February 2008 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Thank you very much for your reply to my message. I am deeply grateful that you find time out of your busy schedule to mail me, and am aware that you have other pressing matters to attend to besides my naive queries, and as such am very appreciative of your attention.
— Max, UK
You have done well in the Intensive Chi Kung Course.
I am sorry I could not reply to your e-mail earlier, but reading my answers now after the Intensive Chi Kung Course would give you a better perspective which you would not have before the course.
Your questions are interesting. The answers will not only help you but also others who have attended intensive courses with me, to evaluate the tremendous progress you have made at the course, which in turn will provide you with the insight that enables you to get even more benefits from it.
Since returning from China, I signed up to a Chi Kung course at the start of September with one of your students, Sifu Jordan Francis, and I must say I was very pleased with what I learnt, despite having been only able to attend two of the four sessions.
I learnt how to relax properly before each session, and how to enter a meditative state of mind. I also learnt “Lifting the Sky” from a real person for the first time, which dispelled any doubts I had previously about practicing it.
It is significant that you learned from Jordan after your China trip. You could experience first hand what I had been saying that much of chi kung practiced today, including in China, was only physical exercise. The Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s virtually wiped traditional chi kung and traditional kungfu clean from the Chinese mainland.
Most people today cannot relax — physically and mentally. But relaxing and entering into a meditative state of mind are two of the earliest skills our students learn in Shaolin Wahnam. If one cannot relax and be focussed in a meditative state of mind, he cannot practice chi kung, though the chi kung forms he perform may be genuine chi kung patterns — an understanding and experience you reiniforced during the Intensive Chi Kung Course.
Most other people, including those who have practiced chi kung for years, would be unable to cmprehend the validity of the above statements. Some may beleive in what I have said, but they would not really understand it, simply because they do not have the direct experience.
For example, I may say that Malaysia is a beautiful country and the people are very friendly. Even when some people believe this statement, unless they have direct experience of the beauty of Malaysia and the friendliness of her people, they would still be unable to know what this statement really mean despite knowing the dictionary meaning of all the words in the statement.
In the case of chi kung, because they cannot relax and be focussed, they are not practicing chi kung although the chi kung exercises they perform are genuine. They perform chi kung exercise as gentle physical exercise, just as many people perform genuine Taijiquan and Shaolin patterns as demonstrative dance and gymnastics and not as internal martial arts. They may have practiced for many years, but they will not obtain the benefits of chi kung, Taijiquan or Shaolin Kungfu; they only obtain the benefits of gentle physical exercise, demonstrative dance and gymnastics.
I've tried to take the advice you gave to one student about separating 'think' and 'practice' questions, but there are quite a lot regardless.
My current routine is as follows. I start with gentle stretching; the neck, arms, legs, waist etc. and rotating my joints. Then I spend a few minutes settling down, and preparing mentally. I then stand still for a few minutes, systematically relaxing the whole body physically, and mind emotionally and mentally, as taught to me by Sifu Jordan.
When I feel I have 'entered silence', I begin “Lifting the Sky.” I do 9 repetitions, and then do 9 repetitions of “Carrying the Moon”, followed by a further 9 reps of “Lifting the Sky”. I then make a further effort to completely free my mind of any thoughts that may have come about during practice, and let go as totally as possible (without my collapsing on the floor!)
After a few minutes of this, return to the standing straight posture, and focus on the Dan Tian for a moment, and then go into standing meditation for maybe 16 counts of the breath, or maybe longer, depending on how well I have been able to empty my mind that session. I then gently become aware of the Dan Tian again, and hold my mind there for about 8 breath counts. With my eyes still closed, I warm my hands and rub my belly 20 times clockwise and counter clockwise, and then rub my kidneys 40 times.
Then I rub my temples, and make a 'suction cup' with my hands around ears, and pop them 3 times. I then do 'Tapping the Heavenly Drum' and rub the Bai Hui point, and my whole head and face, including the 12 point massage around the eyes taught to me by Shifu Jordan. Then I warm my eyes to open them. I shake out my hands and rub the He Gu point, and stimulate the fingertips.
I then do a brief version of my starting warm up stretching, pat down my whole body, and shake myself, paying attention to my hands and feet in particular. I then stand still for a few moments to enjoy the spread of Chi over the whole body. Then I briskly walk 30 paces. The whole session takes about 30-40 minutes. I also massage my feet before bedtime, as I read that this helps drain out negative energies.
Do you think my routine is O.K? Should I make any additions or subtractions?
As you have just completed the Intensive Chi Kung Course, you probably know the answer now.
Your routine is OK and not OK. The OK part is when you follow Sifu Jordan's instructions. The not OK part is when you do not follow Sifu Jordan's instructions, when you add instructions where they are not needed, which are particlarly all other actions not mentioned by Sifu Jordan, and when you worry unnecessarily.
For example, Sifu Jordan asks you to practice for about 15 minutes, but you practice for 30-40 minutes. Sifu Jordan does not ask you to do any warm-up stretching and patting, but you do them at the beginning and the ending of your practice.
But your most serious mistake is your undue worrying, which is evident from the detailed manner you describe your routine. You routine can be simply described as follows.
Be relaxed and focused. Perform “Lifting the Sky”, “Carrying the Moon” and again “Lifting the Sky” a suitable number of times. Enjoy the chi flow. Then gently think of the dan tian and complete the session with facial massage, point massage and brisk walking.
If you just perform the above in about fifteen minutes instead of going over your elaborate routine for 30-40 minutes, you would have more than three times the benefits in less than half the time. If you perform either “Lifting the Sky” or “Carrying the Moon” instead of “Lifting the Sky”, “Carrying the Moon” and “Lifting the Sky”, you would have even better results.
You don't have to perform or worry about stretching your neck, arms, legs and waist, shaking out your hands and stimulating your fingertips, or massaging your feet at bedtime to drain out negative energies. You don't have to worry whether you perform “Lifting the Sky” 9 times or 10 times or 15 times or 3 times as long as you feel you have performed a suitable number of times. You don't have to count your breaths when you go into Standing Meditation. Let your mind be free and attain non-thought.
Our art is simple and profound. Keep it simple and reap profound benefits.
Currently I practice twice a day, at around 5 pm and midnight. I know that dawn is also a good time to practice, but, being a student, I find it hard to get up at 5 am everyday. I know that at certain times of day diffferent meridians are flowing more strongly than others.
I am fairly sure (from what I have read, and the sensations I experience during Chi Kung) that some of my problems stem from blockages in my liver, lungs, and spleen. Given my eczema condition, and certain problems I have had with overthinking, what times would be most beneficial for me to practice at? Should I change the times according to the seasons?
You are making simple things difficult. You have been told to practice twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening or at night, or at lease once a day in the morning, evening or at night.
If you can practice at 5 am, that is excellent, but if you can't, that is alright. Instead of staying until midnight, it would be better for you to sleep earlier and wake up earlier to practice at 6 am, or even at 7 or 8. Two sessions a day is more than sufficient, you don't have to practice three times a day. Don't worry yourself about changing your time of practice due to different seasons.
You don't have to worry about which meridians are flowing at which times of the day, nor about your problems steming from blockages in your liver, lungs or spleen. Perform your chi kung exercise a suitable number of times. This is the “you wei”, or appropriate action, part. Then enjoy your chi flow. This is the “wu-wei”, or spontaneity part, where you let the Universal Chi or God do the healing for you.
You are right about over-thinking, or intellectualization. This is your biggest problem, but it can be easily overcome — if you want to. Just throw away your intellectualization, just like you throw away rubbish that harms you. Just don't think. This is within your capability, depending on whether you want to do it. It is unlike climbing a tall coconut tree or jumping off from a high building and landing safely, which may not be within your capablity, which means you may be unable to do so even if you want to.
And remember that during the Intensive Chi Kung Course you learned that purposefully choosing not to think is very different from an inability to think. Indeed, when you purposefully choose not to think, you clear away all thoughts, attaining mental clarity.
Sifu Jordan advised us against over-practice. He said about 15 minutes is best. In my session I only spend about 15 minutes doing the actual exercises and standing meditations, but I increase the time with my other, external stretching, patting and shaking etc.
I like this aspect of my training, and have never felt any 'warning signs' like being drained after training, so I don't think this is over-practice. Would you have me do otherwise? Also, Sifu Jordan said it was OK to occasionally do some intensive practice. In course sessions, we would do three 15-minute routines. Would it be beneficial for me to do 3 sessions a day? Or maybe have a 3 session day once a week?
Sifu Jordan is one of the best instructors in Shaolin Wahnam. Follow his advice.
When he says,“Practice for 15 minutes”, it means just that, i.e. you practice for 15 minutes. It does not mean you practice for 45 minutes, or do stretching and shaking, or eat a meal or date a girl.
If you want to stretch and shake, eat a meal or date a girl, provided that it is beneficial and you enjoy doing so, you can do so outside the 15 minutes alloted for your chi kung practice, but not added to it.
You do not find yourself over-drained despite doing unnecessary work because the chi kung you practice is so powerful. The energy you have generated from your training is more than enough to compensate for the energy lost through stretching and shaking as well as over-thinking which uses up a lot of energy.
It is like you have been given gems by Sifu Jordan, but you throw sand over the gems. Without the sand, the gems would shine brighter.
Regarding pain, sometimes I feel sharp pains, similar to what I have experienced in acupuncture, during or after Chi Kung, and sometimes in the daytime. They don't bother me, and are always singular in occurrence, never lasting more than a second. I mainly get them in my abdomen, around where my liver and spleen are.
Other sensations I get are like an acidic prickly heat ( or sometimes cold or damp) moving through my organs. I only get this during Chi Kung practice. This feeling disperses and is replaced with a light, warm feeling toward the end of practice. I'm sure that all of this is a good sign of progress, but you have mentioned to be wary of chest pains before, so I thought I'd mention this anyway.
From your description, it appears that yours was good pain. From my observation during the Intensive Chi Kung Course, chi cleared some blockage from your chest. In short, you have nothing to worry about.
For hypothetical purposes, even if it were bad pain, your chi flow from your chi kung practice would overcome the problem.
Max' questions are continued in February 2008 Part 3
My wife has rheumatism of the left knee with wearing of the bone in the knee. Could qigong help this?
— Michael, UK
Yes, qigong can help your wife overcome her rheumaism.
But it must be genuine qigong, and not some qigong forms practiced as gentle physical exercise, which is actually the norm today. In other words, the forms are genuine chi kung forms but they are not practiced as qigong. They are practiced as gentle physical exercise. A crucial difference between qigong and physical exercise is that qigong works on energy whereas physical exercise works on the physical body.
The same situation is found in Taijiquan and Wushu. The forms many Taijiquan and Wushu practitioners perform today are genuine Taijiquan and Wushu forms, but these forms are not practiced as a martial art but as a dance or a sport. A crucial difference between a martial art on one hand and a dance or a sport on the other is that in a martial art the forms are used for combat whereas in a dance or a sport the forms are used for recreation.
You may be pleased to know that many of our students recovered from rheumatism after practicing our chi kung for a few months. I would suggest that your wife learn from one of our many certified instructors in your country. Please refer to our List of Certified Shaolin Wahnam Instructors.
We also have noticed an interesting feature among students with rheumatism. Many of them would roll on the floor during self-manifested chi movement. “Self manifest chi movement” is a term describing a form of chi kung practice where practitioners move about spontaneously due to chi flow induced by practicing some approporate chi kung exercises.
I've read your book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” and I want to learn kung fu but I have trouble sticking with the training. And I have no teacher and not enough money to find a teacher like you specified in your book.
The closest teachers are in New York and I live in Texas, and I don't have the money to go to New York. So if you have any advice please share it with me.
— Nick, USA
As different schools have different philosophy and requirements, what I am going to say applies to our school, Shaolin Wahnam.
Finding the money and time to go to a good teacher to learn from him is probably the easiest of the many things you have to do to learn good kungfu. Much harder is to find a good teacher. But the hardest is to put in the necessary time and effort to practice what he has taught you.
As you find the easiest thing daunting, it is unlikely you will succeed in learning good kungfu. You would get more benefit pursuing some other hobbies. But if you still wish to practice kungfu, you would have to be contented with types of kungfu different from what is described in my book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”. These types of kungfu are quite plentiful today.
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