January 2000 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is the shortest distance between two points?
It is a simple question with a simple answer. Or is it?
— Sifu Skafar, USA
The shortest distance is the straight line bwteeen the two points.
To me it is a simple question with a simple answer, unless we wish to make it difficult, in which case we may read any meaning into the question and give any answer.
We may, for example, say there are actually no points (which can be proven scientifically), and therefore there is no shortest distance, or that as points are only mental construct the shortest distance between them is what our mind thinks.
An explorer (still on earth) may say that the shortest distance is the one he travels (which is likely to be irregular) with the other point constantly straight ahead. An astronaut may say that the shortest distance is a smooth curve. A cosmologist, faithful to the theory of the expanding universe, may say that the so-called shortest distance is always receeding from us.
I have been told that one must abstain from sex for 100 days upon pratcising qiqong. Is this true? If so, what is the reason?
— John, Malaysia
The answer to whether one should abstain from sex for 100 days upon practising qigong is “yes” and “no”, depending on numerous variables.
In the past students abstained from sex for at least 100 days upon practising qigong. Although it was not an absolute condition — in the sense that if the condition was not fulfilled one could not practise qigong, or that he could harm himself — this was highly recommended. Some masters might made it their requirement for their students. After the 100 days, students could revert back to their normal sex life.
The 100 days constitued the foundation period whereby sufficient energy could be acquired and stored at the abdominal dan tian (or energy field). Without this foundation — like the starting capital of a busniss venture — it would be difficult to have satisfactory result. In the past, learning chi kung from a master was a rare opportunity, so students generally chose abstinence from sex to missing a rare opportunity.
What happened if a student had sex during the 100 days? Unless he had sex extravagantly, it usually did not cause any harm, but his progress would not be as good as his classmates. By the end of the 100 days when the master checked their progress, this sex-satisfied student would be found wanting. As he might not have the required amount of energy stored for the next stage of training, he might be left out, either wittingly by his master for not fulfilling a requirement or by his own inability to keep up even though the master might teach him the new techniques.
Today, conditions and needs are different. Because of changing standards, what was considered “satisfactory result” in the past will now be remarkable result. Because of changing needs, most chi kung practitioners today do not actually need remarkable result. In the past, overcoming pain and illness was not even a need amongst those who had the rare opportunity to practise chi kung, because they were already healthy and fit. What they needed would be sufficient energy to spar comfortably for an hour or two, or make a hole in a wall with just one strike. This would be satisfactory result in the past.
Hence, when students ask me whether they should abstain from sex, even at the start of their chi kung training, I tell them it is not necessary — unless they aim for remarkable result, or on the other hand they are very sick to start with. As students today need satisfactory result like overcoming pain and illness, or vitality to enjoy their daily work and play — and not remarkable result like striking a hole in a wall — they can achieve their objective even with normal sex during their chi kung training period.
Without sex, they would acheve their objective faster, but the improvement is relatiely marginal and it is unnecessary to make the sacrifice of abstinence from sex. For example, with abstinence, one may overcome his diabetes or ulcers in six months, but with sexual enjoyment added in, he may need nine months.
While the remarkable result of chi kung is wonderful, we must also remember other importnat aspects of daily living. If abstinence from sex disrupts family life, or makes a person aggressive due to his pent-up sexual energy which will surely increase as a result of his chi kung training, chi kung would then be a detrimental rather than a rewarding experience.
How can a person know he has entered a 'qigong state of mind'?
— Lim, Malaysia
He knows through direct personal experience, in the way as he knows he walks while he is walking, or he eats while he is eating. Hence, no matter how accurately a master may describe what a qigong state of mind is, or for that matter what qi flow is, a person without direct experience would not know it.
Nevertheless, the following description may be useful but we must remember it is only an imitation. When a person has entered a qigong state of mind, he is focussed and relaxed, often is able to sense his qi flow and other bodily functionings, and sometimes oblivious to external happenings.
You mentioned that there could be certain adverse effects if qi flow was not controlled properly. How does a person control his qi flow? What are the adverse effects — please state in some detail eg.high blood pressure, dizziness, etc?
Some people may find the answer odd, or redundant, but it is an accurate answer. A person controls his qi flow by controlling his qi flow — in the same way as a person walks by walking, or eats by eating.
If we wish to be academic, we may say that he controls his qi flow by using his mind to direct his energy to flow the way he wants, sometimes with appropriate bodily co-ordination. This second answer, although it may be much liked by qigong scholars, i.e. those who excel in studying qigong rather than practising it, is less accurate.
The academic answer is also less useful. Those who follow the academic description would not be albe to control their qi flow, whereas others who have been initiated by a master would be able to do so, without worrying about the mechanics of control. In the same way, if you study the mechanics of walking or eating, and try to manipulate the relevant muscles or tendons for the task, you would find it difficult if not impossible to walk or eat.
This illustrates one important reason why qigong — real qigong — has to be acquired from a master, and not just read from a book or copied from a video. You may learn the external qigong forms from a book or video, but not fundamental qigong skills like entering a qigong state of mind and controlling energy flow. Significantly, when you are about to enter a qigong state of mind or contorl energy flow, if you try to intellectualize what you are doing, you may suddenly find your qigong skill or abily slipping away.
If qi flow is not properly controlled, it may run wild and distort the energy network of the person. This can bring many and varied adversed effects, including faulty blood pressure, dizziness, distorted hormonal production, mal-function of vital organs, phobia and hallucination. Except in extreme situations, the adverse effects do not happen immediately; like the good effects, they also take some time to develop. This means that if you lose control once a while, it is alright, but if you persistently let qi flow uncontrollably or wildly, which is quite different from letting chi flow spontaneously, the adverse effects may be serious.
Isn't qi flow natural and the person should allow the flow to be spontaneous?
Qi flow is natural and spontaneous, and a person does not need to practise qigong to achieve it. The difference between spontaneous qi flow and uncontrollable qi flow is qualitative, i.e. they are different in nature, not just different in degree. One is natural, pleasant and beneficial, whereas the other is unnatural, unpleasant and harmful. In qigong training, spontaneous qi flow is controllable — it flows spontaneously because the practitioner allows it to be so, whereas uncontrollable qi flow is wild and the person has lost control over it.
Natural and spontaneous qi flow results in good health. In other words, good health is natural. But when this natural, spontaneous qi flow is disrupted, illness occurs; if it stops, death happens. The causes of disruption or stoppage are many and varied, such as injury, bacterial or viral attack, negative emotion and radiation, and the resultant symptoms are called by different names in medicine.
Medicine seeks to identify these causes and provides specific remedies, such as repairing the damage caused by the injury, killing the invading bacteria, redressing the negative emotion, or poisoning mutated cells caused by radiation. A big problem arises when the causes are unknown.
Qigong has a great advantage over medicine, because it does not have to deal with intermediate causes. Qigong works at the most fundamental level, that of energy flow. Irrespective of whether the disruption is caused by injury, bacteria, negative emotion, radiation or other agents, so long as the natural, spontaneous qi flow is restored, good health returns.
This does not necesarily mean medicine is inferior to qigong. In certain cases, such as when an injury is too severe or when the bacterial attack is accute, it would be necessary to repair the injury or kill the bacteria first, before attempting qigong to restore harmonious energy flow.
The forte of qigong is to promote and maintain harmonious energy flow. There are countless techniques, but they can be classified into two approaches for convenience, namely free flow and directed flow. In free flow, the qigong practitioner allows his qi to flow spontaneously. In directed flow, he directs his qi to flow to particular locations.
How can a person feel the flow of qi — is it any of the following?
(a) a sensation of warmth throughout the body
(b) a sensation of cold throughout the body
(c) a sensation of warmth moving up from the tailbone area along the back of body to the top of the head and then a senasation of cold moving down the front of the body to the toes
(d) a wave-like sensation moving throughout the front and back
(e) a feeling of numbness at the finger tips and toes
(f) gentle muscle contractions as the qi flows
(g) a sensation of pins and needles at the extremities
(h) a sensation of static electricity between the hands
(i) a sensation of ants moving below the epidermis of the skin
(j) some other sensation or feeling not mentioned above
It is like asking how can he feel the taste of food, or know the movement of his limbs. The answer is direct, personal experience. The examples you have mentioned are some of the sensations. Other sensations include a feeling of expansion, joy, tinkling effects, hot water flowing, pores openning, slight pressure on crown of head and other vital points, and seeing bright, beautiful colours.
Can a person learn both waidan and neidan at the same time? Will there be any conflict and/or adverse effects?
Yes, a person can learn both waidan and neidan at the same time; they complement each other. Conflict and adverse effects occur if any one or bloth are practised wrongly.
Can you please tell me something about Guolin qigong?
Guolin qigong was invented by the female master Guo Lin. It resembles a form of elegant walking, and is meant to contain or overcome cancer. It is very popular amongst cancer patients who also have found practising qigong together regularly and sharing experiences a definite contributing factor towards their recovery.
Can a person learn 2 types of qigong at the same time e.g. Guolin and Waidankung simultaneously? Will there be any conflict and or adverse effects?
You may learn two, including Guolin and Waidankung together, or more types of qigong at the same time, but it is usually better to focus on one at one time. If you practise them correctly, there are no conflict or adverse effects.
When they wanted to learn Shaolin qigong from me, many Waidankung practitioners and instructors told me they had been warned not to mix their Waidankung with other forms of qigong. I told them that different masters might have different views, and often their views were affected by the policies of their schools. Virtually all of them benefitted from learning the new form of qigong, including overcoming some serious health problems.
Can a person learn Taichi and Waidankung/Neidankung at the same time? Will there be any conflict and or adverse effects?
Yes, these arts can be learnt at the same time without conflict or adverse effects. But if you practise genuine Tai Chi Chuan, not Tai Chi dance, there is no need to practise any other types of qigong, unless you do so for other specific reasons, such as socializing with your friends or learning more so that you may later teach others.
Can a person practise different types of qigong at different times of the same day. eg. Neidan in the morning and Waidan in the evening or Waidan in the morning and Guolin qigong in the evening, etc??
Yes, you may do so. But if you realize that the countless different types of qigong are just countless different means to generate harmonious energy flow, you will find it unneceaary to spread out your time and effort on many different types.
On the other hand, if you find it useful, you can practise two different types of qigong in the same training session or even at the same time. For example, you may start with Waidan and complete your session with Neidan, or you may incorporate Waidan vibration into Guolin walking (but you must make sure you know how to do this beneficially).
Can you please tell me something about Chan Mi Gong?
Chan-Mi-Gong is a school of advanced qigong incorporating the principles and practices of Chan or Zen, and Mi or Vajrayana. Both Chan and Vajrayana are two major schools of Mahayana Buddhism, the former is popular in China and the latter in Tibet. Although it has a rich Buddhist background, Chan-Mi-Gong is non-religious. Mind plays a crucial role in this school of qigong, and at the highest level it aims to help the practitioner attain spiritual enlgithenment.
At a lower level, which is still more advanced than most other forms of qigong that pay attention to bodily forms, Chan-Mi-Gong is very effective for health and vitality. One of its fundamental exercises is called Travelling Dragon, whereby a practitioner standing at the upright, relaxed position sends his qi up and down his spine. Subsequently he lets this qi flow from his spine spread spontaneously to other parts of his body, or directs it to his vital organs or systems. If you can perform just this exercise well, you need not look elsewhere for the needs of your health and vitality.
As in all advanced qigong, you must learn it from a master. If you learn from a bogus instructor or from a book or video, you will only perform its outward forms, in which case you will probably get more benefits for your health and vitality by practising ballet or ballroom dancing.
Can you please tell me something about Iron Shirt qigong?
Iron Shirt qigong is a form of hard Shaolin qigong, but it is also practised in other styles of kungfu, including Tai Chi Chuan. The main purpose is to develop a cushion of qi around the body so that the practitioner can take punches and kicks and even weapon attacks without sustaining injury, as if he were wearing an iron shirt.
The main technique is to systematically hit the body first with bean bags, then with a bundle of canes, and finally with marbles or iron granudes. It is necessary to progress gradually, otherwise one may hurt himself. It is advisable to supplement with some form of “soft” qigong, such as self- manifested chi movement, which not only overcomes internal injuries unwittingly sustained during training, but also speeds up the progress by spreading qi internally and more evenly. If this is not available, the student should take herbal medicine once or twice a month to clear possible internal energy blockage.
While many people know the benefits of Iron Shirt qigong, they do not realize its possible side effects, even if the art has been practised correctly. One major side effect is that it makes the practitioner “stiff” — not only physically but also psychicly. Considering that the ability to take bodily attacks is of little practical use whereas fluidity is very useful in our daily life, we wonder whether it is worthwhile to master this art. Hence, while martial art instructors who stress fighting ability may consider Iron Shirt a fantastic art, most Shaolin masters do not think highly of it.
About a year ago I got severe cranial nerve damage due to the use of a drup. I've seen 14 doctors of every kind. There was nothing I could do. There was also no way I could ever live a remotely normal life again. I decided to try other methods. I got books on chi kung and meditation and have been doing both for about half a year.
Doctors had told me nerves were not repairable. I now know that is not true. I have become rather good at meditation and find that I am able to enter deep levels of consciousness during these sessions. It is like the nerves in my head are being sparked with life. I know that eventually I will be find — no matter how long it takes.
— Allan, USA
Congratulations for your progress to regain your good health. You are right — every part of your body, including your nerves, is repairable. You will get back to normal life. In your case, chi kung is even a better method than meditation. Relatively speaking, meditation is primarily for spiritual development, whereas chi kung is for attaining good health.
At present you should focus on good health; later when you are already healthy, you can focus on spiritual development. But it is very important that you practise genuine chi kung. If you cannot find a real master to teach you genuine chi kung, carry on with your meditation.
I have been reading a lot about kundaline — that energy in the base of your spine — and have read a lot about negative things happening as a result of its rising. I now find myself backing off as I get deeper in fear of this happening. Yet if I don't continue with meditation I will never get better. Is this rising of the kundaline something I should fear? When my body starts vibrating unconrollably I feel like I should go with it but that thought of something bad is making me back off. What should I do?
There has been a lot of material writtern about kundalini, but just as in the case of chi kung, much of the material is (to put it crudely) rubbish. This is because there are so many bogus yoga and chi kung masters who are impateint to give their views on kundalini and chi kung before they themselves have any experience of what they are talking about.
In internal arts, which include yoga and chi kung, one cannot actually make any valid statement without the backing of direct personal experience. For example, a yoga or a chi kung author may write about rising energy along his spine, but if he himself has not experienced it, he does not really know what he is writing; he only based his writing on what he has read elsewhere.
As I am not a yoga master, I am not qualify to talk (authoritatively) about kundalini, but I know it is basically a tremendous release of stored energy at the base chakra near the anus, and its rising to the crown chakra at the top of the head. This tremendous release and rising of energy can bring about remarkable abilities, including psychic powers and spiritual attainment.
In chi kung, I believe kundalini is similar to, but may not be identical with, the rising of energy along the “rushing meridian” (chong-mai) from the hui-yin energy field near the anus to the bai-hui energy field at the top of the head. In Taoist cultivation, after infusing his spirit into the “heavenly foetes” at the “yellow palace” at the solar plexus, his spirit moves up gradually, and not in a rushng manner, along the “rushing meridain” to the crown of the head to be released into the cosmos as an immortal.
It is only common sense that such an advanced and arcane art as kundalini or attaining immortality must be learnt from a master and trained under his supervision. Kundalini, like seeking immortality, is prfectly safe and you need to fear nothing, if you train under a master. But those who are foolish enough to meddle on their own with energy training — thinking that by reading some books they can achieve what even masters need many years of dedicated training to achieve — are likely tio develop serious problems and damage.
If you do not have a master to guide you, it is wise for you to leave kundalini or high level meditation alone. This is not the same as saying you should stop your present meditation practice. As you are deriving benefits from your meditation practice, you should continue, but do so gradually and carefully.
As a precaution, when you feel a lot of energy is about to be released and you are not sure of handling a kundalini, just lie down on your back slowly and gradually. This will minimize or slow down the effect. It may also slow down your progress, if the kundalini happens smoothly, but in internal art training it is always better to be safe and sure, than to rush in with risk.
As mentioned above, chi kung is probably a better choice than meditation to overcome your nerve problems. But you have to practise the right type of genuine chi kung, one which pays much attention to mind training, from a real master. If you learn chi kung gymnastics from a bogus instructor, you are unlikely to get any good results.