February 2002 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Practice is going great, but I have just one thing that is bothering me. When I do Standing Zen at the end of my practice a lot of the time I feel a blockage in the area between my eyebrows, but it moves sort of and sometimes the blockage is behind my nose a little near between my eyes. Is the blockage-sensation related to my clearing out an old blockage, or is it coming from my doing something wrong, like focusing too hard? I don't think I am trying too hard to focus, but I can never tell with chi kung because everything is so subtle
— Alex, USA
Congratulations. You are about to achieve either the opening of your third eye or the break-through of your small universal chi flow. You need not worry which one of the two you are going to attain. Either one is a great achievement bringing great benefits.
If your chi flows inward, you are likely to have an opening of the third eye. If the chi flows downward, you are likely to have a break-through of the Small Universe. But you should not do anything to influence the flow, let Nature — or God — decides, and Nature's choice or God's choice is always made for your best interest. All you need to do is to keep on practising the way you have been practising.
Sometimes you may (or may not) experience some pain as the third eye is opened. Don't worry about the pain; it will soon clear. On the other hand, in the break-through of the small universal chi flow, you may experience some vibrations of your lips or tongue. Again, don't worry about that.
It is worthy of note that many people have tried hard to attain the opening of the third eye or the small universal chi flow from methods they have read, but to no avail. Sometimes they derived harmful side effects. The methods they have read are usually correct, but they practised wrongly.
On the other hand, you did not have any intention of opening your third eye or attaining the small universal chi flow. You merely practised dutifully the exercises you learned at my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Yet, within a year you are approaching the third eye opening or the small universe break-through. In chi kung jargon, this is expressed as “gong dao zi ran cheng”, or “when the time is ripe, your training will bring great rewards”.
When you have opened your third eye, it does not mean that you have an extra eye at your forehead like your two normal eyes. It is a figurative way of saying you will be able to perceive and understand anything much better and deeper.
For example, in the past you might have some difficulty comprehending what you read. With your third eye open, when you read the same material again you will find that the meaning stands out so clearly. You may sometimes read through the author and see his faults.
When you have attained the break-through of the Small Universe, you will have overcome all illness, and be healthy and full of vitality. The Small Universe, or the micro-cosmic flow, refers to the never-ending flow of energy around the body along the ren mai (conceptual meridian) and the du mai (governing meridian).
Your performance, stamina and endurance will increase by many folds. You seem never to be tired, because as soon as some energy is spent in your physical or mental work, new energy will flow in to replenish you.
I've got a serious problem. Please help me. Five years ago I'started practicing Beishaolinmen Kungfu and also Chi-kung (zhan zhuang gong, tongzi gong, baduanjin, etc). After two years I started to be more and more tired and also my fever started to be higher and higher.
— Frantisek, Czech Republic
Yes, you have a serious problem. Hence, I am replying to your questions first, instead of placing them in the usual line in waiting.
Basically kungfu is for combat, and chi kung is for health. Many people know this statement but not many really understand its meaning. If they know its meaning, they would have realized that what they practise is not kungfu if they cannot use it for combat.
They may spar, and even spar well, but if they use other martial art techniques to spar, they still have not used kungfu for sparring, which means they have not practised kungfu. (Actually free sparring is not the same as combat or real fighting, but as real fighting is rare in our law-abiding society we may for convenient equate sparring with fighting.)
Similarly, if they understand that chi kung is for health, if they are still not healthy they should know that what they have practised is not chi kung. In logical terms, if practising “a” brings “b” result, if you do not have “b” result, then you have not practised “a”.
First I thought that it was because I practiced too much or I practice badly I practiced one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. .
Whether practising an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening is too much, depends on a few variables. Generally speaking, for a beginner it is too much. It would be more appropriateto practise half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening.
Nevertheless, the ideal time frame will change when conditions change. In my chi kung classes, for example, fresh beginners practise four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. But when they return home to train on their own, their ideal time frame changes to practising 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening or at night.
But your case was not just practising too much or badly, but practising wrongly, very wrongly. Yours is a good example of severe deviation from wrong practice of powerful chi kung. Zhan zhuang and tongzi gong, which you said you practised, are powerful chi kung. Yours should act as good warning to those who think they are smarter than the masters by ignoring the masters' advice that powerful chi kung should be attempted only under qualified supervision.
My tiredness didn't disappear and fever didn't get lower. I've become very weak, I lost 10 kilograms, my eyesight got worse, my nails became thinner and breakable. I also have problems with urinating and bowel movements. Every training made my problems worse and worse. Unfortunately I had to end my practicing.
I am amazed that you continued to practise your chi kung for three years despite these severe adverse effects. Didn't you know that when you practise chi kung, you would become healthy?
You did not mention whether you learned your chi kung exercises from books and videos, or from living instructors. Either way, you had been very unwise. Had you learnt from living instructors, they had been unprofessional and irresponsible.
You must have practised some powerful chi kung exercises wrongly from books, or have been taught them by bogus teachers who only read about these exercises but themselves had no personal experience of the powerful exercises. It was fortunate — not unfortunate — that you stopped practising.
I was examined by a Western doctor, by a homeopath and also by a doctor with traditional Chinese medical experience. The result wasn't comfortable. Homeopathic treatment took effect only for several months, the doctor with traditional Chinese medicine only specified the source of the heat in my body, and told me to see the Western doctor. The Western doctor didn't find any problem and recommended me to go to a psychiatrist.
From my experience, had you been examined by a psychiatrist he could not find any problem with you either. Your problem is not physical, but energetic. In other words, all the physical parts of your body may be in order, but your energy is not. Your Western doctor, homeopath and psychiatrist could not find anything wrong with you because they only examine your physical body. Energy is not yet part of their professional vocabulary.
I am surprised that the doctor with traditional Chinese medical experience could not detect your energy problem. I can only conclude he had little Chinese medical experience and knowledge.
Everything in traditional Chinese medicine is focused on chi. When a traditional Chinese doctor examines you, he is finding out your patterns of chi flow. When he prescribes a treatment, he is restoring your normal chi flow patterns.
He may use herbs to induce chi to flow in certain ways, or needles to regulate chi flow directions, or massage to manipulate chi flow volume. But whatever methods he uses, his main objective is to bring your chi flow back to harmony.
The focus on chi in Chinese medicine expresses the most simple, direct and effective approach to solving health problems. Life, after all, is a meaningful flow of energy. When this flow is distorted, the quality of life is adversely affected, manifested as sickness.
Finally I myself started to study traditional Chinese medicine to understand the human body function and to find out what hurts me.
I presume you studied on your own from books. You may read about Chinese medicine for knowledge or for fun, but it would be folly to imagine by reading you can overcome your health problems.
The existing books on Chinese medicine written in English fall into two main categories. One, they are written by Western authors who know much about Western medicine and the English language, but shallowly about Chinese medicine. As a result their books are pleasant to read but the information provided is superficial or, worse, distorted.
Two, they are translated from Chinese medical texts by Chinese authors who know much about Chinese medicine but little about the English language. As a result, while the information in the original Chinese text can be poetic and meaningful, in its English translation it can be comical or ridiculous. For example, “zhong qi bu zu” is a general cause of your health problems. Translated literally your problems are caused by a condition called “middle air is not enough”. In simple English your problems are due to insufficient vital energy.
According to what I have found all my problems are because of very low level of my chi (qi). Because of this the liquids in my body condense into phlegms. Phlegms get warm (through fast movement, outer heat, practising) and cause only other drying out and tiredness.
If I understand well I could feel much better when my level of chi (qi) increases. It means the phlegms would be changed back to the liquids and then would be brought to all organs of the body.
You understand superficially — the result of reading books on Chinese medicine written or translated by Western authors.
As your level of chi is low, or comically as “your middle air is not enough”, you believe that you can overcome your health problems by increasing your level of chi. You may increase your chi by practising chi kung, especially powerful chi kung, or by taking in powerful chi-generating herbs like ginseng.
From the Western perspective, this is perfect, logical thinking. From the Chinese medical perspective and also the chi kung perspective, this is shallow thinking. If you practise powerful chi kung, even if you do so correctly, or take powerful herbs, you will surely aggravate your problems.
Why? Any genuine student of Chinese medicine will know, and can be summed up in the phrase “xu bu shou pu”, which is “empty cannot accept addition”. In simple English it means when your physical body is too weak, you cannot increase your energetic function.
You mentioned “liquids”, “phlegms”. “getting warm”, “outer heat”, “drying out”, and gave the impression that you knew much about Chinese medicine. But actually you knew little — you only knew the English dictionary meanings of these words, which may have little in common with the intended meaning these poor English equivalents were supposed to represent in their Chinese medical context. For example, do you know what do the “liquids” do in your body, or what is really meant by “phlegms getting warm”?
But how to reach the higher level of chi (qi) when the practicing of chi-kung (qigong) always makes my health condition worse? The only practicing which I can do are Small Heaven Circulation (Shao Chou Tien) and Six Sounds (Six Breaths). Please can you advise me what shall I do?
Here is another example of shallow understanding.
You will understand your problems better if you view them from the yin-yang perspective. Here, yin represents your physical body, and yang represents your energetic function. Both your yin and your yang are low. In simple English, both your physical body is weak, and your energetic function is poor.
But what does that mean? An example or two may make the meaning clearer. Your lungs are physically weak, so their function in processing air is poorer that of a normal person. As a result you feel tired easily.
Your kidneys are physically weak, and this affects the function of your urinary bladder. As a result you have problems with urination.
Your shallow understanding leads you to think mistakenly that practising chi kung only increases your energy level. In Chinese medical jargon, this is increasing yang, or energetic function.
But you fail to realize that when you increase yang without a proportionate increase in yin, you aggravate your yin-yang imbalance, instead of harmonizing them. In simple language, if you force your lungs to work hard (such as by taking drugs) because you do not want to rest even when you are tired, you will further weaken them with the result that you will become more easily tired in future, instead of being healthy and fit.
What you need to do is to gradually increase your yin, and then gradually increase your yang. How could you achieve this? Learn chi kung from a genuine master.
“Small Universal Chi Flow” is a very advanced chi kung exercise. “Six Sounds Chi Kung” requires that the practitioner must make the sounds correctly. If you read the sound “xi” from a book, you can easily make the sound in 50 different ways. How would you know which one, if any, is the correct sound?
These two chi kung exercises are difficult enough for healthy, fit people. They are not suitable for someone weak and sick like you.
You are now in a very serious condition, but there is still hope. I would strongly advise you to see a genuine chi kung master immediately in your area.
If you cannot find one, you should attend my earliest Intensive Chi Kung Course you can get hold of. You would be pleased to know that although your condition is serious, and your symptoms complicated, the treatment is simple. But please note that simple does not necessarily mean easy.
Should you attend my course, please identify yourself to me so that I can examine you and open your energy points to speed up your recovery.
A classmate of mine recently told me that you once wrote that Wu Mei was the greatest of the Five Heroes of the Ming Dynasty. I was curious as to why you wrote that -- what historical evidence, legends, or other information did you base this statement on.
The reason I'm asking is that my kungfu school was originally founded by Wu Mei. My teacher is the seventh generation grandmaster of the Wu Mei Pai. The style was brought here by my sigong, who originally studied in the White Crane Shaolin temple in Kwangsi Province.
— Patrick, USA
What I wrote was that there were Five Shaolin Grandmasters in the Qing Dynasty (but not in the Ming Dynasty). There were Wu Mei, Bai Mei, Zhi Shan, Feng Dao Te and Miao Xian in that order. The names given above are in Mandarin pronunciation; perhaps they are better known in the Cantonese pronunciation, which are Ng Mooi, Pak Mei, Chee Seen, Foong Tou Tuck and Miu Hein respectively.
Of the five, Wu Mei was the best fighter. She was a Shaolin nun. Little is known of her early history. Some believe that before she became a nun she was the famous female kungfu knight, Lu Si Liang, who single-handedly penetrated the Qing palace and killed the Qing Emperor who earlier ordered the burning of the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou.
Others believe that she was a Ming princess, but renounced worldly life to become a nun at the Quanzhou Shaolin Temple. This Shaolin Temple was built by imperial degree in the Ming Dynasty, and many princes and princesses cultivated at the temple.
Because she was a nun, Wu Mei did not stay in the Shaolin Temple, which only accommodated monks. She travelled widely, especially in Yunnan Province, but also spent some time at the White Crane Temple in Guangxi (Kwangsi) Province.
Wu Mei's favourite disciples were Yan Yong Chun and Fang Shi Yi, who are certainly better known in their Cantonese pronunciation as Yim Wing Choon and Fong Sai Yoke. Yim Wing Choon, was of course the founder of Wing Choon Kungfu. Fong Sai Yoke died relatively young, killed by Bai Mei (Pak Mei), the second of the Five Shaolin Grandmaster, who with Feng Dao Te (Foong Tou Tuck) later betrayed the Shaolin tradition.
I am sorry I do not know much of Wu Mei's other disciples. She must have some disciples at the White Crane Temple who passed on her art. Wu Mei Kungfu is quite popular today, and it will be beneficial to the kungfu circles if the history, philosophy and methodology of this Shaolin style can be made more known by the practitioners.
The sources of my information are legends, kungfu classics, kungfu books and magazines, as well as words of mouth by old masters.
I am a widow who has practiced Soaring Crane Qigong for two years. When my husband died, I had no libido for a number of years. Shortly after taking up Qigong for several health conditions, it returned. I prefer to be without it.
I realize this is not generally what you give advice about, but my instructor is younger than myself and finds this too delicate a topic to discuss with me. Is there any way you know of that I can suppress my libido and still practice Qigong? I find the practice of Qigong very fulfilling and it has greatly improved my blood pressure and gall bladder problems. I would hate to give it up.
— Shirley, USA
Yes, your problem can be solved readily and there are a few ways to do so. These were also the ways used by many Shaolin monks and nuns who had voluntarily renounced sex for spiritual cultivation.
I would first give a brief description of the purpose and methods of qigong so that you can better understand how the techniques below can help you solve your problem.
Qigong is for holistic development -- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is speaking in Western context. In Chinese context, it is the holistic development of jing, qi and shen. But why jing, qi and shen? Simply because every person is made up of these three components: jing. qi and shen, which refer respectively to the physical, energetic and spiritual dimensions of the person. There may be countless qigong techniques, but basic principle of all these techniques is to cultivate jing, qi and shen so that they integrate and develop wholesomely.
Because of your qigong training, your jing increased. This resulted in the return of libido. It shows that you have been practising genuine qigong, not just gentle exercise, and that you have been practising correctly. This is a normal development. It has nothing to do with wishful or fanciful thinking, so — in case it may be applicable in your case — you need not feel any guilt about it. In Western terms, it is biological consequence of an increase of sex hormones.
The right approach is not to wilfully suppress your sexual feelings, for doing so is only treating the symptom not the cause. Hence, in my opinion, seeing a psychologist is not suitable. Neither is seeing a psychiatrists who would probably recommend drugs to neutralize the sex hormones. Both their approaches deal with the symptom.
The right approach is to direct your sexual energies to non-sexual uses. In qigong terms, it is converting jing to qi. In the past, Shaolin monks and nuns practised vigorous Shaolin Kungfu. You may consider joining a kungfu, wushu or taiji class. You need not worry about combat application or internal force, what you need is some vigorous exercise to convert your jing to qi. Western alternatives will be playing active sports and games.
Another effective way is to practise a qigong exercise called “Small Universe” or “Micro-Cosmic Flow”. For this you have to learn personally from a competent teacher. If you learn from books, you may unknowingly make serious mistakes.
Alternatively, and at a lower level but sufficient for your purpose, is to practise “self-manifested qi flow” or spontaneous qi movement. Such an exercise is found in Soaring Crane Qigong.
Whenever a libido arises and you don't want it, as an ad hoc technique you can perform “Lifting the Sky”. You can learn this exercise from my books. As long as you follow the instructions respectfully, but not over-cautiously, this exercise is very safe. Just add the following. As you lower your arms and breathe out gently through your mouth, gently — very gently — think of your energy at the region of your sex organs gently flowing down your legs.
You need not do the gentle thinking every time you lower your arms. If you perform “Lifting the Sky”, say, 30 times, it is sufficient if you do the gentle thinking 7 or 8 times. These 7 or 8 times need not be continuous, they can be done at any time during the practice. Take note that you need not visualize; all you need to do is to gently think of energy flowing down your legs.
Another excellent way the Shaolin monks and nuns did to direct their sexual energies to better, non-sexual uses is to chant sutras. A sutra is a direct record of the Buddha's teaching. But one needs not necessarily chant a sutra. You can chant a scripture or say a prayer according to your religious beliefs. Chanting a scripture or saying a prayer results in accumulation of blessings. In qigong terms, it is the cultivation of shen.
At the end of the chanting or praying, redirect the blessings to your late husband, or to whoever you like. It is easy to give, when we want to give. Just say in your heart something like this, “May the blessings I have accumulated go to my late husband.”
Continue with your qigong practice. Overcoming your blood pressure and gall bladder problems is only the beginning. It is the cultivation of jing. You will progress to the cultivation of qi, giving you freshness and vitality, and the cultivation of shen, giving you inner peace and spiritual joy.