Monday, October 7, 2013

And Qigong is?

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "What is Qigong?" Honestly, it should be the easiest to answer, because Qigong practice is simply a way to return to our natural, healthy, spiritually aware state. But somehow I still struggle to articulate what Qigong is. There are literally thousands of variations and approaches to Qigong. Some have a lot in common, some are totally different from each other. But they are all Qigong. In a nutshell, Qigong is energy work. A closer definition, at least for our practice, is self-nurturing energy work.

The lineage of Qigong in which I train and teach is called Hunyuan, which can also be translated as Primordial. This style of Qigong draws from Daoism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Chinese Martial Arts. The majority of our practice comes to us from one the headstone figures in our lineage, Grandmaster Hu Yoazhen. Further information on the complete lineage in which I train can be found here:

We can also sum our practice up as being Wujigong, or the practice of nurturing stillness. That is one reason we place so much emphasis on meditation and standing Qigong. A key component to all our practices is nurture; nurturing ourselves, nurturing our training partners and nurturing our world.  We nurture in stillness and silence; we nurture in all our movement; and we nurture as we move through life.

Following is very good video on The Primordial Qigong State:

And, here is nice summary of self-nurture from Pema Chodron:
"As adults, we begin to cultivate a sense of loving-kindness for ourselves—by ourselves, for ourselves. The whole process of meditation is one of creating that good ground, that cradle of loving-kindness where we actually are nurtured. What’s being nurtured is our confidence in our own wisdom, our own health, and our own courage, our own goodheartedness. We develop some sense that the way we are—the kind of personality that we have and the way we express life—is good, and that by being who we are completely and by totally accepting that and having respect for ourselves, we are standing on the ground of warriorship."

But the key to good Qigong is Qigong itself: Nurturing Qi, our inherent wholeness; and simply being--now.  Yes, it's really that simple--and that powerful.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Alpha and Omega, All Today

"Radical times require radical action and the most radical thing we can do is to start a revolution in consciousness."  Amoda Maa Jeevan

Life is a process of change.  But it is not a separate process that happens to us or outside of our existence.  We are all con-conspirators in the process.  And that can be a bit obvious if you consider that each of us is as much a part of the life process, the ever-unfolding mystery, as the others.  One may easily think that life is passing her by.  When in reality, she is still contributing to the process even by attempting to sit it out on the sidelines.  The bottom line is there is no sitting out.  One is always a part, always co-creating.  The only variable is awareness of this fact.

There is a definitive evolutionary process happening every nanosecond.  It has been happening for all eternity, and will continue to happen--forever.  It is a spiritual evolution happening in the body human toward a collective awakened state.  Granted, the world population far from fully realized in totality.  But that is not really the point.  The point is that the stream is flowing in a positive direction.  And we have choices.  In this regard, we have two: we can jump in and go with the flow, or we can retreat to our small ego-driven selves and miss the parade.

Either choice is relatively easy.  It's more about intention than it is effort.  If the intent to awaken is there, the procedural details (so to speak) will emerge and the rest will take care of itself, as long as intention is firm.  The same process applies to the other choice.  Unfortunately, that one is even easier because of conditioning.  We have so much experience with living out of ego, it just happens--or continues to happen providing we don't make the other choice.

The process of awakening is unpredictable, as is all of life.  The underlying Truth here is that we are already awake within.  We just have to remove all the "stuff" we have accumulated over the years that has served to cover it up.  And it's at this point that words cease to work.  We can explain intention, and we can explain the various practices, and then we must leave the process to itself and bathe in the experience, feel the Presence.  As this occurs, we add to the unfolding of the world.  And in some inexplicable way the process is that much easier for the next guy.

Today is the day.  Breathe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


You say you are not happy. But you were happy in sleep. What has transpired in the meantime that the happiness of sleep has broken down? It is the ego. And that arises with the waking state. There was no ego in sleep. The birth of the ego is called the birth of the person. There is no other birth. Whatever is born is bound to die. Kill the ego! There is no fear of death for that which is already dead. The Self remains after the death of the ego. That is Bliss that is immortality.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

If they don't serve any other purpose, the martial arts should serve as a vehicle for true transcendence.  It's easy to conceive of this watching a lone practitioner performing his Taiji form in the park, or watching old Kung Fu TV series reruns.  But once we begin the practice, we can easily become bogged down in the technical details or consumed with latent or blatant competitive drive and miss the forest for the trees.  Sure, technical details are important but they shouldn't override the spirit.  And spirit is both the easiest and the hardest aspect of our practice to realize.  In essence it is always available, always with us.  Yet, we have to acknowledge it and nurture it.  The way to do that is to first destroy ego, then place your attention where you know it should be.

As O'Sensei said, "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train."  The technical details only give us the how-to of training.  The rest is up to us.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Full Understanding of Peng Jing

Most practitioners of the internal martial arts are familiar with Peng.  However, for many it's just "ward-off", or the lifting, expanding energy present in the form.  However, there is much more to Peng.  In many systems the true nature of Peng Jing is never explored.  It is rather marginalized or described as an arm motion or position.  This is unfortunate since Peng Jing is a cornerstone component of the internal arts.  Following is an article by Sifu Sam Chin presenting a complete, full understanding of Peng Jing.

One man defeating many. A strike that no one sees delivered unbelievably fast. What appears to be a tiny push sends an attacker tens of feet away. Small motions that are so internal, you can't understand why you're off balance and on the edges of your feet. In front of such a person, all your techniques seem useless. What's going on?
According to Master Sam Chin, one of the main requirements for high-level kung fu is what he calls the "Merging of the Spheres." This article will describe the preliminary physical and mental levels of merging the spheres. Merging the spheres is a very refined expression of an internal energy commonly known as peng-jing. Merging the spheres with peng-jing will result in strong-rooted movements which naturally enhance internal energy, mental alertness and martial art. Not only that, but if you train well - then, as Master Sam Chin says, you can "even transcend technique itself."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Wrestling at the Olympics?

This is just about the strangest thing I've heard: Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling have been dropped from the 2020 Summer Olympics.  Isn't that like a sacrilege?  Wrestling is one of the original Greek games.  Somewhere on a divine mountain, Odysseus is rolling over in his grave.  Of course, as a martial artist specifically interested in the grappling arts, this is unsettling.  But I also have a pretty big traditionalist streak, and frankly this just rubs me the wrong way.  On the other hand, The Olympics seem to be moving in the direction of so many popular sports nowadays, where the emphasis is more on entertainment and less on sport.  Still, I wouldn't want to be around when Zeus hears about it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Transition with The Water Snake

Welcome to the year of The Water Snake.  It is said that the Year of the Snake is the Yin to the Year of the Dragon's Yang.  So, if one follows these things, one can expect quite a different experience upcoming.  Personally, I expect quite a different experience anyway, if for no other reason than life is itself change.  For me, rather than getting too deep in the astrological predictions of the new year, I note the mythological characteristics for what they are and approach life with an empty cup, dealing with the changes that happen, whatever the characteristic.  At least that is my philosophical intention, and a major reason for training in the first place.

As we have for the past few years, my Taiji friends and I will accept the 100 Day Challenge and work on specific practices each day for 100 days.  Personally, I have tossed this around and have had lots of lofty goals, but am going to revert once again to the basics.  Last year my intention was to practice Zhan Zhuang, standing Qigong, for my challenge.  However, one month in and my father died.  This came on the heels of my mother passing some four months earlier.  So, pretty much all discipline went out the window till I regained my grounding and composure.  But in the spirit of stubbornness and determination, I will begin again: 100 days of various standing practices.

As I age and progress in my training, I more and more appreciate the basics.  It is often difficult to see how the most obscure Kung Fu practices reward us in unexpected ways.  It is frankly tempting to put off meditation, Qigong, standing, and the basic exercises and spend time at the gym, or with form, push hands, sparring, or just reading.  But we all know, just the same, that the foundation for transformation is in these obscure practices.  The 100 Day Challenge should hopefully give us a format for strengthening this foundation.

As far as snakes go, I have never been a fan.  I do respect them and admire their beauty from afar, but I like to keep my distance.  Apparently, Chinese wisdom has it that a snake in the house is a good omen.  I'm afraid I would likely blow that omen should it appear in my life.  I would prefer another sign.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Hunyuan Yilu

There are times when words just don't do justice.  Viewing the below video is a good example of one of those times.  This is a great performance.


Nuff Said

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time: Making It, Finding It

How diligent are we?  How often do we set our intention to practice, work on certain skills, begin a new practice, or even read something related to our practice only to never really do it?  It's not as if we set out to deceive ourselves, or to set goals that we know we won't live up to.  It's not uncommon to really mean to do this or that, but never really get around to it.  So, how does that happen?  Really.  What is up with that?

Despite paving the road to hell, and so forth, good intentions do have their place.  And, even though most of us would rather not face up to it, it's really not about time.  Is it?  In so many cases, it's about follow through. It's about discipline.  Further, it's about changing behavior.  And it's about priorities.  One has to get to a place in life where he/she faces the question: What do I want; really want?

We practice these arts because we believe in and want transformation.  And that is of course possible, but we have to do the hard work.  We must have the time.  We have to find it or make it.  The best way to do that is to take a hard look at life.  What do we do with the time we have?  How much of it is spent surfing the internet; playing on Facebook; watching sitcom reruns?  Perhaps we feel we deserve a glass of wine after work, and then we don't really want to practice after having a drink.  Or perhaps we have a hobby that is taking a lot of our time.  Again, ask the question:  What do I really want?

If these arts lead to transformation, and that is what one wants, then one makes the time to practice.  The way to do that is to look.  Look at your priorities.  Look at your current activities.  Look at your practice; maybe it's not the right one for you, or with the right teacher.  Look at the hours in your day and how you spend them.  Look in your heart; determine if you really want to do the hard work, or if it's a romantic dream.  Better, determine if you really want to do this at all.

I am not writing this from a place on high, as one who has conquered these challenges.  I struggle as much as the next guy.  I'm also not saying that my path is the right and only path.  What I am saying is, if you are really interested in these arts and want more from the practice, put more in to the practice.  If at the end of the day, you look back and say "I didn't practice today because I didn't have time.", be honest with yourself.  You will likely get another chance tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Same as It Ever Was

Welcome to 2013.  Now, what to expect?  Probably much the same as 2012, and 1992, and 1962....  I mean that in terms of our actual, internal experience.  While "the world", that that is out there, changes and spins and turns, and rises and falls, "the Self", that that is within, and always has been, always will be, is pretty much the same.  The Self, is unconditioned, eternal, is beyond the grasp of "the world" and all our associated ups and downs.  Thus, if we focus within, we find this rock; we find real peace.

Granted, that is easy to say, another thing altogether to do.  But that is why we practice: to transcend the conditioned and abide in the unconditioned.  We must remember, the unconditioned is and always has been present.  Realization is just a matter of where we attune our awareness.  Do we reside in the world of ups and downs, or a world of rock-solid peace?  Of course, as sentient beings we do  reside in the material world, but the trick, the aim of our practice, is to be in the world and not of the world; to sail through these storms and not be affected.  And that is exactly where practice comes in.

The one notable contradiction I have been struggling with over the last couple of years has been my motivation to write, or perhaps my resistance to writing.  Writing is something that has defined me for some time now--pretty much most of my life.  Upon reflection I realized that that in itself is the problem.  As practice leads us to focus within, we begin to notice conditioning, and how we ourselves contribute to the process.  Writing, as a method of self-definition, is a major ego exercise.  It has taken me a year to come to terms with that statement.  Rather, it has taken me a year to get that statement past the well-honed defenses of my ego.  I am not saying that writing is wrong, or a bad practice.  I am saying that as we progress in our practice we need to examine everything, especially our communication.

Sri Ramana Maharshi was reluctant to speak, even though he had a constant group of followers and devotees surrounding him.  It is said that he could impart much knowledge and understanding just by his presence.  However, there is a time and place for words, and even Ramana would speak when necessary.  And those words have had a profound effect for many, many people.

Which leaves me, as a communicator, in the position to carefully examine the words I use, however I use them.  I am not going to quit writing, or take a vow of silence.  However, I will try to be more mindful of my communication in all forms.

“All this is only activity of the mind. The more you exercise the mind and the more success you have in composing verses the less peace you have. What use is it to acquire such accomplishments if you don’t acquire peace? But if you tell such people this it doesn’t appeal to them; they can’t keep quiet."  Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi