CHAPTER 6: A FEW QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION IN QIGONG TRAINING
All Shaolin Wahnam members must be abided by the 10 Shaolin Laws, which are a set of virtues
(This chapter is selected from Lin Hai, The Study of Nourishing Life Qigong, Guangdong Scientific and Technological Publication, 1984. It was published in Chinese.)
Training Qigong Must Train Virtues
When one trains qigong, he must also trains virtues. This is a very important consideration by those who train nourishing life qigong.
Throughout the ages, qigong masters paid great attention to the cultivation of thought and virtues. They used different words to express this important principle. It is because qigong by itself is an art of self-cultivation of body and heart (meaning mind), which is closely related to the cultivation of thought and intention.
When people are sick, it is related to their spiritual (but not religious) condition. In traditional Chinese medicine, the “seven emotions” constitute one set of the causes of sickness. (Editorial Note: The other set is “six evils” which are cold, heat, dryness, dampness, wind and fire.) Most of the chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, heart problems, and cancer are caused by these emotions.
Many Western doctors today regard that most diseases are caused by a disharmony of body and heart (which means mind). How do we prevent these seven emotions causing internal illness, and eliminate the disharmony of body and heart? This requires paying attention to cultivation of thought and intention. Qigong practitioners should focus on this aspect of cultivation. It is because of the following reasons.
Qigong is itself a self-training art to cultivate the body and the heart. It cultivates both the body and the heart. Cultivating the heart refers to cultivating a person’s spirit, intellect and intention. In the past it was referred to as “xiu xin yang xing” or “cultivating the heart and nourishing the spirit”. This includes training the intellect and thought. The aim is to enable practitioners to enter into a deep meditative state of mind, to enter a state of emptiness and nothingness so as to nourish “jing”, “qi” and “shen”, or form, energy and spirit.
To achieve this deep meditative state of mind, past masters developed various methods of entering silence, advocating spontaneity in purity and quiescence. A fundamental principle to attain goodness is cultivating the heart. Today an important aim why we practice qigong is to attain good health and vitality. If we wish to develop qigong as the science of life, we must cultivate the intellect and thought, and nourish high levels of virtues and emotions, with the full intention of serving people and being scientific.
Only in this way can we maintain being calm and peaceful, and attain high levels of qigong achievements. Otherwise, if we do not eliminate self-interest and countless thoughts, evil and selfish thoughts will arise, making it impossible to enter silence, leaving aside entering the realm of emptiness and nothingness.
In our practical experience during qigong practice, we realize that we train our intention, because training our intention not only enables us to generate energy but also enables our qigong training to progress to a deep level. If in qigong practice we do not pay importance to the training of intention, not only it will affect our progress, but also it will harm our energy and harm our spirit.
We can see that when practitioners are spiritually uncomfortable or when they are burdened by thoughts, their results will not be good, or they may not even proceed with their practice. To advanced qigong practitioners, it is more important to pay attention to cultivation of intention, to raise the levels of their virtues. It is because they can attain the unity of intention and energy, using intention to lead energy and to circulate energy, and accomplish the ability of when intention arrive energy will arrive.
On the other hand, we also observe that qigong masters who do not pay attention to the importance of intention, when they are angry, their internal energy shoots out from the energy points of their eyes, head, hands and legs, causing harm to other people, though this may be unintentional, affecting what is known as “abundant energy subduing people”.
Also there are qigong masters when they are angry, cause their “energy to rise to the crown of their head”, causing harm to themselves. This is not because they suffer from illness, but because of their narrow chest cavity (which means they are petty in their feeling), easily becoming angry, easily causing a stroke in their head.
This shows that qigong practitioners must strengthen their training of intellect and thought, must have “wide chest cavity and harmonious energy” (meaning that they are generous in their feeling and full of vitality), and possess the high moral values of being kind to other people. In everything they can let go, efficient in dealing with various circumstances, solve all sorts of dilemma, and eliminate all forms of worry. In this way they can attain a state of “heart calm energy harmonious” (which means they are relaxed yet full of vitality), and accomplish high levels of qigong practice. This is a foremost consideration in qigong training.
Correct Observation of Various Symptoms
A practitioner often experiences various symptoms in his self-cultivation of body and heart during qigong training regarding his physiological and reflective behaviour. Some students due to their lack of common qigong knowledge often fail to understand various symptoms during qigong training, and sometimes wrongly think that they have deviations, and are afraid to continue their training, thus stopping halfway.
Thus it is important to analyse the various symptoms during qigong training so as to observe them correctly and handle them appropriately. This is another important consideration in qigong training. What symptoms during qigong training should be correctly observed? The following are some important symptoms.
Arresting Energy or Deviation?
Arresting energy refers to a clear experience of energy. Qigong students often have this sensation. Some students feel that they are very comfortable during qigong training. They feel their abdomen warm and slightly swelling. This sensation become more noticeable as they progress. The sensation gradually extends to their hui yin energy point. (Editorial Note: The hui yin energy point is found between the external sex organ and the anus.)
Some students may have sensations of being sour, numb, warm or cool. Some may feel as if insects crawl over their skin. Some feel pain at the site of their illness or injury. Those who lack qigong knowledge may wrongly think that these are symptoms of deviation. Actually these are not deviation symptoms but symptoms that they have practiced correctly. It is a sign of arresting energy.
In other words, through cultivating body, energy and heart (which means spirit) during qigong training, vital energy is focused at the dan tian (which means abdominal energy field). When this vital energy is activated, it circulates through the meridian system (which is a system of pathways through which energy circulates). This may manifest the above symptoms, like sensations of sourness, numbness, coolness, warmth, heaviness, swelling, pain and vibration, which are collectively known as “eight sensations”.
Regarding feeling of pain at the oven of sickness (that is the site of sickness or injury), this is because of energy blockage at the site. As the generated energy cannot flow through this meridian, the manifestation of vital energy in the body increases its strength of flow, resulting in “pain when there is blockage of energy flow”.
By continuing to practice qigong, when the energy blockage at the oven of sickness is cleared, the result will be “no pain when energy is flowing through smoothly”. Thus, the feeling of pain is a temporary symptom, and is not a sign of deviation.
After practicing qigong for some time, some practitioners may feel a surge of energy rushing up to the head at the bai hui energy point. (Editorial Note: The bai hui energy point is located at the crown of the head.) They may suddenly hear a loud sound, which may frighten them, thinking that it is deviation.
Actually when qigong training has reached a certain level, energy may flow up the head resulting in a loud sound like the roar of thunder. This is vital energy flowing along the path of the Small Universe. (Editorial Note: The Small Universe is an advanced qigong method where vital energy circulates round the body continuously along the ren mai, or conceptual meridian in front of the body, and the du mai, or governing meridian at the back of the body.)
When vital energy is activated at the dan tian (energy field at the abdomen), it flows down part of the ren mai, or conceptual meridian, to the hui yin energy point (near the anus), then up the du mai, or governing meridian, at the back of the body. It is not easy for the vital energy to flow through the yu jing energy point (at the back of the neck) and the bai hui energy point (at the crown of the head), but if it does, it may create the roaring thunder symptom. This is an admirable achievement.
One should not chase after the Small Universe. Let the Small Universe happen naturally or be attained from special training methods. Chasing after it may result in deviation.
Mental Scenery or Monsters Entering?
Many practitioners after practicing qigong to a certain level, may see various mental scenes when they have entered silence, like birds and animals, beautiful flowers and strange grasses, snow capped mountain or forest, streams, lakes and oceans, as well as humans they do not know. They are puzzled and surprised, and do not understand what has happened. Some may be frightened, thinking that “fire has escaped and monsters have entered” (which is a figurative expression meaning serious deviation.)
Actually this is not deviation, but mental illusions. It is a natural progression in qigong training. Some of these illusions are related to the practitioners’ emotions or sickness. But it is alright. There is no need for puzzlement or fear. If you ignore them, they will eventually disappear. On the other hand, if these illusions are regarded as deviations, and practitioners becoming more afraid whenever they come to mind, not only the illusions will not disappear, they can cause puzzlement, create fear in the heart, generate wild thoughts, and become serious deviations.
Hence, we have to view these symptoms scientifically. According to modern science, these symptoms are a reaction of mental impulses. In other words, the brain contains various mental impulses of internal and external environment of the past, including what is known in traditional Chinese medicine as “seven emotions that can cause internal injury”. At normal times when the brain is awake, these mental impulses do not easily appear. During qigong practice when practitioners have entered into a deep level of mediation, such mental impulses may appear readily.
It is similar to dreaming when one is asleep, but not deeply asleep. The difference is that dreams occur when one is asleep but these illusions occur when practitioners have entered silence deeply. Understanding the reason, when these illusions appear, practitioners should not be attached of them, and they will gradually disappear.
Dispelling Bad Energy or Energy Escaping?
When practitioners have reached a certain level of qigong attainment, they may feel cool energy coming out from their hands, legs or bai hui energy point. Some may think it is energy escaping due to deviation. Some may stop their qigong training.
Actually, this is not deviation. This is the result of after having vital energy being increased and circulated due to qigong training, in the first stage of self-cultivation to harmonize bodily functions, qigong practitioners expel cold energy or sick energy from their body. This is a good sign.
Only when cold energy or sick energy is expelled, can a person overcome illness and strengthen his vitality. For example, we witnessed a patient who had suffered high blood pressure for many years. After practicing qigong for some time, his high blood pressure was overcome. During his training he felt cold energy emitting from his lao gong energy points (which are located in the middle of his palms), and thought that this was deviation. So he stopped his qigong practice.
Later he learned the technique of “holding fist”, i.e. grasping his two hands into fists, to prevent energy escaping. So he tried to practice this technique. Energy did not escape from his palms but his blood pressure became high. He also frequently suffered from dizziness and swelling of his head. He did not know what to do.
We explained to him that his was not deviation, and not energy escaping. So he resumed his qigong training. Gradually his blood pressure became normal, and eventually there was no energy escaping. He then reached a high level of qigong practice.
Questions that Should be Considered
After understanding the basic philosophy and techniques of qigong, during the process of training, in order that we get the best benefits and avoid deviation, we should consider the following questions.
1. Qigong Trains Energy
In qigong we train energy. First we have to take in the energy in the air. Hence, we should practice outside instead of indoors as the air outside is fresher.
It is best to train in the early morning in the woods with a lot of trees around where there is a lot of fresh energy, and we can breathe in a lot of fresh air. Where the air is polluted, when the sun is hot, it is not suitable to practice qigong. It is also not suitable to sit, stand or lie down where the wind is strong so as to avoid contacting influenza.
2. Some Preliminary Work
Before qigong training, it is necessary to perform some preliminary work. Take a few seconds to rest the mind and the body, so that the mind and the body are can move from an agitated to a relaxed state. Before training, go to the toilet to remove the bowels and water, loosen the belt, take off the watch and spectacles to enable smooth flow of energy.
3. Tongue Touching Palate
During qigong training, generally place the tip of the tongue at the top of the palate. It was called “bridge the gap” in the past to enable a smooth flow of energy between the ren meridian and the du meridian. It also encourages the increase of saliva, which not only shows that qigong training is successful but also improve appetite and digestion.
People in the past paid much attention to this point. They pointed out, “The mouth generates more saliva. When the saliva is in the heart, it turns into blood. When the saliva is in the liver, it brightens the eyes. When the saliva is in the lungs, it helps energy. When the saliva is in the spleen, it produces digestive juices. When the saliva is in the kidneys, it produces sperm.“ Hence, when saliva becomes plentiful during qigong training, do not spit it out, but use intention to swallow it into the abdominal dan tian.
(Editorial Note: Touching the palate with the tip of the tongue is the view of the author of this writing, and is reproduced faithfully. In some styles of qigong, it is not necessary to touch the palate with the tongue.)
4. Prevent from Sleeping
Practitioners must prevent themselves from being sleepy during their qigong training. When practitioners train qigong well, they may enter into a deep state of meditation, but they are still awake and conscious of the surrounding. If they show any signs of sleepiness, they can gently open their eyes to show a slit of light, or temporary open their eyes to look at the environment, This will prevent sleepiness.
5. Heat and Sweating
Some practitioners may exhibit heat and begin sweating. Exhibiting heat is due to the speeding up of the movement of their internal energy. It is a good symptom. It there is too much sweating, the practitioners can shorten their training time, and nourish their energy.
6. Some Deviations
Some practitioners due to faulty techniques, like not performing their posture, intention or breathing correctly, may have deviations. They feel uncomfortable, like having dizziness, headache, pressure on their chest, speedy energy flow, and energy flowing wrongly. Hence, we believe that students should learn qigong from experienced teachers so that the students can quickly comprehend qigong principles and avoid deviation.
7. Time of Practice
At what time during the day should one practice qigong? Masters in the past crystallized their rich experiences for us. Over 2000 years ago, the Inner Classic of Medicine pointed out, “Those who have suffered long from kidney diseases, should practice at mao period (early morning from 3 to 5 o’clock), facing south, be quiescent and not thinking of anything, and stop breathing for 7 times.” This shows the time and direction of qigong practice.
Qigong practitioners of ancient time discovered through their years of direct experience that the amount and direction of a person’s energy and blood flow were closely related to the four seasons as well as climatic and weather changes. In a day of 24 hours, the energy flow in the 12 main meridians is sometimes strong and sometimes weak. According to this system, practitioners would have better result if they practice qigong when the energy flow is strong.
According to the “Theory of Noon and Midnight Energy Flow” of traditional Chinese medicine, the energy flow at the lung meridian is most powerful during the mao period (3 am to 5 am). As “the lungs control energy”, and “the lungs generate energy flow in hundreds of meridians”, practicing qigong at this time is most favourable.
People in the past also mentioned that “the zi period” (from 11 pm to 1 am) and the wu period (from 11 am to 1 pm) are suitable for qigong training. Of course, this does not mean that practicing qigong at other times is not good. One can practice qigong at any time of the day. Practicing qigong at night before going to bed is favourable. (Editorial Note: Some schools discourage qigong practice at noon time.)
8. Self-Manifested Qi Movement
Is the occurrence of self-manifested qi movement during qigong practice good or bad? When practitioners have reached a certain level of development, due to the manifestation of vital energy inside their body, it may cause bodily parts inside the body to move, resulting in movement of bodily parts outside the body. This is the manifestation of “extreme quiescence generates movement.” The external movement is spontaneous and natural.
External movement and internal movement are different. Internal movement of energy flow follows the pathway of meridians. External movement occurs at the bone and tendons or the muscles and skin levels. Internal movement may express out as external movement. In the same way, external movement may lead internal movement. Because they occur spontaneously, external movement and internal movement are self-manifested. They are symptoms of success qigong practice.
9. Internal Scenery
What is internal scenery? Internal scenery was regarded in the past as “reverse viewing of internal reflection.” It is closing the eyes and viewing a particular part of the body, meridian or energy point.
The internal viewing of Taoist masters refers to the eyes viewing the nose and the navel in one line resulting in internal view. When practitioners focus their intention at their dan tian, they internally view their dan tian, attaining a unity of intention and internal viewing. It promotes entering silence, and develops the focus or activation of vital energy at the dan tian.
Those who train such an art must not be excessive, otherwise it may result in “excessive intention results in fire”, which can lead to deviation.
10, Eyes Seeing Nose
What benefit can be obtained in qigong training by observing the nose or the toes with the eyes? In observing the tip of the nose, practitioners open their eyes slightly allowing a slit of light to observe the tip of the nose. This helps to focus thought, and enter silence. It also prevents feelings of fainting or sleepiness.
Observing the tip of the nose is a qigong technique, and may not be suitable to every student. Some students when observing the tip of the nose may feel fainting, headache and swelling of eyes. For these students, the technique is not suitable. It is also not suitable for patients with high blood pressure. They could change to focusing on the dan tian or observing yong quan energy points at the soles of the feet. This may help to focus thought and help entering silence. It also helps vital energy to flow to the lower body.
For patients with rising of liver yang energy, high blood pressure, and nervous weakness, as well as for those who employ intention and breathing excessively resulting in dizziness, headache, pressure on the chest, swelling of the stomach, observing yong quan energy points is an effective way to overcome deviation.
11. Irrelevant Thoughts
Some practitioners have mentioned that during qigong training they have many irrelevant thoughts and cannot relax. What should they do? This is a problem faced my many beginning students when they practice qigong. Qigong masters throughout the centuries have provided the following remedial methods.
Observe the tip of the nose or the tip of the toes with the eyes. Gently move the tongue up and down during breathing, count the breath from one to a thousand, listen to the sounds of breathing, silently recite a poem, a song or a phrase, internally view a part of the body, recall a beautiful scene, perform the technique of loosening, recite the word ‘relaxation’, recall some light and happy memories, and employ the technique of seven times dan tian breathing to enter silence.
The above are methods to eliminate countless irrelevant thoughts. Practitioners can choose those that are suitable for their circumstances. Following the methods result in good results.
12. Loud Sound
During practice, when suddenly there is a loud sound, or practitioners experience some frightening illusions, what should they do. They should ignore the disturbances, not to think of them, and continue with their training. But if after being exposed to the fright, the practitioners become agitated and uncomfortable, they should stop their training. They should not be afraid, and not focus on the frightful incident. When they have recovered from the negative emotions, they can continue their training.
During the training period, how should practitioners handle their sex life? This is an important question during qigong training. Past masters paid much attention to this topic. They recommended that practitioners should abstain from sex for 100 days when they start their qigong training.
Such an advice has good reasons. Each person should deal with the topic according to his circumstances. For those who are weak, they should stop their sexual activities during qigong practice. If their bodily conditions permit, they should reduce their sexual activities as much as possible so as to attain good results in their qigong training.
(Editorial Note: The advice is particularly for those who are sick and weak. Practitioners who are healthy and strong may have the luxury of enjoying their sex life with willing partners who also enjoy it, during the time they practice qigong. They should aim at moderation. Anything excessive, including sex, is harmful.)
14. Wet Dreams
Some young people training qigong may have nocturnal emissions, commonly known as wet dreams. This is a normal situation. But if nocturnal emissions occur frequently, like 2 or 3 times a week or every night, then the situation should be corrected.
One way of correcting the occurrence of nocturnal emissions is to change focusing at the abdominal dan tian during qigong training to focusing at the dan zhong energy point (located at the solar plexus) or at the yong quan energy points (located at the soles of the feet).
Another way of correction is after completing each qigong training, gently focus at the bai hui energy point (located at the top of the head), then breathe in and lift up the anus about 7 to 9 times. Other times after urinating or disposing the bowels, perform the same procedure of breathing in and lifting the anus about 7 to 9 times.
A third way is as follows. Rub both palms to let them become warm. With one hand hold the testicles, and with the other hand gently rub the abdominal dan tian from below upwards about 36 times. Then change hands to repeat the procedure. This method is not only effective for nocturnal emissions but also for erection failure and premature ejection.
15. Women’s Menstruation
When women have their Menstruation period, it is generally alright for them to continue their qigong practice. Some female practitioners may have changes in their menstruation period during qigong training, like their period is shortened, lengthened, becomes lighter or heavier. This is due to their focusing on their dan tian while training. Performing abdominal breathing where their womb may be constricted, can also cause this situation.
To prevent too much bleeding during the menstruation period, the following methods may be adopted. One method is changing the point of focus during qigong training. Instead of focusing on the dan tian, female practitioners can focus on the tan zhong energy point (which is at the solar plexus.)
Another way is to nourish rather than to train. To nourish means to gently focus; and to train means to practice the breathing exercise or the qigong techniques. Female practitioners may perform more nourishing and less training, or just nourishing and no training. They can gently hold their chest with their two hands, and gently focus on their tan xhong energy point (located at their solar plexus).
If there is too much bleeding during their menstruation period, female practitioners can stop their training for a few days, and resume their training after their menstruation. According to my experience, employing the above methods before their menstruation period can prevent lengthening of their menstruation or prevent their bleeding being excessive.
16. Focusing on Dan Tian
In qigong training, practitioners focus on the abdominal dan tian (an energy field about two or three inches below the navel). Can they focus on other energy points?
Focusing on dan tian helps to focus various thoughts at one point, eliminate irrelevant thoughts, and enable the mind to enter silence. It also helps to realize abdominal breathing, as well as accumulate internal energy flow and enable energy to circulate all over the body.
Besides the abdominal dan tian, practitioners can also focus on the middle dan tian (which is the middle energy field located at the solar plexus). They can also focus on other energy points or illness ovens (which means the sites of various types of illness).
For example, those who suffer from high blood pressure, weakness of the nervous system, insomnia and illness due to rising yang energy from the liver, can focus at the yong quan energy points (found at the soles of their feet). Those suffering from heart problems can focus at nei guan and lao gong energy points (located at the wrist and the centre of the palm). Those who suffer from disorders of the digestive system can focus at zhu san li or gong sun energy points (located at the leg).
Where to place the focus depends on the diseases and personal factors of the patients. However, generally for overcoming illness, maintaining health and promoting longevity, it is best to focus at the abdominal dan tian.
17. Qigong Training and Meal Times
It is advisable to practice qigong before or after meals? Some people believe that it is inadvisable to practice qigong before or after meals. This may be valid for some forms of qigong, but for qigong that nourishes life, it is not so.
We believe that one can train qigong before and after meals. There are many types of qigong, and for quiescent-nourishing qigong, it is most suitable to train before and after meals.
In Quiescent-Nourishing Six-Step Qigong, before or after meals, sit on a chair or lie on a bed, place both hands on the abdomen, relax the whole body, the mind is quiescent, gently think of the abdominal dan tian, and naturally and comfortably nourish it. In this way, not only the mind is able to have some rest, it can eliminate fatigue, and disperse impulses of agitation that resulted from our daily work, and has the functions of circulating energy and blood.
When it is trained before meals, it enables our spleen and stomach to derive nourishment from our energy and blood, increase their functions, and prevent and cure sickness. When it is trained after meals, it helps the digestion of the spleen and stomach, and abstract nourishment form food and drinks. Hence, training such qigong before or after meals brings great benefits in nourishing life and strengthening body.
18. Practicing in Forest
Is practicing qigong in forest effective for curing illness and strengthening body? Generally speaking, practicing qigong in a bamboo forest brings better results. Early in the morning when the sun rises and shines on the bamboo forest, the air is rich in oxygen. At this time when the bamboos are in full splendour, and the environment is clean and quiescent, it is conducive for the heart to be pure and the mind to be focused, and it is easy to enter silence. In such an environment, it is excellent for those with heart problems and weakness of the nervous system.
Moreover, different trees have different qualities of energy. The result of qigong training is also different. The energy of some trees is warm and harmonious, pure and aplenty, making it easy to have a strong energy sensation. It is easier to arrest energy and feel comfortable practicing qigong beneath such trees. It is suitable for those whose body is weak and is afraid of cold.
The energy of some trees are light and refreshing, enabling people to be mentally fresh. Such trees are suitable for those suffering from insufficient ying (where the structure of their internal organs is weak), like high blood pressure patients.
The energy of some trees is gentle and soft, making people comfortable. These trees are suitable for patients suffering from swelling of joints and chronic diseases.
But the energy of some trees is not harmonious. It may cause headache and unpleasant feelings in practitioners. Hence, it is not suitable to practice qigong beneath these trees.
Self-Manifested Qi Movement