Read an Excerpt
THE SECOND BROCADE
Shake the Heavenly Pillar
This chapter, like the preceding, begins with my translation of the instructions, commentary, and correct method that were included in the Kao Lin engraving. Following the original text are Li Ching-yun's commentary and my comments, and finally my instructions for practicing the Second Brocade.
The Original Text
Gently shake the Heavenly Pillar.
Sway the head left and right while gazing at the shoulders. Do so alternately in conjunction with the movements, twenty-four times. It is necessary to first grasp the hands firmly.
The correct method: First, grasp the hands firmly. Alternately turn the head left and right, gazing toward the shoulders when following the movements of the head, twenty-four times.
Li Ching-yun's Commentary
Note the position of the hands and head in the drawing. The hands are not closed into fists, rather the right hand is placed on top of the left palm, and the head is tilted upward and away from the left shoulder. This is another example of the variant meanings of "grasp the hands firmly."
In this brocade, the hands should be held in the t'ai chi knot. When gazing toward the left side, the right hand grasps the left thumb and the left hand covers the back of the right hand. When gazing to the right side, the positioning is exactly the opposite (see the photographs).
For further information, refer to the book Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. In the section on producing psychic heat, the Nine Bellowslike Breathing exercise is very similar to this exercise of Shake the Heavenly Pillar.
[Li ching-yun's voice] The Heavenly Pillar is the spinal column and the connective neck bone. To gently shake (to wave to and fro) means to sway the shoulders. Gently shake the Heavenly Pillar means to crick and move the neck. Properly, the neck is cricked to the left and right sides along with a gazing procedure. The two shoulders are followed by the gaze when swaying. The left and right sides are counted separately, with each side being performed twenty-four times, and collectively forty-eight times.
This cricking of the neck, swaying of the shoulders, and gazing in accordance with the movements in effect remove the fire of the heart and eliminate any invasions or disturbances of external malignant spirits.
The Heavenly Pillar is a Taoist metaphor for the spinal column and connective neck bone. The first character (representing wei) of this section of the text normally translates as "subtle" or "secretly." Following Li Ching-yun's lead, I consider it best to translate this as "gently."
Note that under the "Concluding Exercises" at the end of part 2, there is also the instruction to shake the shoulders, which, however, is distinct from this exercise. I bring this up because many Eight Brocades texts, in both English and Chinese, do not differentiate between these two methods.
Using the t'ai chi knot method, shake the Heavenly Pillar twenty-four times, gazing first to the left twelve times and then to the right twelve times.
With the legs crossed, grasp the hands firmly using the t'ai chi knot (right hand grasping left-hand thumb) and place the bottom edge of the right palm on the right thigh, near the hip, and with the Tiger's Mouth cavity (hu k'o)--the indentation formed at the base of the thumb and index finger--facing upward. Place the tongue against the roof of the mouth.
Begin to gently shake the Heavenly Pillar by turning the right shoulder, spine, and head toward the left. Inhale while turning and direct the eyes to the top of the left shoulder, then continue by gazing up and back as far as possible, stretching and twisting the spine smoothly, gradually, and in conjunction with natural breathing. Simultaneously, the right hand is pressed into the right thigh and the left-hand thumb joint is pressing down on the right-hand Tiger's Mouth cavity. Then exhale and bring the gaze back down to the shoulder and then to the front. Repeat this twelve times.
[PHOTOS FOR 2ND BROCADE HERE--the following are captions and labels for the exercise photos]
Shaking the Heavenly Pillar toward the left
Right hand presses into right thigh
Eyes gaze upward and to the left
Shaking the Heavenly Pillar toward the right
Eyes gaze upward and to the right
Left hand presses into left thigh
Next, perform the exercise from the right, or opposite, side: the left hand grasps the right thumb and presses down on the left thigh, while the thumb joint of the right hand presses into the left-hand Tiger's Mouth and the eyes gaze up and over the right shoulder. Again, perform the movements twelve times.
This brocade is good for strengthening the spine and exercising the eyes, and increasing the blood flow to the waist, legs, and hands.
This brocade stimulates the spleen.