"Spiritual Qigong is not the pursuit of some metaphysical or transcendental state; rather, it involves the integration of Qigong into your daily life to reduce stress, prevent illness, and promote healthy, active aging."
Tom Rogers, President, Qigong Institute.
At its most fundamental level, Qigong practice addresses the two main causes of illness according to Traditional Chinese Medical theory: Qi deficiency and stagnation. Deficiency is indicated by chronic illness, and stagnation is most often associated with pain. But Qigong does more than help people to become or stay physically healthy. The third intentful adjustment in Qigong practice (besides adjusting the posture/body through movement and the breath through slow, deep breathing) involves the mind. Basically, this adjustment of the mind forms the foundation of spiritual Qigong. Interestingly, this is the part of Qigong that can have the most profound effect upon lowering stress and promoting healing. Spiritual Qigong isn't about going somewhere or transcending something -- we already are where we want to "go", but just don't realize it yet because of our conditioning (by media, society and culture, parents, friends, organizations, etc.) and aversion to change.
Spiritual Qigong is concerned with Qigong practice resulting in the "Qigong state", a focused awareness of existing in the present moment. This is also the goal of Zen Buddhism, which came from the Chinese Ch'an Buddhism, predominately native Chinese Taoism influenced by Buddhism imported from India. The word zen literally means "meditation", as does it's Chinese counterpart and parent, ch'an as does the Sanskrit dhyana (for a more complete understanding of zen, ch'an, and dhyana, listen to Alan Watt's - Religion of no religion (54:03) . The practice used by the Taoists and Ch'an Buddhists to reduce stress, increase awareness, and fully live in the present moment, is Qigong.
The state of mind that can result from the practice of Qigong may be familiar to some as satori, being one with the Dao, nirvana, enlightenment, emptiness, or simply the outcome of meditation. From a physiological standpoint, the body is in a state of relaxation and regeneration. This state is achieved by eliciting the Relaxation Response, coined by Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at The Harvard Medical School to describe the healing and stress reducing effects of a mind-body practice. In this case the practice is Qigong, a new category of exercise called Meditative Movement, leading to the Qigong state.
Spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle describes the process of achieving the Qigong state as "the transformation from time to presence and from thought to pure consciousness". This transition or path has also been referred to as the ancient practice of internal alchemy (the Chinese neidan or neigong). Eckart Tolle further explains that enlightenment (video 8:32) is only in the present moment: "Enlightenment, or the ego-less state, cannot be achieved in the future, or in time. It is only by looking through it now that the ego-less state is here now. A state that you want to achieve is a mental concept that is endowed with self and as such you can never reach it because it is an abstract concept of who i want to be, not realizing that you are it already."
Note that it is fairly straight-forward to achieve the Qigong state quickly through normal Qigong practice. Someone who knows nothing about Qigong may achieve the state after minutes, hours, or days of practice and instruction. Someone who regularly practices Qigong may achieve the state in minutes. The real challenge is not achieving the state; rather, the trick is maintaining the state throughout the day as you go about normal daily activity.
Although Qigong has spirituality virtually built-in to it because of its foundation of meditation, all of the health benefits of Qigong can be achieved without even considering its spiritual aspects. The practitioner simply doesn't need to be concerned with spirituality. However, for those who want to consider Qigong beyond its health benefits, there is an amazing world to be explored. This world involves age-old spiritual questions such as what is the nature of the world, who am i, what is my purpose in life, what is life, what is consciousness, etc. All of these questions are a result of one simple fact: humans are self-aware, and as such, they are aware of their own mortality and have created spiritual and religious practices to deal with that knowledge.
"With sustained 'listening', a more global sensation of energy arises involving the whole body. The 'practice' here is one of effortlessly allowing the attention to rest within the Inner Body, the field of Qi that is manifesting within and perhaps extending beyond the body. Breathing may be experienced over the entire body, as if the cells themselves were inhaling and exhaling. Yet, there is no imaging, description, labeling or conceptualizing involved in any of this. Gradually, the body itself becomes more transparent and the distinction between the doer, the observer, and the object of observation begins to dissolve. Directed attention itself begins to dissolve and what remains is Wu Chi - simple pure, awareness." Gunther Weil, PhD. Qigong educator and psychologist.
Breathe Deep Newsletter. When we can look at our life and throw together all of our experience
simply as "life unfolding" and do our best to refrain from saying that
something was "good" or "bad", then we are well on our way to true
freedom. When we can drop into that place of presence, that inner
place where everything exists in a unified field of Qi, then we are
beginning the journey toward a truly stress-free life. There's
about judging things as good or bad that creates a certain "attachment"
to them - funny huh? It is that attachment that binds us, keeps us
from letting go and moving on in some cases. That attachment (even
to "good" things) is what creates expectations and keeps us from being
open to new and unexpected opportunities. Those attachments (to "bad" things) create fears that inhibit our growth. This concept of
is at the core of Buddhist philosophy and is key in understanding what
the Buddha (enlightened one) was exemplifying. Whether any of us will
ever achieve enlightenment in this body is another story, but we
can begin to make choices to move our lives in the direction that
best reflects our heart. Francesco Garripoli, Chairman of the Board, Qigong Insitute.
"Be Here Now" - Perfecting the Practice of Presence. "The entire corpus of complex practices taught in the traditional schools of Taoist and Buddhist cultivation boils down to a single simple teaching that can be summarized in three words : “Be here now.” This is the keystone that supports the entire foundation of all the practices. This precept has become such a popular “New Age” slogan that it’s usually dismissed as a trite cliché, but it nevertheless remains the essential link connecting all the major Eastern practice lineages, and it holds the key that unlocks the gate to success in them all."Dan Reid.
“Opening Dao” – A documentary film on Taoism and martial arts
was filmed in China in 2009. Scholars, top martial artists and monks explain the principles of the Way, a treasure of wisdom that survived thousands of years. The film highlights the interconnectedness between the philosophy and the natural world and how its principles manifest in certain martial arts and meditative arts.
Film "Wisdom of Changes - Richard Wilhelm and the I Ching". Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) is regarded as the European who discovered China´s spiritual world. "Wisdom of Changes“ is a documentary about the life and work of the most distinguished translator and mediator of classical Chinese culture to the west. The film narrates from today's perspective of the granddaughter, award winning film director Bettina Wilhelm, the phases of Richard Wilhelm's eventful life in times of dramatic changes. It also provides insight into the deeply humane, timeless Chinese wisdom of the I Ching, which can still
serve as orientation in our own volatile times.
The Yogis of Tibet (YouTube 1:16:37). For the first time, the reclusive and secretive Tibetan monks agree to discuss aspects of their philosophy and allow themselves to be filmed while performing their ancient practices in an attempt to preserve them for all time.
Spirituality Linked With Mental Health Benefits
A small study shows that regardless of what religion you ascribe to, spirituality in general is linked with greater mental health. In particular, spirituality in the study was linked with decreased neuroticism and increased extraversion, researchers found. "With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe," study researcher Dan Cohen, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, said in a statement.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is the most practical thing in the whole wide world. I challenge anyone to think of anything more practical than spirituality as I have defined it -- not piety, not devotion, not religion, not worship, but spirituality -- waking up, waking up!
When your illusions drop, you're in touch with reality at last, and believe me, you will never be lonely again. Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.
Reality is not problematic. Problems exist only in the human mind.
You can become happy not by being loved, not by being desired or attractive to someone. You become happy by contact with reality.
"Life is something that happens to us while we're busy making other plans." That's pathetic. Live in the present moment. This is one of the things you will notice happening to you as you come awake. You find yourself living in the present, tasting every moment as you live it.
Every concept that was meant to help us get in touch with reality ends up by being a barrier to getting in touch with reality, because sooner or later we forget that the words are not the thing. The concept is not the same as the reality. They're different.
Bruce Lipton 'The Power of Consciousness' (video 50:57) . Teaching the belief that genes control life is very incorrect. When you teach genetic control, you teach victimization by your heredity. On the other hand, the new science of epigenetics (see Psychoneuroimmunology, Epigenetics, and Qigong) says that when you change your response to the environment you change the expression of your genes. In other words, your beliefs -- how you see the world, your perceptions -- can change your biology. There are many new healing modalities that can help you re-write your subconscious behaviors and beliefs. In order to do this, you need to be present.
Dr. Roger Jahnke discusses the relationships between Kung Fu, Qigong, and Tai Chi
Cultivation, or practice over time, is an essential component of spiritual Qigong. Although the term "kung fu" is most often associated with the martial arts, developing or cultivating any art over time is kung fu. Kung Fu for Philosophers offers some insights into cultivation from the standpoint of language, the mind, and Chinese philosophy. Qigong could be substituted for "kung fu" in this article. (New York Times)
Breathe Deep Newsletter, June 2011 - Issue #61The Healing Power of Ritual: "Ritual is such a critical aspect to our lives... for millennia, ritual has guided humans to plant crops and to harvest them, to pray to the gods, to honor tradition. In our modern life, sacred ritual seems to have been replaced with television viewing or going to work. Even going to church, mosque or synagogue has become an obligation rather than an integration. I find that a personal practice like Qigong, yoga, tai chi, etc. can fulfill that critical element of "ritual" in our lives. Whether it is the group class that you attend once each week or the quiet time you find for yourself, your personal practice is essential. Yes it feeds your body... and certainly it calms the "monkey mind" that our fast-paced word feeds... but ritual personal practice feeds the spirit, fulfills our spiritual hunger for being connected to something infinite... to our own infinite nature." Francesco Garripoli. Chairman of the Board, Qigong Institute.
The Cosmic Pulse of Wilhelm Reich: Where Science, Sex and Spirit Meet. "What some people categorize as "spiritual" (or the "divine"), and what these same people consider "sin" (the earthy or sexual), exist on a continuum. The current throughout this continuum is the universal intelligence or life force, called in various cultures chi, kundalini, prana, or the great spirit. This current, which pervades all living things, fuels the celebration of life and self inherent in both sexual vitality and authentic spiritual practices. Since ancient times, priestesses, healers, and shamans have perceived this current or flow as permeating and surrounding the human form, with vortices (called "chakras" in Hindu theory) at major glands. Seekers today, feeling incomplete or empty in their individual existence, are turning to esoteric teachings to help them reconnect to the life force, the infinite source of power. They recognize that to feel whole—whether they ascribe this connection prana or to the Goddess—they need not only the comfort, but the ecstacy, that this union provides...why not reclaim ourselves by focusing on the physical plane? If our body is indeed a temple of the divine, then the growth of our spirituality will be an organic result of living fully, ecstatically, and pleasurably in that temple. This approach makes sense when we consider the role of the body in blocking or allowing the life force to flow, and how even those on a spiritual path harbor blocks."Nenah Sylver.
The Jesus Sutras: Taoist Christianity
The Jesus Sutras describes how the beliefs of the Eastern World of Buddhism and Taoism were brought together with those of the Western Judeo-Christian world to create the vibrant practice of Taoist Christianity within Confucian China some fourteen hundred years ago. The book presents a fascinating history and picture of the intermixing of Shamanism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and the Church of the East. The sacred texts provide an unprecedented view into Jesus' teachings and life in the context of Eastern philosophy and meditative practices.
The Health Benefits of Spirituality: A Complex Subject
Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Alert: Do people who are religious or who have a nonreligious set of spiritual beliefs that guide them in their daily life have an advantage over those who don't when it comes to mental and physical well-being? A growing body of research suggests that religion and spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress.
Alan Watts, one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, points out that our sense of inter-connectedness has been lost because we think that our personality, or ego, actually exists. This misperception gets in the way of our understanding reality and who we really are, with the ultimate consequence being the unconscionable fouling of the planet that we live on. We are not an organism separate from the environment; we are part of it.
Note that Watts began his life-long study of eastern philosophy with Buddhism, and became well-known for Zen in particular, but focused his later years on Taoism, whose practitioners use Qigong. Watts explores the essence of Taoism and spiritual Qigong in
Tao The Watercourse Way
where he explains that "...the most subtle principle of Taoism [is] known as wu-wei. Literally, this may be translated as "not doing," but its proper meaning is to act without forcing -- to move in accordance with the flow of nature's course which is signified by the word Tao, and is best understood from watching the dynamics of water. Wu-wei is thus the life-style of one who follows the Tao, and must be understood primarily as a form of intelligence -- that is, of knowing the principles, structures, and trends of human and natural affairs so well that one uses the least amount of energy in dealing with them."
Philosophy of the Tao 1 & 2 [Video] - Alan Watts
Best known in Taoist circles for his final book “Tao; the Watercourse Way,” Alan Watts (1915-1973) was one of the 20th century’s a “foremost interpreter of Eastern thought for the West.” During the 1950’s & 60’s Watts was a teacher and Dean of Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. Through the late 60’s & early 70’s Watts began to lecture and appeared on television and radio. This short two-video (25:10 and 26:06) introduction to Taosim is an excert from a library of over 400 talks.
Alan Watts - Philosophy of the Tao 1 of 2.
Alan Watts - Philosophy of the Tao 2 of 2.
Another author who explores the origins of Taoist philosophy which gives a profound insight into spiritual Qigong is Ray Grigg. In The Tao of Zen he argues that modern Zen did not come from Buddhism. Rather, it's origin can be found in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism which originated in China and Taoism. He discusses in depth the historical connections of Taoism and Zen as well as the philosophical similarities.
For excellent scholarly work on Taoism see Livia Kohn and John Cleary. Also, each Breathe Deep Newsletter contains insights on the philosophy and practice of Qigong.
Empty Vessel Interview on Breathing with Dennis Lewis. "...most of us lose ourselves constantly in one or another side of ourselves -- in our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and so on. As a result, we live fragmented, dishonest, and disharmonious lives. And while we might agree intellectually that this is true, many of us are not convinced enough to actually undertake the demanding work of self-awareness and self-transformation, a work that begins with learning how to sense and observe ourselves sincerely, to listen impartially to ourselves in action. Since our breathing both reflects and conditions the various sides of ourselves, a vital part of this process involves work with breath..." Dennis Lewis.
Thousand Hand Guan Yin Qigong. Watch an example of spiritual qigong expressed through dancing. All 21 of the dancers are deaf. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring. Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics.
Peace, quiet pave road to health. The Rev. Deanne Hodgson, an associate pastor at the Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix, counsels parishioners preparing for surgery in ways to discover inner quiet in bustling hospital settings. Hodgson is a registered nurse and certified Tai Chi instructor who leads classes in the Chinese mind-body relaxation exercises at the church. The classes are open to the public. "We're constantly being bombarded, not only with sound but with visual 'noise,' " explains Hodgson. "The challenge is to discover a peaceful place within yourself, and that's where the practice of meditation of any sort [e.g. Qigong] is very useful."
Chi Tree. This short film explores the connection we have to the life of trees. It's a video meditation on the stillness of the earth and the presence of an oak tree in a Quantock field in Somerset, England. "Everything on earth is made of the same stuff ultimately - chi (qi, ki, prana or life force - vitality). The notion that we humans are separate from nature, including the earth itself below our feet, is an illusion.
"Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga will play an important part in the global awakening."
-- Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth
(Oprah's Bookclub pick).