Good Qi is essential for good health. It makes you feel more energetic, stronger and healthier. But while good Qi is good for the body, there is also sick Qi, and this - following the principle of Yin and Yang - must be bad for the body. The Chinese name for sick Qi is Bing Qi, and the name for good Qi is Hao Qi.
Good Qi is fresh air. Fresh air gives us energy and comes from nature. When you go on holiday to a beautiful beach or the countryside or the mountains, you will feel good and it will lift your spirit. This is because there is plenty of fresh air.
You can also find energy from sunshine, animals and people, music, food and certain fragrances, for instance. These last things, however, tend to stimulate your energy rather than give you more Qi. Therefore, the major way to get good Qi is still from fresh air. We depend on it for survival, after all. You can listen to good music, which makes you feel good, but you cannot listen to it without air, as you will not be able to live. Food will give you energy, but you also need energy to break it down and digest it and convert it to useful Qi. You can have lots of sunshine, but without fresh air it is useless to you.
So fresh air is the most vital part of Qi. Think of a Chinese stir-fry dish. We think of a combination of chicken and green vegetables as a chicken dish, but without the chicken it is no longer a chicken dish. Even if you use a lot of soy sauce, spring onions and garlic, it will still not be a chicken dish. Some ingredients are the main element and some are just extra. So, even though you can still obtain Qi from other sources, fresh air is the most important ingredient.
For high-quality Qi, it is very important that the air you breathe is fresh. If you breathe air that comes through a ventilation system, you can still get Qi, but the quality is not as good as fresh air from nature. Sometimes you see old people live longer, even without practising Qigong or any other exercises, if the area where they live has plenty of good, fresh air. The better the air, the more Qi it contains.
And through Qigong, you can gather more fresh Qi into your body.
It is like trying to collect water from the tap. How much you get depends on whether you use a big bucket or a small cup. It also depends on the condition of the bucket or cup you use.
When sick Qi comes into your body, it will make you feel uncomfortable or even ill. It could be polluted air from car fumes, rotten waste or a refuse tip, or somewhere with poor ventilation, too much heat, sick animals or sick people. You should avoid these whenever possible. For example, when you are walking down the street, you may suddenly notice a strange smell that makes you feel sick. This is sick or negative Qi, so you should move away and keep your distance from it to avoid taking it in.
Once I went to an antique warehouse in Xian, China. It was very old and dusty and even though it was mostly in the open air, with just a covered roof, I began to feel damp inside and not so well. I knew this was not a healthy place to be in, and so I decided to leave. When I went back to my hotel room, I felt tired and had a headache. The next day I was ill and had a fever and the flu from which it took a few days for me to completely recover. Old, damp and dusty places can create a lot of sick Qi.
Sometimes you might bump into somebody whom you would rather avoid, but there is no way around the situation. Maybe you work in a hospital or are in an office where a lot of people smoke and are not very healthy. Of course, in this kind of situation, you can't really avoid contact with people who are ill. And maybe you notice after seeing them that you feel as if all your energy is gone and you feel tired and weak. This is because the other person's energy is not healthy and also because some of their emotion has been released to you.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is talking to you and telling you about their problems? If you are more healthy than them, then you will take on all their negative energy and will not feel well afterwards. At the same time, your good Qi will have passed to them, and they will feel better. In this kind of situation, the only thing you can do is practise Qigong to gather more fresh energy and to release the sick energy you have taken in.
People and animals are the same. If they are not well and you come into contact with them, you may be ill later on. If you are strong and healthy you might be able to withstand this, but you will still lose some Qi. The best thing to do is listen to your body. When you do not feel well, go out to practise your Qigong and then you will definitely feel better. Gathering good Qi means being able to take fresh Qi from the environment. If you can practise in a place that has some trees and grass or water, then it will help you gather more Qi and be healthy. Certain environments offer more Qi than others. A lake or a forest will have more Qi than a city park, but the park will offer more Qi than a room in a building.
Sometimes, though, we cannot always go outside to practise, or to start with some people will feel shy. However, if we always practise inside with the windows closed, the benefit we get from Qigong will be much less. If you do practise inside, then open a window to let in fresh air. Still you should try to practise outside more as it will be much easier to gather fresh Qi from nature. Only by gathering fresh Qi and replacing the sick Qi in our bodies can we maintain our health.
WE PRACTISE QIGONG for good health, but what is the philosophy behind it all? Essentially, it is to live your life so you stay calm, peaceful and are in harmony with nature. This is based upon the thinking of Daoism, Confucianism (Ru Jia) and Buddhism.
If someone practises their Qigong forms and meditation every day, they will attain good health. However, if something traumatic happens in their life, for example they lose their job, a relative dies or they have financial difficulties, they may lose their balance and heart. After this, they may become ill or depressed; and then they may ask themselves, 'How can I be ill, when I am still practising Qigong every day?' It is because they are only doing external Qigong, and are failing to practise the philosophy of Qigong.
Although their movements may be very beautiful and they may be able to sit or stand in meditation for over two hours, these people have not understood the philosophy of Qigong. It means their heart does not relate to their Qigong, so they cannot attain a very high level. It is a bit like some of the supermodels we see in fashion shows. Most people think they are very beautiful, but I can see that they are not so healthy. So even though someone may practise Qigong and their form looks good, if they do not practise with the right understanding and the right mental attitude (that is, the right heart), their skill will be limited.
To understand the philosophy behind Qigong, we must first understand that life is up and down. No experience is 100 per cent good or
100 per cent bad. Most of us can handle the good times even without Qigong practise, but it is the bad times that present the challenge. During times of emotional stress and physical problems, we definitely need proper Qigong practise to help us cope.
The first principle of practising Qigong is to be calm and relaxed. Most people find this very hard because it means changing how you think about things. Western society teaches us that when something happens to us, we should respond or act. Actually, this is not always necessary and can even cause more problems. Instead, we should first relax and calm ourselves. Then we should look at the situation clearly. Only when we are calm and our mind is clear should we think about the next step.
I know many people will disagree with me and think that taking no action is wrong. But Daoism says, 'Use stillness to deal with all things changing.' No response is actually a type of response in itself. Sometimes reacting will cause more conflict. If we are upset and then take it out on someone else, that person will also react. Their response will likely make us even more upset, because we have dealt with the problem emotionally rather than thinking about the end result. Therefore we should always keep ourselves calm and relaxed. That is the philosophy of Qigong.
Recently I saw a documentary about a man in Singapore. He had his own business where he worked very hard. One day he found out that he had cancer, and the doctor told him he only had six months to live. He had always studied Buddhism, but not all that seriously. Now that he had only six months to live, he decided to give up his business and devote himself only to studying Buddhism.
In Buddhist education, he learned these principles: 'No wanting, no stubbornness, no classification' (that is, no thinking that one person or thing is better than another). Trying to follow these principles, he became more relaxed and let go a lot. His mind became calm and he did not worry about things. He even decided to stop taking his medical treatment, both Western and Chinese, and just follow nature and study more Buddhism. After six months he went back to see his doctor. The doctor was very surprised: the cancer cells had been greatly reduced. After one year, all the cancer cells had completely disappeared.
This is not a miracle. This makes perfect sense once you know how illness comes about. When people have cancer, it is because something in the body changes, becoming abnormal. If you want to go back to normal, then we must look at those things we are doing or thinking, or those things in our environment which have affected us.
The gentleman in Singapore completely let go of all his stress and worry. He began to eat more healthily and follow the Buddhist education, which advocates letting go instead of trying to hold on. The more we hold on to things like jealousy, worry, anger, greed or yearning, the more stress we make for ourselves. If it continues, this stress will cause the normal functioning of the body to change. The internal organs may not have enough Qi to cope and so things will start to break down. Eventually, illness will set in.
One of the other things this man learned in his studies was to help more people. In this way he forgot his own worries, which freed his mind. He did a lot of good things which meant that, eventually, more people helped him. This is cause and effect; when you can help others, you also feel good. When we feel good, then the body will respond accordingly. Without him even realising it, his body started to change to get better. When you see him now, you would never believe that he has had cancer. His face is very shiny and he is very happy and settled.
Cancer today is becoming more and more common. There is so much radiation in the environment, from satellites, mobile phones and computers. Our food is no longer natural, with so much of it genetically modified or with the nutritional value reduced through intensive farming. We are exposed to pollution every day. Even the chemicals from our household cleaning agents threaten our health if we do not do something to get rid of the toxins. Fasting and detoxifying can help, but they do not make your Qi stronger, and this is most important. When our Qi is strong, we can fight illness better. Qigong helps to make the immune system stronger.
Human technology is like a cancer in nature. If we put a halt to all these unnatural things, air quality would improve, the soil would recover and the water would become pure. All the trees, animals and human beings would become healthier. Ancient people often lived to be 100 years old. This was because they followed nature, living simple lives. They ate according to their climate and the season. They went to bed when it was dark and rose when it was light. They did not try to live outside of nature. They practised calmness, and did not easily become upset over small things.
When you practise Qigong, the best way to do it is to let go without trying to get a result. The less you want, the more you will get. If you can apply this philosophy, it can help you to become a better person. The more Qigong you practise, and the more you let go, then the more you will be able to achieve a high level of skill, and not only help yourself but help others. With this approach you will become calmer, more accepting, and you'll find that you are working on your heart, or attitude, as well as your body when you practise Qigong.
I would like to share one of my favourite Chinese stories with you. It was written a long time ago and is a true story about two scholars on their way to take the Imperial exams. The following story tells us how our actions create a certain result, for good or bad. It is all up to us.
Once upon a time in Xinye County, Hunan Province, China, there was a temple known as the Jade Emperor Temple. It was quite far away from town, but many people still liked to visit it. The temple was very popular as it made a lot of people's wishes come true.
One day, two young scholars, Zhang and Li, were on their way to the capital to take the Imperial Examination and they decided to visit Jade EmperorTemple before they went on to the capital. At that time, the Chinese government held this special examination every four years in order to find the most talented people to help them run the country. If they passed with high marks, then they would be very famous in the whole country and earn a lot of respect from other people and be able to get a good position.
Zhang and Li came to the temple. Inside was a table behind which stood a Daoist named Ci Hui. On the table he had a sign which read,
'Your date tells your life and death. My prediction tells your good and bad. I can save you, if you believe me.'
The two young men looked at the sign and then looked at the Daoist and then said to each other, 'He does not look like an ordinary man. He looks like an Immortal! Maybe he can tell us our future as we are going for the Imperial Examinations.'
Although they were strangers, the two young gentlemen sat down at the Daoist's table together and asked Ci Hui if he could tell their fortunes. First, he asked for Zhang's date of birth and looked at his face. Then he started to do some calculations on his fingers and murmuring certain words as he touched the pad of each finger with his thumb. This is actually a traditional way to find out the Five Elements for the hour, day, month and year of birth of a person's horoscope.
He then looked at Zhang and said, 'Congratulations! You will pass tomorrow's Imperial Examination with high marks. You are in luck. This is because in your last life, you did a lot of good things and you are going to be rewarded in this life.' Of course, Zhang was very happy to hear this. He bowed to the old man and paid him and then left to go back to the place where he was staying.
Next the old Daoist looked at Li and did the same calculations and looked at his face. After a few moments, he said to Li, 'I am sorry, but your fortune is not good. In fact, it is very bad. Forget taking the Imperial Examination because today you are going to die. You have this ill fate because in your last life you did a lot of bad things and so now must pay back.'
Li was shocked. He felt all his Qi leave his body and his face become pale. He paid Ci Hui and stumbled from the temple in a daze, feeling his whole life turn upside down.
Zhang, on the other hand, was so full of happy spirits that he was like one in a good dream. He wandered here and there enjoying the scenery around him. He suddenly arrived at a rope bridge that crossed a powerful river. The bridge was not that stable and only had loose wooden planks as a walkway. As Zhang was crossing over, he accidentally kicked some of the planks and they dropped into the river, leaving a big gap. He guiltily looked around to see if anyone had seen what he did. When he saw that no one had, he turned quickly to run away. However, as he ran back up the pathway, in his hurry he knocked over an old man who was coming around the bend in the path. He did not think about helping the old man up, but continued to run.
Li had been also walking and he came to the bridge from the opposite side. He was very depressed. As he walked across the bridge, he was so lost in his thoughts that he almost fell into the gap left by the missing planks. The gap was big enough that he could easily have fallen through if he had not caught himself in time. He stood gasping on the bridge with his heart beating fast.
Just then, he looked up to see an old man coming towards him on the other side of the gap. Li thought about what Ci Hui had told him. If he was going to die today, he thought he would try and do something good and maybe atone for some of the bad things he had done in his previous lifetimes. So he called out to help the old man.
He shouted, 'Sir, be careful, there is a gap here. You should turn and go back! Don't come this way!'
The old man replied, 'But I must go across here as I have to go to my home. My old wife is waiting for me. There is no other way. I am sure that I will be able to find some way to cross.'
Li thought for a moment and then said, 'OK, how about this. I will lie down and cover the gap and then you can walk over me.'
The old man was very impressed by this and he was able to cross over the gap. He started praising Li for his goodness when suddenly it started to pour down with rain. Li took off his coat and covered the old man and helped him the rest of the way to his home. The old man said to Li, 'You are a good-hearted person. You must have a good future ahead of you. Live long and take care.'
Li decided to find a hotel to hide himself in, hoping to avoid any bad fortune that might be the cause of his death. After the dinner, Li went to bed and covered himself with the blanket, waiting to see if he would be able to pass the night alive. Eventually, after much worrying, he fell asleep without even realising it. The next day, he was so surprised when he woke to find the sun shining in his face. He was not dead! He was so excited that he hurried to pay his bill and go back to the Jade Temple to see Ci Hui.
He walked into the temple and saw the old Daoist, the same as yesterday. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his hands folded as if he was waiting for him. Ci Hui said to Li, 'Good morning, Mr Li. It is good to see you again. Today, your face is in luck.'
Li said, 'Sifu, I don't understand. Yesterday you said I was going to die and yet today you say I am lucky. How can this be?'
Ci Hui laughed loudly. He said, 'You must have done some good things yesterday. Maybe you did something to help someone else, thinking about more about their well-being than your own. These good deeds changed your fate.'
The Old Daoist then leaned over the table and clapped his hand on Li's shoulder and said with a great smile, 'Hurry up and go to the capital to take the Imperial Examination! You will place number one!' So Li hurried off to do as he was bid.
After some weeks, the results of the examination were announced, and it came about that Li had, indeed, won first place. He received much attention and praise and became very famous throughout the country. However, Zhang did not place at all and did not get any title. Upset, Zhang went back to the Jade Emperor Temple to talk to the old Daoist.
He saw Ci Hui sitting in his usual place and he knelt before him and asked, 'Sifu, when I came to visit you before, you said I was very lucky and that I would come first in the examinations. However, I did not place at all. Why is this?'
Ci Hui said to Zhang, 'Ask yourself, what did you do in the time before the examination to change your fate?' He then told Zhang to look at the statue of the Jade Emperor behind him. When Zhang did this, his face went pale. The face of the statue was the exact image of the old man whom he had knocked down that day by the bridge.
Watching Zhang, Ci Hui said, 'Sometimes we think no one sees our actions. However, all our actions will eventually have their result.'
This is a very good story. There is no person who is perfectly good and there is no person who is perfectly bad. The more good deeds you do, the more good results you get. The more bad deeds you do, the more bad results you get. When we practise Qigong, it is the same. If we practise with the right heart and also do more good things in our life, then we can reach a high level of expertise in Qigong.
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