There are basically two schools of Taoist meditation, one that is called the “fire” school and another that is called the “water” school. The approaches in meditation differ considerably. The water school is derived from the original teachings of Lao Tze in the Tao Te Ching. Cultivation of the “valley spirit” figures heavily in the approach of this type of meditation. In contrast, there is the fire school, where one uses effort to make progress. You could say that force is a valid way of describing the fire method approach. It is an outer method of development.
The water method is a means of allowing things to change, but presenting yourself with a consistent practice that helps foster that change. It is an approach of letting go. During the process, because of the regular practice, an increase in compassion for yourself (it is inner development, by the way) and others. Forgiveness, acceptance, detachment and tranquility become more common in your life.
I was reading a review of a recent book by Pema Chodron by a Brigham University student the other day. The review was interesting from the perspective of the author. His perception was that Buddhist meditation was a means of beating a type of consciousness into your being so that you were transformed into a more enlightened being. There are fire forms of Buddhist meditation that require visualization and verbalization as a part of the meditation progress, but as I remember Pema Chodron’s work, compassion and the water method are the primary routes for meditation progress.
I can understand the viewpoint of the reviewer of the book, since I have had many years of indoctrination into the principles of the Protestant Christian Church. The moralistic approach of many of the churches within that tradition can be a hindrance to inner development, and consist of more of a pasting-on of a proper socially acceptable mask on the practitioners. The development may, and frequently does, take on the path of what is called “prosperity theology” or Christian materialism.
The Taoist method of water meditation takes on many forms. An introductory practice is following of the breath. This method is especially good for beginners because it helps cultivate intention (Yi) that can be used in more advanced practices. If you are new to this concept, see the blog entry
Tranquility is an essential aspect of qigong practice. Master Chang Sang Feng said “With the calm spirit, there is free energy flow. The tranquil spirit allows the production of free and appropriate flow of energy, as well as the alignment of the body. As one’s emotional nature arrives at a calmer and more tranquil state, the body relaxes more and achieves a natural alignment.
So, practice tranquility, or meditation, at the start of your practice and then carry that into your movements. You will find a greater ability to be aware of your movements and of the quality of energy that is within your form.
An embodied qigong practice needs several factors for success, such as dedication and openness to the application of new principles. You can learn some things from a book, but some things require pondering and experimentation to understand. Sometimes, going to a workshop is needed to help in understanding the depth of the methods. Many people read qigong books and related books on developing self-realization really don’t understand them. I view qigong books as supportive tools for active contemplation of meditations and movement forms that you learn from a competent teacher.
As Eckhart Tolle recommends in this book, The Power of Now, it is important to stop and allow yourself to go beyond the immediate images that come to mind. Ultimately, qigong and Tai chi practice are about embodying the principles.
For instance, take the “string of pearls” image for doing Tai chi, as set forth by Master Chang Sang Feng, where he said: “In any action, the entire body should be light, alert and coordinated, like a string of pearls.” Can you experience this continuity and connectivity in your movements? Can you make all of your movements act as an integral whole with coordination? If not, can you find the points at which the string of pearls is interrupted, dissolving blockages and opening up the blocked connection? Some blockages take time and dedicated practice to overcome or work through. The sequential opening and closing of joints (arms, legs and vertebrae) is an example of what is needed to be realized to embody the string of pearls in your movements. Take your time and practice with tranquility, not striving, and maybe you will embody the “string of pearls.”
I just added a lens on Squidoo on Qigong Healing Methods. The lens talks about Medical Qigong and the use of medical prescriptions of qigong exercises for helping people heal from various disorders. The article is a general overview of the topic which serves as an introduction to this important branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are several schools of Medical Qigong in the United States where you can get training.
Dr. Jerry Allan Johnson opened up a school in 1985 in California and the organization is called the International Institute of Medical Qigong. His students have also opened up various centers across the U.S. Dr. Johnson has produced many training for Medical Qigong Doctors and specific practices or prescriptions that are suited for various disorders. These videos reflect the text of his book: Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy. A Comprehensive Clinical Text. For anyone who is looking into the benefits of alternative medicine and wants to become actively involved in their own healing, I encourage them to look into this option.
Qigong healing routines are extremely important for the maintenance of health in China and these meditative, or mindful, movements are becoming more popular within the United States. Medical professionals are more likely to advise integrating the use of these exercise methods with Western medical advice to help individuals recuperate from infirmities.
It has been documented that there are over 10,000 forms of qigong, including those exercises used in martial arts, however the vast majority of people do these relaxing qigong practices for benefiting health and increasing personal energy. You find many people doing these qigong health exercises early in the morning because the practice helps set a positive pace for an upcoming day’s work and it boosts your energy levels to help you through your day.
There are many personal stories about the success of qigong practice, especially in regards as to its benefits for health and ability to help overcome many disorders. A good many of the reports have come from China, where people have suffered and recovered from weak vision, back pains, general malaise, various types of cancer, and several other maladies after commencing a daily exercise routine of qigong. There are many videos of practitioners from different countries who report that these exercises have helped them overcome high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary conditions, and pulmonary disorders. Scientific studies have also exhibited that qigong healing routines also can help improve peoples’ resistance to disease.
Since Qigong routines emphasize the use of gentleness in the movements as well as in the breath practices, they can be easily changed for use with those who have a variety of conditions, including people who are bed-ridden or are unable to walk. The qigong breathing meditations, which can be done by anyone, are the first step in the rehabilitation of breathing ability, and they benefit the circulatory systems for lymph and blood flow. Improved circulatory system function assists in toxin removal out of the body.
If you have a health disorder or just are experiencing a indefinable energy deficit, you should certainly explore the feasibility of carrying out a easy qigong routine to assist you to get better. Practice routines which take no more than fifteen min. out of your morning can result in enormous benefits for your health. Practice daily for a couple of weeks to figure out the benefits for yourself. Find a teacher to help familiarize yourself with a simple practice. Many have tried it and have reaped the benefits and now live more healthy, energetic lives!