Read an Excerpt
David Carradine's Introduction to Chi Kung
The Beginner's Program for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-being
By David Carradine, David Nakahara, Sarah Griffin, Mike Lamont
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 1997 David Carradine and David Nakahara
All rights reserved.
The Chi Kung Program
Assessing Your Self-Awareness
The truly great man dwells on what is real and not on what is on the surface, On the fruit and not the flower. Therefore accept the one and reject the other.
A major component of Chi Kung training is self-awareness. Understanding who you are — your strengths, weaknesses, fears, attitudes, and aspirations — is very important to achieving and maintaining health. Chi Kung training is not just physical exercise and circulating energy; it is learning to feel and perceive. It is understanding your mind and body. It is embarking on an inner search for your true self. This is the true power of Chi Kung. Tapping into the energy is merely a vehicle or guide or bridge to take you deeper and deeper into your consciousness, subconscious, physical body, emotions, personality, memories, fears, false images, or, simply, your total being.
We are all born perfect, innocent, and beautiful, capable of wondrous things. Yet as we grow up we accumulate experiences that are so painful that we choose to build walls and barriers to hide our wounds. We develop false images of ourselves to cover our vulnerabilities and overcompensate for our weaknesses. We muddle and suppress the genius and talent that exist within us all. Our energy system is directly inhibited by how fiercely we hold on to our false images. Conversely, our energetic strength is enhanced by how easily we let go of our masks and veils. "Letting go" is accomplished by seeking truth within yourself. The truth can be painful, temporarily, but it can also be liberating. Be as honest with yourself as possible, because without truth improvement is impossible.
Answering the questionnaire is the first step to getting in touch with your body, your state of health, and the quality of your life. It is also a way to break down barriers of self-denial that inhibit the flow of the body's energy. The effects of Chi Kung can be subtle but profound. Your day-to- day progress may be barely discernible, but your improvement over a period of a month or two can be quite dramatic. The following questions will help reveal your present condition. Answer them quickly and briefly. One-word answers are best. It is recommended that you photocopy the questions and write your answers on the photocopied page. Put it away in a safe place, and then, later in the program, we will ask that you revisit your responses. At that point you will realize how powerful and fully encompassing Chi Kung really is.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL SUFFER IF YOU DO A BAD DEED?
DO YOU FEEL GOOD HELPING A STRANGER?
DO YOU GET ANGRY WITH SOMEONE AFTER IT IS TOO LATE TO RESPOND?
DO YOU WAKE UP LOOKING FORWARD TO THE DAY?
CAN YOU ENJOY BEING ALONE?
DO YOU GET HEADACHES?
DO YOU EAT WHEN YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY DISTRAUGHT?
DO YOU EAT WHEN YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY?
DO YOU EAT FOR TASTE AND HEALTH?
DO YOU EAT A LOT OF FAST FOOD?
DO YOU EAT A LOT OF FROZEN FOOD?
DO YOU EVER REGRET THAT YOU DID NOT EXPRESS YOURSELF?
IS THERE SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE YOU BLAME FOR KEEPING YOU FROM BEING HAPPY?
DO YOU BLAME OTHERS FOR YOUR FAILURES?
DO YOU FEEL SUPERIOR TO SOME PEOPLE?
DO YOU FEEL INFERIOR TO SOME PEOPLE?
DO YOU ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TOWARD SUCCESS?
DO YOUR FRIENDS GENUINELY SUPPORT YOU IN YOUR ENDEAVORS?
DO YOU ENJOY SEEING OTHER PEOPLE FIND HAPPINESS?
IS WINNING EVERYTHING TO YOU?
IS AN EQUAL DEAL A GOOD DEAL?
DO YOU HOLD GRUDGES?
DO YOU LET PROBLEMS GET BIGGER BY NOT DEALING WITH THEM?
IS IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO CONFRONT PEOPLE?
DO YOU FREQUENTLY GET ANGRY WHEN DRIVING, OR AT OTHER TIMES WITH LITTLE PROVOCATION?
DO YOU LAUGH AT YOURSELF?
DO YOU STAY MAD AT YOURSELF?
IS MONEY THE ANSWER TO ALL YOUR PROBLEMS?
IS MORE BETTER?
DO YOU VALUE EXERCISE?
DO YOU VALUE REST?
ARE YOU MOVED BY BEAUTY?
DO YOU NEED PRAISE?
DO YOU LIKE TO LEARN?
CAN YOU BE SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT HARD WORK?
ARE YOU AFRAID OF HARD WORK?
IS IT OKAY TO BE WRONG IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE?
CAN YOU ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG?
CAN YOU APOLOGIZE IF YOU WERE ONLY HALF WRONG?
IS APOLOGIZING THE ANSWER TO YOUR PROBLEMS?
IS YOUR WAY THE ONLY WAY?
DO YOU LITTER?
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THINGS YOU CAN'T CONTROL?
DO YOU SEE THE GOOD IN PEOPLE?
DO YOU FIXATE ON THE BAD IN PEOPLE?
ARE YOU AFRAID TO LOSE?
ARE YOU AFRAID OF SUCCESS?
ARE YOU AFRAID OF BEING REJECTED?
ARE YOU AFRAID TO BE A BEGINNER?
ARE YOU AFRAID OF CHANGE?
DO YOU BLAME YOUR PARENTS FOR YOUR FAULTS?
DO YOU FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED?
ARE YOUR BEST YEARS AHEAD OF YOU?
CAN YOU FORGIVE?
DO YOU PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?
DO YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU ARE DOING?
ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE?
ARE YOU DOING WHAT YOU DO BEST?
ARE YOU NOT DOING WHAT YOU COULD BE EXCELLENT AT?
HAS YOUR ANGER RUINED A RELATIONSHIP?
IS YOUR ANGER RUINING A RELATIONSHIP?
ARE YOU AFRAID TO BE ALONE?
DO YOU NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS?
IS YOUR EGO EASILY BRUISED?
DO YOU FEEL OTHER PEOPLE'S PAIN?
DO YOU JUDGE AND CONDEMN PEOPLE?
CAN YOU LEARN SOMETHING FROM ANYONE?
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO GET?
IS YOUR LIFE CONTROLLED BY ANOTHER?
DO YOU REFLECT ON YOUR LIFE?
DO YOU CONSIDER CONSEQUENCES THAT DON'T DIRECTLY AFFECT YOURSELF?
CAN YOU READ WITHOUT FALLING ASLEEP?
DO YOU MIND HAVING TO WALK TO GET SOMEWHERE?
DO YOU SLEEP WELL?
DO YOU HATE ANYONE?
DO YOU LOVE SOMEONE?
DO YOU CRY?
ARE YOU EVER IN AWE?
CAN YOU WIN GRACEFULLY?
CAN YOU LOSE GRACEFULLY?
DO YOU LIKE SILENCE?
Philosophy of Training
It is not wise to rush about. Controlling the breath causes strain. If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows. This is not the way of Tao. Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.
Jerry Alan Johnson, a longtime Chi Kung and internal martial arts master, reflected back to the time when he first started training with his teacher:
I asked my teacher, "How long before I can become very good with the chi, the energy?"
My teacher replied, "Three years."
I was surprised. "Three years?! Well, what if I try really, really hard?"
He answered, "Then it will take you ten years."
The requirements for Chi Kung training are different from those of purely physical regimens. Qualities such as forcefulness, intensity, an ability to work through a high pain threshold, and the ability to push yourself to the limit are harmful. Attributes such as being undeniable, determined, and goal-oriented are good but can be counterproductive if taken too far. The ability to relax and feel, to trust in your intuition, and to be patient are the traits most valued. The energy needs to be coaxed gently and not forced by sheer determination. If you force things, you could hurt yourself with the energy. If you work through pain and exhaustion, you are denying the body's safety signals. If you try too hard and expect too much, this will bring on stress and tension in the mind and body. The energy will not flow if the mind is overactive and the muscles are tight. The energy flows when the mind is at ease and the body is relaxed. The more you relax, the more you will feel. The more you feel, the more you can control and cultivate the energy. The energy is very subtle. There are times when you will need to use your intuition to feel and sense the effects of the energy. The more you respect your intuition, the sharper your intuition will be and the more sensitive you will become. Also, your intuition will guide you to exercises that are better and more appropriate for you. Have patience with the training. There are people who get dramatic results within days, and others who feel very little after several months. Self-development is like growing a fruit tree. The growth of a fruit tree is invisible to the human eye, yet one day it bears fruit.
As we mentioned, the ancient Taoists saw the energy of the body as an internal ecosystem with real characteristics and controllable tendencies. If this internal ecosystem is kept clean, vibrant, and flowing, the physical body will stay strong and healthy. The plan set forth in this book is designed to systematically achieve this state of health.
Imagine seeing a great piece of land hosting a network of rivers, lakes, seas, forests, and mountains. See the shape of the land as similar to the outline of a body. If the rivers are clogged, the lakes are filled with debris, the seas are polluted, the trees are brown, the mountains are deteriorating, and the air is filled with smog — you have the image of a diseased and unhealthy body. For most of us, our bodies are neither purely clean nor disastrously polluted, but for all of us, the body can never be too healthy.
To repair the land we must be able to see what we are doing. If we work on the land through a blanket of smog, we are working in the dark. The first exercise taught is Still Meditation. This exercise allows us to get "into our bodies." We can then start to feel, see, and sense our muscles, bones, posture, organs, physical functioning, emotions, intellect, intuitions, desires, fears, and all the things that influence our energy. Meditation increases our sensitivity and awareness while removing the blinding smog from our internal ecosystem.
Once we have a clearer picture of our own internal ecosystem, we must begin to unclog the rivers of energy. There are two main rivers that feed the entire system of rivers, lakes, and seas — the "conceptional" and "governing" meridians. We must remove the large clogs that pinch the flow of these main rivers. Through "stretching the back" we can remove tension along the spine where one of the main rivers of energy flows. Working out the tightness and tension will unkink the spine and restore the energy flow in the important Governing meridian. Since our sensitivity will have increased from the Still Meditation, we will feel where we are tight, tense, and sore and be able to concentrate directly on our weak points.
There are other areas in the body where the energy tends to stagnate, causing the rivers of energy to pinch off. Most commonly, these are the main joints of the body, referred to as the "Gates of the Body." Energy circulation can be restored and increased by warming, stretching, and opening these joints or gates. Stretching the back and spine is like bulldozing blockages in the Mississippi River. Opening the Gates is analogous to clearing impediments that are clogging the smaller rivers that run off the Mississippi River.
While stretching will remove the tension and tightness that pinches off chi flow, there are other factors that impede energy circulation. The river pathways in our internal ecosystem can be clear, but the water itself may be polluted and include chi blockages. These blockages accumulate from mental and physical tension. Through bouncing and shaking the body, exhaling the breath, and releasing tension in the mind, we can shake loose and expel negative energy. The "Cleansing Exercises" will purge stagnant, heavy, negative, and excess energy from the body and its rivers of energy. The energy or the actual water of our ecosystem will also be literally cleansed.
Once the pathways are cleared and the energy is cleansed, it is time to directly intensify the flow of energy. This is achieved by a simple physical and mental exercise called the "Small Orbit Exercise." The Small Orbit Exercise increases the circulation of energy in the two main rivers, the Conceptional and Governing meridians, which make up the "Microcosmic Orbit." All the rivers of energy flow through the Microcosmic Orbit at some point. It is the Mississippi River of our ecosystem. Increasing the flow in the Microcosmic Orbit will affect and eventually flow over into the other energy pathways of the body, thereby strengthening the entire system.
In our internal ecosystem there are also pools or lakes of energy that are connected to the rivers of energy. These lakes are analogous to the Great Lakes in that their influence and size are significant. There are five primary lakes, and each one is located and associated with a main internal organ, namely the kidneys, liver, heart, spleen, and lungs. These organs are collectively called the "five Yin organs." When a person has an illness associated with one of these organs, it is often attributed to an excess or lack of energy in the lake of energy associated with that particular internal organ. The imbalance is usually caused by a blockage in the river that feeds into or drains out of the lake of energy. The "Five Element Exercises" are designed to balance the chi flow in the five internal organs. Whereas the Small Orbit Exercise works on the internal ecosystem as a whole, each of the Five Element Exercises concentrates on a specific set of problems.
Vibrancy and health in the five Yin organs can also be attained by "purifying" the energy of each organ or the lake of energy associated with the organ. This is achieved by doing the "Healing Sounds Exercises," which vibrate the organs with sound. This vibration will shake loose and dispel stagnant and negative energy that tends to exist in these lakes of energy. This negative energy usually stems from supressed emotions. By doing the Healing Sounds Exercises not only are you clearing away bad energy; you are also releasing negative emotions.
The Five Element Exercises and the Healing Sounds Exercises can be used to combat specific negative conditions, or they can serve as a regular health maintenance routine. The "Specific Ailments" section (here), while not part of the daily program, gives additional solutions for certain conditions. This section uses a combination of self-acupressure and self-massage techniques to stimulate the rivers and lakes of energy. Acupressure involves applying pressure to a specific point along a river of energy in order to stimulate chi flow. Self-massage is designed to heat and activate energy in targeted areas, usually in regions of multiple acupressure points, physically tense areas, and in the lakes of energy that house the organs.
At this point in the program you will have learned how to open and cleanse the rivers and lakes of your ecosystem. You will have the necessary tools to thoroughly revitalize the body. However, it is still possible to deepen the healing process even further. There are three "Seas of Energy" that serve as receptacles or storage areas of energy. All of the rivers of energy flow into these seas either directly or indirectly. The lakes of energy intersect and connect with the seas. Physically these seas are centered deep inside the body. The "Seas of Energy Exercises" heat, stir, and circulate the energy within these seas. Because the seas have depth, the effects can be profound. One can vastly change for the better physically, emotionally, and spiritually from practicing these exercises. The Seas of Energy Exercises are placed later in the program because their effectiveness is influenced by the cleanliness and vibrancy of the rest of the ecosystem. If the water that pours into the seas from the rivers and lakes is polluted, then circulating the energy in the seas is still beneficial but not optimal.
At this point in the program the landscape of your ecosystem should be healthy and fertile. However, no man is an island. The energetic makeup of a person needs to mesh with its surroundings. The "Heavenly Energy Meditation" energetically connects a person with the "Heavenly" energy from the cosmos while establishing an energetic connection with the earth. This meditation also connects the three Seas of Energy into one great ocean. Internal martial artists use the energetic connection with the earth for additional power and stability. Energetic healers conduct the Heavenly energy into their patients to initiate a rejuvenation process. The Heavenly Energy Meditation is a step in developing these abilities. In our ecosystem the Heavenly Energy Meditation is like creating rain to add quantity and freshness to our energetic environment.
If a person is healthy and possesses a great deal of energy, it does not necessarily mean that this person is a good person. Without the negative energy and physical and emotional pain that can distort a person, it should be easier for all of us to be just and moral. However, selflessness and generosity does not necessarily result from being strong, vibrant, and healthy. The "Loving Kindness Meditation" teaches one to be compassionate and universally loving. In our ecosystem we can have a healthy jungle that is dangerous or a healthy utopia that is good for all. The Loving Kindness Meditation is designed to be beneficial not just for you but for all those around you.
Excerpted from David Carradine's Introduction to Chi Kung by David Carradine, David Nakahara, Sarah Griffin, Mike Lamont. Copyright © 1997 David Carradine and David Nakahara. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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