Sunday, 29 July 2012

Qigong and Ritual Fasting on Mt. Qincheng

Qigong and Ritual Fasting on Mt. Qincheng

Many of my patients have asked me to explain "Qigong" to them. This is a Chinese word that derives from two terms. "Qi" is the character in Chinese that refers to "universal fire" or "metabolic force" if we're discussing medicine. "Gong" refers to the traditional character that means "practice". "Qigong" is a modern term that has come to describe breathing, meditational and internal energetic practices that strengthen the constitution, support spiritual transformation, develop sensory perceptions and if practiced in specific ways, can be considered longevity practices.Historically, these practices may have arisen from the shamanastic people of ancient China.While in the city of Changsha I had the great privilege to visit the MawangDui Museum. This an ancient archeological site that contains ancient tombs from the Han Dynsasty. It was discovered intact with many important artifacts including drawings of people doing "Daoyin" or stretching and health exercises. Each of the exercises is accompanied by explanation for which illnesses it can be used to treat. These are some of the earliest recorded Qigong exercises. (I'll discuss the shamanistic roots of Qigong in a future entry).In later times, both Buddhists and Daoists used internal alchemical practices/Qi practices to support spiritual transformation. Healers of all these traditions have used Medical Qigong.
On my trip to Sichuan, China this past summer, I traveled to Mt. Qingcheng to the Tianlonggong (Temple of the Heavenly Dragon Training Institute) where I spent time studying with my Qigong master.He is the recipient of many lineages that encompass, shamanistic, Buddhist, Daoist and Tibetan Qigong. It was transformational to do the practices with him in his ancestral home on the side of a mountain, considered a holy place. One of the central themes in the practices that kept coming back to me is that Universal Love is transformational. Doing these practices on the mountain under the sky it was easy to find this connection. Many people purportedly learn Qigong practices from classes or off the internet or DVD's, but often what is missing is the inner energetic methods that drive these practices like an internal engine. Without the knowledge of how to do this, the practices are mostly ineffective.
We had the great privilege of participating in a Daoist fasting ritual for several days. Traditionally this is called "bigu", or "giving up the grain". It is a Daoist practice that is used to purify the body and spirit and there are rituals of bathing and purifying the body, while using Qigong practices to nourish one's body during the fast. In Daoism these practices have been used for thousands of years. In some cases these practices are said to be used to attain immortality, as food is substituted first by herbs and then given up altogether and the practitioner then lives on Qi alone. This requires a tremendous amount of self-cultivation.
I found for myself that bigu was immensely beneficial. We would rise early each morning and perform ritual cleansing of one another, then we would practice Qigong together, and drink specially prepared Qi-water and herbs and we would repeat this twice more during the day.The cleansing ritual included "pai da". This is a slapping technique on the skin that breaks up stagnation/toxins in the flesh and in the meridians and benefits circulation of Qi and Blood. We used towels soaked in basins of soapy water and we would do this ritual on one another (slapping eachother's arms, legs, abdomen and back with the towels) and then we would each thoroughly clean ourselves. I found this ritual incredibly powerful. I felt very clean and purified afterwards. My muscles and skin felt incredible.
A memory that I will carry with me forever is with two other gentlemen, both from China.One was a young man who had come to the institute to participate and learn. The other was a Shaolin monk who had come to observe and study as well. He had the read more..

1 comment:

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