Thursday, February 4, 2010

Exploring Qigong III: The Three Intentful Corrections

The Three Intentful Corrections are the foundation of and starting point for Qigong practice. My inspiration and source for this entry is Roger Jahnke's The Healing Promise of Qi(1). My information is derived from Jahnke except where otherwise noted. If you haven't read this book and are in any way interested in Qigong, I highly recommend it. It is a prominent resident of my personal library, and I am rewarded every time I return to it. In it Jahnke quotes the basic and most important rule for practicing Qigong and Taiji: "Mind the body and the breath, and then clear the mind to distill the Heavenly elixir within." This single statement summarizes the whole complex practice of Qigong. It is all premised on the Three Intentful Corrections:
>Adjust and regulate the body posture and movement
>Adjust and regulate the breath
>Adjust and regulate consciousness

In the last entry we defined the four critical points in the body's geography: The Dantian and the Mingmen on the horizontal plane. The Ba Hui point on the top of our heads, and the Huiyin point directly opposite in the vertical plane. Proper Qigong posture works by aligning these points. Essentially what we want to do is straighten our spines by aligning the vertical axis. This is accomplished by what Grandmaster Cai Song Fang calls "the tuck and suck method"(2), wherein we suck in our bellies and expand our mingmen. We do this by sucking and tucking and tilting back our pelvis cavity. At the same time slightly tuck the chin so that is feels as if there is a string attached to the top of your head pulling you upwards. This action straightens out the normally swayed spine. Grandmaster Cai says there is a difference between the natural state of posture and the normal state of posture. In this case the natural is not the norm. The norm for most humans is the swayed back and pot belly. The muscle group associated with this is the iliopsos muscles. These are instrumental in walking and sexual activity. Consequently, the 'normal' posture for most people results in a situation of impaired iliopsoatic function and dysfunctional walking and sexual activity. The suck and tuck method, by tilting the pelvis back and straightening the spine, reverses the common posture of sway back with the guts spilling out the front and the buttocks sticking out the back. It thus restores functionality to the iliopsos, obdurator, and abdominal muscles which are intimately connected to the diaphragm and the breath. A good way to visualize this is to imagine the imaginary string pulling the top of your head up, and imagine the pelvic cavity to be a fruit bowl. Tip the bowl back to prevent anything from spilling out the front. At the same time imagine a line through your body from the top of your head down through the Huiyin point and into the ground. Consequently the horizontal line between the Dantian and the Mingmen will align naturally. This serves to align the three Dantians with heaven and earth, and makes room in the chest cavity for the lungs to operate with less pressure and/or obstruction, therefore making breathing easier.

Breath is the key to life. It is synonymous with the concept of Qi. It is the gateway to focus and the tool of mindfulness. It is the key to mastering Qigong. It is the easiest of the Three Intentful Corrections to adjust, because we are always breathing. We just may not always be aware of it. You can bring your awareness to your breath at any time. Breath serves as a mantra for meditation. In deep meditation our breath becomes very shallow, often to the point of seeming no breath at all. In Qigong breath serves the same mantric purpose, helping to focus the mind. But it is more. It also serves to move Qi and to relax the body. Breath brings health into the body and dispels toxins out. Many Qigong practices focus on an in-breath for one motion, followed by an out-breath for the next in a rhythmic pattern. At advanced levels we practice pre-natal, or reverse breathing. In reverse breathing the abdomen is contracted upon inhalation and expanded during exhalation. This is the way our bodies functioned when we were in the womb breathing through the umbilical cord. Normal breathing operates so that we expand our abdomen during inhalation,and contract in on the exhalation. Reverse breathing is very therapeutic on many levels. However, one should work with an experienced teacher when approaching this practice. On a basic level, all practitioners focus on their breath and use it to regulate their pace and to focus. As in meditation, focusing on the breath in Qigong makes it easier to adjust and regulate the consciousness.

Qigong is a form of meditation. Static, orWuji Qigong is meditation. Dynamic Qigong and Taiji are moving meditations. The same rules of mediation apply to Qigong. The more focused the mind, the deeper the experience. A focused Qigong mind is open to healing and enlightenment. Jahnke defines three states of Qigong mind: Conditioned Mind; Focused Mind; Clarified Mind. Conditioned mind is the everyday, distracted, monkey mind we live with for most of our existence. By managing what the mind is doing, focusing on the breath and the body, and ignoring monkey mind we begin to experience focused mind. Clarified mind is approaching enlightenment. This is full engagement with the light, off the plane of conditioning. This is the same as any enlightened experience in Zen, Yoga, or any contemplative acts. Suffice it to say that Qigong is as much a vessel to this experience as anything. And the mind is where we reside. A focused mind is a powerful force. As our practice deepens we find that we can contribute to our healing and our physical well-being through our minds in concert with our breath and bodies.

Eventually the Three Intentful Corrections become one, as they are infinitely interconnected. Each serves to enhance the other, bringing about the Taiji state of balance and tranquility. And this is what we strive for. This is where we find health, material well-being, tranquility, and transcendence. And once there we find that we have always been there, and will have to return again, because living is just not the same anymore.

(1) Roger Jahnke. The Healing Power of Qi: Creating Extraordinary Wellness Through Qigong and Tai Chi. Contemporary Books, 2002.
(2) Jan Diepersloot. Warriors of Stillness: Meditative Traditions in the Chinese Martial Arts; Volume 1, Qigong of the Center, Essence of Tijiquan: The Teachings of Grandmaster Cai Song Fang. Jan Diepersloot, 1995

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