After 2.5 years of planning, dreaming, visualizing and preparing, I have finally returned to another Land I love, the land of CHINA of the Far East, the land of yummy foods, billions of people, mystic mountains, cloud temples, tango dancing and Chinese opera singing in the parks, Daoist secrets, amazing traffic, Masters and Grandmasters in the ancient healing arts, monks playing cell phone games, delicious night markets and oh so much more!
I’m so excited for this adventure and I must be wearing this excitement on my face. Yesterday, as I walked up to the security check guy in the Seattle airport, he looked at me and said, “Dreamin’ big, huh?” with a huge smile and sparkle in his eyes. “YES!!!!!,” I thought, “how did he know?!!!” :)
In preparation for this journey, both of my teachers from China came to Seattle this past August. One was Dr. Zhao, whom I studied with at his clinic for 2 months in 2010. He came with his wife and we had a most awesome visit – taking him and Ayi to Mt Rainer and to the Hoh Rainforest where they met my dear friend and wilderness guide, Mick (aka Barefoot Sensei – a true mountain sage of the Pacific NW Wild Lands), and Master OG, some of the last wild “Old Growth” stands in the heart of the Hoh River valley. (I have so many pics and stories to share from these adventures too and didn’t complete my album before leaving!) And my 2nd teacher to come was Grandmaster Xu Mingtang, my qigong teacher and lineage holder of the Zhong Yuan Qigong system (we call it ZY Qigong for short :)).
Being with a Grandmaster ~ Expect the Unexpected!!! :)
Grandmaster Xu’s visit was also AWESOME, and so I took some of the abundant time I had on my looooong 11 hour, 40 min flight to Beijing yesterday to share (Gosh, I thought it was only a 10 hour flight! :(..until our captain announcement we have almost 2 more hours…maybe our world is expanding? :)) So…just as I LOVE my time with dear Dr. Zhao, I also so LOVE my time with Grandmaster Xu. Life is always sooooooo amazingly rich, huge, unknown, magical and a mystery when with him. His experiences and how he has so developed his senses and abilities as a human being and the things he can do are what most people consider beyond humanly possible. Yet, the conundrum is I know it is possible; I have seen, witnessed and felt things that I never would have dreamed possible until meeting Mingtang and having the opportunity to study and train with him at Shaolin Monastery, practice intensively at a cloud temple on Song Mt (close to Shaolin Monastery), and travel with him as his assistant all around eastern and western Europe. I saw and personally experienced what I could then only understand as pure miracles in healing and mysteries in sensations in inner and outer experiences. And, the more I am with Grandmaster, the more I train and practice with him each year, the more, layer by layer, I’m absorbing understanding as well as developing myself and my soul.
I love how at our opening event this year (we had 98 people come!!! Our goal was 100 and we had exactly 100 chairs set up – YAY! – thanks to all who helped us spread the word :)) – Grandmaster Xu doesn’t hold back at all in speaking his message and sharing what’s possible. He teaches and shares what in the past was kept secret…information and training that would only be passed down a family lineage to specific people --- he now makes these teachings public – no fluff stuff to be found – just the real deal. So in his opening talk he bluntly said with a smile and twinkle in his eyes (and this is after flying 10+ hours and arriving in Seattle that same morning at 5:25 a.m.!), “Most people come to qigong to get good health. Their goal is good health, and most people fail.” (What?! – I’m thinking :)…) “In ZY Qigong, health is not our goal; our goal is spiritual development, developing our selves, our potential as humans and developing our soul.” He explained that often humans achieve things just under the goals they’ve set (like us having 98 people – almost 100, but still not quite). If people set a goal for having good health, chances are people will fall short of that goal. “If, however, we set our goal on spiritual development,” said Grandmaster Xu with a chuckle, “we will at least get good health.” :)
I also love how Grandmaster Xu’s teachings are simple. Yet they are massively profound and hold much wisdom. His teachings come from his depth of understanding about Life, and what Life is. In our 2-day Qigong workshop at Bastyr University, Grandmaster Xu again explained that ZY Qigong is a system we practice with our own lives, a science that helps us develop our own abilities to awaken our own understanding/realization of what Life is. He explained that life is made up of three basic areas: the physical, energetic and spiritual or informational. In our Western world and particularly our Western Medicine, we have much, sometimes exclusive focus on the physical (in medicine this is focused on physiology and antimony – basically our physical structure and physical functions of our organs). More time for development is needed both in the Energetic and Spiritual/informational planes. This is where Qigong comes in, and especially Zhong Yuan Qigong.
The Power and Practice of Qigong ~ Tapping in to our inherent Potential
Qigong practice both increases our energy and develops our inherent senses, senses that can forever remain dormant unless we practice. For example, those of you who study qigong or taichi know of 3 main energy centers in our body commonly referred to in practice as our lower dantian (丹田) – just below the navel; our middle dantian – at the heart center; and our upper dantian – region of the 3rd eye, in between our eye brows deep within our head. “Dan” means red and “tian” means field. Fields are where we grow crops, cultivate vegetables; and this inner field is where we cultivate, grow and store our Qi.
These centers do not inherently exist in our bodies; we develop them from practice and training our power of Image. Like the Dao, from nothing comes something. One of our most foundational exercises in ZY Qigong is Refine Qi, where we hold an Image of a red, hot ball just below our navel region. We imagine, visualize this red, hot ball until…suddenly one day it appears and there is definitely a red, hot pulsing ball of qi in our bellies. It is with this Qi, depending on how much we gather and store and cultivate, that we can generate enough energy, both for self-healing and for awakening abilities such as opening our 3rd eye and soul travel.
Power of Trees
To develop this red, hot ball in our dantians, we do other practices, which quickly and strongly allow us to gather large amounts of qi. One such practice is Big Tree meditation (da shu gong 大树功). This ties into an example of how qigong draws from the power of, and examples of life in Nature. Trees and humans have some special similarities. Both trees and humans can be conduits of Earth (yin) and Sky (yang) energy and can do it simultaneously. Trees absorb sunshine and air through their leaves and branches, and water and minerals through their roots. They can live a very long time, and they get everything they require from both the sky and earth. We have similar capabilities, as we too require both yin and yang energies for good health. AND have much we can learn and observe on longevity and vitality from Trees.
In Big Tree practice, we gather a big ball of yin (earth) and yang (sky) qi between our hands and our navel, and we again train with image; we visualize and imagine ourselves as a Big Tree until we feel we become a Tree. (This is where more discussion is needed on Image, and the vast amounts of information and wisdom we can gain through Image, as well as the possibility of communication with all life forms….as Image is the basic foundational blueprint of all life.) At the end of meditation, we guide and condense this energy into our navel to be stored in our lower dantian. Usually it’s best for people to first practice Big Tree to gather much qi. Once a significant amount of qi is gathered, one can practice Refine Qi to cultivate and “refine” this energy to be used for developing/opening or awakening our innate senses and extra abilities. Just as trees develop and have strong roots, we too require developing our roots first. This is gongfu 功夫, and gongfu develops our power.
Qigong in Nature
Qigong training in Nature is also one of the best places to practice, as the energy is often strong, pristine and abundant. Nature’s restorative and rejuvenating energy greatly influences us, our life and can significantly augment the amount of Qi we gather and cultivate in our self-development. These are more reasons why I love to practice outside!! :) Even when in the city, I’ll practice outside in a park (such as with my outdoor Qigong with Trees class), and practice close to trees and/or a body of water where the energy is beautiful, strong and clean. And I’m so excited to practice qigong in China’s Western Wild Lands on our Qigong & Wilderness trekking trips!! :)
Gosh, this is quite a long update for my very first one, and I haven’t even gotten to my discussion on about Image Medicine! I’ll save that for a later time…:)
…And…I have a bit more to share on qigong.
Quick note on Qigong, Western Medicine & Image Medicine .... a Case Study
Qigong offers important and valuable tools for our health and wellbeing, for our medicine and health care, and for our self-development. Modern medicine, while it offers excellent care for certain situations and conditions, it basically ignores Qi. And Qi’s presence, quality and flow is essential for Life. This basic understanding is reflected in the Chinese language, as when someone dies, people say, “Ta mei qi le” (他没气了); “He has no more qi.” Also Qi relates to energy and informational issues, both of which are not comprehensively addressed in Western medicine.
One of many examples I have, is when I was in Hungary observing Grandmaster Xu treating one of his patients. This patient had developed lung cancer. Grandmaster Xu diagnosed him using Image Medicine and his 3rd eye. He saw that the lung cancer was actually due to a previous car accident and subsequent overuse of antibiotics (Grandmaster Xu said this before the patient ever mentioned anything about a car accident that happened several years earlier and his subsequent bouts of bronchitis – all of which were treated with antibiotics). In the car accident, this fellow had damaged certain energy channels/meridians, resulting in a blockage of his energy flowing to his lungs. He subsequently (though this fellow did not see the relation at the time) developed congestion and a cough, then treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are bitter and cold in nature, according to Chinese medicine, and when used inappropriately to treat a cold, they can lead to serious health complications. While his cold initially went away, he then developed bronchitis, which again was treated with antibiotics. This coldness stayed in his body, in his lungs; and that, in addition to his blocked energy flow in his lungs, created a ripe ground for cancer.
Grandmaster Xu explained that the body’s natural state is warm. The bitter coldness that can come with overuse of antibiotics is unnatural, and one of the ways the body uses to heat itself up, is to regenerate. The multiplication and division of cells creates/generates heat. When the body does this rapidly and out of control, we refer to this as cancer.
This is one example where Western Medicine would go after the cancer itself, yet not understand or address the root cause of it. Grandmaster Xu, on the other hand, “took out” the coldness using Image Medicine techniques and taught the patient qigong to rebuild his energy channels (note that Big Tree is especially good for helping to repair damaged energy channels). He said once he repaired his channels, increased his qi and circulation of qi (using the Micro Cosmic Orbit exercise), he would fully recover. Wow!! What a different diagnosis and outcome! This man was a bit stunned, and frankly thrilled! This is one of many, many, many examples I could give from my time with Grandmaster Xu.
In sum, qigong gives us many, many tools and resources to help, treat and develop ourselves. Grandmaster Xu said in our last workshop that, “With some problems we need to see doctors; yet most problems we need to see ourselves.” :) Qigong offers techniques and tools to cleanse, regenerate/rejuventate and develop ourselves on the 3 basic planes of life: physical, energetic and spiritual/informational.
Oh so much more to share!!
Thank you to those of you who made it this far in reading my update! :) I’m so happy to be sharing again and LOVE sharing about Qigong! :)
I’ll be sending more updates and pictures as I continue my journey. I’ll be in the backcountry trekking in the Tibetan Plateau of Sichuan Province Sept 9-22, otherwise though, I’ll have Internet connection. I'm in Beijing now -- it is so beautiful! Sunny, warm and the air is clean, clear and fresh! I can actually see the surrounding mountains :)
So much Love and Great Qi to you all!
KarenJoy, aka Kailun (凯伦), my Chinese name :)