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By Kenneth S. Cohen
Published by Wellspring/Ballantine on 1999-03-09
ART, BODY, MIND and SPIRIT, HEALTH and FITNESS, SELF-HELP, FAMILY and RELATIONSHIPS, SCIENCE, RELIGION
Qigong is an integrated mind-body healing method that has been practiced with remarkable results in China for thousands of years. The Chinese have long treasured qigong for its effectiveness both in healing and in preventing disease, and more recently they have used it in conjunction with modern medicine to cure cancer, immune system disorders, and other life-threatening conditions. Now in this fascinating, comprehensive volume, renowned qigong master and China scholar Kenneth S. Cohen explains how you too can integrate qigong into your life–and harness the healing power that will help your mind and body achieve the harmony of true health.
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"A DEFINITIVE VOLUME... The most comprehensive book on the Chinese healing art, qigong. Related to t'ai chi, qigong is a series of movements designed to bring qi or life-force into the body and encourage it toflowwithout blockage The illustrated section of exercises [Cohen] includes shows how qigong can be used for emotional and spiritual as well as physical healing/' —Patricia Monaghan American Library Association "Ken Cohen's treatment of the ancient healing and self-healing art of qigong represents the 'gold standard' against which works on other therapeutic methods might well be measured." —Christopher Bird Coauthor of The Secret Life of Plants and Secrets of the Soil "Ken Cohen is a rare combination of expert practitioner, gifted scholar, and lucid writer. He manages to convey not only the techniques of qigong, but its wisdom. I highly recommend The Way of Qigong for yourself and for those you care about." —Elmer Green, Ph.D. Author of Beyond Biofeedback "Ken Cohen's mastery of qigong, rooted in a deep understanding of Chinese language and culture, gives him an extraordinary ability to express qigong from the perspectives of East and West. The Way of Qigong isfilledwith fresh insight and original scholarship. To say that I was amazed by this monumental work would be an understatement!" —Madame Chu Xing-yan Professor of Linguistics Beijing Academy of Music Please turn the page for mere reviews* • * •
"THE BEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE BOOK ON QIGONG WRITTEN. A must for anyone interested in Chinese medicine or Chinese energy heal* ing." —Wayne B. Jonas, M.D. "The concept of qi, prana, or life energy is universal and transcends every culture in the world. The Way of Qigong is indeed a remarkable encyclopedia. For those interested in optimal health, Ken Cohen's book allows you an op* portunity not only to work with life energy, but to play with it." —C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. Founding President American Holistic Medical Association "A feast of information on the history, theory, and practice of this potent therapy, all in highly digestible bites, flavored with personal experiences and humor. The insights of the West extend and enrich the teachings of the East, particularly in Cohen's sensitivity to psychological issues which are often handled in a very limited way in other works.... Highly recommended for professionals and lay persons who wish to understand this potent healing practice." —Daniel J. Benor, M.D. Psychiatrist Author of Healing Research, Vol. HV
The Way of Qigong THE ART AND SCIENCE OF CHINESE ENERGY HEALING Kenneth S. Cohen WITH A FOREWORD BY LARRY DOSSEY, M.D. BALLANTINE BOOKS NEW YORK
Ballantine Book Published by The Random House Publishing Group Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as "unsold and destroyed" and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it. Copyright © 1997 by Kenneth S. Cohen Foreword copyright © 1997 by Larry Dossey, M.D. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. www.ballantinebooks.com Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-96946 ISBN 0-345-42109-4 Manufactured in the United States of America Cover design by Jennifer Blanc Illustrations by Bonnie ]. Curnock First Hardcover Edition: April 1997 First Trade Paperback Edition: March 1999 9 10
To my teachers and colleagues. And to my continuing teachers: my students.
The faith in the order of nature which has made possible the growth of science is a particular example of a deeper faith. This faith cannot be justified by any inductive generalisation* It springs from direct inspection of the nature of things as disclosed in our immediate present experience. ...To experience this faith is to know that in being ourselves we are more than ourselves: to know that our experience, dim and fragmentary as it is, yet sounds the utmost depths of reality.... —ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD
Contents Acknowledgments xi Foreword by Larry Dossey, M.D. xiv The Pronunciation of Chinese Words xvii SECTION I: WHAT IS QIGONG? 1. What Is Qigong? 3 2. Roots and Branches: The History of Qigong 12 3. The Three Treasures: A Chinese Model of Body Energy 30 4 Qigong Science: Correlates of Healing Energy 42 5. Does It Really Work? The Experimental Evidence 57 SECTION II: QIGONG BASICS 6. The Time and Place of Practice 79 7. The Posture of Power 86 8. Fang Song Gong: The Art of Relaxation 97 9. Healthy Breathing 111 SECTION III: THE WAY OF HEALING 10. Standing Like a Tree 133 11. Qigong Meditation 148
Contents 12. Active Qigong 184 13. An-Mo Gong: Self-Healing Massage 219 14. The Energy of the Emotions 223 15. External Qi Healing: Chinese Therapeutic Touch 242 16. The Complete Qigong Workout 265 17. Benefits and Dangers of Qigong 270 SECTION IV: QIGONG LIFESTYLE 18. The Dao of Diet 281 19. Have a Cup of Tea! 308 20. The Art of Clouds and Rain 317 21. Closing the Circle: Signs of Mastery, Signs of Stupidity 333 APPENDICES A. Dates of Chinese Dynasties 341 B. A Technical Note on the Concept "Dan Tian" 342 C. Double-Blind or Double Standard? 345 D. Benefits of Internal Qigong: Experimental Evidence 352 E. Glossary of Common Qigong Terms 354 Notes 362 Qigong Resources 397 Index 412
Acknowledgments I make a deep bow to the teachers who started me on this path with their careful) patient instruction: Qigong and Daoist Master, Dr. Henry K. S. Wong, and Masters William C C. Chen and B. P. Chan. I thank Tom Downes, Ph.D., for first introducing me to Taiji Quan in the late '60s and for standing by me as a friend and colleague. I thank Alan Watts, my dear mentor and friend, for his many lessons, his cosmic laughter, and for the confidence he placed in a young student. It was Alan who pointed me in the direction of Chinese studies and who first encouraged me as a writer. I am also grateful for the opportunity to have studied with the following noted Masters of Qigong or Chinese Martial Arts: Stephen Chang, Adam Hsu, Share K. Lew, Liang Shou-yu, and Tang Ru-kun. Though my course of study with these individuals was brief, their influence was long. I also extend a special Duo xie lao shi, "Thank you so much, teacher" to Chen Style Taiji Quan Master and beloved friend, Madame Gao Fu for sharing her art so generously. Taiji Quan Master T. T. Liang once said, "The best thing about Taiji is Taiji friends." I am so grateful to my Taiji and Qigong friends. I have learned from them, shared with them, as colleagues walking the same trail. Thank you to Masters: Dan Farber, Ken Fish, Paul Gallagher, Nonoy Gallano, S. H. Guan, Ray Hayward, Patricia Leung, Michael Mayer, Tom
xii Acknowledgments McCombs, Harrison Moretz, David Mott, Janet Murphy, L Shila, Mike Sigman, and Jampa Mackenzie Stewart. Thank you to my past teachers of movement as meditation, who celebrate through the body the holiness of the everyday: Ruthy Alon, Josef Dellagrotte, Richard Freeman, Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks, and Frank Wildman. And to the shining examples of simplicity and wisdom provided by Sunyata, Swami Venkatesananda, Millie Johnstone, Hisashi Yamada, and instructors from the Urasenke Tea Ceremony Society. Academically and personally, I am indebted to the fine professors of Chinese language and culture who helped me to keep wen (scholarship) and ivμ (practical training) in balance: Professors Wolfram Eberhard, Huai I Juang, Nancy Lay, Irene Liu, Edward Schafer, Bernard Solomon, Michel Strickmann, and other faculty members of Queens College (NYC), the New School for Social Research, and UC Berkeley. I also thank my Chineselanguage tutor, Madame Chu Xing-yan, whose brilliance and enthusiasm could inspire even £ beginner to think in Chinese. The more yoii know, the more you realize what you don't know. I am grateful to those who helped fill in the gaps—first, to my wife, Rebecca, for her critical eye, grammatical expertise, and constant support. She is a counselor in more ways than one. And to the scholars, researchers, and clinicians who contributed insight, data, suggestions and/or critical review: Megan Andersen, R.N., Daniel Benor, M.D., Bob Flaws, DOM, Elmer Green, Ph.D., Steve Fahrion, Ph.D., Robert Fried, Ph.D., Carla Hickey, M.S., Peter Parks, M.S., Carol Schneider, Ph.D., Barry Sears, Ph.D., Mark Seem, Ph.D., Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Douglas Wile, and my colleagues at ISSSEEM, who continue to build a bridge between science and spirit. I also hope that master builders Rich Tillotson and Joe Buckmaster enjoy the fruit of their generosity in helping to create the elegant office from which these words were written. How can I thank the many individuals who graced me with the warmth and hospitality of their homes as I, a wandering student, pursued twenty years of learning, training, and teaching? These include several of my Taiji friends listed above as well as Char Cato, Robert Johns, Philippe Leblond, Michele Rinfret, and so many others. I also thank Dr. Sandy Lillie and family for their generous support during a critical period of my research and life. And a special WADO and NYAWEH to Rolling Thunder, Keetoowah, and Twylah Nitsch, Native American elders and treasured friends who helped open my mind and heart to the connections between qigong and indigenous healing. This work never would have spread far beyond my log cabin had it not been for the confidence, support, and integrity of my agent Ned Leavitt and
Acknowledgments xiii the soulful business expertise of Tami Simon of Sounds True. My editor, Virginia Faber of Ballantine Books, helped me to speak with a clearer and stronger voice. If the reader reaps a good harvest from this book, it is because of Ginny's tireless, compassionate effort at pruning and nurturing the soul and substance of my work. I feel blessed to have found an editor so dedicated to excellence. I also thank Bonnie Curnock for her beautiful illustrations, Tu Xiivshi for his powerful and qi-full calligraphies, and Larry Dossey for his kind words at the beginning of this book. Traditionally, a first book is dedicated to one's parents. I felt that they belonged on this page of acknowledgments. I thank my parents, Eleanor and Ronald, whose generosity allowed me to pursue an unusual and unconventional education from an early age. I also commend my daughter for putting up with Dad's frequent bouts of "computeritis" these past years. And a thankfulness beyond words to the spirit of these high mountains who provided the most constant inspiration throughout the writing of this book. —Ken Cohen Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado April 1997
Foreword Sometimes we learn the lessons we most desperately need in the form of illness. That was my experience, and I know it is the experience of many persons who will read this book. Let me explain why Kenneth S. Cohen's insights could have helped me, and why they will benefit you. As a first-year student I attempted to drop out of medical school because of chronic, classical migraine headache syndrome—recurrent episodes of blindness, nausea, vomiting, and insufferable headache, followed by periods of incapacitation. I was concerned I might injure someone during surgery if the blindness came on unpredictably, as it always did. My medical school adviser, however, convinced me to endure the problem and remain in school. I was unaware at the time that my problem was compounded by anxiety, stress, and overwork. I was an excellent student—intelligent enough, and utterly compulsive and driven. I had no insight whatever into the mind-body relationships so commonly discussed today. In fact, I was unaware I had a mind-body connection. That came years later—when I discovered biofeedback and meditation, which for the first time allowed relief from the problem that nearly halted my career and made my life miserable. When I recall my medical school experience, I regret that there were no Kenneth Cohens around. If there had been, I am certain my experience xiv
Foreword xv would have been pleasantly different. But at that time we medical students had never heard of qigong. I am delighted that the situation is changing. Someday soon, the principles of healing you are about to read about will be taught in all our medical schools. In fact, this is already beginning to take place, as an increasing number of institutions develop courses in alternative or complementary medicine, including qigong. There are two main reasons for the growing acceptance of these methods: They constitute both good science'and authentic wisdom. Science and the venerable tradition of qigong are joining hands, as you are about to read. As a consequence, qigong can no longer be considered just a matter of faith or belief, nor as only a body of practical knowledge accumulated across the centuries, although this would be impressive enough. When the methods Cohen describes are subjected to rigorous empirical tests, they repeatedly demonstrate their worthiness. These developments are immensely important. They indicate not only increasing acceptance of qigong, but increasing openness within science and medicine as well. Modern medicine, as everyone knows by now, can be spectacularly successful and woefully inadequate. It alternately inspires praise and condemnation. Almost every thinking person, both inside and outside the profession, realizes we need more than a mechanical, technical approach to healing. We hunger for a balance between body, mind, and spirit—which is contained in the healing approach of qigong. In his discussion of qigong, Cohen wears two hats, as all modern healers should. First, he is a scientist. He realizes that science has become the dominant metaphor of our culture, and that we cannot ride roughshod over its methods and messages. Unlike many unorthodox healers who seem to carry a grudge against science, Cohen realizes it has something valuable to offer. Among other things, it remains a valuable way of guarding against certain kinds of delusions. Cohen's other hat is that of a healer and mystic—one who honors the great mysteries of existence, and who feels that a union with the Divine Principle—God, Goddess, Allah, the Dao, the Universe—is possible. I would never trust a healer who does not have respect for both science and spirituality. That is why I trust Cohen. That is why I recommend him to you. Neither would I trust a healer who does not have a sense of humor. Cohen's lightness of heart comes through on every page. In a time when people are often Mead serious" about their health, humor and levity are needed more than ever. Reading Cohen's book, I felt a connection that stayed with me from start to finish. One of Cohen's mentors was the late Alan Watts, the great scholar, teacher, and author of books on the wisdom of the Orient, particularly Zen Buddhism. Cohen pays homage to Watts in his acknowledgments I
xvi Foreword pay mine here. In the spiritual desert of medical school, Watts's writings and tapes helped me to regrow my spiritual roots, for which I shall always remain grateful, and they remain a tonic with which I periodically refresh myself His wisdom comes through in Cohen's insights. That is one reason I admire his book so much. Throughout The Way of Qigong, Cohen never trivializes the great mysteries of healing. He is quick to acknowledge our limited understanding about how qigong healing takes place. He implies throughout that it is acceptable not to know. This is expressed in many ways—for example, the admonition to go slow in qigong practice to be content with gradual, not meteoric, increases in wisdom to occasionally do less ritual instead of more and to rely on the invisible wisdom of the body and of nature, instead of always trying to make things happen. Cohen's advice to cooperate with the healing power of nature will be a great challenge to many who encounter qigong for the first time. In our typically aggressive, extroverted way, we often try to whip nature into line. We "fight" our disease and try to "conquer" our illnesses. Prepare for a gentle approach. Qigong is not a hammer. In fact, its primary purpose is not to defeat disease at all, "but to become expert at being more fully who you are" (p. 183). And who is that7. The answer to the great question of who we are lies at the heart of the greatest healing traditions, including qigong. Gently, wisely, Cohen invites us to discover our Self—that part of us that is beyond illness, disease, and death—to discover, in the end, that we did not need his book to begin with. Until that realization dawns, enjoy the paradox—and read on. —Larry Dossey, M.D. Author of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice ofMedkine
The Pronunciation of Chinese Words The Chinese language consists of pictures, ideograms, rather than letters. Western scholars have devised various methods to represent the sound of these ideograms using roman letters. Until recently, most English-language works about Chinese culture used a system of romanization known as Wade-Giles. In the Wade-Giles system, the word for life energy, pro* nounced "chee" is spelled ch'i, and the art of cultivating this energy, "chee gung" is written ch'i-kung. Other common words include Tao and Taoism, pronounced "Dao" and "Daoism," referring to China's ancient school of phi* losophy and religion. The Wade-Giles system was problematic because it did not set an intetnational standard. Each country, including China, adopted its own method of representing Chinese. For instance, in the French Dktionnaire Classique de la Langue Chinoise, the word for martial arts, spelled "wu" in Wade-Giles, is written "ou." The active, masculine principle, commonly spelled "yang" in English, is written "iang." To make matters worse, individual authors, confused by these various conventions, sometimes invented their own systems of romanization. It became impossible for readers to know when different authors were writing about the same subject. Tourists needed to consult a map to be sure that when various travel guides described Canton, Kuangchou, or Guangzhou, they were referring to the same province. xvu
xviii The Pronunciation of Chinese Words TABLE 1: PRONUNCIATION OF COMMON QIGONG WORDS Pinyin DanTian Dao DaoDeJing Jing LaoZi Qi Qigong Taiji Quan Xian Zhuang Zi Ψade-Όiks Tan Tien Tao Tao Te Ching Ching LaoTzu Ch'i Ch'i Kung ΓaiChiCh'uan Hsien ChuangTzu Pronunciation DanTian Dow Dow De Jing Jing LaoDze Chee CheeGung Tiejee Chuan See-en Juong Dze Meaning Elixir Field The Way Daoist Classic Sexual Essence Daoist Name Life Energy Energy Work Taiji Martial Art Daoist Sage Daoist Name To remedy this situation, in 1958 linguists from the People's Republic of China devised a standard phonetic system to represent the Mandarin (the official Chinese dialect) pronunciation of Chinese characters using Latin letters. It is known as Hanyu Pinyin, or Pinyin for short. Although Pinyin pronunciation does not always conform to English usage, it does provide a uniform way of representing Chinese. Pinyin is used consistently in translations published in China, and gradually more and more Western scholars are adopting this standard. I have used Pinyin exclusively throughout this text. Thus ch'i and ch'i-kung are spelled qi and qigong. Taoism is spelled Daoism. The ancient Chinese exercise T'ai Chi Ch'uan is now written Taiji Quan. Table 1, above, will help readers cross-reference common qigong terms and learn their pronunciation.
An Important Note from the Author This book is intended as an educational work on China's great healing treasure, Qigong. It is not meant to take the place of diagnosis, therapy, or treat' ment by a physician, but rather to help you make better, informed choices about health and treatment options. xix
What Is Qigong'
CHAPTER ONE What Is Qigong? To study and at times practice what one has learned, is that not a pleasure? —CONFUCIUS | j I is the Chinese word for "life energy." According to Chinese medi* V ^ ^ JLcine, qi is the animating power thatflowsthrough all living things. A living being isfilledwith it. A dead person has no more qi—the warmth, the life energy is gone. A healthy individual has more than one who is ill. However, health is more than an abundance of qi. Health implies that the qi in our bodies is clear, rather than polluted and turbid, and flowing smoothly, like a stream, not blocked or stagnant. It is also the life energy one senses in nature. The earth itself is moving, transforming, breathing, and alive with qi. Modern scientists speak the same language as ancient poets when they call the Earth Gαiα, a living being. When we appreciate the beauty of animals,fish,birds,flowers,trees, mountains, the deep ocean, and floating clouds, we are sensing their qi and feeling an intuitive unity with them. Human beings are part of nature and share qi with the rest of the earth. Gong means "work" or "benefits acquired through perseverance and practice." Thus, qigong means working with the life energy, learning how to control theflowand distribution of qi to improve the health and harmony of mind and body.
The Way ofQ}βong Qigong is a wholistic system of self-healing exercise and meditation, an ancient, evolving practice that includes healing posture, movement, selfmassage, breathing techniques, and meditation. Through these various methods, qi is accumulated and stored in the body, like filling a reservoir. Impure or polluted qi—the essence of disease—can also be cleansed and re* fined into pure, healing qi. The goal of some qigong practices is to discharge and eliminate the impure qi in a manner analogous to breathing. Breathing is a process of absorbing a pure source of energy, oxygen, and eliminating the impure, carbon dioxide. Like proper breathing, qigong practice can make this exchange more efficient. Qigong is called a "practice" or "training" because, unlike medication, it is not "prescribed" for a limited period of time, but, rather, practiced daily. This is easy to do because qigong is as enjoyable as any sport, yet does not re* quire a great expenditure of time or money. Students generally practice an average of twenty to forty minutes each day. There is no need for special equipment or a large workout space. Anyone can practice qigong. There are techniques suitable for every age and physical condition. Qigong includes standing, seated, and supine methods. With only slight adjustments in technique, it is possible to practice most standing exercises from a seated or lying down position. This makes qigong an ideal exercise for the disabled. QIGONG CATEGORIES Qigong techniques are divided into two general categories: dynamic or active qigong (dong gong) and tranquil or passive qigong (jing gong). Dynamic qigong includes obvious movement. The entire body moves from one posture to another, as though performing a dance, or a posture is held while the arms move through various positions. Dong gong is the most popular kind of qigong in both China and the West. It is yang, active, yet it conceals the yin, passive. Externally there is movement, but internally, the mind is quiet, peaceful, and at rest. In tranquil qigong the entire body is still. The qi is controlled by mental concentration, visualization, and precise methods of breathing. Jing gong is externally yin, passive, but internally yang, active. The body is still, yet the breath is moving. The mind is alert and actively paying attention to theqi. To put it simply, dynamic qigong is exercise, and tranquil qigong is meditation. Yet these categories are not rigid. Stillness and action are relative, not absolute, principles. It is important to find a balance of yin and yang, not just
What Is Qigong? 5 in qigong, but in everyday life. In movement, seek stillness and rest. In rest, be mindful and attentive. APPLICATIONS OF QIGONG There are several reasons to practice qigong. Most important, qigong is a way to prevent disease and improve health. Medical Qigong (Yi Jia Gong) is the main subject of this book. Medical qigong, learned through books, videos, audiotapes, and from professional qigong teachers, can be practiced as a complete and independent system of self-healing. Many doctors of Chinese medicine also prescribe medical qigong for their patients. Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbology, massage, and qigong. Chinese doctors may recommend qigong as an adjunct to other necessary therapies or as a way for patients to maintain optimum health. Patients who practice qigong recover more quickly and gain the skills necessary to take charge of their own health. External Qi Healing (Wai Qi Zhi Liao) is an ancient Chinese method of healing touch and a branch of medical qigong. When the qigong student is able to control internal qi flow, he or she can attempt to heal others. The healer places his or her hands on or near a client's body, assesses the health of the client's qi, and then transmits healing qi. (See Chapter 15.) After a few months of self-healing qigong practice, students sometimes remark, "I have so much energy now. What do I do with it'" The answer is, "Share it!" By practicing External Qi Healing, you can share healing energy with friends, loved ones, or clients. You can also share qi with nature by taking a walk in a beautiful and nourishing place. Nature has a wonderful way of creating relaxation and balance, feeding us with energy we need and draining off any excess. In Meditative or Spiritual Qigong (Jing Gong) the student's focus is on developing a clear, tranquil state of mind, with deeper self-awareness and harmony with nature. Some authors divide meditative qigong into two categories, Buddhist Fo Jia Gong and Daoist Dao Jia Gong, reflecting the influence of Buddhist and Daoist philosophy. The distinction between these two schools of qigong is, however, often hazy. Throughout Chinese history, Buddhist and Daoist philosophy have influenced each other. The same can be said of their qigong. Practitioners of meditative and medical qigong share a common goal of ήng rrάng shuang xiu, "spirit and body both cultivated," the Chinese equivalent of α a sound mind in a sound body." Because mind and body influence each other, it is impossible to have a truly healthy body without a healthy mind and vice versa. Thus, meditative qigong is always practiced as a complement to medical qigong.
The Way ofQ}#on# Confucian (Qigong (Ru Jia Gong) is qigong that improves character. The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.α), taught the importance of ethical behavior and harmonious interpersonal relations. Although there is no evidence that Confucius practiced qigong, many students of his philosophy have also been students of qigong. Confucian qigong stresses the traditional Chinese belief that a healthy individual is more likely to behave with integrity. If you care for yourself, you are more likely to care for others. Conversely, abuse of self leads to abuse of others and unethical behavior. Confucian qigong is not so much a school as an orientation. Practitioners of Confucian qigong work on the same qigong techniques as other qigong students. They differ only in their goal of using qigong to cultivate benevolence, sincerity, respect, and other virtues. Martial Qigong, Wu Gong, refers to Chinese martial arts (wu sku), the most popular sport in China. Although martial qigong implies qigong exercises that improve one's ability to defend and attack, the techniques can also improve performance in other sports. A wu gong student is likely to emphasize dynamic exercises more than meditation. The practice strengthens, stretches, and conditions the body and speeds recovery from sports-related injuries. Today a new application for qigong is emerging: Business Qigong. Qigong practice can help employees feel less stressed, maintain better health, and improve productivity. One of my students, the owner of one of the largest used-car lots in the United States, found that his personnel were more re* laxed and in tune with their customers' needs after he required his employees to spend the first twenty minutes of their workday practicing qigong. Sales went up significantly. Another of my students, an adviser to the World Bank and key attorney in international business negotiations, believes that qigong can help negotiators stay centered and make wiser decisions, a difficult task when the stakes are high. Perhaps cultivating qi is like managing money. Success requires competence in accumulating, maintaining, and replenishing your "principal." According to Andrew Pollack's article "A Business Tool Way Beyond the Balance Sheet," published in The New York Times on November 28, 1995, interest in qigong is running high among Japanese businessmen. Kozo Nishino, a sixty-nine-year-old master of Id (the Japanese pronunciation of "qi"), teaches qigong breathing exercises to such prominent business execu* tives as Shoichiro Irimajiri of Sega Enterprises, former director of Honda operations in the United States Yuichi Haneta, a senior vice president of NEC Corporation and Kazuo Wakasugi, president of the Japan Petroleum Exploration Corporation. Major institutions, including Sony Corporation
What Is Q&onj? 7 and Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, are funding research to explore qi. There is a close, reciprocal relationship among all applications of qigong. For instance, a healthy body creates a healthy spirit and vice versa. Good health creates the stamina and power necessary for martial arts or other sports and may prevent or lessen the severity of injuries. Martial arts training teaches postural alignment, correct breathing, sensitivity, and can improve health. A clear, calm mind and strong body create confidence, selfcontrol, and more ethical behavior. And improved mind-body health can help you achieve financial goals. Any qigong technique may be used for a variety of purposes, depending on the student's intent. One student might practice a breathing exercise in order to help heal bronchitis. Another student practices the same exercise as a way of developing more power in her tennis serve. A musician practices qigong to improve posture, breath control, and performance. Qigong is the art and science of refining and cultivating internal energy. It develops skills that can have very broad applications. I continue the Chinese tradition of using the unqualified term "qigong" to refer to the healing and meditative applications of qigong training. It is not necessary to specify "medical qigong" unless the context is ambiguous. Qigong is a jewel that has many facets. In focusing on the facet of healing, it is important to remember that qigong is not limited to healing. Qigong practice can influence every aspect of one's life. ONE RIVER, MANY TRIBUTARIES There is not one style or school of qigong, but rather many thousands, all based on common principles of balance, relaxation, healthy breathing, and good posture. Some qigong styles are named after animals whose movements they imitate: Crane Style, Snake Style, Dragon Style, the Five Animal Frolics, etc. Others carry the names of their actual or legendary founders: Li Family Qigong, Eighteen Monk Qigong, Daoist Monk Chen Xi-yi Qigong. Still others sound like schools of philosophy: Undifferentiated (Wuji) Qigong, Primal Limit (Yuanji) Qigong, Intelligence (Zhineng) Qigong. Some qigong style names might simply describe what the qigong exercises do: Iron Body Qigong, Tendon Strengthening Qigong, Reducing Inflammation Qigong, and so on. How do we choose the style or styles to practice? Always begin with the basics, the fundamentals. This does not mean simplistic or beginner's level.
The Way ofQjβong In qigong basics are the root of one's practice, whether you are just beginning or have practiced for fifty years—the techniques that emphasize good habits of posture, movement, and breathing and that engender relaxed wakefulness. In this book, we will explore qigong techniques that have withstood the test of time and proven their efficacy in improving health and enhancing life. We will build a good root for qigong training. By emphasizing a deep root and strong foundation, the student can reach to the high heavens without fear of toppling over. Students sometimes inquire, "I've already studied some qigong. Is there more to learn'" I always find this an amusing question, since after twenty^five years of practice and research, the reaches of human potential seem more elusive to me than when I was a beginner! As the Chinese say, "There is al* ways a higher peak to climb.'9 Has any pianist given the best performance of a Mozart concerto of all time? In qigong terms, who ever completely masters relaxation, breathing, or the ability to stand and move with grace, poise, and power? GO WITH THE FLOW According to Chinese medical theory, health means a full and flowing supply ofqi. Using a modern metaphor, we can regard the body as a battery that can either lose, maintain, or increase its charge. Stress, worry, and poor health habits dissipate qi. Proper self-care helps to maintain or improve health. Moderate and correct practice of qigong can fully "charge" the body, increasing the reservoir of healing energy. This means greater vitality and an improved ability to fight off disease and infection. Healing energy is only helpful if it can get where it is needed. It is therefore essential that qi flow to all the cells of the body. For this reason, qi has been compared to blood, which in a similar way must reach all parts of the body, bringing oxygen and nutrients and carrying away waste. The Chinese recognize this analogy in their saying, "Where the qi goes, the blood flows." However, unlike blood, qi is an invisible, subtle force. We know it exists the same way we know sunlight and wind exist. We cannot capture or grasp these forces in the hand, yet we can experience them. Science does not need to prove their existence in order for us to believe in them. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to know that science can measure these things. Qi is quantifiable, as research increasingly is proving, but it is more than a quantity! Anyone who takes a walk in nature knows that sunlight is far more than photons and wind far more than changes in atmospheric pressure. So it is with qi. In acupuncture, fine needles are inserted into parts of the body where
WbathQjβonβl 9 the flow of qi is impeded. It is presumed that stagnant qi, like stagnant water, breeds disease. When qi does not flow, certain areas of the body have too much energy (a yang condition), other areas are depleted, with too little en* ergy (a yin condition). Acupuncture needles open the dams, to drain ex* cesses and fill hollows, restoring health and homeostasis. Qigong practice is like acupuncture without the needles. The patient learns to use physical movements, respiratory techniques, and intent to move the qi. He or she learns to self-regulate the qi flow, to send it to distressed areas so the body can repair itself more quickly and easily. Qigong is easy to learn, but mastering it requires dedication and perse* verance. It is also inexpensive, since it requires neither exercise equipment nor invasive or costly medical procedures, only the God*given components of one's own body and mind. Very importantly, if practiced correctly, qigong has no side effects. These factors plus its emphasis on prevention of disease suggest that qigong offers the possibility of greatly decreasing personal and national medical costs. With a qigong "prescription/' physicians do not have to worry about patient compliance. Qigong is fun. It empowers the patient to be self-reliant and responsible rather than shifting all decision-making into the hands of the doctor.1 According to National Institutes of Health official Dr. Wayne Jonas, if American health care emphasized wellness and self* empowerment in the treatment of most chronic diseases instead of the treat* ment of specific disease causes, the average savings per U.S. citizen would be approximately $9,000/year.2 COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE As East and West learn from each other, the labels used to describe various medical systems can become confusing. In China, acupuncture, herbs, and qigong are the "traditional medicine/' In the West, these same methods are called "alternative." I prefer not to use this term. Although "alternative" may imply freedom of choice, it too often suggests that the patient must choose between alternatives. This seems unfair. Why should a patient select only one of several helpful forms of therapy, where each might address a different facet of the problem? The term I prefer is complementary medicine? Qigong works well with other healing modalities, complementing them. This fact is recognized in the modern Chinese health-care system, which regularly utilizes techniques of Western medicine. A Chinese practitioner of Western medicine might prescribe surgery, medication, and qigong for cancer. Some Chinese hospitals are based on the model of traditional Chinese medicine. Here we would
10 expect to find qigong clinics. However, in China even hospitals that emphasize Western medicine frequently incorporate qigong departments and clinics for both inpatient and outpatient care. Qigong can and should be practiced in addition to rather than instead of any required allopathic interventions. According to an article published in The New York Times Magazine ("The Mainstreaming of Alternative Medicine," October 4, 1992), some experts believe that within twenty-five years complementary medical techniques will be widely practiced in both primary care and specialized fields of medicine. Unfortunately, the West is not there yet. Today, students of qigong may need to educate their physicians about qigong or to at least provide a bibliography for study. If you are seriously ill, it is important to inform your physician about your qigong training, as it can affect the dosage requirements for medications such as insulin, chemotherapy, or drugs for high blood pressure. Certain kinds of qigong may be contraindicated for some conditions. Medical researchers also need to learn more about qigong and other complementary modalities. If researchers are unaware that subjects are receiving treatment from complementary healing practitioners, the conclusions they draw from scientific experiments using these subjects may be flawed. When a nurse at a major hospital brought up this concern with an oncologist who was testing a new treatment for brain tumors, he replied, "I never thought of that. I have no idea if the subjects are involved in any kind of alternative medicine." Was this ignorance, oversight, or perhaps symptomatic of a common assumption that complementary medicine is unscientific and unlikely to affect treatment outcome? In fact, complementary methods like qigong can have powerful and measurable effects on patient health. As we will see in later chapters, qigong has a strong body of clinical and experimental evidence behind it. FINDING INNER PEACE Human beings have always been subject to various stresses that cause wear and tear within the body. Primitive humans had to deal with the challenges of disease, changing weather, environmental dangers, family and community relations, fluctuations in food supply, the fear of disability and death. Stress is a natural part of life. "Yet," says Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, "for people living in sophisticated, postindustrial Western cultures, the degrestresses e of stress come excessive and deleterious.1'4 We have a host o f new relatedbe-tsha o mortgage loans school achievement relationships between employer, em-
What Is Qigong? 11 ployees, and customers economic concerns national and world politics new devastating diseases anxiety over time and schedules and the effects of noisy, polluted, and crowded environments. The fact that we have gotten used to these stressors does not lessen their harmful effects on physical and mental health. Stress causes a general state of physical and mental tension, a condition that Chinese call wax qiang nei "the outside strong, the inside rots.M When we can't easily change our circumstances, we often internalize our frustrations as muscular tension. Beneath this hard shell, the qi becomes sluggish, unable to flow smoothly either internally or between the body and the environment. This can lead to disease and pain. Scientific research has proven that prolonged stress is a contributing factor in most of the "diseases of civilization": high blood pressure, headaches, digestive disorders, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders. Under continuous stress, the nervous system learns to desensitize itself as a means of coping. We tune out the air conditioners, the drone of passing cars, or the rattling of the subway. We ignore the noxious fumes of automobiles and industry. In an overcrowded city, we may also lose sensitivity to the feelings of others as a way of protecting our own privacy. When we have little physical space, we tend to create mental space, distancing ourselves from others. Many of us try to avoid and escape our worries, dulling our senses with drugs, alcohol, and excessive television. Many external stresses are, of course, beyond our control. To the extent that we cannot control the outer environment, it is imperative that we seek to control and maintain the health of the internal environment. If we cannot change or remove ourselves from the stressful situation, we can at least control our reactions to it. Qigong, like Western biofeedback therapy, is a systematic training in psychophysiological self-regulation. It teaches us to deal intelligently with stress, to keep the body relaxed and supple and the internal energy strong and healthy, and to develop skills to regulate the health, balance, and movement of healing energy in the mind ("psycho") and body ("physiological"). The world may not be peaceful, but we can do much to create peace within.
CHAPTER TWO Roots and Branches: The History of Qigong A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step* —CHINESE PROVERB NATURAL BEGINNINGS I \e ancient Chinese were an agrarian people who learned the principles JL. of qigong naturally by observing the cycles of planting and harvesting, life and death. A farmer cultivates his crops by carefully tending them, making sure they get the proper nourishment from soil and sun, and pruning his field to remove destructive or pathogenic influences. Like farming, qigong requires daily attention, especially during the early hours of the day. The early stages of qigong practice are the most important, in order to ensure that the "seedM of qi germinates and establishes strong, healthy roots. A healthy plant is filled with living, moving sap (qi). It is supple, yet strong. It sways with the breeze, but doesn't break. When the plant is sick, withered, or dead, it is stiff and rigid, easily broken. In a healthy field, several crops are grown, or crops are rotated. This creates a mineral-rich environment, in which no single crop will draw excessively on the balance of nutrients or deplete the soil. Similarly, the vast repertoire of qigong self-healing techniques allows us to deal effectively with different states of health or disease. 12
Roots and Branches 13 DAO-YIN: THE ORIGINAL QIGONG Qigong has been known by many names throughout Chinese history. In ancient times, it was called tugunaxin "expelling the old energy, drawing in the new," xing qi "moving the qi," yang sheng "nourishing the forces of life," nei gong "inner achievement," or most commonly as dao-yin "leading and guiding the energy." Dao-yin can also be translated as "guiding the qi and ex* tending the limbs," thus referring to two of the primary components of self* healing: breathing and exercise. The term "qigong" is actually quite recent. It was first mentioned in a text1 attributed to Daoist master Xu Sun (died A.D. 374), but probably dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The word "qigong" was not used in its present specialized sense—"the art of qi cultivation"—until the twentieth century. According to Daoist scholar and author Catherine Despeux, the word qigong appears in the titles of two works published in 1915 and 1929, where it "designates the force issued by working with the qi and the martial applications [of this force]. The therapeutic [medical] use of the term dates only from 1936: a certain Dong Hao published in Hangzhou a work entitled Special Therapy for Tuberculosis: Qigong"2 Since that time, "qigong" has been widely used in this medical sense, representing all Chinese self-healing exercise and meditation disciplines from ancient times to the present. Probably the earliest qigong-like exercises in China are the animal dances of ancient Chinese shamans. During the Zhou Dynasty (1028— 221 B.C.), there was a popular New Year's ritual known as the Great Exorcism (Da No). A shaman would wear a bearskin over his head, with four golden eyes, as though seeing in the four directions. Dancing through the village, followed by a procession of villagers wearing masks of the zodiacal animals (Dragon, Horse, Tiger, etc.), he drove out pestilence and demons. Similar animal dances are recorded on rock art panels throughout China. Some of these include uniform, preset dance patterns performed by many people at once. Others depict a combination of animal postures and military drills, providing possible evidence of an early link between animal movements, qigong, and the martial arts. We also know that by the third century B.C. there was a popular sport known as jiao di "horn butting" in which two unarmed men, each wearing an ox hide and ox horns, tried to wrestle each other to the ground. Animal motifs resurface again and again in qigong history and practice. Individual qigong postures and entire styles are modeled after animals. Typical qigong posture names cited by the Daoist philosopher Huai Nan Zi (d. 122 B.C.) include: Bathing Duck, Leaping Monkey, Glaring Owl, and Turning Tiger. From qigong systems developed within the last few centuries come: Lion's Roar, Monkey Hanging from the Tree, Coiling Snake, Old Bear
14 The in the Woods, Flying Crane. The qigong student cultivates animal skills: balance, suppleness, grace, and strength. Most important, through qigong practice, we hope to embody the health, hardiness, and vitality of the animals. Many of today's qigong exercises are sets of linked postures, each flowing into the next, as in a beautiful, slow-motion dance. Inspired by ancient ritual dances designed to alter consciousness, they give both performer and observer a feeling of unity with the omnipresent qi. Some of these dances were believed to confer health and longevity. When the daughter of King Wu (r. 514-495 B.C.) died, he ordered a public performance of the Crane Dance, the symbol of triumph and power over death. Around the same period, Wang Zi-qiao (ca. 550 B.C.) a prince and Daoist sage from the state of Qin, practiced the Crane Dance as a means to immortality. According to Daoist legend, when Prince Wang died, he rode to heaven on the back of a crane. The Spring and Autumn Annals, an historical document from the third century B.C., contains an important reference to the antiquity of healing dances. We read that during the reign of mythical Emperor Yao (ca. 2,000 B.C.), great floods caused stagnation and congestion in both the land and people. Catherine Despeux translates a portion of this document in her essay "Gymnastics [Dao-yin]: The Ancient Tradition": The ways of water were broken and obstructed, so that the flow was bad from the very sources. For the same reason, when the breath or energy of the individual is congested and stagnant, the muscles and bones are contracted and don't flex well. One therefore prescribes certain dances which guide the breath and ensure that it moves throughout the body in a harmonious fashion.3 In the second century A.D., the great physician Hua Tuo expressed the same wisdom when he reminded his student, "The door hinge will rust if it is not used." Or as one of my teachers used to say, "The reason that the teeth fall out instead of the tongue is that the tongue is always moving!" The earliest documented reference to qigong (called "dao-yin" during this period) as a healing exercise rather than dance is inscribed on twelve pieces of jade, dating to the sixth century B.C., containing advice to collect the breath and allow it to descend in the body, presumably to the lower abdomen. Sinologist Joseph Needham includes a complete translation of the inscription in his monumental Science and Civilization in China: When it [the qi] goes down it becomes quiet. When it becomes quiet it will solidify. When it becomes solidified it will begin to
Roots and Branches 15 sprout. After it has sprouted it will grow. As it grows it will be pulled back again (to the upper regions). When it has been pulled back it will reach the crown of the head. Above, it will press against the crown of the head. Below it will press downwards. Whoever follows this will live whoever acts contrary to it will die.4 This ancient text could easily be describing present-day qigong techniques. By cultivating quiet, relaxed breathing, qi accumulates and "solidifies," making the body feel stable and balanced. Then the qi "sprouts/* that is, moves through the whole body,fromthe crown of the head to the soles of the feet, creating vitality and long life. The bible of Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, compiled in the first and second centuries B.C., recommends daoyin to cure chills and fevers and states that the goal of dao-yin is to become like the ancient sages who were tranquilly content in nothingness and the true vital force [zhen qi] accompanied them always their vital (original) spirit was preserved within thus, how could illness come to them'5 The Classic is also the source of an oft-quoted tenet of Chinese medicine: the wise physician cures diseases before they develop, rather than after they manifest. It is difficult to follow this principle in allopathic medicine, because Western biotechnology is often incapable of detecting disease in the very early stages. Some cancer cells, for instance, must replicate and grow for years before they show up in an X ray or blood test. By sensitizing oneself to healthy and diseased states of internal energy, qi, one has an ideal way to begin treatment when the disorder is still subclinical, without detectable or measurable symptoms. In ancient China, qigong was a treatment of choice. If prevention or early treatment failed, the physician prescribed an herbal formula and/or acupuncture treatment. We see further descriptions of qigong in Daoist philosophical works of the third and fourth centuries B.C. In the classic Dao De Jing (The Way and Its Power), Lao Zi, the patriarch of Daoism, writes: Controlling the yang and yin elements by Embracing the One, can you not allow them [the yang and yin] to depart? Concentrating the qi and achieving utmost suppleness, can you become like a child? (Chapter 10)
16 The The myriad things are nurtured by the yin and the yang Through the blending of qi, they attain harmony. (Chapter 42) Lao Zi's disciple, Zhuang Zi, mentions dao-yin by name: Exhaling through the mouth while exercising the breath, Spitting out the old breaths, drawing in the new, Moving like the bear, stretching like the bird, This is simply the art of longevity!— And the aim of those scholars who practice dao-yin. (Chapter 15) Zhuang Zi also recognized the spiritual dimensions of qigong. He knew that by cultivating the qi, the mind could become open and receptive. Instead of fasting from food, Daoists prefer to fast from words and concepts. "May I ask the meaning of lasting the mind''" "Unify your will. Don't listen with the ears listen with the mind. No, don't listen with the mind, but listen with the qi This 'qi' is an emptiness which is receptive to all things. The Dao [Way] is understood through emptiness. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind." (Chapter 4) Daoism, China's original spiritual tradition, is pragmatic and this~ worldly, emphasizing simplicity (su) and harmony with nature (zi ran). In or* der to keep the mind and body healthy, Daoists, particularly those living austerely in the mountains, practiced and developed many styles of qigong. Needham believes that Daoism blends the healing and mystical wisdom of philosopher^recluses, who withdrew from society to find a deeper truth in nature, with elements of Chinese shamanism.6 Daoist qigong may have incor* porated shamanic animal dances and postures. The Daoist word for sage, xurn (often translated "immortal" because of the Daoist preoccupation with longevity), was in ancient times a picture of a dancing shaman covered with feathers, as though imitating a bird. The Daoist Canon, a collection of 1,120 volumes, contains virtually all of the early texts associated with qigong, including one specifically devoted to the subject, the Dao*yin Classic. The text was probably compiled around A.D. 1145, when it was first mentioned in a bibliographic reference. The exercises in it, however, date to the late sixth century. The methods described are remarkably consistent with qigong exercises and meditations still being taught in China. The goal of qigong has also remained the same. According
Roots and Branches 17 "Concentrating the qi and achieving utmost suppleness, can you become like a child'" By Ύu Xin-shi. From Chapter 10 of Lao Zi's Dao De Jing.
The Way of Qigong to the Dao-yin Classic, the adept learns to "expel diseases, extend his years and prolong life." The Daoist Canon also contains thousands of healing and mystical visualizations. Healing Imagery, the new, cutting-edge medicine of the West, has a long and venerable history in China. In 1973, archaeologists near the city of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, found a relic that has become the great locus of information on ancient qigong. When they excavated the tomb of King Ma (ca. 168 B.C.), they found in one of the coffins a folded piece of silk, half soaking in water. Approximately 50 cm. high and 100 cm. long, the restored silk included the earliest drawings of dao-yin postures, four horizontal rows of eleven figures each, forty-four in all. The entire chart was named the Dao-yin Ύu (The Daoyin Illustrations). The painted figures represent nearly all the major categories of modern qigong: breathing, stances, movement, and self-massage from standing, seated, and supine postures. Several of the figures are bending, stretching, or twisting. With this discovery, it became possible to not merely There are captions near most of the figures on the chart. Some of the captions are names of animals, including hawk, wolf, crane, dragon, cat, bear perhaps these are the names of the movements. Other captions describe how to move the body: "Bend at the Waist, Wave the Arms," etc. Of great interest are the captions that name specific disorders, such as kidney disease, flatulence, painful knees, lumbago, rheumatism, gastric disturbance, and anxiety, suggesting that by 168 B.C. specific exercises were used to treat specific illnesses. These exercises may have been commonly known "housellllllliiβiilli^fc«^iβlillliliil « ••if The Dao-yin Tu, The Dao-yin Illustrations.
Roots and Branches 19 Thefiguresin the Dao*yin Tu are young and old, men and women, peasants and bureaucrats. According to Daoist scholar and Qigong Master Patricia N. H. Leong, the figures' "... varied mode of dress seems to indicate that therapeutic exercise and aspirations for longevity were not the province of only one class, but were the interests of a broad spectrum of society."7 The Dao*yin Tu is the finest example of the consistency and continuity of qigong healing techniques. The majority of exercises look so similar to the postures of modern qigong that it is possible to deduce how they were per* formed. The rich themes found in the Dao^yin Tu run like a fine thread through the fabric of qigong history and evolution. After the Dao*yin Tu qigong literature flourished. In A.D. 142 a Daoist named Wei Bo-yang wrote Can Tong Qi (The Kinship of the Three) [Spiritual, Earthly, and Human], the first book on alchemy in the East or West.8 In it Wei showed how the theory of yin and yang, the Five Elements,9 and symbols from the Yi Jing (Classic of Change) could be applied to alchemy. Alchemyfromtheseelements , for early Daoistsone's , meant creating an elixir o"inne*imf mortality1 0 either th e of ow n bod y (nei dan r alchemy") or by ingesting external herbs and chemicals (wai dan "outer alchemy"). It is likely that both methods were practiced together. Alchemists practiced respiratory techniques to refine the qi and also attempted to transform the body with herbs and elixirs. Chinese herbology, dietetics, and cuisine owe much to the alchemists. Wei described an alchemical theory that became a cornerstone of qigong philosophy: "Things of a similar nature (tong lei) will cause changes in each other. This will not happen if there is dissimilarity." Unfortunately, much of Wei's text is written in an obscure style, filled with metaphor and cryptic symbolism, perhaps designed to guard information from the uninitiated and to jar the memory of students who had already learned his methods. Nevertheless, Wei's idea that like affects like—or as I prefer to call it, the theory of correspondence and affinity—influenced the development of modern qigong practices. For instance, Wei associated the east and dawn with the wood element. Qigong students rise early and face east to heal the liver, the body's inner wood element. Wei believed that a quiet mind, a peaceful attitude, and persistent practice enables the qi to flow through the entire body, creating a golden elixir of health and longevity. Wei Bo-yang's work was followed by numerous encyclopedias of qigong and Daoist cultivation, significantly: the Bao Pu Zi (Master Who Embraces Simplicity) (A.D. 320) of Ge Hong, a compiler of predominantly southern Chinese alchemy and longevity techniques Tao Hong-jing's (A.D. 456-536) Yang Xing Yan Ming Lu (Record ofNourishing Nature and Lengthening Life), containing chapters on dao^yin, dietetics, and sexual qigong the Qian Jin
20 The Yao Fang (Precious Medical Formulas) by Sun Si-mo (A.D. 581-682), a classic of Chinese medicine the eleventh-century work Yun Ji Qi QUm (Seven Tablets in a Cloudy Satchel), which includes the text of the Dao-yin Classic and important commentaries on the great works of Daoist meditation continuing to the relatively recent classic Nei Gong Tu Shuo (Illustrated Explanation of Nei Gong [i.e. Qigong]), written by Wang Zu-yuan in 1881, which includes the first diagrams and details on the practice of today's most popular qigong styles. OUTSIDE INFLUENCES Qigong techniques and schools also developed in response to influences from Indian Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, known as Mi Zong "Esoteric School" in Chinese, came to China in the eighth century A.D., where it was centered around the capital city of Chang-an. According to Buddhist scholar Kenneth Ch'en,ithe school rapidly declined after the 774-1 1 Tibetan Buddhis t qigong (M Zong qigong), however , remained. Holmesryea Welch, a former research associate at Harvard University's East Asian Research Center, writes, "During the Republican period [1911-48], Tibetan lamas had almost as much of a cachet in China as they had in Europe Rich laymen became their disciples to gedemonstration t their instructiof in the of paranormal powers."1 2 Welc h attende d a onTibetanexercise qigon g i n Hong Kong during which an eighty-year-old master attempted, unsuccessfully, to use qi to push people without touching them. An acquaintance of Mr. Welch, a former employee of the Shanghai office of The New York Times, claimed that his teacher, Yeh Wan-zhi, a disciple of a Tibetan lama, could heal by laying on of hands and had tough, "diamond-like skin" (jin gang pi).13 Both abilities are well-known in traditional Chinese qigong. One of the celebrated lamas in China during the Republican Period wasI Lama Kong Kha, teacher of Buddhist scholar Garma C. C. Chang.1 4 n Chang's translation of Tibetan texts transmitted by his guru, there are references to qigong-like techniques: exhaling toxins and spiritual obstructions, methods of circulating the breath, "absorbing pranas [qi] theasFiveh Elements, in five different colors .. .",1 5 using animal movementof s suc th e Tiger, Turtle, or Lion to gather or spread the internal energy. These techniques were probably most popular in border regions between Tibet and China. In China's Yunan Province, qigong techniques from the Tibetan Lion's Roar Martial Art (Senge Ngawa) blended with Chinese White Crane BoxingConsiderine to produc uniqupost-Communistmethods e Sino-Tibetan of andChina qi cultiva-an tion.1 6 g the relationshifighting p betwee n d
Roots and Branches 21 Tibet, I seriously doubt if such friendly exchanges were common after 1949. Nevertheless, many present-day qigong masters claim a Mi Zong Qigong11 lineage and include Tibetan or Sanskrit chants in their qigong, most commonly Om Ah Hung or Om Mani Padme Hung, invocations of the Buddhist personification of Compassion. It is beyond the scope of this book to cover all of the significant events in qigong history, as there are thousands of individual monastic or family styles, transmitted only within particular religious sects and families or to adopted heirs. These "closed-door" styles were not written down, and many have vanished as a result of an irrational fear that martial qigong techniques would be used by one's enemies or thatg npractitioners o one was worthy to receivesa master's precious techniques.1 8 Man y qigon die d i n China' Boxe r Rebellion (1898-1900).1 9 The Boxers falsely believed that qigong and shamanistic rituals would make them invulnerable to the invaders' bullets.2 0 RECENT HISTORY Until quite recently the People's Republic of China had an ambivalent attitude toward its own cultural treasure. Qigong was considered the vestige of early, feudal society and Daoism was branded as individualistic, eccentric, and "counterrevolutionary." Qigong was also linked with parapsychology, a subject widely researched in Western countries and perceived, by the Chinese, as evidence of "the decline of capitalist society." Throughout Chinese history, many qigong practitioners have made claims to supernatural abilities, using magic and trickery to demonstrate such techniques as pushing objects without touching them, stabbing the body without injury, or catching bullets in the mouth. These con artists detract from qigong's credibility and create an impression that qigong is a means to superhuman jpower rather than a time-honored facet of Chinese medicine. For about twenty years after the founding of the People's Republic of China, qigong was actively practiced and researched. New methods were explored, and old, traditional methods were systematized and standardized so they could be more readily applied on a wider scale. In 1955, a qigong sanatorium was founded in the city of Tangshan, Hebei Province. A year later, two qigong training centers were established in Hebei. Another qigong sanatorium was founded in Shanghai in 1957. In October 1959, China's Ministry of Public Health officially sponsored a national qigong conference in Beidaihe, Hebei Province, inviting representatives from seventeen provinces to attend. In 1966 this open door was suddenly closed. During the Cultural
22 The Way of Qigong Revolution (1966-1976) qigong was officially prohibited, and interest in it was strongly discouraged. When the revolution was over, qigong was again accepted as a valid field of research, largely through the influence of one of the great figures in Chinese science, Dr. Qian Xue-sen, "the father of Chinese space technology." Qian had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1930s and earned a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, where he later served as Goddard Professor of Jet Propulsion. At Dr. Qian's request, he was traded back to China after the Korean War, in exchange for American POWs. The U.S. government probably regretted its decision, believing, according to authors Tron McConnell and Zha Leping, "that without Qian, China would not have been able to join the nuclear and space clubs so soon."2 1 In 1980, Qian began to advocate using science and technology to research qigong, Chinese medicine, and human potential. In December of 1985, the government gave approval to the formation of the "China Qigong Science Association." In a February 1986 symposium sponsored by the association, Qian declared, "Many facts show that an intensive scientific study of qigong willIn leads to a fullQian developmentdothat f man's mental as well as physicaleve abilities."2 2 hi lecture , remarke h e believe d qigon g could n affect intelligence. He had received a letter from a schoolteacher who claimed that his students had improved their grades by practicing qigong. Given the more open political climate, scientific studies were conducted at major universities and hospitals throughout China. A growing body of evidence showed that qigong could be very effective in treating disease. In 1987, Dr. Qian was appointed chair of the prestigious Chinese Science and Technology Association, the organization that directs and coordinates China's scientific research. During his first year in that position, he gave a well-known public endorsement of qigong in the Chinese journal Ώao Wong, (Prospects Weekly): "Chinese qigong is modern science and technology—high technology—absolutely top technology."2 3 The sam e year , China's Department of Education directed universities to establish qigong training courses. Fortunately, in spite of the vicissitudes of Chinese history, the great, classical styles of qigong have persisted. There have always been simply too many people practicing qigong, with or without the government's approval, for qigong to disappear. ByIn 1987 qigong was fyeing practiced b at least twenty million Chinese.2 4 1992, Yu Gongiao of the Chiny a Wush u [Martial Arts] Academy estimated that there were seventy to eighty million practitioners in China.2 5 Qigong has also gained international recognition. In the late '80s and early '90s, China hosted several international conferences for the exchange
Roots and Branches 23 of information on qigong science. Two such conferences were held in North America, at the University of California at Berkeley in 1990 and in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1995. By 1996, there were more than one thousand published abstracts on some aspect of qigong science available in English. Chinese bookstores are now filled with books and periodicals on qigong. In the United States, there have been several popular magazines focusing on qigong and Chinese healing practices.2 6 Ther e are probabl y at leas t one hundred thousand qigong practitioners outside of China, including several thousand in the United States and Canada and an equal number in Europe. I have received mail from qigong clubs in Russia, Australia, South Africa, Israel, and most countries in Europe. Qigong and Yoga are undoubtedly the most popular healing exercises in the world today. LIFE ENERGY AROUND THE WORLD Invisible life energy is a universal concept and is most commonly associated with breath, heat, air, and/or sunlight. Evidence of a shared, perennial philosophy of health can be found among all ancient cultures. God breathes the "breath of life" (ruach) into Earth to create the first human. The Hebrew name "Adam" is derived from the same root as Adαmα, Earth. The Breath of God (Ruach Ha Kodesh in Hebrew, Spiritus Sancti in Latin) is synonymous with the power of Spirit. A similar idea is expressed in the holy scripture of Islam, the Qur'an (Koran). The words nafas, meaning Allah's own breath, and ruh, meaning Allah's own soul, "are used to mean the human breath and human soul—confirming the fact that we are originally from Allah, of Allah, for Allah, and in the end will return to Allah."2 7 Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti says that "breath" is not the same as air or oxygen. Rather it is a divine energy that regulates human emotions and the equilibrium of the body. "Both the quantity and quality of breath have a definite and direct effect upon human health."2 8 In Greek, the vital breath is called pneuma, a word first used by the philosopher Anaximenes (ca. 545 B.C.). Anaximenes said that life begins with the breath. All things come from it and dissolve into it at death. The soul is breath and is that which controls and "holds together" (prevents the disintegration or decomposition of) human beings. As air or wind, it encloses and maintains the world. Cambridge University professors G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven in their work The Presocratic Philosophers, label a section of Anaximenes' writings "The Comparison Between Cosmic AiwordsdYuanethanr Breath-Soul,"2 9 ideas tha t ar e remarkabl y paralle l to th e Chines e Qi, "Cosmic or Original Qi," and fiun, "breath soul." Vital breath creates a
24 The Way ofQfjonj unity between microcosm and macrocosm. In Kirk and Raven's translation, "The life-principle and motive force of man is, traditionally, pneuma or the breath-soul (pneuma is seen in the outside world, as wind) therefore the lifeprinciple of the outside world is pneuma (therefore wind, breath, or air is the life and substance of all things)."3 0 Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) considered the founder of medical science, believed that the forces of life, like qi, must flow. When cfiymos, the body's fluids—principally blood, bile, and phlegm—are in harmony, one is healthy. In The Nature of Man, he writes, "A man enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in power, bulk, and manner of compounding, so that they are mingled as excellently as possible. Pain is feltcomponentoffthese when one elements i either deficient or excessive. .. ."3 1 When a o healt h is isolates d and ou t of balance wit h the other elements, in excess in certain places and absent from others, the result is pain and illness. According to Hippocrates, balance is the natural state. The role of a physician is "not to manipulate the patient as one would handle something inanimate, but to remove, both from within and from outside the patient's body, obstructions to healthy 2 Among the Kung San,3 3 the indigenousrecovery."3 people of Africa's Kalahari Desert, life energy is num. The num is stored in the lower abdomen and at the base of the spine and can be made to "boil" through ecstatic dance. In Boiling Energy, by Harvard lecturer Richard Katz, an elderly healer explains, "The num enters every part of your body, right to themind tip of your even your hair."3 4 Nu m make s th e spine tingle an d th e empty,feet withoudan t thoughts. The healer or healers "see people properly, just as they are."3 5 At this point in the dance, the healers can project healing num or pull sickness from those who are ill. Shamans, num kausi, the "masters or owners of the num," might help a student enter the proper state of transcendent consciousness (Ida) by "shooting" arrows of num into the student's body, often by snapping the fingers. (Some Native American healers project energy in a similar way, by slapping the palms together.) Like modern physicians, the Kung believe that people carry illness within the body. When disease flares up, it can sometimes be cured by accumulating num, increasing the inner reserve of healing power. The Kung are also willing to use modern antibiotics. No treatment is 100 percent effective. As healer Gau says, "Maybe our num and European medicine are similar, because sometimes people who get European medicines die, and sometimes they live. That is the same with ours."3 6 Some fifty or sixty thousand years ago, long before the Chinese spoke of qi, Australian aborigines were cultivating life energy as a key to healing and spiritual power. According to my friend, Yuin Tribe elder and medicine man Gaboo, "People who had this energy could communicate telepathically
Roots and Branches 25 across vast distances. They formed the aboriginal telephone line." In Voices of the First Day, a classic of aboriginal spirituality, author Robert Lawlor notes that, like the Chinese, the aborigines concentrated on an energy center four inches below the navel, "where they said the cord of the great Rainbow Serpent (kundalini) lay coiled. Through the same center the Aborigines drew body heat from the 'rainbow fires' that helped them endure cold."3 7 Aborigines, like other indigenous tribes, believe that people today have less of this life energy than in the past. Because life energy is the common source and link between people and nature, the loss of it parallels the loss of connection between human beings and their relations: the plants, animals, stones, water, sky, the earth, and all of creation. Restoring life energy to its original condition of fullness may be the key to recovering lost potentials and realizing that "the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst." Native American tribes also recognize the existence of a subtle healing energy. The Navajo say that the Winds (nilch'i) gave life to human beings and all of nature. Thus, James Kale McNeley, Ph.D., a teacher at the Navajo Community College, speaks of the "Holy Wind" in his Holy Wind in Navajo Philosophy.3 * As the Winds swirled through the human being, they left their mark as lines on fingers and toes. The Winds are also sacred powers, sources of healing guidance. They are considered messengers of God or the Great Spirit. When Native Americans pray to the "Winds of the Four Directions," they become intuitively aware of solutions to life problems. According to one Navajo elder, if the Winds' guidance is not followed, if one refuses to follow God's instructions, "... ourn Holy One takes ouBreath," t the Windindigenousswatthaa within us. He stops our heart."3 9 I SiSiWiss, "Sacre d n healing traditionfromthe Puget Sound region of Washington State, healers project power to their patients through dance, song, and laying on of hands. Some SiSϊWiss chants include specific breathing methods to either drive away disease or invite helping and healing spirits. In the Lakota (Sioux) language, the word for soul, woniya, is derived from the word for breath, ni. In 1896, the Lakota holy man, Long Knife (George Sword), told physician James R. Walker, "A man's ni is his life. It is the same as his breath. It gives him his strength. All that is inside a man's body it keeps clean. If it is weak it cannot clean the inside of the body. If it goes away from a man he is dead... .M4 ° The Lakota sweat lodge healing rite is called inipi because it purifies the ni. "Inipi causes a man's ni to put out of his body all that makes him tired, or all that causes disease, or all that causes him to think wrong "4 1 In Hawaii, the most powerful healers are known as Kahuna Hα, "Masters of the Breath." The sacred healing breath, hα, can be absorbed at power places in nature (heiau), through dance (such as the hula), and deep breathing
26 The Way of Qigong exercises. Some Kahunas learn how to store healing energy in the heart. Then, when the healing energy is projected through laying on of hands, the ha is colored by the healer's love and positive thoughts. In traditional Hawaiian counseling and mediation, all parties in a conflict ήrst calm their minds by breathing deeply. This helps them to be less reactive and to find a better solution. The ha can also be transferred from a healer to a patient by blowing directly on the patient's body. When a Kahuna Ha is near death, he/she may transfer lineage and power by breathing the ha onto a student or family member. The Hawaiian word Alohα, often used as a respectful, heart' felt greeting, also means "love." Love is the "meeting face-to-face" (do) of the breath of life (ha). Of course the closest parallels to qi are found in Asian countries, particularly India. In India, the life energy, βrαnα, is described as flowing through thousands of subtle-energy veins, the nadis. One of the goals of Yoga is to accumulate more prana through breath control exercises (pranayama) and physical postures (asana). The student is also taught to conserve prana, not to waste either his inborn, genetic store or that acquired through meditation. Some yogis believe that we are given a certain number of breaths at birth. If we learn to breathe more slowly, we use up our endowment at a slower pace and thus live longer. There are remarkable parallels between Yoga and Chinese yin-yang theory, the philosophy that health is a balance of complementary opposites: fire and water, mind and body, self and nature. Hatha Yoga balances the solar (Ha) and lunar (tha) currents of life energy. By reversing the courses of the two pranic breaths, one fire-like, one water-like, longevity is assured. Fire is made to descend, water to ascend, thus unifying mind (fire) and body (water) and preventing the dispersal of life energy. The similarity between Indian Yoga and Chinese qigong is not mere coincidence. Yoga is probably even older than qigong and may have influenced its development. Statues of yogis sitting in lotus posture can be seen as early as the Mohenjo-Daro civilization of the twenty-fifth to twentieth centuries B.C. Some techniques were undoubtedly brought to China by early pilgrims and Buddhist monks in the first centuries A.D. By the sixth century the philosophy of Sankkya, the Hindu philosophical base of Yoga, was translated into Chinese. Many Chinese recognized India as a cultural center. Information was traveling in both directions. Joseph Needham explores the history of this exchange in Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 5: "In a single year, +692 [A.D.], missions from five Indian countrie,s . . . convergedthfo on the Chinese capital carrying tribute."4 2 Thirt y years later th e king e Indian state of Kanci "built a temple devoted to China, and asked the em-
Roots and Branches 27 peror for an inscription giving a name to it."4 3 In A.D. 644, even as the Chinese were translating Yogic texts into Chinese, the king of Kamarupa ordered that the Daoist philosophical classic the Όao De Jing (Classic of the Way and Its Power), be translated into Sanskrit. The ensuing controversy regarding the translation of technical Chinese terms into accurate Sanskrit equivalents reveals India's high level of interest in Chinese culture.4 4 Ancient tales of Daoist recluses and Indian yogis are remarkably similar. Spiritual adepts of both traditions enjoyed meditating in mountain-caves and river-hermitages. In South Indian Tamil literature of the ninth through thirteenth centuries, we read of eighteen magician-alchemists (sittars), two of whom came from China. This was also a major period in the development and spread of Hatha Yoga. We can presume that at the same time that Yoga was brought to China, Indian Yogis were carrying Daoist techniques of meditation and qigong to India. The exchange between Indian Yoga and Chinese qigong continues to the present day. Zhang He, a prominent Chinese writer on qigong, written a text on Yoga.4 5 Zhang's teacher , Daois t Maste r an d acupuncturisoalssha t Dr. Henry K. S. Wong, was an early sponsor of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Swami Satchidananda, before their arrival in the West. Dr. Wong taught Yoga in Hong Kong for nearly twenty-five years and developed a unique integration of Indian pranayama and qigong respiratory exercises. EUROPE'S MEDICAL GYMNASTICS The European tradition of physical education isepartly a derivative of Greek exercises dating from the sixth century B.C.4 6 Th original pentathlo n of foo t racing, jumping, discus, javelin, and wrestling were practiced in the nude (thus gymnastics from the Greek gymnos "naked"). Hippocrates is credited with founding the theory of medical gymnastics, which held that such exercises were not merely sport, but, along with diet and massage, essential ingredients in preventive medicine. Europeans continued to show interest in healing exercises through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. The general opinion, however, remained close to modern, Western understanding: that gymnastics are the domain of the healthy, whereas specialized medications or procedures are necessary to treat the sick. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Europe, there was a resurgence of appreciation for the healing benefits of exercise, largely due to interest in Chinese qigong. In 1779, the Jesuit P. M. Cibot became well-known for his illustrated French translation of Daoist qigong texts:
28 The Way of Qigong Notice du Cong-fou [Kung-fu] des Bonzes Tao'see [Dαo-sfii, Daoist priestsj. Kung-fii was another name for qigong, though today it more commonly refers to Chinese martial arts practice. Cibot says: It follows that the various postures of the Kung-fu, if well directed, should effect a salutary clearance in all those illnesses which arise from an embarrassed, retarded, or even interrupted, circulation.4 7 Europe was ready for Cibot. Only five years earlier, Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) had discovered that by placing magnets on a patient's body or by simply holding his hands over the patient, he could induce a hypnotic state, "mesmerizing," effectively curing many problems. During Mesmer's "magnetic therapy," his patients would sometimes feel a fluid moving through their bodies. This sounds very much like qi and the sensations associated with qi-flow. Mesmer was an influential figure and a household name in European society.4 8 Cibot's descriptions of the Daoist exercises and respiratory techniques were probably the major influence on Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), the Swede who founded modern gymnastics. For thirty-five years, Ling taught four types of gymnastics: physical education, military training, medical, and aesthetic at his Bernadotte Institute in Stockholm. Designed to both improve health and treat disease, Ling's medical gymnastics were based on a theory of vital energy with many parallels to qigong. In 1857 N. Dally wrote that "Ling's entire doctrine, theoretical and practical, is only a sort of photographic image of Taoist kung-fu.*1* He described Ling's calisthenics as "a splendid Chinese vase overlaid with European paint." Ling's calisthenics, gymnastics, and his pioneering use of exercise equipment are the foundation of today's system of physical education. His twisting, squatting, and back-bending exercises are practiced in gyms and health clubs all over the world. However, Ling's ideas about vital energy were eventually dropped. As the philosophy of vitalism was eclipsed by scientific materialism, Western exercises and physical therapies began to place an almost exclusive emphasis on strength, stamina, flexibility, and coordination. These qualities are certainly important. However, they reflect the Western preoccupation with the appearance of health: a beautiful figure and well-defined muscles. Modern Western exercise systems can be considered symptoms of disempowerment. The individual's internal health was believed to be beyond control and, if disturbed, required the external intervention of an expert physician. The body was reduced to a machine, without intelligence of its own, as incapable of self-correcting serious malfunctions as an automobile. This assumption is incorrect.
Roots and Branches 29 Western science has circled back to the recognition of vital force, or "bioelectricity," as a source of healing. Scientists have shown that we can control this energy to an extraordinary degree, exerting control over bodily functions that were once considered involuntary. It is time to reincorporate many of the insights of vitalism and of the ancient healing systems that recognized the power of qi.
CHAPTER THREE The Three Treasures: A Chinese Model of Body Energy The sages looked up to contemplate the patterns of heaven, looked down to observe the ways of the earth. They knew the inner workings of things^ the theories of Ufa and death. —THE CLASSIC OF CHANGE (YIJING) IGreek, n biblical exegesis, we first seek the meaning of classical Hebrew and looking for the connotations of a term at or close to the time that the text was written. When Jesus used the word pneuma, perhaps it meant something different than it does today. Similarly, by doing some linguistic archaeology, exploring the structure and meaning of ancient Chinese words, we learn how the body and mind were understood in ancient times and find universal truths that strike a resonant chord today. THE ETYMOLOGY OF QI The Chinese language is pictographic. To understand the original intent of the word "qi" we need only analyze the components of the ideogram. At most, it might be necessary to look up a more ancient form of the character, in which the picture components are more obvious.1 One of the earliest characters for qi consists of the word for "sun" and "fire," suggesting that qi, like sunlight, is a source of warmth and is essential for life. A living body is warm cold slows down the movement of qi and leads to death. This concept of vital heat is maintained in a specialized 30
The Three Treasures 31 ideogram for qi used exclusively in Daoist literature. The upper part of the character, a picture of a man clearing the land of trees, means "negation." The wood is gone, hence "negation, wanting, lacking, without." The lower part of the character consists of four sparks from a flame. As a whole, the character seems to mean "no fire." Even as extreme cold slows down the qi and is too yin, so excess fire overstimulates and is too yang. Qi requires a moderate, balanced polarity: passive and active, cold and warm. If the qi is healthy, then the energy does not go to extremes. Some writers interpret the "fire" as a symbol of desire or passion. No fire would mean "no desire." However, ascetic denial of human feelings is inconsistent with the qigong philosophy of naturalness. Balance of emotions is what is important, not being attached to states of anger or joy, and remembering to laugh at oneself. Alan Watts used to say that angels, like Daoist Immortals, can fly because they take themselves lightly! "No fire" is not the absence of emotions, but rather the absence of grasping and attachment. The emotions, like qi, must be fluid and changeable, not stuck in extreme positions. My favorite interpretation of the "nofire"ideogram is one I learned from a Daoist priest from Hong Kong. He said, "In this character, 'negation* means negation of form, of concepts of anything fixed and rigid. Qi means 'the formless fire of life.' Qi creates life it is life, but it has no substance, and anything you can measure is not it. It never holds still long enough to be measured." This highlights a difference between Eastern and Western ways of understanding the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine is not as concerned with measurement and quantification. It recognizes that life is a fluid process qi is more a function than a substance. We can understand it best through what it does in the body and environment. The qi ideogram described above has strong metaphysical, spiritual, and psychological connotations and is unique to Daoist writings. The most common character for qi, which appears throughout qigong, medical, and popular literature, is %. It represents such everyday concepts as "weather" (sky qi), "balloon" (qi sphere), "customs" (habitual qi), "arrogant" (qi high), "oxygen" (nourishing qi), and the "healing exercises" of qigong. According to the ancient Shuo Wen Jie Z\ (Dictionary of Chinese Etymology), the three lines at the top of the character mean steam or vapor the character for rice 2fc is on the bottom. Thus, qi means "vapor or steam rising from cooking rice." Some texts substitute the character 'X "fire" for rice. In either case, the implication is that for water to boil and produce steam, there must be fire. Qi then can be defined as the energy produced when complementary, polar opposites are harmonized. Vital energy, qi, arises when opposites are unified: fire and water, heavenly (the steam) and earthly (the rice). Other yang/yin polarities include: mind and body, conscious and
32 The Way ofQjyonj subconscious, self and environment. In the same way that an electric circuit requires the positive (yang) and negative (yin) pole, so a strong current of qi requires a balance of opposites. We can also interpret this character symbolically. Rising vapors are a common image for air or breath. In qigong meditation, the breath is sometimes visualized as mist, steaming through various organs or along particular energy routes. Rice, the staple of the Chinese diet, simply represents food. Thus, the character qi indicates the two major sources of qi: air and food, and two ingredients in qigong training: respiratory techniques and diet. Our understanding of qigong is an expansion and elaboration of themes hidden in the very structure of the word "qi." The various ideograms used to represent qi bring up the following questions: What is the nature of life en* ergy? How can the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life energy be kept in balance? What is the role of breathing and diet in qi development? How can fire and water—all of the disparate portions of myself—be integrated to create harmony and health? SOURCES OF QI The Chinese word "qi" is a generic term for life energy. Just as a medical scientist thinks of healing as mutifaceted, including chemical, psychological, electromagnetic, and environmental components, so qigong practitioners analyze the concept "qi" into several different categories. There are three main sources of qi: breath, food, and constitution. Air or breath (zong qi) and food (gu qit literally "grain qi") mix to form the "nutritive qi" (ying qi) that travels through the acupuncture meridians to all of the tissues of the body. Whereas breath and food are acquired qi, the third source of qi is inborn. In Chinese, the technical term for this inherited, we might even say genetic, life energy is yuan qiy literally "original qi." Original qi accounts for our con* stitution and inherited tendencies toward health or disease. A child with weak original qi may have birth defects, be subject to frequent colds and infections, or, in an extreme case, fail to thrive. Original qi is largely a product of the health of the parents and the care they give the child in utero. If the mother eats healthily, practices good personal hygiene, lives in as nontoxic an environment as possible—or at least spends more time in nature—and keeps her mind peaceful, then the child will have the best chance at a healthy life. Chinese medical theory also states that the parents' sexual compatibility, the "chemistry" between them, creates the child's original qi. If the mother and father have harmonious, joy-
The Three Treasures 33 oυs, energetic, and pleasurable sexual relations, then it is more likely that the child will be healthy. Healthy conception and development are also influenced by the age of the parents. It is best for women to conceive when they are in their most fertile years. According to Chinese medicine, children born to parents in their forties or fifties generally have weaker constitutions and are more prone to disease. Men and women share equally in this endowment of original qi. A wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests that qigong tends to delay menopause and can extend the years of fertility. Women qigong masters have been known to conceive during their sixties. The term "original qi" can mean different things in different contexts. In medical texts, original qi means inherited, genetic qi. I call this personal original qi. In metaphysical texts, the same Chinese word, "original qi" (yuan qi) means the primal energy of life, the creative and omnipresent power of the Dao. We are also born with a supply of yuan qi. It is a gift from the universe, inherited from our cosmic parents, the Yin and the Yang. I call this transpersσnal original φ. Inherited original qi is a given we cannot go back to the time before conception in order to increase our present supply. We can, however, supplement it by practicing meditation and spiritual development. We can learn to attune to and absorb transpersonal original qi, "the original qi of Heaven and Earth." In Chinese medicine, a child with a delicate or feeble constitution is treated with diet, herbs, massage, External Qi Healing, and possibly acupuncture, depending on the age of the child. Adults have more healing options. There are several ways to supplement weak original qi. Tranquil meditation helps one tune in to a source of power beyond the personal, which some practitioners identify as God or the Dao. Nature is also a source of original qi. We can learn to harmonize with the great currents of qi in Nature, sensing the healing power of pure mountain air, of trees, and of fertile ground. The other method is to practice qigong exercises and to take in healthy qi through diet. This is called accumulating "postnatal qi" (hou ύan qi), a fancy term for qi acquired after birth. However, since postnatal qi is not constitutional, it is more easily dissipated and lost than original qi. Dedication and regular practice are necessary to sustain it. A crash diet or two-week qigong intensive once a year will not result in better long-term health. Strong original qi and a hardy constitution are no guarantee of perfect health. Resources not acquired through personal effort and training are easily taken for granted and squandered. I have met many people who claim, "I never get sick anyway, so why should I exercise or diet'" We can sometimes get away with this in youth. However, the cumulative effects of self-neglect tend to catch up with us in later years.
34 The But what about the individual who neglects a healthy lifestyle and never gets sick anyway? We have all met people like Jim, a fifty-year-old couch potato who hates exercise, smokes cigarettes, and drinks a bit too much. He has never been hospitalized and has never had any illness more serious than a common cold. Jim is the exception rather than the rule, a combination of a strong constitution and some degree of plain old luck. If you are envious or if you have sour grapes about getting sick in spite of dedicated self-care, then shake your fist at heaven and shout "Injustice!" Let's not forget the lesson of Job, the man who did everything right and yet for whom everything went wrong. Some things may be beyond our personal control. CATEGORIES OF QI An entire book could be written about types of qi. The concept is so central to Chinese medicine that virtually all states of health or disease can be qualified by it. Some Chinese martial arts authors write volumes about the qi required for punching, kicking, blocking, parrying, pushing, pulling, etc. Their analytical aptitude does not imply that they know how to fight! More definition does not equal deeper understanding. It is easy for human beings to delude themselves into believing that because they can name something, they understand it or that it enriches their lives. Fulfillment comes through experience. Without the experience of qi, the label means nothing. To understand qigong, we should be familiar with seven major kinds ofqi: • Breath Qi—from respiration • Food Qi—from diet • Original Qi—inherited from parents or universe • Internal Qi—all qi inside the body • External Qi—qi emanating from the body • Nutritive Qi—flows inside the meridians • Protective Qi—energetic barrier against external pathogens We have already discussed breath qi, food qi, and original qi. The other general categories of qi are internal qi (nei qi) and external qi (wai qi). Internal qi moves in the body qigong is practiced to accumulate internal qi and to correct itsflow.External qi has two meanings. It is the qi that emanates from and surrounds the body, the energeticfieldor aura. Disturbances in this field are indications of underlying disease. Heat above the liver, for example, might indicate that the liver is congested, perhaps from too much