A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung: Harnessing the Power of the Universe

A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung: Harnessing the Power of the Universe

by Daniel P. Reid

which literally means "energy work," is a system of cultivating
health, vitality, and longevity that is based on the fundamental principles of
Taoism and the laws of nature. Practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years,
works with the energy found in all living things to help rid the body of

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which literally means "energy work," is a system of cultivating
health, vitality, and longevity that is based on the fundamental principles of
Taoism and the laws of nature. Practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years,
works with the energy found in all living things to help rid the body of the
imbalances that sap our strength and give rise to disease. The simple,
meditative movements, breathing exercises, and massage techniques that are the
basis of
can be practiced by anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness.

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the Introduction

Terms and Concepts

is an ancient Chinese system of self-cultivation developed specifically as a
means by which each individual may take full personal responsibility for
protecting health, promoting vitality and prolonging life, while cultivating
spiritual awareness and insight. Based on the primordial principles of
classical Taoist philosophy, chi-gung is simple and practical—the practitioner
learns how to harness the fundamental forces of the cosmos (Heaven), balance
them with the elemental energies of nature (Earth) and harmonize them both with
the essence, energy and spirit (i.e., the 'Three Treasures') of human life
(Humanity). Chi-gung thus enables the individual to amplify his or her personal
power with the infinite power of the universe.

in traditional Chinese thought as the 'Three Powers', Heaven
the sum total of all the forces and factors at all levels of human existence
within the universe as we know it. It is by virtue of the balance and harmony
of these powers that we may enjoy health and vitality, attain power and
longevity, enhance our mental awareness and spiritual insight, overcome our
instinctive fear of death, and realize the primordial immortality of the human

usually associated in popular Western imagination with medicine, monks and
martial artists, chi-gung was also practised in traditional China by ministers
of state and judicial magistrates, princes and prelates, poets and painters,
each of whom utilized its power to cultivate their own particular talents,
improve their professional performance, protect their health, enhance energy
and prolong life. In today's highly competitive, stressful world, chi-gung's
versatile utility as a personal tool—for promoting productivity, preventing
disease, balancing emotions and calming the mind—has greater practical
potential for the individual, and for society, than it ever has before. For
busy people without the time or inclination for elaborate exercise programmes,
expensive sports and difficult to learn manoeuvres, chi-gung provides a quick
and easy system of self-healthcare that is both safe and simple to learn, and
can be practised any time of the day or night, at home or at work, indoors or
outdoors, without requiring any special equipment, expensive facilities or
athletic skills, and only the most basic training. Yet simple as it seems, so
potent are the healing powers and other benefits of chi-gung that some of the
cures and other effects it achieves are discounted as 'miracles' even by
eye-witness observers—despite the evidence—or scoffed at by incredulous
sceptics as 'anecdotal evidence'. That's simply because there is a lot more to
chi-gung than meets the eye. In fact, what meets the eye in chi-gung is merely
a small tip of a massive iceberg floating serenely in the vast sea of universal

'breath' and 'air', and by extension it also denotes 'energy' and 'vitality'.
a general term meaning 'work' and is used in reference to any technique or
skill which requires time and effort, patience and practice, to perfect. Hence
the term 'chi-gung' may be translated as 'breathing exercise' as well as
'energy work', and indeed the subtle skill of breath control is the key to
cultivating control over the flow and balance of energy in the body and
harmonizing human energy with the elementary energies of nature and the cosmos.

itself in myriad ways throughout the realms of nature (Earth), the cosmos
(Heaven), and the human system (Humanity). For the purposes of chi-gung, the
three most important manifestations of
the following:

  • Chi
    the fundamental 'stuff' of the entire manifest universe, the basic building
    block of all matter, the immaterial energy that constitutes all material form.
    Modern quantum physics has recently verified a fact that has long been apparent
    to ancient Taoist science: that the essential nature of even the most elemental
    atoms and molecules is nothing more or less than an array of various energies
    organized in particular patterns.
    therefore the basic energy that comprises all matter and animates all living
    things, and the fundamental functional force that drives all activities and
    transformations in nature and the universe, from the galactic to the
    microscopic, from the birth, growth, decay and death of stars to the formation
    and dissolution of atoms, molecules and cells in the human body.

  • Chi
    the basic life force of all three levels of human existence—body, energy and
    mind. In constitutes the definitive factor in all facets and phases of human
    life, from the molecular level of metabolism and cellular division to the
    larger organic functions of digestion and excretion, respiration and
    circulation, all the way up to the highest faculties of feeling and thought,
    awareness and perception.
    the invisible master template behind all visible forms and vital functions of
    the human system, and therefore it is the primary factor responsible for human
    health and disease, the main gauge of vitality and longevity, the bridge that
    links body and mind, and the common denominator in all the complex equations of
    physical, emotional and spiritual life. Chi-gung provides an effective way to
    mediate and manipulate the vital energies of life, and to balance and harmonize
    them for optimum health and longevity, emotional equilibrium and spiritual

  • Chi
    constitutes the dynamic polar field in which all energy moves and from which
    all power springs. Every type of energy functions within its own specific force
    field, from the lowest vibrations of matter to the highest frequencies of
    spirit, from the heaviest to the lightest, from the most polluted to the purest
    forms. Therefore the purity and potency of one's own personal
    the type of universal energy with which one's system resonates, and this in
    turn governs the nature of one's relationship with the higher forces and
    spiritual realms of the universe. Chi-gung permits the practitioner to purify
    and potentiate his or her own personal energy field so that it resonates in
    harmony with the purest energies and most powerful spiritual forces in the
    universe, thereby empowering humanity with the infinite energy, wisdom and
    other primordial virtues of Heaven and Earth.

    forms for chi-gung involve various degrees of gentle movement or stillness of
    the body, balanced with rhythmically regulated breathing, all quietly
    harmonized by a calm, unhurried and clearly focused mind. Soft, slow movement
    of the body prevents the stiffness and stagnation that lead to degeneration and
    death. As Lao Tze states in the classic verse of the
    Teh Ching:

    to be stiff

    hard is the way of death;

    be soft and supple is the way of life.

    importance of soft flowing movement was also noted by Confucius. In the
    classical text called
    and Autumn Annals,
    sage says,

    water never stagnates, and the hinges of an active door never rust. This is due
    to movement. The same principle applies to essence and energy. If the body does
    not move, essence does not flow. When essence does not flow, energy stagnates.

    exercises such as the graceful rhythmic dance of Tai Chi Chuan are often
    referred to as 'moving meditation' because they blend soft, gentle movements of
    the body with a calm, contemplative state of mind. However, to understand fully
    the role of movement in chi-gung, one must also comprehend the central
    significance of stillness, as well as the complementary connection between the
    two. In the sitting meditation forms of chi-gung, for example, there is also
    movement, but it is all internal—in the flow of energy through the channels
    and the circulation of blood in the vessels and the cyclic waves of
    breath—while externally the physical body rests in motionless serenity. In
    moving forms of chi-gung, the rhythmic external motions of the body can only be
    maintained and kept in harmony with the cyclic rise and fall of breath by a
    mind that rests serenely in an undistracted state of internal stillness. Thus,
    like the eternal ebb and flow of the waves on the sea and the cyclic turns of
    day and night in the firmament, movement and stillness constitute the essential
    Yin and Yang poles of chi-gung and comprise the complementary cornerstones in
    all forms of practice.

    term 'Tao' transcends precise definition in words and is better understood
    through the archetypal symbols traditionally used to represent it—the sexual
    act between male and female, the constant interplay of the elementary energies
    of nature, the rhythmic dance of macrocosmic forces in the external universe
    and their microcosmic reflections in the internal world of the human body. In
    the classic canons of Taoist literature, the mysteries of Tao are elucidated
    through the symbolic formulations of trigrams and hexagrams in the ancient book
    of divination known as the
    (Book of Change)
    the arresting allusions and crystal-clear metaphors of the
    Teh Ching,
    intriguing 5,000-character treatise on Tao attributed to the sage Lao Tze. The
    terse verse of this ancient text is a source of such universal insight and
    incisive truth that it ranks among the most popular, appealing and widely
    translated books in the world today.

    original Chinese ideogram for 'Tao' consists of the symbols for 'head' and
    'walk'. As a noun, it generally means 'way' or 'path', while as a verb it means
    'to say' or 'to know'. This implies that the Tao is a path through life that
    one takes by following the mind rather than the body; it also indicates that
    the Tao is the original source of all real knowledge and true words. 'There was
    something formless yet complete that existed before Heaven and Earth,' states
    Lao Tze in the
    Teh Ching.
    true name I do not know. "Tao" is the nickname I give it.'

    all the myriad elements of nature from which Taoist terminology is drawn, water
    comes closest to expressing the fundamental essence and full potential of Tao,
    and thus it has become the quintessential symbol of the Tao in philosophy, art
    and science. The initially yielding yet ultimately omnipotent nature of water
    permeates every aspect of chi-gung and provides a convenient metaphor through
    which the theory of chi-gung may be understood and the practice readily
    learned. Blood and energy move through their respective channels in the body
    like water flowing through rivers—free, full, unimpeded—and any obstruction
    to their free flow and natural equilibrium causes deviations that give rise to
    energy imbalance and has serious repercussions throughout the entire system.
    The way the body moves and feels during chi-gung practice is like swimming
    through water—soft and smooth, slow and rhythmic. The long, deep, diaphragmic
    breathing employed in chi-gung rises and falls with the same rhythmic
    regularity as waves on the ocean, while the human mind resting in the unruffled
    stillness of meditation is often compared to the surface of a lake on a
    windless day, calmly reflecting the silent clarity of Heaven above.

    also symbolizes the mutable relationship between matter and energy, stillness
    and motion, and the transformations activated in the human system by the
    'internal alchemy' of chi-gung practice. The fluid Yin essence in the
    'cauldron' of the sacrum is transformed and sublimated by the 'wind' of breath
    acting as a 'bellows' to 'steam' and purify it, and refine it into Yang energy.
    This energy rises up the spine under the guidance of mind and enters the head,
    where it is further refined to nurture spirit. The spirit condenses and cools
    it again, inducing it to flow down the front channel as Water energy and store
    itself in the 'lower elixir field'
    the navel.

    Taoist terminology is rooted in the universal symbols of nature and the cosmos,
    which is why Taoist philosophy has endured through the ages and produced ideas
    with significance that transcends cultural boundaries. Rather than creating new
    words to represent new ideas, as is the custom in Western civilization, the
    Chinese have always expressed their ideas through the symbolic language of
    nature, and therefore it requires only a little imagination to grasp even the
    most esoteric Taoist concepts.

    ideas, cloaked as they are in colourful images familiar to one and all, are
    refreshingly free of the fuzzy ambiguity and complex jargon that characterize
    philosophical discussion and scientific debate in other cultural traditions.
    Indeed, even the most technical scientific aspects of Taoist thought are often
    expressed in terms so poetically imaginative and universally symbolic that
    their meanings are rendered far more clearly to the layman than they are by the
    technical terminology of Western science, and this is what makes the Taoist
    view of nature and life so appealing to people throughout the world.

    to common misconceptions, Taoism is not really a religion, but rather a whole
    way of life. While a popular religion known as 'Tao Chiao', complete with its
    own hereditary 'pope', did branch out from the main trunk of Taoist thought in
    response to the influx of Buddhism from India during the third to fifth
    centuries AD, the true line of Taoist theory and practice, traditionally known
    as 'Tao Chia', was a non-sectarian, non-theist philosophy devoted to the study
    of nature and the cosmos and their relationships with the human condition. The
    universal principles of nature and practical precepts of life discovered and
    developed by practising Taoist philosophers lie at the heart of all the
    traditional Chinese arts and sciences—from martial arts to medical science,
    poetry and painting to alchemy and geomancy, cooking to cosmology—and they
    gave rise to a way of life that brought the human body, energy and mind into
    balanced synchronicity and harmonic resonance with the primordial forces of
    Heaven and the temporal elements of Earth. In the Taoist system of thought and
    practice, chi-gung became an effective personal tool for unlocking the
    mysteries of life and harnessing the universal powers of Heaven to regulate the
    elemental energies of Earth so that both may serve the needs of Humanity.

    is perhaps the only philosophic system in the world which revolves more around
    practice than preaching, and chi-gung constitutes one of its most important
    practices. You don't have to remind a true Taoist to practise what he or she
    preaches, for if a Taoist preaches anything at all, it's usually the central
    importance of practice. Thus the Taoist way of life precludes the common
    hypocrisy of preaching one thing while practising another, for by definition
    the only way to know the Tao is to experience its power in practice, not just
    to talk about it in theory. As the first line of the
    Teh Ching
    perfectly clear: 'The tao which can be said is not the eternal Tao . . .'


    primacy of practice notwithstanding, in order to engage in a meaningful
    discussion of chi-gung, we must first define the basic terms and understand the
    key concepts which form the theoretical framework from which the practices
    developed. So let's start at the beginning.

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