qigong 1 — learn to sense qi
Qi rules. Well, at least for spiritual development, it’s a certainty that qi rules. Without having qi in your pocket—that is, you’re in that cozy place where you can sense qi clearly—all your efforts toward spiritual unfoldment will be half-baked and metaphysical success will remain elusive at best. Why? Good intentions just don’t cut it. They count for a lot but not towards stabilizing the mind. The only help is qi (or prana [in Hindu yoga] or lung [in Tibetan Buddhism]). Every genuine yogic tradition trumps up the importance of accessing the mind via work with its handmaiden, subtle energy. Guess what? They’re right. Sure you know that. But, guess again. Guess what? They are really, really right.
Why all the tooting about a seemingly obvious fact to anyone who’s spent even a short amount of time exploring alternative approaches to inner growth? Simply because just about everyone on the planet is in a cultural and psychic trance. You read the words, you understand the concepts, you register them as important and park them neatly in your memory bank along with other details about spiritual practice. And … then … you just go about your daily activities and chores as if you’re nobody’s fool. Nothing changes. Nothing much happens. No amazing turn for the better.
Lots and lots of folks. Everyone’s got a story. What’s yours?
There are good reasons why this happens: At a psychological level you can explain such behavior as an outfall of cognitive dissonance (the mind only tags some experiences as important). At a spiritual level, this ramifies from karma (deep energetic patterns) and the play of such karma can be clearly known through Jyotish (Vedic astrology of subtle energy archetypes). So, there ARE reasons.
Sweet, beautiful, innocent … plain and simple. just right … and yet, a little too sleepy for Light!
But, the bummer remains. Now, it’s not a crime to be in a consensual trance with everybody and everything else. For sure, dreamland is the norm. But simply going along for the ride with everyone else will NOT get you free or to a better place spiritually. You have to buck the system—not violently but with true grit and effort. In yoga, this process is called tapas (fire). Through struggle and determined practice you cultivate agni (a form of subtle energy related to heat and knowledge). And it is this agni—spiritual fire—which purchases you entry to real—that is, really effective—sādhana (spiritual practice).
The best way to start? Learn to sense qi. It’s that simple—and, that hard. In Daoism, and related practices from Chinese culture (such as qigong for health or martial arts), qi is generally felt with the hands to start with. Later, you can sense it anywhere in and about your body. And eventually, you can just access this energy via your mind which means gradually you can manipulate qi at a distance. The following video introduces some useful and accessible preliminary practices that can lead you to sense qi. This entire video is essential material but, for now, just check out the two practices explained starting at 11:34 into the video.
If you give these techniques even 10 minutes a day for a month or two you will be amazed—and, in a better place to pick up the chase as described in the next section on yoga. As a reminder, there are three qi meditation practices explained on this video but just do the first two for now. The third meditation is more advanced and will garner you more if you develop some other skills first (as detailed later on this, and the following, web page). Happy qi trails!
nei jia quan 1 — baguazhang and bajiquan
Nei (internal) jia (family) quan (fist) refers to a collection of Chinese internal martial arts that incorporate weigong (outer qigong) and neigong (inner qigong) into their practices. Baguazhang (eight trigram palm), Xingyiquan (form intention fist) and Taijiquan (grand ultimate fist) represent the main styles. Popular thinking and legend link them with Daoist monasteries of the Wudang Mountains in Hubei province. Another style, Bajiquan (eight extremities fist) sometimes gets included in this list since it originated from the same province and towers as the most powerful of all Chinese martial arts. Baji (for short) makes the most effective use of basic weigong and neigong techniques to add high octane energy to already powerful martial techniques.
And this is the reason someone intent on spiritual practice should take the time to learn about these martial arts. Quite simply, by leveraging whole-body movements with time-honored qigong practices and knowledge, they have developed the BEST ways to cultivate qi. Once you learn from these masters, truly effective and rapid ways to access qi, you are free to go as you please. There’s no requirement to become a fighter. You just need to learn how to become a qigong pro—relative to your current level of ability. Honestly, the following key methods will take your journey to Light up a notch or two.