SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
July 2013 PART 1
Why do so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits you describe?
— Lin, Dubai
It is because these many people actually do not practice chi kung, they practice gentle physical exercise, though they do not realize it, whereas we practice genuine high-level chi kung.
The patterns are the same, but the arts are different. Let us take an example of Lifting the Sky.
Most other people practice Lifting the Sky as gentle physical exercise but they honestly think it is chi kung.
We practice Lifting the Sky not just as chi kung but as high-level chi kung.
There are two dimensions of difference: the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the difference between ordinary chi kung and high-level chi kung.
Firstly, we need to know the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung. It is the failure to know this difference that causes thousands of people waste years of practice without obtaining any chi kung benefits. There are, for example, many chi kung instructors, even masters, who have taught chi kung for more than 10 years yet are routinely sick or in pain. This shouldn't be as a basic benefit of chi kung practice is good health, which means free from sickness and pain.
In other words if they have practiced chi kung, genuine chi kung, they would not be sick or in pain. It is understandable if they are sick or in pain once a while, but certainly not routinely. In the same way, if you eat sufficient food and drink sufficient water, you would not go hungry or thirsty.
The fact is that these chi kung practitioners and masters do not actually practice chi kung, though they may not realize it. They practice gentle physical exercise but mistake it as chi kung. Similarly many people practice external Tai Chi forms as a dance but mistake it as Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art.
It is easy to make this mistake because the forms of gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the forms of Tai Chi dance and Tai Chi Chuan are the same. It is how they are practiced, i.e. the skills involved, that makes the difference.
In gentle physical exercise, one practices the forms at a physical level. In chi kung, one practices the same forms at three levels -- physical, energetic and spiritual. In other words, in gentle physical exercise one works only on the physical body, like loosening muscles and joints. In chi kung one works at the physical level, the energy level and the spiritual level, like loosening muscles and joints, having more vitality, and becoming peaceful and happy.
If a practitioner does not know what working on energy and spirit is, then he is unlikely to be practicing chi kung, though he may honestly think he is. As an analogy, if you are eating an orange, you will know what an orange is. If you had not eaten an orange or even seen one, you would not know what actually an orange was even when it was clearly described to you.
Thus, thousands of people who think that they practice chi kung do not get the chi kung benefits I describe because actually they do not practice chi kung; they only practice gentle physical exercise. No matter for how long and how well they have practiced, they only get benefits of gently physical exercise like relaxation, grace and balance, which are worthy benefits by themselves, but they will not get chi kung benefits like overcoming illness, enjoying good health, vitality and longevity, and experiencing mental clarity and spiritual joys.
Secondly, it is useful to know the difference between ordinary chi kung, which is usually low-level, and high-level chi kung. The difference is that ordinary chi kung takes a long time to obtain little benefit, whereas high-level chi kung takes a short time to obtain a lot of benefit. The forms, or techniques, may be the same. It is the skills that make the difference.
Let us take the technique, Lifting the Sky, as an example. In low-level chi kung, one needs to practice Lifting the Sky for many months before he can feel a noticeable increase of his energy level. In high-level chi kung he can feel a noticeable increase after practicing for just a few days. In our case, you felt a noticeable increase of energy level after just one practice session!
If someone is sick with a serious illness like cancer or clinical depression, he may not overcome his illness by practicing low-level chi kung. If he practices high-level chi kung, not only he can overcome his illness, but also be becomes healthier than he was before.
Very few people have the chance to practice high-level chi kung. This is another reason why so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits I describe.
Why did you sense the room to find out where we should face when you first came in?
— Rebecca, Dubai
I did so to find the best direction for the class to face so as to get the maximum benefits.
On a macro scale, facing east or south produces good results because of the orientation of heavenly bodies.
But on a micro scale of a room or hall, facing an open window with good scenery with the back to a wall produces good results. If there are many open windows, I often use my intuition to decide on the best direction.
One should also stand in such a way that the base of the room or hall is parallel to his standing position. If he stands at an angle, he would not get the best energy from the energy field of the room.
Is it necessary to practice Bone Marrow Cleansing according to the five levels of chi flow?
— Sifu Anthony Spinicchia, USA
Anthony knows the answer. It is kind of him to ask this question for the class.
There are five levels of chi flow, namely along the skin, in the flesh, in the meridians, in the organs and in the bone marrow. But it is not necessary to practice Bone Marrow Cleansing according to the five levels in that order or in any order.
In our case, it is usual to practice at only one level. We can practice at any level, according to our needs, aspirations or fancy.
Sometimes we may practice at more than one level. If we do so, we can operate at different levels in any order. For example, we may start at the meridian level, than move to the skin level.
Is our practice of Bone Marrow Cleansing the same as what Bodhidharma taught at the Shaolin Temple?
I think it is not the same.
There are no records of what and how Bodhidharma taught Bone Marrow Cleansing. Bone Marrow Cleansing referred to the skills Shaolin monks developed as a result of practicing Eighteen Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis.
There is a famous story of Bodhidharma asking his students to tell him their attainment after learning from him for some time.
One student reported that Bodhidharma's teaching was beyond words. Bodhidharma replied that this student's attainment was at the skin level. The student had an intellectual, not experiential, understanding of the teaching.
A second student said that Bodhidharma's teaching was like a majestic glimpse of Buddha's realm. Bodhidharam replied that the student's attainment was at the flesh level as it reflected an understanding that self was an illusion but phenomena were real.
A third student mentioned that the four "greats" of earth, water, wind, and air are empty, and the five sense organs are non-existent. Bodhidharma replied that this student's attainment was at the bone, as he understood that both self and phenomena are both unreal.
Hui Ke came forward, bowed but said nothing. Bodhidharma said that Hui Ke had received his bone marrow, as not only he realized that both self and phenomena are empty but his realization was beyond words and thoughts, which would transform the transcendental into the phenomenal.
Hence, Bodhidharma designated four levels -- skin, flesh, bone and marrow. Moreover, Bodhidharma's teaching of Bone Marrow Cleansing was the result of training. In other words, the monks first practiced Eighteen Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis. At their highest level, they attained Bone Marrow Cleansing.
Our Bone Marrow Cleansing is different in both these two points. We have five levels -- skin, flesh, meridians, organs and bone marrow. Our Bone Marrow Cleansing is the cause, not the result, of our training.
Why do we have five levels, and not four as in the case of Bodhidharma? It is because chi kung classics mention five levels of energy flow -- at the skin, flesh, meridians, organs and bone marrow. We wish to benefit from the "heart-attainment" of past masters as recorded in the classics.
In our case, Bone Marrow Cleansing is the cause, not the result, of our training. In other words, at the start we decide at what level we wish our energy flow to be. Operating at different levels cause us to have different results.
Why do we call this practice Bone Marrow Cleansing and attribute it to Bodhidharma if what we practice is probably not the same as what Bodhidharma taught?
We call it Bone Marrow Cleansing because this is what we do at the highest, or deepest, of the five levels where we let our energy flow. We attribute it to Bodhidharma to honour him.
Indeed, in the spirit of Bodhidharma's teaching, it is not important to us whether Bodhidharma exactly taught what we practice. What is important is that the practice brings us wonderful benefit.
Can you please explain the benefits one can get from practicing the five levels of energy flow in Bone Marrow Cleansing?
At the first level, energy flows along the skin.
The skin is the largest organ and the first defence against external attack. Energy flow at the skin level strength our wei qi, or protective energy.
It enhances blood circulation, giving us a rosy complexion, which was obvious after our practice just now, whereas better qi circulation gives us a glow.
It is an effective remedy against skin diseases. It promotes better exchange of energy between our body and the Cosmos. It makes our skin more perceptive, enhancing our sensitivity, especially at our arms.
At the second level, energy flows in the flesh or muscles. It makes us very strong. It is very good for martial art and sports.
While our skin is our first line of defence, our muscles protect our internal organs. Strong muscles also enable us to do work well.
Our muscle system is related to our gall bladder. Nourishing our muscles will strengthen our gall bladder. When our gall bladder is strong with energy, we become brave.
At the third level, energy flows in the meridians. When energy flows smoothly in our meridians we attain yin-yang harmony, which means we are healthy.
As our meridians flow to all parts of our body, it is an excellent way to clear blockage. Clearing blockage overcomes illness and pain.
When our meridians are charged with energy, we have vitality. The meridians feed energy to our dan tians, or energy fields. When a lot of energy is stored in our dan tians and our side meroidians, it provides us with a good supply of energy to flow for a long time. We have longevity.
At the fourth level, energy flows into our internal organs.
This enables us to overcome organic problems, as well as makes our organs function at their optimum.
There is a direct relationship between various organs and emotions, especially emotional problems caused in past lives. Massaging internal organs will clear such deep-rooted emotional problems.
At the fifth or deepest level, energy flows in the bone marrow.
This produces a lot of heat, which is comfortable, and is excellent for people in cold countries.
As the bone marrow flows into the brain, referred to as the sea of bone marrow, this enables the brain to function more effectively.
When there is a lot of energy in the bones, a person becomes upright physically as well as morally.
A practitioner can produce a lot of energy at the bone marrow level. This enables him to employ the tremendous energy to expand spiritually into the Cosmos.
My chi kung practice has been marvellous. Thank you sigung for coming here to teach us. But just now I felt I had a blockage in my head, and it was causing me some pain. Did I do something wrong?
— Patricia, Colombia
Congratulations for your good result.
Just now, you might or might not have done something wrong.
If you did not open your mouth enough, the rubbish that your chi flow had flushed out of your body and should be disposed off through your mouth, would float up to your head and caused you a headache.
If you intellectualized while having a chi flow, some chi might have locked up in your head and you might experience some pain.
In these cases, you did something wrong. But the adverse effect, manifested as pain in your head, can be rectified quite easily. Go into another chi flow, keep your mouth open and let chi clear the rubbish or blockage.
On the other hand, you might not have done anything wrong. The blockage was not new, it had been in your head already. Your chi flow was attempting to clear the blockage, and in the process caused you some good pain.
But why didn't you feel the pain before? It was because earlier your chi flow was not powerful enough, or because it attended to more urgent problems which you might not know.
You need not worry about or intellectualize on which one of the possibilities is true. Irrespective of whether you might or might not have done something wrong, whether the blockage was recently caused or long ago, go into another chi flow, open your mouth, and have the rubbish or blockage cleared.
Why did you teach Lifting the Sky in two different ways, first just the form, then with the breathing?
— Otto, Oman
I want to highlight the difference between gentle physical exercise and genuine chi kung. I want you to experience the difference, not merely talking about it.
In the first session we practiced Lifting the Sky at a purely physical level to learn the form of the exercise. I also requested advanced practitioners in the class not to have any chi flow.
In the second session we used Lifting the Sky to generate a chi flow. It is the chi flow which makes the exercise chi kung. If there is no chi flow, it is just gentle physical exercise.
There are many ways to generate a chi flow, and we used the most common method, namely regulating our breathing. But regulating our breathing alone is not chi kung. We can perform the physical form correctly and co-ordinate with correct breathing, yet we may not generate an energy flow.
The essential factor for chi flow is a chi kung state of mind, which we did right at the beginning of the course. Hence, in the first session when we did not regulate our breathing, I still asked our advanced practitioners purposely not to generate a chi flow because our advanced practitioners could generate a chi flow even without regulating their breathing. This might confuse our beginners.
Why do we practice chi kung for only 15 minutes and not more?
It is because our chi kung is very powerful. Practicing too long may produce too much energy for their physical body to handle. 15 minutes is a good guideline. Later, when you have become more advanced you may practice longer if you wish.
This applies to our school. Most other schools need about an hour to practice chi kung. Some even need two hours. But they only practice their chi kung patterns as gentle physical exercise.
We have more chi kung benefits practicing for 15 minutes than others practicing for one or two hours. In fact it does not matter for how long they practice. As they only practice gentle physical exercise, they will only obtain benefits of gentle physical exercise like relaxation, loosening joints and muscles. They will not obtain chi kung benefits like overcoming illness, good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys.
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