Modern science tells us that our Universe started with the primordial “Big Bang” and everything thereafter is determined by the tendency towards chaos. In ancient Chinese philosophy, the energy that fueled the explosion and expanded the universe is the “universal Qi”.
Qi and Qigong were well understood and practiced in ancient China. The great Yellow Emperor himself was a Qigong Master. All the emperors depended on Qigong Masters to take care of their health, as many of the masters were also skilled physicians and herbalists who would combine the remedies with their healing Qi. Beyond health, they knew that Qi governs the flow of life, and of all activities in the Universe. The science of Feng Shui is rooted in the understanding of this.
At about the time of the Buddha ( circa 500 BCE ), a Chinese Master by the name of Guan Zi described the universal Qi – how it operates and how it interacts with the creatures on earth. Then, about 700 years later ( circa 200 CE ), the Taoist Master Wei Bo-Yang described in startling scientific detail the primeval state of the universe : that it was a chaotic commotion of matter and Qi, and that it was Qi that made it possible for life to emerge from the inanimate matter. Hence, every living thing depends on Qi. He even described how inter-stellar activities affect our lives, something we are only able to confirm quite recently.
The Earth is a powerhouse of energy. Our continents are the exposed parts of huge tectonic plates that slide on molten rock which form the deeper layers of the Earth’s core. Where these plates meet are the volatile “faults” which form among the most dangerous areas on Earth. The “Ring of Fire” that passes through many countries in the Pacific Ocean is the site of many devastating earthquakes, as well as volcanic eruptions that spit out the molten rocks in the form of scorching-hot lava. Sudden movements of these overlapping plates cause violent earthquakes, and if these happen below the ocean, tsunamis emerge.
The immense Qi or potential energy trapped in the molten rocks beneath us will certainly unleash its fury in many more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Since there is no way that we can tame this angry Qi, let us hope modern science and technology will allow us to be more prepared for such catastrophes so that the sufferings, deaths and destructions can be minimized.
So the nature of the universe is such that Qi is continually pervading in a random, chaotic manner and the Qi that governs every star and every planet determines what happens there.
While we cannot tame the Earth’s Qi, we can certainly do so for the Qi within us. If we don’t, then we allow the Qi to act in chaos and not do its work of nourishing and revitalizing our cells and our organs. Qigong is thus the art and science of harnessing and controlling this chaotic life-energy. Once you are able to take charge of the Qi, the benefits are manifold. You get good health ( including sexual health ), fitness, longevity, self-defence capabilities, and you may even be able to heal others. The highest levels of Qigong training also give you patience, serenity and wisdom.
What Qi can do internally and externally was amply demonstrated by the Shaolin Kung Fu Masters recently when they performed at their sell-out shows. While those stunts and feats were mainly exhibitions of the power of “hard” qi ( necessary for martial-arts prowess ), what is more valuable to us all is the harnessing of “soft” Qi to improve our health and heal diseases. Although you may be impressed by the amazing strength and stamina made possible by “hard” Qi training, it is the “soft” Qi that will give you long and healthy lives.
How do we tame Qi? Start by imagining the Qi as a small ball of light within you. Start with the ball floating in the region about three finger-breadths below your belly-button and about three finger-breadths inside your lower abdomen. That is your main Qi-energy centre or lower Dan Tien. Relax, be calm and breathe gently through your nose, and keep the tip of your tongue touching the upper palate just behind the teeth at all times.
Next, with your imagination, bring the Qi upwards towards your sternum, then further up to your throat. Then bring it up to your lower jaw to cross over to the upper jaw via the tongue-bridge. From there move the Qi to the “third eye” in between your eyebrows, and finally across your forehead to the highest point or crown area. Now “feed” your brain with the energy emanating from this ball.
If you want to have healthy hair, send the Qi to your scalp to nourish all your hair follicles. It helps to look upwards ( as if you’re trying to look at your own scalp ) while doing this to reinforce the upward movement of Qi. This is one simple beginner’s Qigong exercise. There are thousands of other exercises devised by many masters which give different health benefits. If you want these benefits, then learn from a good Qigong master. If you already practice meditation, then learning Qigong will be easy as you already know how to focus your mind.
Don’t worry if you have trouble imagining, but if you’re good, you should be able to “feel” the Qi moving. Feeling the Qi is easiest when doing the arm exercises ( described in earlier articles ) because our hands are the most sensitive to the sensations Qi cause. Some describe this sensation as magnetic, or a mild electric current. It is really difficult to describe it accurately. It is something you must feel yourself to appreciate.
When charged with Qi, some beginners may experience violent involuntary movements when attempting to control the Qi. This is the chaotic Qi showing its presence. This usually happens when there are “blockages” in the channels or meridians that Qi flows through. Sometimes the blocked Qi immobilizes the limbs or even the whole body. It is therefore wise to learn Qigong from a good teacher who knows how to unblock and dissipate the Qi in such situations.
Once you are in command of Qi, the feeling is so enjoyable. The natural flow is always calming, and this is reflected in the graceful and smooth movements of healing Qigong exercises.
In Chinese mythology, deities were not only in charge of the heavenly bodies, but were also in charge of the different forms of Qi that affect the different organs. This is also related to the different colours and sounds governing these organs. The “Healing Sounds” exercise ( my favourite Healing Tao exercise ) has been found to be an excellent whole-brain genius-training exercise for children. This was discovered by the Japanese genius-training teacher who attended our last retreat at Lucky Valley. Through these exercises, the children will get to practice their imagination/visualization; do Qi-enhancing breathing and movements; know and identify the different organs; and have fun making the different sounds. This exercise is now part of the syllabus!
I look forward to doing Qigong facing the magnificent sunrise; meditating over the windy lake; and of course doing the Healing Sounds exercise in the Cosmic Pyramid at Lucky Valley when I bring the next group there in mid-January. Those of you who cannot join me this time may be able to join me in a future Qigong adventure trip to Fantasy Island. And where is this Fantasy Island will be revealed in the next episode. It’s not Bali and definitely not Phi Phi Island. It’s very much closer to home…