I often teach that Tai Chi is Yoga in motion, and that Qigong is Tai Chi in action. But the beginning of them all is in stillness.
It is in our stillness that we can appreciate motion; in our silence that we can enjoy the sweet murmurings of nature; and in our meditation that we discover ourselves. Qigong begins with stillness, silence, and being aware of the self – the posture, the breath, the energy centres and the energy channels. It is for this reason that beginners are asked to close their eyes so that they are not distracted, as they learn to be fully aware of their inner self.
With practice, this awareness becomes second nature, and the student can become connected with the surroundings, without losing the awareness of self. This is the same discipline that meditation and spiritual practitioners go through, with perhaps certain mantras and prayers becoming part of the practice. Therefore, those who are used to meditation ( for health or spiritual reasons ) will find it easy to practice Qigong.
FROM WU CHI TO TAI CHI
According to the teachings of the Tao, the Universe began as a void, with nothing to see, feel, hear, taste or smell. But there was the primordial formless energy/matter – the Tao. That was the state of Wu Chi, the state of stillness, with no differentiation, no separation, and no extremes.
Then somehow the Tao “moved” and underwent a drastic transformation, and separated into its Yin and Yang components, and into its energy and matter components. From that the physical world was created, and all the different and complementary physical characteristics of the Universe came into being. This is the state of Tai Chi – the state of separation, differentiation, and extremes. Everything now has Yin or Yang character: different, but complementary.
However, this separation is desirable and beneficial if the complementary parts are balanced and in harmony. Extreme differences or gross imbalances are undesirable and destructive.
This separation is also essential for our existence to be meaningful. Only now can the different states be appreciated by our senses.
Unfortunately, the balanced harmonious state does not always exist, and we are often faced with difficult situations in life. This is reflected in our inappropriate emotions, desires, fears, thoughts and actions.
FROM TAI CHI TO CHI KUNG (QIGONG)
From the state of nothingness, came chaos. The Universe began with a bang that resulted in extremes of heat, light, expansion, and energy. If the process continued to be disorderly, nothing useful may come out of it. So what happened was a gradual, intelligent evolution of galaxies, solar systems, planets and moons; and on at least one of these celestial bodies – living organisms. All this is possible only through intelligent condensation of matter in an orderly manner. Chaos, if perpetuated, will never ever result in order and precision. This is the science of Qigong – to tame the otherwise disorderly energy that initiates and sustains life ( just as the Tao initiated and sustains the Universe ). The art is in how it is done.
WU CHI – THE POWER OF STILLNESS
The Wu Chi Qigong exercise is a simple yet powerful exercise that brings the above history into action.
The Wu Chi posture, although simple, is only practiced after the student has had sufficient practice with the basic exercises, and is already familiar with Qi itself.
The Wu Chi exercise begins with standing in the basic Qigong stance, with relaxed abdominal breathing ( see www.superqigong.com for description ) and emptying the mind of all cares and awareness. The mind is emptied of everything. Forget that you even exist. Breathe quietly and don’t even let your breathing awaken you from this nothingness.
Then the hands are brought about 10cm forwards, with the palms facing backwards. When the arms move, start being aware of your breath, your organs, your energy centres, and your meridians. Be aware of your surroundings which are separate from you.
After the correct posture is attained, the mind continues to be focused on the breath, or posture, or the Dan Tien ( energy centre below the belly-button ). The body is relaxed, until a feeling of calmness pervades. Be still but fully aware for as long as you feel comfortable.
The Wu Chi posture is maintained for several minutes, and this duration is gradually increased until it is possible to do it even for several hours. The novice will find it difficult to remain in this Qigong stance for long, as the knees have to remain bent throughout the exercise.
The Wu Chi exercise is aimed at training to become still and in total control of everything. Being in the Qigong stance means you are fully aware of what your limbs are doing. Qigong breathing is always conscious, relaxed abdominal breathing ( except in certain exercises ), so you are aware of the movements of your chest and abdomen, and the organs around them. Next, try to be aware of your heartbeat, and hence your heart.
If you are familiar with the energy centres ( chakras ), you can visualize them all like spinning coloured wheels.
If you know the main energy channels ( meridians ), visualize brilliant light traveling through them and nourishing the various organs that they traverse.
Finally, gracefully change into the different postures that are beneficial for your mind and your health ( to be described in future articles; for now just remain still ). Smile and enjoy the energy flow as you change from stillness to graceful movements. End the exercise by returning to the basic stand and storing your energy into the Dan Tien.
The Wu Chi exercise not only gets the Qi charged up and flowing, it is also excellent for fighting stress, to practice patience, and to achieve tranquility. This exercise is used by Qigong and Kung Fu masters to train their students to be calm, patient, and always in control of the situation.
Physically, this exercise is beneficial for the leg muscles ( as the knees are always bent ); the bones ( weight-bearing throughout the exercise ); lungs ( abdominal breathing is efficient and improves oxygen uptake ) and heart ( being relaxed, and slow breathing reduce blood pressure and heart rate ).
DANCE OF THE WU CHI MASTERS
If you practice Qigong consistently, you would probably be in command of Qi, and the Wu Chi exercise will be most enjoyable. After the stillness, comes movement. After the postures, the dancing starts.
If you have mastered Qi, you can become a Wu Chi dancer. Command the Qi to flow and execute movements that will open your meridians and nourish your vital organs in the most graceful manner.
Once the Qi flows, it will gently sway and rock your body into graceful and energetic sequences that are unpredictable, but always enjoyable. Often, the movements mimic the semi-rotating halves of the Tai Chi symbol. The Wu Chi posture becomes the Wu Chi dance. Enjoy!