Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese system of self-cultivation aiming at the promotion of health and the aid of liveliness for the achievement of longevity. At the same time it cultivates consciousness and self-knowledge.
It is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (as e.g. the acupuncture) and mainly on the classic Taoist philosophy too. The practitioner learns how to harmonize his own energies with the fundamental energies of the Sky (Yang) and Earth (Yin). Qi Gong substantially allows the practitioner to adapt his own energy to the infinite energy of the Universe.
Trying to give a more comprehensible explanation to the simple reader, we could say that, birth has been given to each one of us with a concrete quantity of fundamental energy (Jing: Quintessence), which is hereditary and determines the stamina, as well as the duration of our life. Through our daily work, our habits, our feelings and thoughts, our good or bad life, we consume or waste this fundamental energy. When it is completely exhausted, natural death comes.
The old Masters and practitioners of Chinese Medicine wondered therefore, if there could be some way to slow down the consumption of our fundamental energy (Jing), in order to live healthier on one hand and prolong the duration of life on the other. For some, this issue went far more beyond the question of health to the cultivation of spirit, since they realized that the balancing and the cultivation of Qi determine the spirit (Shen) of the person.Their research focused on one hand on the human body, trying through observation and sensing to understand and experience the pathways in which, energy (Qi) flows and how and when we exhaust it. On the other hand they focused on the external energy, the energy of the surroundings and, again through experiment, observation and sensing, they found out that Qi may be absorbed from the environment, may be stored, cultivated and developed, in order to use it primarily and not waste our Jing (the fundamental energy). The Qi Gong therefore was developed gradually, having a long history, since we have references to it for about 4000 years.
In this long process many practices of Qi Gong were created, which can be classified into 5 different Schools (approaches):
1. The Daoist School: It is the most ancient school of Qigong and is the basis of the theory and practice of all other approaches. Here the ultimate goal is “the achievement of immortality…”, as soon as physical health and longevity have being achieved as a foundation to the higher practices. Of all the Qi Gong Schools, the Daoist is the most comprehensive, because it gives equal emphasis to longevity and to spiritual awareness.
2. The Confucianist School: Confucius and Mencius (Meng Tze) considered the Qigong as an important system of self-cultivation, but they approached it as a way to balance one’s mind and emotions, in order to become a better member of society.
3. The Buddhist School: The primary goal of the Buddhist School was the cultivation of the spirit for gaining enlightenment mainly through meditation. By the coming of Da Mo (Bodhidharma) from India to the Shao Lin monastery their perspective changed, as he advocated that a strong and healthy body is the foundation of spiritual growth. In that way, meditation became associated with Qi Gong and with martial arts.
4. The Medical School: Although Chinese doctors since the old days prescribed to their patients Qi Gong exercises in addition to their medicine, Medical Qi Gong flourished, in fact, in the middle of the 20th century. Nowadays, knowing its health benefits both in prevention and in treatment, Medical Qigong tends to become the dominant School of Qi Gong. We could say that there are two types of Medical Qigong: health care through the practice of Qi Gong by the practitioner himself and the emitting of therapeutic energy from the healer to the patient (Fa Qi). The latter has lately attracted the attention of scientists and there has been done already plenty of research to measure the effects of such treatment.
5. The Martial Arts School: Since the development and cultivation of Qi ( energy) has as a result vitality and a healthy and strong body, Qi Gong exercises were practiced since the very ancient times by the warriors. With Da Mo, it became more clear that using the mind (or intention) we can gain control of Qi, which we can utilize to gain fighting skills. In many of the traditional Kung Fu styles inherent practices of Qi Gong, such as “The iron fist “, ” the iron shirt “, “the method of lightness” etc. There are three specific styles, called ‘internal’ which pay particular attention to the cultivation of Qi. These are the Tai Chi Chuan, the Bagua and the Hsing I. To thes, I would add the Yi Chuan.
Considering the above, we can now perhaps understand that the practices of Qi Gong differ in their objective. So, for instance, if our purpose is to achieve a very strong fist, making us able to break five bricks, then we have to practice the Iron Fist Qi Gong, but that’s all we will succeed. But if our purpose is the cultivation of Qi for health and longevity, then we need to go back to a more comprehensive method of Qi Gong, probably from the Taoist or Medical School. We must therefore make first of all our purpose clear to ourselves, before we decide to start practicing any method of Qi Gong; and we must be aware not to make our efforts to the wrong direction. It happens many times to the seeker, who is not yet in the position to know and has not the criteria to choose the right method, to lose, because of that, valuable time and money.
We would like, therefore, to give to the reader some characteristics of a more integrated approach, making him able to recognize, if a method is complete or partial, reliable or not:
The simplest thing to do is first to examine the instructor. The Great Qi Gong Master and renowned healer Zhou Ting-Jue told to the writer of this article once the following simple thing: “If someone says, that he is a Qi Gong teacher, but he is not able to emit the energy (emit Qi), then it’s a joke”. The second thing to look at, is the method itself. You should definitely ask the teacher, what should I expect by practicing this particular Qi Gong? If the answer is not focused and specific but general and vague, then it is better to continue your quest for a correct method and a proper teacher.
An integrated method of cultivation of Qi should initially contain practices related to the activation of our own energy by activating the lower Dan Tian (the energy center of vitality below the navel). It should contain at least practices of cleaning of the important meridians and practices of absorption and storage of the energy from the environment, as well as energy cultivation practices through the circulation of Qi in the body. It should include techniques of activation of the Medium Dan Tien (energy center of the heart), since this is the center used for therapeutic energy transmission. At a higher level, it should include practices related to the circulation of energy in the whole body, and practices of activation of the Upper Dan Tien (the “Third Eye “). At a more spiritual level now, it should include practices related to the activation and opening of the energy center of the crown (Bai Hui), connecting the practitioner thereby in a constant basis with the Yang energies of the Sky. If someone gets to this level, then he gains access to more spiritual fields and to new paths of practice.
Throughout this interesting trip the sensations, that one feels in his body and the skills, that he develops, are specific and not vague and they relate each time to the level of the practitioner. We feel the Qi flow and the gradual opening of the energy centers in our bodies in very certain ways. Therefore we need an instructor or a guide, who precedes, who have already gone the path, so that he can give us guidance; that he can, for example, explain to us about the senses we may feel, such as numbness or tickle, warm or cold, undue sweating or headache, insomnia or cough, dizziness or itching, sense of heaviness or lightness, bursts of laughter or crying, involuntary movements and many other. Do these show progress or are they a result of false practicing?
Hopefully, we can now realize that cultivating Energy is not that simple. It takes much focus and carefulness by the student and much experience by the instructor, firstly to avoid mistakes and secondly to help us being always aware of our position on the path.
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