Taking a look at the Qi gong boom in the P.R.C.The boom of Qi gong in the mainland of China has led to a worldwide popularity of chisel Qi gong, and leading to the belief that on both sides of the Taiwan straits every good Chinese has finally found something in common which comes up as soon as the word Chinese is mentioned. But instead of self-smug praise, shouldn't we better take a critical look at ourselves watching whether we really have made any good use of the wisdom that our reverted ancestors have left for us to contribute.
Is the true meaning of Qi understood indeed? Is it a golden key carefully applied inspite of the wanes and wiles of our hearts? Or do we have to use it for frying beefsteaks with our hands like an electronic game or a funny bottle-trick showing it off like stage magic, like those high skilled Qi gong performers rumoured as real Qi Masters or special skill acrobats ? Qi is very difficult concept that is hard to grasp, on the other hand it is obviously existing, and it has already entering the books of scientific research, but although scientists have found many different explanations for it, they seem to be unable to give one commonly agreed opinion. We can say that Qi is the kind of idea, a philosophical concept which is closely related to life itself, it can overcome the physical limits of nobody, that connects everything under the sky. Or applied to practical use, it is away to contemplate oneself. The ancient books said: "When hungry-eat, when tired-sleep. That's all. "
This simple advice to us means also that there is no time unsuitable to practice self cultivation: no matter whether we stand, sit or lie down, we can always practice, of body shoal become of good friend, life shall become a happy and healthy experience, we shall not longer complain about the "unfair world", or hide in ecapistic avoidance of life, instead should find interest in it, and be friendly and helpful to others. One day we will realize that all things are a part of us and we are a part of all things, the principle of the eternal transmutation of Qi. We should really understand this beautiful idea of our ancestors instead of reducing it to a mere show off its outside appearance.
Positive thinking needs also positive acting : Healing us and the environment by benevolence - If one person's only goal for Qi gong is to increase his own health and wisdom- it can be said that this practice is still imperfect, just like someone who practices Self-cultivation in order to free oneself from the ego is also seen as having not reached final understanding, because the necessary persistence is a part of the ego. So it is difficult to really free one from it. If one practices Qi gong for strengthening oneself in order to be able to help other people more effective Qi, embracing this kind of positive thinking, then it might be rather possible to "forget ones ego" by being unselfish. If one faces life's stress and hardships in this selfless, relaxed spirit, the benefits for body and mind will really begin to grow. Jesus, Buddha, and many other Saints and sages were able to bear what normal people where unable to stand; even to the level of self-sacrifice because they were able to apply this all loving and merciful attitude. Only in this way it is possible to have such a powerful positive energy.
Mankind still does not have enough bellerigent wisdom, although we have so much knowledge, there still are greed, rage, and desires that set us into bondage, only someone who is able to use an even stronger amount of goodness towards other people will be able to free oneself from the ego.
A while ago I read some news about an ice skating champion who wanted to skate around world for making a contribution to the world peace. When I read that, I immediately had the feeling: He will succeed in it! So why shouldn't we also try to apply are positive energy to the mankind when we practice Qi-gong ?
Achieving enlightenment by reading is a pretty difficult thing to do, as we can see from many scholars and people with a high education who nevertheless are sick and have a lot of problems. A normal carefree person, who is content with what he has, might be heavier than one who ambitiously tries to improve his knowledge by reading and studying day and night. A positive approach to live, positive thinking and wisdom are relying on their practical implementation in daily life in order to make them come true.
So positive thinking needs to be put into positive practice: we can start with our own life first: practice self-cultivation, meet others with a positive and kind attitude, protect the environment by producing less garbage, drive your car with a more relaxed and less aggressive approach. People in the factories can waste less water, in the business they can consider more than just their own profit, in the hospitals they can bring more sympathetic humane approach into play, people in official positions can be more solicited for common man's problems and so on.
If we use a more positive thinking and acting to cure the "Diseases" of our society we will find that of own minds and bodies problems will also gradually improve.
Self cultivation begins with helping othersSome people eagerly try to increase their wisdom by practice, prayer, meditation, or vegetarian diets, but still remain busy with themselves, always saying: just wait until I have more money, or time, or skills, of wisdom-then I will be able to help others. Finally, after waiting a lifetime they have never had a chance to do something for others, remaining selfish and contradicting themselves, leaving their own problems unsolved as well, just to come to the conclusion: life is just heart!
Wouldn't it be better to neglect our own ever-present problems for a short while, in order to first help someone else, realize other people's hardships for a while. In this way we will realize that the hardships others have to bear are bitter, too, and that we can help each other when the turn for fights, sickness, or death comes one of us, instead of fatalistic self-pity, or hypochondriac complaints.
Helping others means not to be blind for our immediate surrounding while searching for a higher and far away goal; in fact it might just begin next door. We are so quick to say "No" when someone asks us for help, so causing more isolation between ourselves. Why don't we really learn to say: "Yes" or "Alright" , utilising our selfish zeal, and instead we can find some joy in the successful solution of someone else's problem; finally finding a reward in caring for each other?
Forgiving someone a mistake, sympathize with a weaker one, or encourage family members and friends with some friendly words has more power than contributing some money for temples or churches to prove ones good intentions, not to speak of going there to pray for one's own wealth.
In the way we help or intends to help others, we can recognize our own true character like looking into a mirror: if we carefully watch our attitude when helping others, we can see our true self, which shines right through, and this is the real wisdom we actually were looking for.
Be foolish!In Chinese kong-fu martial arts stories there is a ever repeated plot: the main figure is a muddle-headed fool who suddenly by lucky chance finds something, that makes him overnight to the greatest hero under the sky. Most people don't pay attention to this principle that the fools have always this foolish luck, but rather just envy the hero for his high skills. It is this principle that worked for people who opened the front and back channel (ren mai and du mai) in a short time open (a goal for meditators as well as for kung-fu students) or achieved some stiffening jewel skill by chance or in daily life, when we hear of some unexpected stock market gains calmer that's or other Sutton streets of luck. Imperative
Actually we should practice a kind of "Muddle-headed exercise": people who are never foolish and regard themselves as smart and clever expressed already too many, a fool among them might be appreciated. A lot of people think they know everything by knowing how to gain unlocked by giving a little come holding a high self esteem, but while they Self study think there sophisticated folks, they are unable to make good use of their time, which finally passes by, leaving them old and unfulfilled, in the and complaining about a life of missed chances.
Once there was a young disciple who asked his master: "If I study diligently, hollow long will it take to be accomplished?" The master said: "Ten years." The student was shocked upon this timespan, asking again: "Since I have an old mother to take care of at home, I would like to hurry a bit with my studies: if I spare no effort, fear no hardships and pledge my self in the studies day and night, how long will it take, then?" The master answered: "70 years!", thus showing, that skills cannot be achieved fast by rushing to learn them.
When the second patriarch, of Zen Hui Ke, originally a great scholar, who was not even afraid to cut his own arm off, came to learn from Bodhidharma, he served his master for 40 years doing ordinary servants work until he gained the real knowledge. Now was he really stupid or just pretending be stupid? However, for us who usually think of us to be so clever, it might be better to increase our foolishness a bit.
Zhuang-zi told us a story of some ancient gods emperor, called Humpty-Dumpty, who was complete without any sense organs. One day his friends decided to do him a favor: every day they gave him another sense organ to make him see, hear, smell, speak, think and so on. But on the seventh day when they gave him the last one to make him perfect, he died.
Humpty-Dumpty was perfect while he was alone alive without senses, without "Cleverness", since this natural spirit was in chaos after ordering this and giving them the seven senses and therefore seven desires this guard died by becoming human. "Foolishness" includes also a simpleness and goodness at heart, no zeal for achievements, taking gain or loss as it comes, without calculating how much profit or progress one has made. Just continuing to practice on without looking for the logic principles, sometimes the open " foolishness" gains incredible rewards without understanding by the reason lies in this foolishness itself.
Before one is able to achieve the Buddhist "Emptyness" or the Taoist Wu-wei (doing by non-doing) let us first practice be a little bit less clever and a little bit more foolish.
Combining motion and stillness - balancing body and mind
There was once a cartoonist who drew the people of the future in a picture: the four limbs were shrunk to some tiny week stumps, the head was blown up to a big baloon, carrying a super-intelligent brain, as a sign of the progress which we develop right now. "Weak bodies make a developed mind" seems to be the price for advance in civilization, but I dare to doubt that this is the right way to develop the wisdom of the heart.
If we take a look at those people in ancient times, who really achieved the realisation of the Dao, we can see that all of them developed both, body and mind. And even the Buddhist concept of regarding the body as a "Dirty box to carry the soul", does not mean that they did not make use of the body. Even though it becomes unimportant, from a certain time on. But this is not emphasized, since practice of a high degree will feel naturally and such achieving this feeling by itself. If body and mind should be in balance, it has to begin with a simultaneous self-cultivation of both, motion and meditation.
No matter if it is practice of martial arts, sports, work or mental activities, we must concentrate, be patient and calm, relax body and mind, and be steady and continuous in our behavior. Also- if we are open and flexible in our views, but keep self control when necessary, then all our motions and emotions will be in tune.
Stillness means not to hold and stop, just sitting motionless is not a gain of the tranquility we speak of, not to mention that it by no means will increase our wisdom. Stillness means the stillness of the heart, to stop the "Inner dialogue" and such resulting in emptyness. "Emptyness" or non-doing is not equal to zero or represents any vacuum, instead it means to be empty from the "I" and the "want" and the "That" in short, no duality - instead of that, it feels like the "I" has been expanded so large that it is one with everything else in the universe and so results in a natural way of altruism.
Self-cultivation is a kind of continuous practice of body and mind, resulting in a different be heavier, an improvement of our mental activities, and finally resulting in feeling the pulse of the universe, so that we can float with it, beeing one with the Dao. At this time our activity is full with inherent stillness, so that stillness and motion finally become one.
Combining inner and outer practice-a further step on the road.I am often asked "Is that Taiji Quan and a kind of Qi-Gong", or "What relation have Qi-gong and the martial arts?" Actually any kind of practice that is related to qi, can be called Qi gong. Qi-Gong can be further divided into internal and external practice. External practice is mostly the visible, active practice done with the body. It also can be divided again into the hard and the soft practice, of which the first emphasizes physical strength, endurance and attacking techniques like the Iron-Shirt style, the Iron-Bridge practice et cetera. Soft parts are also called the useful arts, for their emphasis on the physical flexibility and nimbleness, like the Dao Yin exercises or the tendon-stretching exercises. Martial arts often include both, hard and soft styles, and combine strength and flexibility into one.
The outer practice also includes some longevity practices, steeling the body exercises and boxing styles. Longevity practice includes Dao Yin exercises like the Hua Tuo five animal style, Tui-Na breathing, swinging hand practice and so on, for the improvement of the physical health. Steeling the body exercises include the eight brokades, Bodhidharmas tendon stretching exercises et cetera. Although they are no "martial" arts, but they improve the internal Qi and the inability of the body such improving strength and effectiveness and the internal flowing of the qi.
The martial arts are used for as self defense when applied et enemies or wild animals. They include the Shaolin style, Ba Gua Palm, Wu Xing fist, Taiji Quan et cetera. All emphasizing the change of yin and yang, fullness and emptyness. Further they cultivate the use of qi and voice combinations like the it exhaling sound when attacking (Hah! Hhu!), the strange sounds Bruce Lee used to make: they all are useful to protect the body from harm during fights and may increase its own impact, as well as confuse the opposite combattant.
Then there is the beginning stance and the palm rubbing after finishing practise which also are methods for moving the qi and increasing the inner energy. The biggest difference between Western style boxing and Chinese boxing is the emphasis of the latter on "qi" for better results, health and longevity. Inner practice is mostly practice in Stillness like meditative sitting or lying or standing practices. Tan Tian practice, visualization, Zen sitting and so on are all kinds of Internal practice. They are useful for concentration and that balance of body and mind.
My master told me once, that if one practices outer practice without inner practice, the body will easily get old and so prevents its further improvement. On the other hand, any meditative or inner practice without physical exercises will often result in blocked Qi or other results of malpractice. The best kind of practice should combine both, inner and outer methods. Therefore I often encourage my students to try Taiji Quan or Shaolin style martial arts in combination with their Qi practices. In this way the two sides of practice will both equally contribute to even better results.