image. Through this “division” of ourselves into—good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable, lovable / unlovable, worthy / unworthy—each one of us inevitably develops a negative self-image made up of all the unacceptable and rejected parts of our Self. This “Shadow Self” as Jung called it—our negative self-image—is what the Guardian protects us from: Our Shadow; Our Dark Side. Others have named it our Sub-Conscious or our Un-Conscious; and still others have named it: the Devil, Daemon or Demon, and even our Mortal Soul. In other traditions it is simply called: Karma. Jesus spoke of it: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap;” and “By their fruit, so shall they be known.” It is due to our Guardian’s uncanny ability to shield us from uncomfortable Truth that the greatest spiritual revelations have long been revealed to the World and yet still—except in a few rare exceptions—they remain largely unfulfilled; somehow, to this very day they still manage to elude us... The Guardian tricks us. Once again we postpone… Due to our Guardian, even the simplest of truths manages to escape our grasp. And why the person we aspire to be somehow seems to runaway from us; why we backslide and our true self continues to remain a: “closely guarded secret.” Our Guardian helps us misunderstand “for our own good.” In spite of certain Eastern philosophies which advocate annihilation of the ego, and medieval Christian practices of self-mortification, I believe God wants us to have happy and healthy egos, not to become egoless. This seems only fair and right to me. After all, it is our egos that must interface with society; it is through our personas that we interact with the world. Unlike monks and nuns and Zen masters 100
of old, our goal is not to withdraw from society but to succeed in it. For that we need viable egos and authentic self-esteem. It is through our self-image that we must maintain our sense of Self. Let’s face it, without our ego-structures we truly are nothing special—just another ordinary and unique individual—exactly like everyone else. So let’s not bad-mouth our Egos. Instead let us try to sympathize with them! Our egos are doing a tough job. They have to make all of our decisions. They always have to know right from wrong, and add meaning and purpose to our lives. It is true that sometimes they can be pesky, problematic, stubborn, willful, and blind. But it is this unfortunate aspect of the ego that I call “the Guardian”. The Guardian “Lords over us.” It does this for our own good. It is constantly vigilant and painfully aware of all our emotional states, our self-imposed limitations, negative beliefs, and ego hang-ups. The Guardian believes it knows exactly what we can and cannot handle. It creates a “boundary-ed” and protected sense of self. This function of our ego, spiritual teacher Richard Moss calls: “First Miracle Consciousness.” First Miracle Consciousness defends us against the loss of our sense of being a separate individual. It knows that without our ego we cannot participate with society. “Second Miracle Consciousness,” according to Dr. Moss is seeing beyond the world of egos. It is a courageous state of Vulnerability, Open-ness and Defenselessness, an open state of Surrender. It is a state of “Surrendering to What IS” rather than a constant ego-rejection and projection of what is not. In my own experience this willingness to be open only comes after years of patient practice; even then, it’s not exactly Fun, but at times can be quite terrifying! Anytime our ego is circumvented it feels like failure and loss. This is precisely what the Guardian seeks to protect us from. It is only when we have succeeded in convincing our Guardian that we are ready for dis-illusionment; that we are safe from the possibility of self-destruction, self-annihilation, and despair… Please understand, all this will feel like Vulnerability to your ego; and it is! But it is not weakness! In reality it takes tremendous strength.
Allowing our self to be aware of all our true feelings, thoughts, and fears—as Dr. Moss succinctly puts it—is psychologically unflattering work. It is shadow work.” “This is not expansive work,” he says, “It is going back to fill in all the holes.” To put it bluntly, your ego won’t like it. Not at all! Egos recoil from these experiences; they feel embarrassment and shame and self-loathing. Egos cry out: Suppress, Repress, Depress! Someone may see us! Cover-up! Hide, hide, hide! But this is how we go beyond the limitations of our ego. When egos are truly healthy it is because they have realized they are only “agents” “actors” or “masks” that we wear—not who we truly are! They are the personality not the Person. If it wasn’t for our Guardians—and its two most valuable allies: Amnesia and Anesthesia—we would already know this! The Truth is not some “deep dark secret!” It’s just very very hard for our egos to swallow. But let’s look at the alternative… Remaining in an ego-centric life means living a life of pain, suffering, and isolation; trapped in the Illusion of Separation; lost in a world of either “poor little me” or “I the most precious one!” Whereas living a heart-centered life means living a life of Love, Humility, and Service; freed from the Pain of Separation… Which one sounds better to you? If you are a selfsacrificing caregiver, you already know the answer… By the strangest of ‘coincidences’ my wife was going through her files today and happened to stumble upon the following poem. It is a poem I must have written while still in nursing school. Seeing it again, I have no doubt that I wrote it while suffering from yet another episode of the trial-by-fire indoctrination all nursing students are subjected to—though I’m not sure because I didn’t date it! (19901991?) All I need to say about the poem is I must have convinced my Guardian that I was ready for another round! Though I doubt I was feeling very happy about my decision to become a nurse when I must have sat on the floor to write this. I surely was wishing there was an easier way. (Until I saw it, I had completely forgotten ever writing it.)
I have nothing left to cling to—for two days now, I have cried for my vulnerability—completely exposed! What I once believed of myself lies crumpled on the floor, Like so many useless rags; Naked, I lie there, Trembling at the loss of my Illusions; At the painful shedding of the masks I have worn, The masks I thought were my Self. Crying because I believed I was through with masks; Believed I had achieved some degree of Enlightenment. Humbled to discover yet again that my confidence— My Pride—is just another lie to believe in, Just another Illusion, while still I remain The same poor deluded fool! When will I learn? This frightened trembling child inside me— This is my Self! And yet again, I wonder, Why should anyone want to love—This… What do I possibly have to offer anyone? Where is there worth in being me, When all I really have to give is This? Who can I possibly help? Who can I save? Who will ever say that they are richer because I exist?
Zazen I KNOW IT SEEMS COUNTER-INTUITIVE: Exactly the opposite of what you would
expect, but sitting exercises are by far the most difficult and most strenuous exercises ever imagined! Just sitting there and doing nothing. Just allowing yourself to settle and really feel what is going on inside your skin. Give me three hours of kung fu any day over just 60 minutes of Zen sitting. Even 30 minutes of “just sitting” can be so difficult and no fun at all. But that’s the method of “The Gateless Gate;” Zen—the Straight Path to Enlightenment—Zazen, the Seated Path to Self-encounter… Just sitting and meditating on your Pain can be terrible; especially in the beginning. Your Qi can be so blocked! Until you experience it for yourself you just won’t believe how much you just sitting can hurt; in how many places you can ache; how hard your inner-energies can struggle to move through your body—all these extremely intense experiences—by just sitting there… It is truly an amazing phenomenon. With Zazen it is possible to make yourself instantly whole in the present moment—just sitting and waiting for your body to relax and your mind to settle down—waiting for your breath to become soft and even; and all your body-aches and pains to gently dissolve. But there it is! That is Zazen; and the exciting sport of sitting. After 20 years of Zazen training, I can now kneel on any surface—wood, carpet, concrete, tile—for hours at a time. But for beginners, you will want to use two cushions. One, big and square and flat (a Zafu) and large enough for your knees, shins, ankles and feet to fit on the cushion, the other, small and round and firm (a Zabuton) or—small and soft and square (a standard couch pillow). The first cushion protects your knees and especially your ankles and feet from direct bone pressure against the floor. The second smaller pillow creates a comfortable space between your hamstrings and calves, your sits-bones and heels. (A third option is to kneel on a carpeted floor while sitting on a 10 or 12 inch vinyl ball.)
Zazen is “Japanese-style” sitting. I highly recommend Zazen for beginners over other types of seated yoga postures—like the familiar Half-Lotus, Full Lotus, or lesser known Double Lotus. I even recommend it over simple cross-legged Indian-style sitting for several reasons. (1) Although Zazen it is tougher on the legs, you will find it much easier to keep your spine in proper alignment. (2) Zazen is less strenuous on the muscles of the torso, spine, neck, and hips. (3) Zazen begins stretching and lengthening the tendons and ligaments of the feet and ankles; a must for restoring the natural “suppleness of a child.” (4) Most beginners can do Zazen correctly on their very first attempt; (just not for very long!), while Lotus-poses often require weeks or even months of concerted effort to stretch-out the tendons of the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. (5) With Zazen there is less of a tendency to restrict the diaphragm by collapsing in on your rib cage. (6) Zazen looks cool! Especially if you smile and act serene. So much for the sitting… Now as for the breathing… In Qigong there are so many ways to breathe, so many ways to use your breath that it borders on both the ridiculous and the sublime. But for our purposes here: “bellows breathing” or “diaphragmic breathing” will do. Your belly is like a bellows—thus the similarity in the words. You can use your abdominal muscles to “draw your breath in” and “force your breath out”—just like a blacksmith’s bellows. The key is developing the ability to raise the diaphragm with conscious intent—turning what is usually an involuntary movement into a voluntary movement. This takes concentration, and concentration is only just one step away from Meditation; so there are many benefits. You concentrate on the abdomen, the diaphragm, and the breath, and keep your thinking focused there—below the head, below the heart—in the area we call the Solar Plexus; (“Hara” in Japanese: “dwelling place of Spirit;” or “Lower Dan Tian” as it is called in TCM: “The Field of the Elixir of Life.”) Bellows Breathing is also called Natural Breathing or Child’s Breathing because this is how all children naturally breathe—especially during sleep—from the diaphragm. For most beginners Bellows Breathing feels anything but natural! Many adults for one reason or another have learned to breathe incorrectly.
If you ask the average American to take a deep breath they will no doubt: greatly expand their ribcage, puff out their chest, and raise their shoulders. This is called Chest-Breathing. In Bellows Breathing the shoulders do not raise, the chest does not expand, and the back does not arch. The key to belly breathing is: your abdomen needs to be relaxed! This is where many students have a problem—most Americans believe that belly breathing makes them look fat—too much like a Buddha statue. But Buddha was not fat! Buddha was actually an Ascetic and before his enlightenment and had practiced many extreme forms of fasting and self-denial before finally resting under a Bodhi Tree— relaxing, and seeing that we cannot force ourselves to become Enlightened. The fact is: every round-bellied Buddha statue you have ever seen is meant as a teaching tool. The round-belly depicts Buddha during the expansive inhale phase of “Buddha Breathing.” When inhaling: the abdomen should expand. When exhaling: the abdomen should contract; similar to belly laughing—the abdominal muscles expel the air—ha-ha-ha; or trying to blow out all the birthday candles in one big breath. Expelling air by squeezing is usually pretty easy for most of my students, but then releasing the abdominal muscles and allowing the abdomen to expand and fill smoothly can prove very difficult. Many beginners find they have more success initially ignoring the inhale phase all together and focusing instead on exhaling alone. This is also where the use of humming, toning, chanting, or singing can be helpful; (as long as you are making a sound at least you know you are exhaling!) The Exercise: to begin with, (after kneeling or sitting upright in a chair); when you exhale use all of your abdominal muscles to squeeze-out all the air from your lungs—as though your navel can touch your spine. Then stop squeezing! Allow your lungs to fill naturally. In this step your diaphragm drops! Then repeat: squeeze-out your exhale and then stop squeezing. Notice how your lungs fill-up automatically just by: Stop Squeezing. Notice how your diaphragm drops inside, the belly rounds outward when you inhale. Now, slow everything down and repeat the whole process: Making each breath through your nose: smooth and quiet and even— 106
each inhale matching each exhale in length—allowing no pauses between inhaling and exhaling. Your diaphragm acts as the piston of a two stroke engine; producing power on both the up-stroke and down-stroke. In this exercise, since you are using muscle force while exhaling, your exhale is considered: Yang, and because your inhale is relaxed and easy, inhaling is considered: Yin. When Yin and Yang are joined together seamlessly, then each breath-cycle makes one complete Tai Chi circle. (This type of “Bellows Breathing”—without pausing in-between—is also called “Circular Breathing.”) Once you have mastered this basic 2-stroke breathing try to set the pace for each stroke of breath by measuring out a count of 7-10 heartbeats (or more!) per stroke. If you have trouble feeling your heart beating inside your chest, then monitor your pulse at the left wrist-point by lightly pressing with fingertips of your right hand. When your inhale and exhale have become slow and steady and even begin counting each complete breath-cycle as one Tai Chi Circle. For beginner’s I recommend no more than 20-30 Tai Chi Circles. The whole exercise—from kneeling to counting—should take no more than five minutes; (unless of course you lose count, in which case—start over again at one!) This breathing technique—moving the diaphragm up-and-down internally and the abdomen in-and-out externally—generates a lot of Qi power while gently massaging your internal organs and quieting and stilling your mind. If you’re still not sure if you are using your diaphragm properly, think about opera singers; how they can sustain such long notes and project their voices so powerfully that can fills an entire Opera-house. This type of singing requires a very well-trained diaphragm. To acquire such a skilled diaphragm opera singers must be classically trained—to breathe. It is the same with Zazen—in order to develop a well-trained diaphragm for proper Bellows Breathing and then use it to generate powerful internal Qi—we must be classically trained. (There are no short cuts—you must do the Kung fu.) This classical training is called Zazen—Seated Meditation. Although sometimes in Japanese it is called Shikantaza—Just Sitting. “Just-Sitting” implies a 107
stage of development where “just sitting and just breathing” have become your natural state! Concentration is no longer needed. Then Shikantaza becomes meditation, then “Just-Walking” is meditation; “Just-Standing” is meditation, “JustEating” is meditation, “Just-Working” is meditation; even “Just-Sleeping” is meditation. This is when you have at last entered the natural state of a Child—when each breath becomes supple and relaxed and natural. Then you know you have reached a very high level of practice indeed! Then you have become at last: “As Supple as a Child!”
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Zen Words Don’t Believe Everything You Think! Where is this Mind you keep talking about? Bring it to me. The Sign of God is that we may be lead where we did not plan to go. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. When hungry, eat! When tired, rest! When sad, cry. Chop wood. Carry water. These are the true miracles. Show me your face before you were born. After Enlightenment; laundry. Wash the dishes to wash the dishes. Attached to words, one loses Reality. The Way that can be spoken is not the true Way. The broad daylight, the blue sky—He speaks of a dream within a dream. It cannot be pictured! Stop trying to grasp it with your head. Not obscuring, not falling—a thousand mistakes, ten thousand mistakes. The great Way has no gate. All are intrinsically Buddha. Stand, Sit, Walk, Breathe. Wherever you go, there you are. Even Masters fail! 110
Qigong Methods: Do not underestimate good… Dripping water can fill a pitcher, Drop by drop; One who is wise is filled with good. Even if one accumulates it, Little by little. —Buddha
"Yoga is the process of becoming free from
BUDDHISM WAS ORIGINALLY PASSED DOWN IN AN
ORAL TRADITION. Sutras means “thread,” the root of
about the field of
our English word “suture.” Sutras are pneumonic aids for
memorization. When they are strung together they complete
the original teaching. This is how Guatam Buddha’s teaching eventually came to be known as the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, and The Ten Precepts; these are lists of sutras—small tight easy to remember phrases that were passed down from master to student in lines of descent for generations (500 years) before finally being written down—first in the Pali language—but then later translated into any language where Buddhism traveled and prospered. Jesus’ sayings were also originally passed down in this way, in sutras. Aside from the mysterious Q-source (?) of Jesus’ original sayings, scholars believe the first complete collections of these sayings to be the gospel of Thomas. But since Thomas’s gospel failed to be accepted into the official Church cannon, they then point to the book of Mark as the earliest extant collection of Christ’s teachings (65? AD).
Because of this oral tradition, if you have been initiated into the method then just a small phrase is enough to remind you of the entire teaching. This is how in Tai Chi we get such poetic names for movements as “Grasp the Swallows Tail” and “Parting the Wild Mare’s Mane” which describe precisely how the movement is performed. But, if I tell you, “I want you to perform: “Snake Creeps Down,” but have never shown you how to do “Snake Creeps Down,” you will be left completely in the dark. This is the only way ancient masters could maintain a “patent” on their best training secrets.
“I cannot teach you, but perhaps you can steal my art.” The Chinese people share is a wealth of teaching stories. One of my favorite Qigong teaching stories goes like this:
There once was a young student who desired to learn Kung fu from a perfect master so he left his family and walked one hundred miles from his village to search throughout the sacred mountains, hoping to find such a master and learn his secrets. After many adventures he at last found such a master. After proving his sincerity, the master agreed to teach the student his secret Kung fu training form, for the master too had long been seeking the perfect student to become his successor. For three years the master trained the student until at last the student could perform the master’s technique flawlessly. The master then told the student, “Now it is time for you to return to your village. But you must return to me in three years so I may test you.” The Student bowed deeply and returned home. Three years later he returned to the mountain to be tested. He had trained diligently in the form each day and was confident he could perform it exactly as he had been taught, hoping to win his master’s approval. He performed the movements flawlessly and awaited his teacher’s reply. But the master shook his head and said: “No good! Go home and return to me in three years.” Disheartened the student returned home. When he returned three years later he was very concerned. He had forgotten three of the master’s movements and so for his own practice had substituted three of his own. When he told his master this, the master said, “Then show me what you can remember.” He performed the movements the master had taught him flawlessly and awaited his teacher’s reply. But the master shook his head and said: “No good! Go home and return to me in three years.” Disheartened and now depressed the student returned home. When he returned three years later, he had forgotten half of the master’s movements. When he told the master so, his master said: “Then show me what you remember.” He performed the movements he could remember, but the master had to correct him three times. Completely discouraged, he awaited his master’s reply. Again the master shook his head: “Still no good! Go home and return to me in nine years.” Nine years later the student returned. He was very sad. He had no hopes of winning his master’s approval—he had completely forgotten the master’s form. 113
When he told his master so, his master said, “Then show me what you have been practicing instead these nine years.” The student then performed his own form flawlessly. The master looked on in amazement, admiring the beauty and mastery of his favorite student’s new form. With tears of pride, the master bowed deeply to the student and said, “At last! I have found my successor!” I will share with twelve training sutras used by Grandmaster Pang to help guide his students through his Qigong training form. I learned these from Luke and Frank. These are direct English translations of sutras that come directly from Laoshi. 1. Feet touch the Earth / Head touches Sky: This sutra reminds the student of the fundamental truth—we stand on Earth with our heads extending out into in Space. But also, we stand in the Earth’s Qi-field while we receive Heaven-Qi from above. 2. Go out in Six Directions: This sutra instructs the student to imagine their personal Qi blending with the Earth, with Heaven, and with the horizon in every direction. 3. Withdraw Vision Inward: Ordinarily with eyes closed a student’s vision remains oriented outward through the eye-lids. One’s Qi is still going out through the eyes and a silvery quality of light is seen. Withdrawing vision inward—down the eye-stalks, down the optic nerves—creates a deep velvety-black light that greatly conserves the student’s personal Qi. 4. All Meridians Open: This sutra describes the basic purpose of the Zhening Qigong form. To use the mind’s intent and the body movements to relax the entire body. When the musculature is relaxed, the bodies energy-channels—the meridians—open up and the Qi is able to flow unobstructed. 5. Qi and Blood are Plentiful: Because the meridians are now open, Qi and blood and able to nourish every cell of the body. 6. Body Functions Normal: This sutra reminds the student to relax and visualize the internal flow of Qi restoring the proper internal balance of
the body’s organ systems—what Western medicine calls: Physiological Homeostasis. 7. All Illnesses Disappear: This sutra adds affirmation to the visualization process, affirming that meridians are open, Qi and blood are plentiful, and all body functions are normal, therefore the conditions for illness no longer exist. “All Illness Disappears” stimulates the psycho-neuroimmunologic system. 8. Think Blue Sky: This sutra deepens the meditation process by making use of a Zen technique called “thought of one thought,” where the difficulty of thinking no thoughts is circumvented by focusing exclusively on one thought or one visualization—the empty blue sky. 9. Sitting yet not Sitting: Accurately describes the sensation of standing in proper Tai Chi posture—knees unlocked, spine straight, low back relaxed, tailbone angled towards the ground. The lumbar curve is then flattened as if supported by the backrest of a chair. 10. Raise Bai Hui and Tuck in Chin: This sutra reminds the student to hold proper spinal alignment. The Bai Hui point is an acupuncture point on the Du Mai or “Governor Vessel” located at the precise center of the crown of the head. When the student raises the Bai Hui point and slightly tucks in the chin it automatically aligns the cervical spine to the proper relaxed position. 11. Tongue Touches Upper Palate: The two central energy channels of the body are called Ren Mai and Du Mai or the “Conception Vessel” and “Governor Vessel.” Placing the tip of the tongue against the point where the hard and soft palate meet energetically connects these two vessels and allows for the internal circulation of Qi that is called: “The MicroCosmic Orbit.” It also relaxes the jaw and prevents thirst—saliva collects in the deep cavity under the tongue in what is called: “Heavens Cup.” 12. Think Space: This sutra is similar to “Think Blue Sky” but it specifies a more expansive visualization process. When the student “Thinks Space” the student is to visualize going out in six directions into the infinity of 115
Space—far beyond the limits of the Blue Sky—where we are to exchange our personal Qi with Yuan Qi—the primordial Qi that existed before the “Big Bang,” or as I tell my students: “before all the trouble began.”
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 1: Standing Like a Post Feet are together. Knees are unlocked but not bent. In this position the goal is to balance the body with proper skeletal alignment—ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over ankles. Standing like a post is a balancing act. Instead of holding your self erect with muscle control, the goal is to balance the entire body allowing all the muscles to relax. When performed correctly, the body feels free floating as if defying gravity. One should feel very tall and straight yet completely relaxed. In this pose I am also performing a mudra known as “flower hands”—the thumbs, little fingers, and edge of palms are sealed but the center of the palm and the rest of the fingers are open like the petals of a flower. Standing like a post is also called Wuji— Emptiness—and is the basic starting position for all Tai Chi forms. 117
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 2: Holding Arms Out to the Sides Arms are held relaxed to both sides. Muscles of the torso pull shoulders down. Palms are erect. Feet are together. Shoulders and neck are relaxed. Breathing is natural and relaxed from the diaphragm. Think Space. Hold for three to ten minutes while concentrating on relaxing the deltoids. Remember: The muscles that raise the arms are not the same muscles the hold the arms. Relax while allowing your shoulders to fatigue. (Note the abdominal inhale.)
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 3: Praying Hands Above Head Praying hands are extended above the Head directly over the Bai Hui point. The Muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. Feet are together. Neck, shoulders, and low back are relaxed. Breathing is natural and easy. Think: the three Qi centers of the body, the abdominal cavity (lower dan tien), the thoracic cavity (middle dan tien), and the cranium (upper dan tien) are aligned. Imagine your personal Qi shooting upwards from your fingertips to connect with the Cosmos.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 3: Embracing the Horizon Arms are out stretched to the sides at shoulder level. Palms are to the front. The
Muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. Neck and low back are
relaxed. Breathing is natural and easy. Abdomen and chest expand. Allow your shoulders to relax and fatigue. Think: Heart Qi dissolves into the horizon. Surrender all worries or concerns. Feel all agitated thoughts or emotions leaving your body with each exhale. Collect fresh Qi from the horizon so that the mind is calming and clear. Hold for three to fifteen minutes and let go.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 4: Holding a Large Qi-Ball Above the Head Arms and elbows are rounded as if embracing a large beach-ball. Feel the ball resting on the top of your head. The Muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. Neck and low back are relaxed. The chest and abdomen expand. Hips are loose and relaxed. Imagine your arms are collecting Qi in the same way a satellite dish collects a signal. Think: Your hands are pouring Qi into the Bai Hui point at the crown of the head. Breathing is natural and easy. Completely relax the entire body. Hold and pour Qi in for five to ten minutes. Allow the shoulders to fatigue and relax.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 5a: Holding Arms Out to the Front Arms are slightly elevated at shoulder level and shoulder width apart. The muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. The spine is straight, neck and low back are relaxed. The feet are together. The palms are erect. Imagine that you are pressing out your personal Qi during the exhale and pulling in fresh Qi from the horizon on the inhale. The muscles of the under arms and chest hold the position while the biceps and deltoids are allowed to rest. Feel the palms absorbing healing Qi into the arms and then pour down into the abdominal cavity (lower dan tien).
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 5b: Pressing the Horizon The arms now press forward towards the horizon. This closes the chest and opens and stretches the upper back and ribs. At the same time press the heels firmly down. Imagine you are deeply rooted to the Earth and the Qi from the horizon is pouring through your meridians and grounding all stagnant Qi. 123
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 6: Temple Hands Behind the Back This exercise stretches the biceps tendons and forearms. The low back does not arch. This generates a lot of internal pressure in the arms, which squeezes out stagnant Qi and blood from the arms. If you are heavily muscled in the arms you will find this exercise uncomfortable in the beginning. But as I tell my students: “Any exercise that reveals pain and illness also heals pain and illness.” For beginners, five minutes is more than enough to begin the tendon stretching process. Breathe naturally and easy. Allow the muscles to fatigue and relax.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 7a: Deep Squat with Right Adductor Stretch Begin with feet wide apart. Bending the left leg, continue down into your lowest possible squat. Extend right leg to the side, keeping to right foot flat. Raise the torso and open the chest. Hold position for three to five minutes and relax into the stretch. Ideally the left foot should also be flat. (Good Luck!)
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 7b: Deep Squat with Left Adductor Stretch After returning to an upright position with feet wide, bend the right leg and sink as low as you can go. Extend left leg to the side and maintain a flat left foot. Raise the torso and open the chest. Again, ideally the right foot should also be flat.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 8: Standing Like a Post to Nourish Qi Feet are together. Knees unlocked but not bent. The spine is straight and the low back relaxed. The arms and elbows are rounded as if embracing a beach ball. The fingers of both hands point directly to each other. This creates a Qi feedback loop that cycles and recycles Heart Qi (Ren Qi) which closes and nourishes the entire body and all its meridians. The crucial point to this posture as in all the other poses is that the body be relaxed. Think: “All meridians open,” “Qi and blood are plentiful,” “Body functions are normal” and “All illnesses disappear!”
Tai Chi Staff Stretches
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 1a: Staff Stretching / Back to Front Begin with the staff behind the back with palms facing forward. Use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Feet are together. Low back is relaxed. Hold the staff with a firm “hammer grip.” Use a staff at least five feet in length or longer. For less tendon resistance place hands towards the end of the staff, for more, inch your hands toward the center.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 1b: Staff Stretching / Back to Front Bring the staff directly and evenly over the head. Keep your grip firm for the maximum stretch. This pressurized the muscles, tendons, and joints; wringing stagnant blood and lymph from the arms. Use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Hold for five to ten minutes before returning to starting position.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 2a: Staff Stretching / Front to Back Begin with staff in front at waist level palms facing the back. Maintain a firm “hammer grip.” Use the muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. Feet together. Low back is relaxed. This stretch focuses on the tendons of the chest, shoulders, and upper arms.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 2b: Staff Stretching / Front to Back Bring the staff directly and evenly over your head. Maintain a firm grip for maximum stretch. If you find the stretch too easy, inch your hands closer together and repeat the stretch. Pull the staff tight against your low back and arch your spine. This stretch focuses on the chest, biceps tendons, and wrists.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 3a: Staff Block—Right Feet are wide apart. Bend left knee and sink weight into left hip until right knee is straight. Extend the right arm and raise left arm above the head. The staff should be at approximately the same angle and line as the right leg. Hold the pose for five minutes and allow the left leg to fatigue and relax without sinking lower. Open the chest and raise the torso. Both feet are flat.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 3b: Staff Block—Left After returning to center position, bend right knee and sink weight into the right hip. Straighten the left knee. Extend Left arm and raise right arm above the head. Staff should be at approximately the same angle and line as the staff. Hold for five minutes. Allow right leg to fatigue and relax without sinking lower. Both feet remain flat.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 4a: Right Wrist and Triceps Stretch Palm is up and to the back. Staff is held toward one end and the weight of the staff pressurizes the tendons of the hand, wrist, elbow, and triceps. The staff creates a wringing action through the muscles of the arm and shoulder. The closer to the tip of the staff you place your grip the greater the weight exerted on the soft tissues. (In these pictures I am using a 7 pound red oak staff purchased from Wing Lam Enterprises: www.wle.com)
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 4b: Left Wrist and Triceps Stretch Feet are together. “Standing Like a Post.” Muscles of the torso pull the shoulders down. The staff is now in the left hand. Palm is up and turned toward the back. The weight of the staff wrings out the soft-tissues of the left arm. Hold three to five minutes.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Exercise 5: Low Defensive Staff Pose Low defensive poses from a martial arts stand-point force your opponent to come down to you. Because the feet remain flat this allows you to spring quickly to you feet for optimum mobility. This is a variation of the Tai Chi Position: “Snake Creeps Down.” Tai Chi training prepares you for both empty hands and weapons combat. Once again, hold the pose and allow the muscles of the legs to fatigue and relax.
More Stretches and Mudras
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Half Lotus Begin with legs wide apart. Bend right knee and place the sole of the foot against the left inner-thigh. The right thigh and calf will create a crease. Using your hands, lift the left lower leg and place the edge of the foot into the crease of the right leg. The left foot should feel trapped into position. This is yoga—“yoking” the body together. Maintain the position and allow the legs to fatigue and relax. Open the chest and use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Lengthen the spine. Raise Bai Hui and tuck in the chin.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Full Lotus Beginning in the half-lotus position, use your hands to lift the right lower leg and place the edge of the right foot into the crease created by the left thigh and calf. Open the chest and use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Lengthen the spine. Raise Bai Hui and tuck in the chin. Hold position and allow the legs to fatigue and relax. This position stretches out the tendons of the knees, ankles, and feet. (Good Luck!)
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Deep Squatting Begin in “Standing like a Post” position. Kneel slowly down to the limit as low as you can go while maintaining flat heals. Lengthen spine. Raise Bai Hui and tuck in chin. Use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Keeping the feet flat is more important than going to your lowest point. Hold posture and press palms out towards the horizon.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Standing Like a Post with Lotus Palms Feet are together. Low back is relaxed. Lengthen spine. Raise Bai Hui and tuck in the chin. Use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Knees are unlocked but not bent. Press the heals of the palms together as in “Flower Hands” but do not seal the thumbs and little fingers. Instead open the palms and fingers as wide as possible to form a “Lotus Flower” while keeping the elbows apart. This mudra stretches the muscles and tendon of the forearms. Hold pressure. Imagine the Lotus absorbing Qi from the Blue Sky.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Deep Warrior’s Pose Step and lunge far forward. Bend front knee and sink weight forward while sinking slowly down onto the back knee. Slowly raise both arms above the head and form praying hands directly above the Bai Hui point. Front foot is flat. Maintain pressure on the ball and toes of the rear foot. Hold pose and allow legs to fatigue and relax. The spine arches naturally. Breathe naturally and easy from the diaphragm. Repeat to the other side.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Forward Lunge with Staff Lunge with left foot forward. Right foot is at ninety degree angle. Spine is straight. Raise Bai Hui and tuck in chin. Use muscles of the torso to pull shoulders down. Left arm is extended to full reach. Right arm is extended to the rear. “Hammer grip” holds staff at the center at the ready, preparing to swing staff forward into defensive position. Weight is distributed 50/50 on both legs. Repeat to other side and exchange staff to right hand.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Half Lotus: Holding Small and Large Qi-Ball La Qi as I described in my first encounter with Luke Chan is all about forming a concentrated Qi-Ball. When the Qi is sufficient, not only does a small ball of Qi form inside the hands but a large Qi-ball forms within the rounded arms. This is a closed pose used for circulating and storing Qi within the middle and lower dan tiens. For the Qi-ball to form inside the hands the finger-tips must be oriented directly towards each other. Use the muscles of the torso to pull the shoulders down. Raise the Bai Hui point and tuck in the chin. The spine is lengthened and
relaxed. Breathe from the abdomen and relax. Hold for fifteen to thirty minutes or more and visualize the Blue Sky.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Reverse Half Lotus The right leg is folded behind with the ankle tucked firmly against the hip. Left leg is folded in front in standard half lotus position. Both sits-bones are down evenly. In the yoga tradition this pose is called the Oriental pose.
(Photo: Tom Serynek)
Sitting Like a Child Young children sit like this all the time. This is similar to Japanese-style sitting but instead of sitting on the lower legs, the legs are spread apart with feet turned out to the sides. The sits-bones are down between the feet. The heels connect to the hips. The thumbs press firmly into the balls of the feet at acupuncture point Kidney-1: the Bubbling Well. This is another closed position for circulating and cultivating Qi. Like the Full Lotus pose you will need to spend time working up to this position by stretching out the tendons
of the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Hold pose and allow the legs to fatigue and relax. (Good Luck)
Questions & Answers The important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. —Albert Einstein -------------------------------------------------------
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. —Rilke ---------------------------------------------------------
A Samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin: “Where will I go after I die?” Master Hakuin answered, “How am I supposed to know?” “How are you to know? Aren’t you a Zen Master!” exclaimed the Samurai. “Yes,” Master Hakuin replied. “But not yet a dead one!” —Zen mondo 146
What follows are answers to commonly asked questions about Zen, Qigong, or the Self-Healing process. They appear in no particular order. 1. How do I know if I am doing Qigong correctly? REALLY YOU CAN’T DO QIGONG WRONG. But you can always do it better. It is
not as much a question of correct and incorrect, it is more a question of acquiring skill and practicing skill. In order for Qigong to be truly Qigong the movements and poses must be performed in a meditative state. This is not possible in the beginning. In the beginning you will be learning. In my Qigong classes, only the advanced students who can forget that they are in a class and slip into meditation are doing it correctly. Beginning students are too busy following me and trying to understand what I am telling them. This could be concentration but it cannot be meditation. They are too aware of their egos—trying to do it “right” and trying to do it “good” and constantly comparing there performance to those around them. Meditation happens when the student at last forgets all about the ego—doing it right or doing it wrong—and focuses on feeling their way through the postures. This is tricky. It takes lots of practice and experience. It almost never happens in class. If it happens at all, it most often happens during individual home practice when there is no one around to compare your self to. Now, that said, there are certain signs that you are doing Qigong “correctly.” These are called Qi-reactions. These are phenomenon that occur as a result of gathering healing Qi and usually take the form of uncomfortable detoxification reactions after practicing. These include Flu-like symptoms, increased bodily aches and pains, fever, sweating, or a sudden cold or productive cough. The most common Qi reaction is diarrhea caused by the body’s attempt to quickly eliminate toxins from the system. Other common signs of Qi-reaction are hiccups, belching, flatulence, hot flashes, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, itching, “crawling skin,” hives and rashes, acne breakouts—especially on the scalp—uncontrollable yawning, sneezing, tearing, and relatively harmless but inconvenient physical reactions. 147
But Qi-reactions are not only limited to physical reactions. There can also be strong emotional “detoxing” in the form of surprising emotional outbursts with no apparent cause, hypersensitivity, or over-reactions to what is seen later as a rather mild stimulus. Other reactions occur when a former illness or trauma that seemed to be completely healed yet hidden inside the body suddenly makes a recurrence as it is brought to the surface for healing. All of these reactions should be considered positive signs and symptoms of the body-mind’s natural attempt to heal itself from internalized toxins or toxic emotions. However, not all signs of illness are due to Qi-reactions. Any signs of illness in the body should cause you to consult with your family physician 2. Why is meditation so difficult? THE REAL REASON IS VERY SIMPLE: Because meditation is too simple. The
thinking mind much prefers to try anything and everything that is difficult first. Like what for example? Like re-living the past or predicting the future. These things the mind finds easy. But remaining in the present moment is too simple so the mind ignores the present and stays involved with its own thoughts. This is for two main reasons: First, the thinking mind is a very very complex, delicate, and complicated mechanism which feeds on its own complexity in order to exist. So, not at all surprisingly, the thinking mind thrives on Thinking! (No brainer, right?). Secondly, (and the real reason) because every time the thinking mind does try to do something simple like—observe the coming and going of the breath—it shuts off! Just breathing is not stimulating enough for the thinking mind. Counting the breath or chanting sutras is too repetitive and boring. That’s it, just breathing? Where are all the problems? Just chanting sacred words? Why can’t we do something more important? More important than breathing? I should say—the thinking mind has another think coming if it thinks breathing is unimportant. But there it is. That’s the basic obstacle to meditation. The thinking mind craves something more complex and meditation is too simple.
But in reality, just breathing turns out to be a VERY difficult thing to do. The reason for that is the thinking mind does not like to be so still. It needs to move. It gets restless. This is why in Zen it is referred as the “Monkey Mind”—always chattering and fidgeting away in the tree tops, always getting into things. Do you know the story of how to catch a Monkey? Put a piece of delicious fruit inside a narrow-mouthed jar, just big enough for the fruit and the Monkey’s hand to fit into, but too tight for the Monkey’s clenched hand to take it’s hand and the fruit out of the jar. Then you just come along the next day, pick up the Monkey and the jar—and throw it in a sack. Simple! The trap exploits the simplicity of the Monkey and the Monkey’s greed for fresh fruit. It simply will not let go of the fruit. The Zen Koan works in a similar fashion. It traps the thinking mind into letting go by forcing it to see into the minds own limitations; its machinations. The Koan is a trap. But because of the thinking mind’s own greed for solving puzzles, before you know what’s hit you, you find yourself cornered, trapped, caught. And you end up in the master’s sack! As they say in the Upanishads: “Your head falls off!” And you get a glimpse of mindless reality where no thinking is required—just breathing, just beating your heart, just digesting your food, just maintaining the bodily systems, just selfhealing… For example, you may have noticed, every spring when the wild geese return flying in their V-formations—usually—one side of the V of geese is longer than the other. Do you know why that is? Answer: Because there are more geese on that side! Or, imagine for a moment, you are surrounded by a thousand ravenous tigers. You are completely surrounded, completely trapped. At any moment the tigers are going to pounce and eat you. There is no hope of escape! What’s the very first thing you should do? Answer: Stop imagining! Now try this one: Imagine you are stupid, foolish and incapable. Your life is going no where. You are doomed to chronically repeat the mistakes of your past. No one can help you! You are all alone... What should you do? 149
Answer: Same as the last one—stop imagining! See? The mind looks for complexity first. It wants to be clever, but cleverness is not the answer to Life’s problems, simplicity is. This is why Koans and Mondos—teaching stories—are so effective. They reveal the activity of the thinking mind. That mind just doesn’t do Simple… There is a very famous Koan that goes like this: Tell me. Is the large stone in the garden in the garden? Or is it in your mind? If you answer the: In the garden. Wrong! Then how is it that you can be aware of it? If you answer: In my mind. Wrong again. Then how is it that you are able to walk around with such a large stone inside your small mind? This type of Koan is very similar to the old joke: Answer yes or no. Do you still beat your wife? Any answer will be wrong. You see how the mind is forced to surrender. That surrender is meditation. It brings the mind into the moment—into the moment where it realizes it cannot answer without being wrong! The Mondos about successfully answered Koans go something like this. The correct answer to the Koan about the “stone in the garden” is: Hit the master for trying to trap you in his Koan—thus proving that you are not so easily trapped. Or else simply laugh and walk away—thus telling the master you realize there is no way to answer his Koan. The most effective Koan I have ever been trapped by is this one. You are an alcoholic. For the rest of your life you will either be a “Wet Drunk,” a “Dry Drunk,” or a “Recovering Alcoholic.” (Try that one on for size!) 3. Are you ever done healing or are you finally healed when you die? DEATH IS THE END OF HEALING. When you finally die there is no longer any
need for healing. With the shedding of the body you become pure energy again. Up till then though… Really what they call reincarnation is just self-healing—making yourself whole each day of your life in the body. This is what is meant by Qigong. Each day you re-member yourself and forsake the illusions of the ego and remind yourself that you are more than just ego. This is meditation—to make yourself 150
whole in mind and body—the spirit is not in need of healing, only expression. This spiritual expression is simply called: Love. Loving means: to nurture—not only those you love, but yourself as well. Usually when I am asked this question, the hidden question is: Will I ever heal my past? Yes, but only if you embrace it and nurture it. Your past is what has made you what you are—a personality with a personal history. Only by embracing the past—along with all it’s pain, and shame, and ignorance—only by accepting what it is you wish to reject can you truly be whole. This is called: “Shadow-work.” This is precisely what the ego seeks to avoid. Yes you can heal the past, by acknowledging it in the present and releasing the painful memories that come up. This takes time. Really, no one truly wishes for to be through with healing. What if you cut your finger with a kitchen knife? Can you imagine how tragic it would be if your wish to stop healing were granted? Don’t you want your finger to heal each time you cut it?
Is not the same thing true for your heart?
In the Sufi tradition of Islam there is a beautiful saying I have heard from Pir Inyat Khan: God breaks your heart again, and again, and again until you learn to keep it open. Wishing for an end to healing is another way of saying you wish for an end to pain and suffering. It is true that when end when you finally die. But Shakyamuni taught that there is another way to end the suffering; namely: Meditation—to go beyond the cravings and the desires of ego. I believe this is the answer anyone who has ever asked me this question is truly seeking. Not an end to suffering, but a chance for a new beginning, a chance to live life more fully. This I call: The Art of Self-Healing. 4. Why do I have all this pain? WHY NOT ASK HOW NOT TO HAVE PAIN? The leading cause of pain is Life.
Pain naturally comes right along with life. It is the human condition. Accepting this is how we begin to soften. The reason you have “all this pain” is because you are resisting pain in the same way that you shiver when you are cold—because of resistance; because of resisting what is—the cold. If you could learn how to relax to 151
the cold the shivering would immediately cease. Have you ever built a snowman? It was cold but you were not resisting you were having fun… The same thing goes for pain. If you could learn to relax into the pain the pain would immediately cease to be pain. It would become pure energy that’s all. Not something to resist, but something that needs to flow. Resistance blocks the flow and so you have pain. The best antidote for pain is to enjoy your self and have fun. But it is not just the present pain that you are resisting. You are also haunted by the memory of pain. This memory you also resist. Resisting past pain only reinforces the memory of pain. This creates and perpetuates what Eckhart Tolle calls: “The Pain-body.” The Pain-body, like your physical body, also seeks to survive. So whenever possible it actively seeks out more pain to nourish itself. This is how an innocent remark spoken at the wrong moment becomes a tool for hurting yourself. No apologies will suffice—you have become insulted, your feelings are hurt, this reminds you of all your past experiences of pain. The Pain-body is satisfied by this. In Eckhart’s words, “The Pain-body has had a feeding, it enjoys its pain. It is feeding on it.” Once satisfied, it slips back into hibernation until the next opportunity to feed. Until the next “insult,” the next fight, the next outburst of pain. Of course, if you could remain present and grounded, if you could remember your Qigong, the Pain-body would miss its feeding. If you could learn to Meditate and remain in the NOW, then little by little, you would heal your past pain. Then gradually—the Pain-body would be forced to starve, the Pain-body would be forced to subside. No, force is the wrong word. You must learn how to stop forcing and resisting and learn to soften and gentle your pain instead by relaxing your body and your ego. That is how you finally come to heal the past. In fact, it only when we no longer reinforce our past pain that at last we can let go and forgive the past.
5. What is the difference between Qigong and Tai Chi? TAI CHI IS A MARTIAL FORM OF QIGONG. Qigong science came first and Tai
Chi—the martial application of Qigong principals—came second. Tai Chi simply means the “Supreme Ultimate.” What this really means is Tai Chi is more correctly Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan in Pin-Yin) is the “Supreme Ultimate Fighting Style.” Or more literally, “Supreme Ultimate Fist,” meaning the fighter is superior because he or she fights from a state of total relaxation and is in complete control of their Qi and their opponent’s Qi—Tai Chi alone can be better translated as “Perfect Balance.” Most Americans are familiar with what we call the Yin-Yang symbol. In China this easily recognized emblem is called a Tai Chi Circle. In Tai Chi Chuan each defensive and offensive move makes use of this circular principal and the two forces: Yin and Yang. This not only gives Tai Chi its characteristic style and appearance, but also is the secret behind its devastating effectiveness as a martial art. Qigong on the other hand is a healing art not a martial art. But it is helpful to remember that martial arts are not called martial arts in China. They are called instead: Wu Shu—which means literally: Stop the fight. Tai Chi Chuan is how you prevent someone from hurting you or hurting others and when it is approached from a stand-point of Chivalry also how you disarm or disable an opponent so that they also do not come to too much harm. However—at least here in the US—most people who are attracted to Tai Chi because of its legendary health benefits. But in fact many people who take Tai Chi lessons and never realize that each movement has a martial application! That they are in fact learning a deadly martial art. They learn Tai Chi as a slow moving and graceful form of physical exercise and approach the individual movements as choreography instead of what it truly is: The supreme martial art. This is unfortunate because if you are unaware that Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, then— according to
Master Wong Kiew Kit—you are missing out on 90% of the
benefits. True Tai Chi Chuan requires that you visualize your attackers. Really, Tai Chi is slow-motion shadow-boxing. You are practicing and preparing for an attack 153
by multiple attackers from any direction. The reason it has such legendary health benefits is because of the slow-motion relaxed way it is practiced and the mental training needed to allow you to move with supreme control and concentration so that” “mind and body are together.” Then—just like Frank said—you learn how to move using your Qi not your muscles. But the real draw back to trying to get your health benefits from Tai Chi is not only does it take years just to memorize and properly learn each of the individual movements of the Tai Chi form, but it can take about ten or twenty years of dedicated practice before you accrue and truly realize the health payback. The health value of Tai Chi practice is secondary to it’s primary goals: superior martial skills. What Chinese Qigong researchers realized was that older Tai Chi masters seem more youthful because they maintain their flexibility; they are more graceful, energetic and healthy than their contemporaries who do not practice Tai Chi. But since the goal of modern practice primarily the health benefits, New Qigong was created to improve health without having to wait twenty or even forty years. Why so long? Most American students—because of the pioneering work of William C.C. Chen study the Yang Short Form of twenty-four simplified moves. Authentic Tai Chi Chuan can have 108 and even 148 individual movements to learn, memorize and master. That takes a like-time! New Qigong can be very quickly learned. Most forms can often be learned and memorized in less than three months. Some modern forms can be learned in a single weekend! This is the genius of New Qigong. It distills the health benefits from Tai Chi and other Martial forms and makes them immediately accessible to anyone willing to learn. The Health benefits that accessible; they are immediately available and gradually increase with time. But, only if you do your Gong! So many times I have had the experience of welcoming a new student into my Qigong class who announces they have already learned Tai Chi elsewhere and now are interested in learning Qigong. I always ask these students if they would be willing to demonstrate their form for the benefit of the rest of the class. This is when the truth comes out. “Oh I can only remember the first four movements of the form.”
Only once in seven years, after sharing Qigong with hundreds of students, have I met a student who could remember the entire short form and even then—due to the poetic names for each movement—they failed to realize they had learned a martial art!
New Qigong circumvents this problem. The postures and forms are simple.
Any one of any age can learn them quickly and begin immediately to practice them. Every class I teach is a beginner’s class. Even though some of my students have continued with me for five years or more, each class always focuses on the basics. I tell each new student: “You don’t need to come back to class once you learn the movements, but you may wish to continue coming to class to help deepen your understanding and participate in the healing group-energy that each class generates. I never know what I am going to say or teach until I say it or teach it, so no two classes are ever the same.” Some students who come to class are really just dilatants. They go from teacher to teacher to teacher and sadly end up learning little or nothing at all, just a lot of individual exercises that they can’t really remember or never faithfully practice. Others come for years before they feel comfortable enough to “free-style” at home. This is why in the traditional wisdom they say: “Better one hundred steps on a single path than ten steps on ten paths.” Pick a teacher, study their form until it is your own; memorized by your brain and your muscles—muscles memory. Burn the movements into your neuromuscular system through repetition until there is no possible way for you to forget them, then if you want to—learn another form. Or better yet, “steal” your first teacher’s art and then create your own form. Then start teaching your family and your neighbors what you understand. Volunteer at the local “Y” or teach a summer session at a local park. Nothing teaches Qigong like teaching! When you are the teacher you can see immediately when your students understand you or not. You will find yourself inventing and creating on the spot until you see their little halos light up. 6. How often should I practice Qigong to get the maximum benefit?
THEY SAY: “EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.” But ideally, you should practice a
little bit each day. Even if you can only find five minutes of spare time, then do five minutes of Qigong. In the fitness industry and in the field of cardiac rehab the saying is: 20 minutes a day three times a week should be the minimum. But this mind-set treats the exercise process like a chore or an obligation. Qigong is enjoyable. It feels good while you do it. The fitness mind-set is: I have to do my exercises or else I will get fat or fall into poor health. This makes exercising something you have got to do or else. In the fitness industry they know the number one time of the year that sees the most increase in membership is January because of people’s “New Year’s Resolution.” They also know once spring arrives the people stop coming. Life picks up in the spring. People don’t have the free time or the luxury of boredom to make it to the gym. Then they resolve to start again next January. Or they were just coming to look better in their swim suit. Once that is accomplished then they stop coming. Sure there are plenty of selfdriven and self- disciplined people out there. (But I have already talked about them else where.) What I like to say when people ask me what method of Qigong I teach I like to say: I teach the guilt method! Once I show you how easy and simple it is to make yourself feel better, more alive, more energetic, then you will feel guilty for not doing it. It is so easy. Think of Qigong as a treat you give yourself for being good. Who doesn’t deserve a treat? With Qigong, each treat you give yourself is absolutely free. Don’t think of Qigong as an “exercise.” Don’t use the dreaded “e” word at all. If you do you will be tempted to skip out on feeling good. “No time!” People tell me, “I like to swim.” That’s fine. But, if you don’t make it to the pool then you don’t get to do what you like to do. With Qigong there is no need for special clothing, no yoga mats, no sexy spandex thong and matching tights. And there is no equipment required. And no special facility needed. You can do Qigong any where and every where so there are no convenient excuses for not doing it. (Rats!) As far as minimum or maximum goes? How about five minutes a day? Too long? How about 30 seconds a day? Too long? How about eight seconds a day? 156
Eight seconds? That doesn’t seem very long at all until I remind my students: That’s how long a professional Rodeo Bull-ride is supposed to last! Eight seconds can be a very long time in deed. Students then often ask me how long I practice each day? My true answer is about ten hours a day. I do Qigong while I do bodywork for my patients. I do Qigong when I teach. I do Qigong every day when I make it home at night to unwind and relax. Eight to ten hours a day is average for me. Seems like a long time until you remember that you can do Qigong while sitting down. You can do Qigong while laying down. You can do Qigong while soaking in the bath. You could even do Qigong in a train or on a plane—even in a box or with a fox for that matter. Qigong should not intrude on your day. It should not cramp your style or prevent you from relaxing. Qigong is relaxing. It is the Supreme Ultimate form of relaxation. Remember: relaxing does not mean collapsing. Relaxing means to make your muscles long and loose and return them to their proper resting length. For the sake of simplicity, let us just say that Qigong is what you do to feel good. Not like fitness exercises or aerobics, not so you feel good when you stop! Qigong is a form of exercising that feels good while you are doing it. So, should you skip a day of practice? I guess if you want to spend a whole day feeling bad; sure—knock yourself out... 7. What if someone is disabled and they can’t do the whole form? LAO SHI TEACHES IF YOU CANNOT PERFORM A PARTICULAR MOVEMENT THEN MODIFY IT. If even that is impossible, then visual yourself performing the
pose or movement perfectly. Remember: Qigong is a moving form of meditation. If you cannot move physically you can still move mentally. This is the point of visualization and affirmation. This is Nei Gong—internal training. You can mentally perform Qigong flawlessly even when the body is flawed. Qigong is in the mind-body as well as the body-mind. Even a quadriplegic can exchange Qi with the universe. 8. Can Qigong help me lose weight? 157
I ALWAYS TELL MY PATIENTS IF YOU ARE REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT THEN PLAN ON LOSING ONE POUND A YEAR FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS. They usually just stare at me in disbelief, but I am serious. Lose one pound
a year for twenty years and you will only lose those twenty pounds one time instead of what usually happens—the Yo-Yo effect—losing the same twenty pounds again and again. I also know two other sure-fire methods for losing unwanted weight. One: go ahead and start being happy right now. Be happy now and accept yourself the way you are right now. That one always works. Two: get divorced. That kind of stress with the insane amount of intense adrenalin and cortisol will surely cause you to lose weight. Method #1 is healthy and natural. Method #2 is unhealthy but also natural. Otherwise, yes. Qigong will help you lose weight, especially if you learn how to do wall-squatting. Just one hundred wall squats a day for one hundred days—One Gong. That will do it too. But one pound a year for twenty years is a lot easier. Believe me! Or you could also do fifteen years of yoga with a proper macrobiotic diet. But that’s no fun at all. No more “Chubby-Hubby” ice cream. 9. What about smoking? IF IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE BABY IT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU! We have all by
now heard about the health hazards of smoking. I mean, it even says so on the package: Causes Cancer. Smoking is BAD for you. It will make you sick. It can lead to Cancer, Emphysema, COPD (Chronic Pulmonary Obstruction Disease), and many more illnesses. Smoking is a highly addictive habit that costs us all billions and billions of dollars each year to treat those who suffer from the illnesses associated with Smoking. Smoking is just stupid—it burns holes in your clothes, in your furniture; cigarette butts are everywhere, it makes your chest hurt; you cough, get upper respiratory infections, chronic bronchitis; it makes you stink, you get tobacco stuck between your teeth, ashes in your eyes; you annoy other people, your car reeks as you drive down the street; you endanger your family and friends with second hand 158
smoke. Each year, hundreds of wild fires are started by careless smokers throwing cigarettes from moving cars and trucks, and still, and still we just “keep on smoking’.” I know. I used to smoke. In fact, strange as it sounds, I never really hit my stride as a smoker until I entered nursing school. It seemed then that everybody smoked—all my friends, certainly many of my classmates; everywhere I looked someone was smoking. I started to smoke in earnest out of Self-defense; and to keep my stress down, (and my divorce-related anger too)—smoking helped me concentrate; it also helped me to fret and worry. Those were the days when nurses still smoked in the hospital—in the nursing conference room!—a thick pall of smoke hovering over the table at each shift change. Boy how we smoked! Nurses, nurses aides, nursing students, we smoked and hacked and coughed; and smoked some more. I know it sounds ridiculous but even the respiratory therapists smoked! We were, all of us, battle weary healthcare veterans, professionals, fighting on the front line, working in the trenches, and we didn’t give a damn about the dangers. We smoked like gamblers, like psychiatric patients—between pots of coffee. And when smoking was finally banned in the Hospital, we started smoking outside, every month of the year and in every kind of weather. We would all hang out together on our smoke-breaks; like a club, huddled together like inmates around a big industrial-sized free-standing hospital ashtray. We all agreed: “We smoked because we were stressed.” It was a very stressful job and we “needed to smoke”; that’s what we said to each other as we sipped from our coffee cups or half-frozen can of Coke. We all had a good time on our smoke breaks. Smoking (and caffeine) kept us hyped up and ready for action (we thought); it helped to keep us on our toes; that good old smoke break. But then suddenly, it became just as fashionable to quit smoking. First my wife stopped, then my friends were stopping; and inevitably, it was my turn. That was 12 years ago now… Remember your first cigarette? I do! My next-door neighbor stole a pack of KOOLS from his mom (who later died of lung cancer); menthols, we were 13 and 159
we thought we were cool, so—we were going to smoke! Now be honest. Does anybody actually enjoy their first Smoke? I think not! I felt so sick, sick and dizzy, so nauseas; I thought, “Why would any body want to do this?” I felt awful. Terrible! It took real courage to smoke the next one; and the next one; because we were kool, and we needed to smoke. Soldiers need to smoke. When our GIs hit the beaches they brought rations of cigarettes and chocolate—fast energy, keeps you on your toes, helps you come back alive. It wasn’t easy to quit. My anger would pop-out when I didn’t want it to. I’d be irritable and edgy; craving a cigarette. I “needed” my cigarette to calm me down and help me concentrate, especially in the car; and after dinner, and with my morning coffee. But I stuck it out. I didn’t even use “the patch” or “the gum.” Do you want to know how I did it? I bought little cigars instead; little Clint Eastwood-type German cigars, and when I would crave a smoke in the car, I would pop one into the corner of my mouth and let it hang there. I suppose got a little nicotine from chewing on the thing, but I never lit one; just chewed on it a while, like a cowboy. But what really did it for me was how gross my mouth would feel and taste and afterward, how nasty wet the end of that cigar looked to me after a while. I thought to myself, “Why would any body want to do this?” It took real courage to do it again. But I stuck with it. And I finally quit my tobacco addiction for good! I don’t even miss them now. Ever! Although sometimes I still need to take a smoke break, so I go outside for five minutes or so and “air-smoke” instead. It’s still my mental-health break though it is no longer my “respiratory treatment.” Smoking makes you stink! And to be honest, most smokers look kind of “shell-shocked”, sort of “out of it”, and a bit “unconscious”. Try to Become a smoking cessation enthusiast. If you need a new pass-time try Qigong. That’s one addition that is actually good for you. Stop smoking. Think about it: all those poor bodies, they don’t want to smoke (you do). I sure hope they don’t get sick in the mean time.
If you must smoke, try to cut back to just 5 cigarettes a day. Make them the 5 most important moments of your day, don’t some mindlessly in the car, actually enjoy yourself, make the most out of smoking. Don’t smoke in a hurry, slow down and take your time; make each one last, stay focused on your cigarette. Get the most pleasure you possibly can out of it; make it a sort of meditation. If you smoke: Take a Break! You probably need it. If you are already thinking about giving it up: That’s Good! It means you are already thinking about taking better care of yourself. The relaxation techniques in this book can help (I know, they already helped me.) Nicotine causes vasoconstriction—it squeezes us, wraps us a little harder. Like that infamous American Icon, “the Marlboro Man” (rugged individualist with fibromyalgia) cigarettes make us tough. I’m sure we have all seen a few long-timers smoking at the coffee shop. Coffee and Cigarettes… Or at a restaurant or in a saloon, their skin always has a distinctive quality— Leathery, Toughened, Craggy, Rugged, Cowboy-like, Arizona-like: Dry and Parched, John Wayne-like (who also died of lung cancer). Toward the end of his life, “The Duke” was quoted as saying something like: “If I had known these little things were gonna to kill me, I’d a quit a long time ago.” Hear, here! 10. How soon should I expect to feel or see results from practicing Qigong? THAT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU. How big is your “spoon?” Since you can dig a
swimming pool with a spoon, the size of the spoon will determine how much dirt you can move in a single day. Also, how much time do you spend digging each day? And, how big of a hurry are you in to realize the completion of your project? As far as feeling and seeing result go, most probably you will feel the results first. Do see results you have to keep looking for them. But I can safely say you should be able to feel the results of practice the very first day in that you should feel more energized after your practice than when you started. Qigong exercise energizes the body systems immediately. One way to notice is the breath. If you
find yourself breathing bigger and more freely after five minutes practice, there is your sign. After twenty minutes, even more so if you have relaxed at all. The next day you may feel sore or tired if your meridians have opened at all. The point is to visualize your energy channels opening. For this it is helpful to do a little research. A simple internet search will give you many sites for learning about acupuncture meridians. If you are looking for something more in depth, it is difficult to find a more comprehensive resource than the book: The Root of Chinese Qigong by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. Visualization and affirmation contribute greatly to Qigong success. But you can just approach it as a physical exercise as well. However, this will make it more difficult to feel and see results outside of a few Qi-reactions such as tiredness an hour or two after practice, or soreness the next day due to the challenge and strain on your tight muscles and tendons. But in asking this question you probably mean positive results. This may require several weeks of concerted effort to realize something more positive like improved flexibility, stress reduction, or peace of mind. It is easier to see and feel the physical benefits, I admit. The emotional benefits may not immediately feel beneficial to your ego. Such as crying for no reason over a TV commercial, or maintaining your calm in a situation where you would ordinarily lose your temper. Even if you only manage to open your meridians an additional 2 or 3% you should realize an increase in your intuitive powers or an increase in your dream activity. These kinds of changes you may not recognize as being due to your practice. But they are. In all honesty, it may take you several years before meditation begins to occur. This too you may not immediately recognize as positive. Often meditation is embarrassing for the ego, the ego so hates to forget anything, let alone itself. But this is meditation. Intense momentary losses of ego awareness. These can happen suddenly all in a flash. In Zen this is known as Satori—the lightening flash. These have also been called: “Aha” reactions. Aha! I am aware of myself being aware. This seems like such a little thing but really this is the goal of Zen Qigong—to see through the illusions of ego.
There is a Zen Mondo about Satori that goes like this: Master and student are sitting in Zazen. Suddenly the student enters Satori and exclaims: “Master, Master, it is happening!” The Master replies calmly: “Yes. That is good. Try not to make such a big deal out of it!” 11. What if I can’t meditate? IF YOU CAN’T MEDITATE DON’T FEEL BAD. Even masters fail to meditate and
achieve No-Mind. No-Mind is difficult because you can’t do it it just happens! Try instead to think Blue Sky, or as I tell my students: Close your eyes and see the night sky without stars. This is “thought of one thought” and it takes great concentration. Another method is Mindfulness training. This is very difficult as well but when you get it it feels very rewarding. This is where the training sutras come in. On my fifth retreat with Frank I got very frustrated and snapped back at him for what he was telling me. Let me get this straight. You want me to feel my feet touch the eart, my head touch the sky, maintain my spinal alignment, withdraw vision inward, raise Bai Hui and tuck in my chin, unlock my knees, open Mingmen (an acupuncture point on the governor vessel located around the third lumbar), point my tailbone towards the ground, keep the feeling of sitting but not sitting with my head as if suspended from above, breath from my lower dan tien, think Blue Sky, remember what movement I am doing now and where I’m moving to next, and perform each movement correctly without using my muscles? Yes that’s right. Now you got it. He said with a happy grin on his face. But I can’t do that Frank! I said exasperatedly. He said, Yes that’s right. That’s why we keep practicing. Just don’t try so hard. You will get it… So if you can’t meditate, that’s OK. Just keep practicing everyday. Eventually it will happen. But remember, you will only notice afterwards… In the meantime try to concentrate on Mindfulness instead. Just be aware of everything around you and everything within you and on each of the postures and movements all at the same time. Try not to follow your mind, try instead to direct your mind 163
and concentrate on what you are doing. Train your mind not to run away from you and focus it instead on you actions. This is called: Using your Yi to lead your Qi. Yi is your wisdom-mind. Usually we are using our emotional mind that is why it is so difficult to control it. The emotional mind is unruly. It flit about from feeling to feeling and thought to thought. In Confucian Qigong, training yourself to center and control the emotions at all times is the pinnacle of practice. This Confucian Qigong is what has lead Westerners to the stereotype of the “Inscrutable Chinese Master”—one whose feelings and emotions cannot be scrutinized. Dr. Pang’s Qigong, according to Frank draws heavily on Confucian Qigong and White Crane Qigong. The White crane component is no big surprise when you realize that Dr. Pang’s name: He-Ming means Crying or Screaming Crane. The White Crane is revered in China for its longevity and familial piety. White cranes—like other migratory birds—mate for life. White Cranes fight fiercely to protect their nests. They are unafraid of much larger opponents and can strike with lightening speed. Many of the shoulder and arm movements of Zhening Qigong imitate the movements of the White Crane’s wings. The training secret of White Crane-style Kung fu is imitating the wingmovements the crane by training the torso, shoulder, arm, and hands to move like “wings” in order to generate maximum martial power. White crane style is said to have originated at the famous Shaolin Temple where Bodhidarma first trained his monks. From there it spread across Southern China, to Korea; eventually to Okinawa, Japan, and ultimately to the West through American Pop-culture Icons as Bruce Lee and the Karate Kid. White Crane-Qigong is the foundation of Karate. It offers tremendous health benefits. You may not remember: Well done, Grasshopper! But you have probably familiar with: Wax on. Wax off. So, don’t worry so much about meditation. Concentration is just one step away. Put your beginner’s mind there instead. 12. How does one become Qigong Teacher and when do you know you are ready to teach?
THIS REALLY DEPENDS ON A PERSON’S INDIVIDUAL TALENTS. For example,
because I have been performing in front of audiences as a musician since I was about 16 and because I have experience on stage as an actor and other public speaking opportunities as a nurse for the past fifteen years or so, I am no longer uncomfortable in front of a group, be it ten people or a thousand people, I no longer suffer from stage fright. This was not always the case. And this is not to say that I no longer get nervous. But actually from my standpoint now, the bigger the group the more satisfying it is to me personally. I once was in a production of the Tony Award winning Irish play: Dancing at Lunasa. I played the main character—Michael. I was very nervous opening night—in fact I hardly slept the night before worrying about my performance. But after opening night I was incredibly energized and once again could hardly sleep. The next performance, as I peeked through the curtains to gage the size of the audience I felt terribly disappointed to realize there were so many fewer people in attendance compared with opening night. I asked one of the veteran actors back stage: Why do I feel so let down because there aren’t as many people? She said with her proper Irish accent: Well now, that’s your ego then. Our production went on to win a regional competition. That was thrilling. But by the time we went on to state competition, much of the excitement had already gone. So, I have no qualms about public-speaking. But, in the psychological index of major life stressors, public speaking for many people ranks right up there with losing a spouse, losing a job, or requiring a surgery! Many people are terrified to speak in public. This would definitely be a draw back for anyone considering teaching Qigong. The Qigong teacher must be relaxed! Apart from that, the only real qualification is that the teacher must know more than the student. So any second year student can freely teach first year students, they know more and have more experience with their own teacher. In the beginning, new teachers often imitate their own teacher. I can do a perfect Chinese-American accent from all the exposure I have had with Frank’s style of teaching and I often yuck-it-up with my fellow students at retreat by 165
impersonating Frank’s voice and repeating his many “Frank-isms.” Sometimes Frank’s voice will come out of me during my own classes. This is only natural because I can so clearly hear his voice in my head as I repeat so many things he has said over and over again. If someone has any reservations about attempting to become a teacher then I tell them: Then try not to teach. Just Share what you personally are practicing. That way you will share what you know from your own experience. Eventually with enough experience, your own teaching style will develop and you will no longer feel the need to imitate your teacher. So, say you were also with me at the 2001 National Qigong Conference and also took the workshop with Shifu Jiang Jianye. As soon as you returned home, the moment someone asked you what you learned. In that moment you become a teacher, if in that moment you attempt to show them what you learned. You would have to rephrase things in your own voice. Next you would attempt to show them by demonstrating what you had learned. Then you would attempt to correct their mistakes. If they still did not understand, you would reach inside yourself and try to say it or show it or communicate it differently until they understood; until what they were showing you in return looked more like what you had shared with them. Then you would be a novice Qigong teacher. After enough experiences like that you would gain more confidence. So really, when you have something to teach and self-confidence in the way you know how to teach it, that is when you are ready. Even then you will get nervous, especially the first time someone comes to class and claims that they have already learned Tai Chi. Don’t Panic! Politely ask them to demonstrate their form for the class. If they can’t remember the form then they haven’t learned it yet—keep teaching what you know. If they can remember their form ask them to teach you! This is how we grow and learn to be good teachers. By never claiming to know it all and by humbly recognizing someone else’s greater skill and talent. Any Qigong teacher will tell you. They learned the most about Qigong from their students and from not being afraid to try.
13. How can Qigong help someone with cancer? THERE ARE ALWAYS THOSE THAT ARE SKEPTICAL AND THERE ALWAYS WILL BE. That is simply the nature of a defended ego. It must defend its beliefs or
else face change. So for the most skeptical readers let me just say this—whether you believe in the existence of Qi or in the reality of meridians or not—relaxing helps in every situation; hope helps in every situation; faith helps in every situation. Even if Qigong helps because of the placebo effect—it still helps! One way in which Qigong helps those with cancer to heal is it puts the mind in alignment with the positive possibilities instead of the negative. Dwelling on the negative rods any of us of vital energy. Qigong restores vital energy. Relaxing allow that energy to reach to every part of the body through the unrestricted flow of blood, bringing nourishment and vitality to all the cells and helping all the cells to eliminate waste. This restoring of balance, I believe is the primary way in which Qigong helps those suffering from cancer. It must be kept in mind that cancer represents growth. Cancer is not trying to kill you. Cancer just wants to grow. This is the basic principal of growth—to grow. But for some reason that researchers have yet to discover, cancer is growth that is out of balance. Qigong helps restore the proper balance. So even if Qigong cannot eliminate cancer, it permits the person with cancer to achieve a better balance of mind, body, and spirit. My hope for everyone that at the time Death finds you for whatever reason, that Death finds you healed, whole, and holy. Unfortunately in our culture cancer is seen as an enemy. People’s egos determine that they are going to fight cancer and win—LIVESTRONG! But those who die of cancer have not lived weak! There was recently an interesting study performed among a large group of oncology nurses. In this study the researchers asked the nurses that if they could choose the way they would prefer to die what would that be. The assumption, I assume, was that oncology nurses having worked so intimately with cancer and 167
witnessing the ravages that cancer AND CANCER TREATMENTS have on the body, they would logically choose some other way of ending their life. But no! The majority of oncology nurses studied said if given a choice they would prefer to die from cancer. Why? Their reasons were several by for me the most compelling are these. One: because with all the inroads to pain management through medications they felt that it was a fairly painless way to die. Two: because of advances in detection you get advanced warning, not so in such deaths as heart attack or embolisms of catastrophic accidents. And three: and most importantly to them, you have time to say good-bye, that cancer brings families together and tremendous healings occur within an entire family because a loved one contracts cancer. These oncology nurses—knowing everybody has to die sometime—saw cancer as a more beautiful means of death. One they would prefer for themselves or their loved ones. Qigong can help because it allows for a tremendous in-pouring of Love and Compassion. Qigong helps because it eliminates stress and fear by teaching the patient how to center and keep the big picture in focus. Qigong offers a sense of vitality that is so often missing in the adversarial alliopathic approach to cancer where if you die from cancer you have somehow failed to defeat nature. Cancer is natural. Right now every one of us has cancerous cells in our body. Cells that have improperly formed or else mutated. Cells that are seeking for a chance to grow. If you do not have cancer now it is because your immunological system, your macrophages and antibodies, your white blood cells and your lymphatic system are cleansing and eliminating those cancer cells before they have a chance to colonize and grow. Qigong supports the natural Tai Chi balance that is nature’s intention for us all. Until that is Death comes to take us. But then, that is natural too. Others believe that some Qigong’s like Zhening Qigong cure’s cancer. But that I believe is mistaken. Even surgery does not kill cancer. Any kind of surgery you care to mention forces the body to heal itself. Nature cures cancer. Most often it is what is un-natural—cigarette smoking, alcoholism, asbestos, agent orange,
“work-aholism,” “rage-aholism”—these are the souses of imbalance that jeopardize the system and put us all at risk. Qigong restores balance. Its practice stimulates and supports a healthy life style. One of Self-nurturing, Self-caring, Self-loving; of Patience, Positivism, and Compassion. Qigong teaches how to get out of the way egoically and allow nature to work it’s miracles for us. Or as a Christian might say, or even a recovering alcoholic, Qigong trains us to trust and ultimately helps us learn how to let go and let GOD. To that I say Amen. Hao La! Let me share one more thing about this issue of cancer. Last year one of my students died of cancer of the brain—for over a year he had been coming to class. He had already had several surgeries to remove tumors, but each time they would return more aggressively. He had heard that Qigong could help him. We would use the group energy La Qi method of Dr. Pang’s to heal him just as I had learned it from Luke and Frank. He would return to his doctors. His doctors would be amazed that his tumors had shrunk. But each time, eventually they would re-grow. They were unable to explain why, but my Qigong class knew. It was because in the Qi-circle we would bathe him with unconditional love! Mike would go home after each class, tired but more upbeat, more positive. Then after many months Mike stopped coming to class. My students would ask me: How is Mike? Have you heard from Mike? How is Mike doing? Have you seen him? But my intuition told me how Mike was doing. Mike was doing fine. He was finally at peace with his situation and he was too weak to leave home anymore. I knew that Mike was ready to die and he did not need me. Several of the students took to going to his home to see him and share Qi with Mike. But finally his wife asked that they stop coming. It was too taxing on their home environment and she craved more privacy. One day my students asked me: Why don’t you go Dave? So I told them this story. Once during a bodywork session, a bird happened to fly into my office window and injured itself. I thought if I emitted Qi to it it might be alright. So 169
through the window I emitted Qi to the poor little house sparrow as it lay twitching there in pain and the moment I did that the sparrow died. So, I will not go to see Mike unless he asks for me, unless he is ready to go. Mike never called for me. He did not need me. He did great on his own. He died with his wife holding his hand and his children by his side. I am sure it was beautiful. Weeks later I got a thank you note from his widow which I read to the class. Thank you all for everything you did for Mike. You certainly helped him “center.” My family and I are grateful for all the love you showed him in his last days. He was ready. It was his time. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. 14. Is Qigong in a group more beneficial than doing Qigong all by your self? THIS QUESTION GETS RIGHT TO THE HEART OF LAO SHI’S CHI-FIELD THEORY. The answer is yes; emphatically: Yes! Group practice greatly enhances
the available Qi. When I first encountered Luke Chan at the AHP Conference, it was precisely because of being in such a large group that the healing energy was so strong. And we didn’t really have a clue about what we were doing—only the intention of master Chan’s to somehow help those people in need of healing. This is precisely why Mike was able to benefit so much from attending class and actually shrink his tumors; this is why so many students continue to come to class even though they have already learned everything I have to teach. They come for the group energy. As a member of the group your personal energy is amplified. Some teachers like Luke and Frank, Mingtong Gu, and Dr. Richard Moss are specialists in group energetics and lead healing retreats that maximize the group energy potential. This is also what at a NQA conference you see the same faces again and again each year because of the power of being involved as a group. And why Christians are
commanded to join a church or prayer group, precisely because of the power that such group energy affords to each individual. If you can not find a group in your area—like Master Guo Lin—create one. Arrange to meet at the same place at the same time for weekly of monthly gatherings to support one another’s practice. I can’t this enough. There is power in a group. This is why in China and in fact all over the world Qigong enthusiasts gather together in local parks like Purple Bamboo Park or People’s Park in San Francisco to practice together. The combined concentration of energy is uplifting. Even a large shared non-qigong experience like a going to a sports arena or lining the road side for a parade or attending a rock concert has such a powerful effect on the individuals who are drawn to such events—the power of group energy directed towards a single purpose is exciting, stimulating, and fun. Laoshi even teaches that if you are practicing alone, call on the Qi-field of all the Zhening Qigong Practitioners everywhere—some 10 million people or more world wide—and invite their loving compassion and healing Qi to come to you wherever you are. This is also why Luke and Frank ask their students to Practice at 9 PM each full moon to share in the combined group energy. If you do not have such a group to participate with then at least do this: designate one room of your home for Qigong practice and faithfully practice each day. Overtime you will find that your Qi-effort accumulates in that room. Put some houseplants in there so they can also benefit and help you hold the healing Qi in the room. Keep affirming the power of the group. Group energy is healing me! Hao La! That will help too. 15. If I do Qigong can I continue my fitness routine or will it undo my workout? IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE PURPOSE BEHIND YOUR WORKOUT. If the purpose is
the health of your muscles and joints then by all means combine Qigong exercises with your fitness workout. But if I the goal of your work out is to pump up your
“show muscles” and “chisel your abs” then Qigong is probably not a good choice. Qigong exercises make the muscles healthy, loose, and soft. Perhaps you have watched the Olympics and seen the athletes in track and field events, swimming and gymnastics shaking and stretching their muscles before each event. This is because of the athletic science being employed by the athletes and their trainers for maximum performance potential. A muscle that begins a contraction phase from a state of relaxation has a far greater action-potential than a muscle that is rigid and hard. Because of the fitness industry, health club commercials, and swim suit ads, most of us are chasing after an idealized body image—one that over emphasizes youthfulness and hardened bodies. Just think of the famous Chippendale Dancers and you will see what I mean. As I said before those hardened bodies are not necessarily healthy but then movie stars, professional strippers, and swim suit models are not really representative of the norm. I once saw a wonderful magazine add somewhere showing a zaftig Barbi reclined on a fainting couch looking beautiful and plump. The caption read: There are 3 billion women in the world and only twelve of them look like supermodels. In a word, the American public—especially women—has been flimflammed into believing if they look your age, or look as if you have ever had children, or if somehow don’t measure up to the height/weight ratios on insurance actuary charts, then they are not healthy and can no longer hope to be healthy, sexy, or attractive! Not only is this a load of Bull but this is certainly nothing new. Very few Greek men past the age of eighteen have ever looked like Greek Statues. These are idealizations and monuments to youth. Movie stars with their personal trainers have to look like the way they do in order to get work for movie stars are also idealizations. But I guess if you can make millions of dollars for a starring in a single picture I guess it is worth the kind of self-torment they endure to attempt to realize an iconic figure. But eventually time “takes it’s toll” and they step aside for the young bloods who are hungry enough and young enough to get the part. Consider the current Governor of California—Arnold Swartzenegger for example. I suspect we will no longer be seeing him disrobed and displayed as he was in his youth and early middle age—unless of course he is caught unawares and 172
exploited by some unscrupulous paparazzi—and then displayed for purposes of public humiliation on the cover of some supermarket tabloid. Or maybe you have seen the tabloid covers showing candid shots of female movie stars with their cellulite clearly visible in all its glory. Personally I find it shameful the way the American public snatches up these rags in order to gloat over how the “mighty have fallen.” There seems to be something tragically demeaning for all involved in exploited the stars this way. But I do understand it. It strokes our egos to see for ourselves that movie stars are “flawed” too. That even they cannot live up to the impossible expectation placed upon all of us to look like idealizations instead of like real ordinary middle aged human beings. As far as I can tell the only people truly benefiting from this “tyranny of slenderness” are the fitness industry moguls, their employees, the cosmetics industry moguls and their employees, and the proliferation of cosmetic surgery centers. So, personally I would not be overly concerned with undoing your work out. I would be much more concerned about the problem of being an honest to goodness and contentedly happy well-adjusted human being… 16. Should Qigong make you sore like weight training? QIGONG IS WEIGHT TRAINING! In fact, the Chinese invented weight training.
From Chinese weight training we get our word “Dumb-bell.” The original tools for weight training were bells that had had their clappers removed and thus they were “dumb” bells. Qigong is sometimes referred to as “temple exercises” because the original Kung fu Masters were also monks. Bells were readily available, quite handy, but extravagantly expensive. The fact about modern Qigong is this: Qigong Masters were ordered by the CCP to reveal their secrets to the people for the common good of modern communist china. All this all occurred on the tail of the Cultural Revolution when after a period of great hardship due to failed agricultural policies. Millions of Chinese starved and the country was plunged into depression. In order to meet the countries healthcare care crisis. Qigong masters like Dr. Pang were faced with the 173
problem of creating a comprehensive and inexpensive approach to fitness to meet the country’s needs. New Qigong requires not equipment; no weights for weight training, just the weight of your own body, your arms, your legs, your torso. Your arms are the weights. During the space race, maybe you are old enough to remember, because of the tight quarters, astronauts were trained in something called isometric exercises. This is Qigong. Isometric training. Not the same old “ancient Chinese secrets,” but new and improved Chinese secrets. Because of all this it is very common to be sore as if training with weights yet weights are necessary. Or make shift weights are made from concrete blocks, jugs of water or bricks. No Bally’s Health Club, no progressive resistant weight machines; just your own body, just your own body weight. New Qigong is above practical and expedient. This is the purpose of the deep poses—to weight train the legs. This is the purpose of holding the arms out to the sides or above the head—to weight train the arms. Overtime however, the soreness goes away and it is only if you increase your work load by say, going deeper or holding positions longer, should you experience that familiar weight training type of soreness. Instead of being “low impact,” most Qigong exercises are “no impact.” This makes Qigong especially appropriate to the frail and elderly for rebuilding strength, restore balance, and protect the joints. But don’t think for a minute that it is only for the frail and elderly. Hold any of the deep poses for 15 minutes and see for yourself. 17. Is it better to do Qigong inside or outside? IN CHINA MOST LARGE QIGONG GROUPS PRACTICE OUTSIDE IN ALL KINDS OF WEATHER. But this is mostly to accommodate such large numbers of people.
Usually you will see them gathered among trees to exchange Qi with the trees and the environment but mostly to take advantage of the shade. When Shakyamuni attained enlightenment under his Bodhi, he was their to rest in the shade and lean against the tree.
So Qigong outside is always best weather permitting. If it is too hot or too cold for comfort then inside is best. I teach probably 95% of my classes indoors. At the Duneland Health & Wellness Institute classes are held in the aerobics hall which is lined with mirrors. I highly recommend practicing in front of a large mirror so you can visually check your physical balance in the poses. Even though you may feel balanced and even a mirror will almost always prove otherwise. Since complete balance is the goal then indoor practice, especially in the beginning has many advantages. Another concern for Americans is the idea of looking strange or out of the ordinary to their neighbors. It’s not an issue at my house. My neighbors are quite used to seeing Tai Chi sparring, staff practice, plum post walking, and club juggling by now, but this may be a concern for you. Also practicing indoors has the added advantage of allowing the Qi to build up in your practice room and that is also beneficial. 18. How do you learn to see the Qi? I DON’T INTEND TO BE SARCASTIC BUT THE ANSWER IS: BY LOOKING. But
there is a special way of looking. You must look with soft eyes and you must look at the three dimensional space around the person, animal, plant, or object you are looking at. This soft eyes technique of looking uses the full scope of the visual field. Instead of focusing like a laser beam like you do when you are reading or threading a needle for example, you need to look more like a search-light, in as wide a field as possible. The Qi field you are looking for is like a bubble of blue or silver sky. The quality of looking needed is similar to gazing at those 3-D computer generated images. At first you see a flat image of random multicolored pattering, but then suddenly you either sink into the field or the field seems to leap out at you and you see the dolphin or the wolf or whatever the hidden image is. That is similar to seeing the Qi field; it takes that kind of looking. To increase your chances, position your subject in front of a muted colored wall—maybe three feet or more away from the wall. Then stand back five or ten 175
feet and begin to gaze around them with soft eyes. You will begin to see a ghostly image or field form around their head and shoulders—then just as you think you are seeing it it will disappear. But then it will reappear again. This is because the Qi field pulsates, usually around eight to twelve times a minute. Often when my students first see it they say—I thought that was just a trick of my eyes. It is but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. An easier way to begin to see Qi fields is to observe trees. Groups of trees produce a combined Qi field that seems to leap up above the canopy and then dissipate. But perhaps even easier is to gaze at pine trees. Pine trees have a distinctive shape that against the background of the blue sky seems to create a much more uniform and predictably shaped aura. If you have ever viewed an old black and white television that produces unfocused ghost images of the people on screen. That is very similar. Many students ask me: I thought the aura was supposed to be full of colors, I just see silvery-blue. Those who claim to see a variety of colors are either bragging or else have an ability called clairvoyance, where there brains interprate the energy they see as different frequencies or colors. These people are rare and their ability is always questionable. In my experience they tend to be accomplished “New Agers” and are usually quite ungrounded. They are unaware that the “colors” they are seeing are inside their head behind their eyes and not necessarily hanging in space around the person they are viewing. What most of my students report seeing is a silvery color similar to the heat shimmers you see raising from hot roadways in the summertime? This seems logical to me because of the radiant body-heat each human produces. Frankly, staring at someone in order to see their Qi is kind of rude. And if you are doing it while you are in conversation with them it will make you look like a “space case” and the person will decide you are not paying any attention to them. But I understand the fascination with trying to see auras. I was once very excited to develop this ability. But hey, once upon a time I was also very excited to learn how to blow bubbles with my bubblegum. Whenever I managed to blow a very big bubble, it was—Hey, hey, look at may bubble everyone. Now I rarely ever
blow bubbles with my gum. And I just as rarely try to see auras. But often in Qigong class, I can’t help it. They are just so obviously there. Really, Qigong class is a place to realize what that old Sunday school song seemed to promote. This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? 19. How do you emit Qi to others? IF YOU HAVE EVER ROCKED A BABY OR HELD SOMEONE’S HAND OR VISITED SOMEONE IN THE HOSPITAL YOU HAVE EMITTED QI. Emitting Qi is very
natural and extremely easy. Doing it for a living as I do, or as Tuina Doctors do in China is another matter. When you emit Qi to others you are giving them your personal Qi. This is how people know that you love them—because you send them your loving Qi. But to do this for 80 people a week in multiple intense treatments or for 105 people in a single day as I have, takes a different technique. This is what Luke meant by Fa Qi—channeling universal Qi in order to avoid depleting my personal Qi—is something else. 20. How can I find a qualified Qigong Teacher? INTERNET. In Qigong tradition a teacher’s qualifications are measured by who
their teacher is and who their teacher’s teacher was. This is how the lineage system works. A true Qigong master will brag about their Grandmaster, but will humbly take very little credit for their own accomplishments. When in doubt, you can ask them to demonstrate for you or you can ask them about any certifications they have or any organizations they belong to like the National Qigong Association. You can always go to www.nqa.org or some other umbrella organization of Qigong practitioners.
(Photo: Josh Shaffner)
The author at home on small plum posts David Cowan, RN, HN-BC, CNMT, CLT, NCTMB, is a nurse specialist in alternative pain management and a Certified Chi-Lel™ Medical Qigong Instructor. He is also a National Board Certified Holistic Nurse, St. John Certified Neuromuscular Therapist, Klose Certified Lymphedema Therapist, and is Nationally Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. In addition to being a Nurse-Healer, David is also a jazz musician, singersongwriter, poet, artist, and juggler, as well as a father, step-father, and grandfather of 9! He lives and practices Qigong in Miller Beach, Indiana at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan.