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Daoism celebrates and cultivates the art of living in accord with the cyclical play of natural energies, maintaining an easy, humorous, yet commonsense approach to everyday life. Daoism cultivates our capacity to spiral from the serene and tranquil to the energetic and dynamic. In this spirit, the Daoists created refined qigong systems of meditative movement to induce harmony with nature, generate energy, and at the highest levels, to achieve spiritual illumination.

Qigong teaches us to harmonize body, mind and breath while using scientifically choreographed movements to stimulate or relax our energy. Qigong bolsters the primal, reproductive vitality, or "jing"; it potentiates the daily bioelectrical energy, or "qi"; and it refines the light of our radiant spirit, or "shen". Imagine yourself as a candle: the candle body is your jing, the flame is your qi, and the candle light your shen. These three treasures are interdependent. Cultivation of the one leads to cultivation of the others, just as neglect or dissipation of the one will adversely affect the others.

Qigong divides into two main categories—the tranquil and the dynamic. But, typically of Daoist practice, tranquil qigong will have a dynamic component—motionless on the surface, yet moving the qi internally. Dynamic qigong will also cultivate tranquility, learning to move vigorously from a still core. Skillful practitioners learn to be aware of and incorporate the full spectrum of internal and external activity, equally comfortable with the tranquil or the dynamic, always cultivating the seed of one within the soil of the other.

One of the most delightful and accessible of the dynamic qigongs has to be the Five Animal Frolics. The exercises combine the internal with the external, invigorating the organs and soothing the nervous system, while strengthening and toning the external musculature. They affirm a playful, uninhibited approach to meditative movement, allowing for strong benefits without an overly serious slog for results.

The father of Chinese medicine, Hua To concluded that the single greatest secret for a healthy life lay in the practice of correct movement. His analogy became dear to the hearts of all tai ji enthusiasts: "A door's hinge won't get worm-eaten, if you use it." Today we would say "If you oil and use the hinge." Qigong and tai ji movements, when properly performed, stimulate that internal lubrication of free-flowing qi, blood, and lymph essential to our continued health and sense of well being.

Believing also that the highest healing skill is to teach others to heal themselves, Hua To set out to create a complete self-healing system that anyone could use to stay healthy or cure themselves of most ailments. Synthesizing and refining a set of exercises based on a vast body of ancient shamanic and folk healing knowledge, he created The Five Animal Frolics. The Frolics incorporate many of the principles of tai ji but in a more basic form. They are far easier to perform than tai ji, very pleasurable and relatively simple to maintain as a daily practice. Individual sequences can be used as quick, invigorating stress-buster; the full program is an exhilarating therapeutic experience.

The exercises model movement from the crane, the bear, the monkey, the tiger, and the deer. These are animals with very distinctive styles of movement. The idea is not merely to mimic the external motions of the animal, but to internalize the nature of that animal as you practice. Each Frolic also emphasizes different health benefits and you can choose a specific animal for specific results. Their movements form arcs, spirals, waves and spins, in accord with the Chinese belief that circular movement underlies all mental and subtle energetic activity. To avoid imbalance, the movements are sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and are deliberately designed to alternately strengthen and soften the body.

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