Developing internal energy for enhancing your healing practice

Solos_Developing-Inte_978-1-84819-183-9_colourjpg-webIt is a common theory in all the Chinese internal styles that the qi of the dantian must reach the tips of the fingers, although, how this is accomplished may differ majorly among different arts. The purpose is to make the strikes felt deep within the opponent’s body without damaging your hands. The training of such a skill, besides the internal cultivation practices, usually involves some form of punching or hitting to strengthen the ligaments of the hands, and also to make the hits (and touch) soft, powerful and precise, able to reach deep inside.

Crossing over to healing, such a skill is also very important, because in your tuina you need to protect the health of your hands from harm, and in acupuncture also ensure that you have the correct kind of energy that reaches deep inside the patient’s body to activate the points and channels.

The best tuina manuals usually offer some Neigong exercises designed to cultivate the right skill. Most of them include rigorous meditation while the hands work on a sand bag or a variety of other equipment. However, even such important skills become quite rare these days, because it may take some time to acquire them.

 

But let’s see some old exercises:

Exercise example 1: A traditional old Beijing Tuina method for teaching the hand method for the character for grasping (拿) was as follows:

“A small bucket of water was immersed inside a bigger bucket of water. The handle of the smaller bucket was attached through a leather cord to the outstretched hand of the practitioner, palm facing down. During this exercise the student had to sink the Qi to the Dantian, and then by using the round force (浑圆劲) of the whole body pull the bucket out of the water and then insert it back into the bigger bucket, without any spillage. After achieving the comfort force and the ability to assume a balanced and energy conserving posture, they would have to start meditating upon the character for grasping (拿) for the hands and rise and sink (沉-浮) for the body. Most of this exercise is happening first mentally and then physically. Movement should be soft and focused.”

Exercise example 2: This is an exercise used for the method of hitting (打) the back of the patient by using a split bamboo stick. For this skill, if the amount and type of force is not correct, it can result to damaging the muscles, skin and ligaments of the patient. An old Beijing exercise for this was as follows:

“The doctor assumes the Hun Yuan position, holding a split bamboo stick, or a Taiji long ruler, or just merely visualizing holding one. The Qi sinks to the Dan Tian, and the doctor relaxes every part of his body, until achieving a feeling of being suspended up from strings attached to the body, much like a puppet. The doctor should visualize being inside a Great Balloon that has its center in the Dantian. The outer walls of this “Great Balloon” have many hooks and barbed wire, which prevents it from moving towards any direction. The doctor however, should try to mentally move it by using his intention (意) but not any physical force, while working out all the related energetic contradictory forces (矛盾力) within his body frame. While moving the sphere with the power of the Dantian, the stick always follows the movement of the whole body, but never leads or dictates the direction. At the point (点) where the movement of the whole body stops and changes direction, the doctor should be meditating on developing the correct snapping force that is needed in hitting the back of the patient with the split bamboo stick. Most of this exercise is happening mentally, rather than physically. Movement should be soft and slight.”

 

In a similar way, internal cultivation for acupuncture needling should have a specific healing purpose, direct effect and an exact training methodology, based on appropriate understanding and application of Chinese energetic theories and correct body mechanics. This training should be primarily and directly applied towards treatment, exclusively in the clinic, as an unambiguous and solid therapeutic skill, where rational theory can be coupled with reasonable and consistent benefits, for both the healer and the patient.

In my latest book, Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice I have included a complete training regime for assisting the energy aware practitioners to enhance their needling skills and transform their medicine into an extraordinary experience. With time and effort, perhaps one can discover the fine subtleties of the system at the energetic level.

Disclaimer: This article provides only simplified instruction for the above exercises, and purely for the sake of theoretical discussion. You should not attempt any of these without professional guidance from a certified teacher. The author of this article and the owner of this blog are not responsible for any harm that may be inflicted through the erroneous application of the information provided in this article.

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Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions.

Silk-reeling exercises for the upper body

Fengming_Essence-of-Taij_978-1-84819-245-4_colourjpg-webThis extract from The Essence of Taijiquan Push-Hands and Fighting Technique by Wang Fengming features unique silk-reeling exercises from Chen-style Taijiquan. This coprehensive training manual has never been available in English before and the practices are traditionally shrouded in secrecy.

Read the extract…

In The Essence of Taijiquan Push-Hands and Fighting Technique Master Wang Fengming, an eleventh generation practitioner of Chen-style Taijiquan, provides detailed information about the famous internal fighting techniques and reveals inside knowledge essential to the remarkable results achieved by the Chinese masters. The book features:

  • effective ways of cultivating Taiji internal power
  • variety of joint-locking techniques and counter techniques
  • 13 postures of Taiji explained
  • leg work, including stances and kicking techniques
  • unique silk-reeling exercises
  • rarely revealed vital point striking
  • 7 styles of push-hands training
  • 20 kinds of Taiji energy explained and demonstrated.

This comprehensive book is a major contribution to the literature on push-hands techniques in the West and is available from the Singing Dragon website.

Request a copy of our 2014 Singing Dragon new and bestselling books

SD logo 300 x 300 pixelsOur brand new catalogue of books and resources from will be available soon.

Click here to sign up for a free copy.

Our new catalogue has essential new titles from Charles Buck (Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Roots of Modern Practice) and Clare Harvey (The Practitioner’s Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies).

This is a great opportunity for parents to get a hold of Damo Mitchell’s newest book, The Four Dragons as well as Ioannis Solos’ Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice.

There are useful new resources for every practice like Getting Better at Getting People Better by Noah Karrasch, and the new fully updated edition of A Guide to Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility Type) by Isobel Knight.

To request a copy of the catalogue please click here.

Click this link to see more forthcoming books from Singing Dragon.

Singing Dragon complete 2014

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the spring and summer of 2014 as well as our complete backlist. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.

Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

New books on martial arts and qigong – 2014

The Singing Dragon Martial Arts and Qigong catalogue is now available to view online and download. We hope you will find something in here which inspires you to try a new martial art or take your practice to a new level. In this catalogue you will find books on Chinese martial arts, tai chi, bagua, qigong, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Daoism and enlightenment.

 
All the titles, author names, and covers are interactive; just click on them to be taken to the book or author page on the Singing Dragon website.

Receive one of five free copies of Heavenly Streams by Damo Mitchell

Mitchell-Aspell_Heavenly-Stream_978-1-84819-116-7_colourjpg-webDamo Mitchell’s new book, Heavenly Streams: Meridian Theory in Nei Gong, is quickly becoming a must-read resource for practitioners of Qi Gong, Nei Gong, Taijiquan, Chinese Medicine and internal martial arts.

Singing Dragon is pleased to make a copy of this indispensable guide available for free to five people chosen at random who sign up for our mailing list by Friday, September 6, 2013.

Please click here to sign up for our mailing list and get a chance at a free copy.*

Heavenly Streams provides step-by-step instructions on how to experience the various elements which make up the energy body, explaining how to identify and feel these, and how to diagnose imbalances and restore harmony. The author, Damo Mitchell,  describes the nature of the five elements, the meridians and the meridian points, inviting the reader to experience them through guided internal exercises using the body, breath and mind. Instructional drawings and photographs are included throughout the book.

Damo Mitchell is also the author of the bestseller Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change.

Singing Dragon also publishes a wide variety of related books and resources, including:

If you are already on our mailing list, you may still enter. Simply fill out your name and email address on the form and unclick the check-box that says “please add me to the email mailing list”. We’ll make sure that you don’t get added twice.

If you are a recipient of one of the five free copies of Heavenly Streams, we hope you will consider writing a review of the book and sharing with your friends and colleagues on book review sites and social media.

*Of course, you don’t have to join our mailing list to enter the draw. If you would like to enter without signing up for the list, simply unclick the check-boxes on the sign-up form that say: Please add me to the postal mailing list; Please add me to the email mailing list; and Please send me a copy of the complete catalogue.

A woman’s alchemy – by Lindsey Wei

Lindsey WeiSince the publication of my book The Valley Spirit, many things have evolved in my life. Some of the dilemmas I faced at that time have now been resolved and born fruit. The most pivotal changes have been becoming a wife and mother, sacred roles which I strived towards throughout the journey of The Valley Spirit. Now I know intimately an alchemy of a different kind.

The first alchemy I learned was the Daoist process of transformation to immortality. Known as internal alchemy or nei dan, creating another body within the body, a pure yang—pure light body. This path may take a lifetime.

The second alchemy I knew was becoming a mother. An experience fully of the flesh and a way of the Earth, yet also the essence of the Dao, this process too was creating a body within the body.

The path from pregnancy, to giving birth, to motherhood is undeniably an alchemy of its own. There is something very mysterious and brilliant about the way that a life can enter this world—and that knowledge is saved especially for the mothers. These little beings come out from the deep unseen caverns inside the body, a new soul breathes the air of this world, a new body that never was before is created.

In the early months of pregnancy, after gazing at all the pictures in the books of how the fetus develops, and feeling this sacred thing happen within me, I realized that this would be an in the flesh experience that is cryptically described in the practice of internal alchemy that I had been learning about and being trained for all those years in China with my Shi Fu.

Wei_Valley-Spirit-A_978-1-84819-131-0_colourjpg-webThe process of internal alchemy, nei dan, can be described in 3 phases: jing, qi, shen, or: essence, energy, spirit. Jing is flesh substances, such as saliva, menstrual blood and semen. Through meditation practices these are transformed into qi, a type of energy or “power”, that then, through self-cultivation becomes spirit—a complete sublimation of body and soul to enlightenment.

The adept sets out on the path and performs certain meditation methods to spark the seed of the light body within. He then nurtures the embryo through stillness, often this is a period of 100 days. However, he must spend a lifetime preparing his nature and self virtue. He waits until one day, when the time has come, there will be a trial where the adept must pass through many obstacles of desire and hardship. If he does, the light body within will be born, and the adept’s physical body will be shed like skin. He will then be in the realm of the spirit and live on forever.

A woman’s alchemy can be likened to this process as the transformation from pregnancy, to giving birth, to motherhood. When conception occurs from the love and movement of man and woman, or heaven and earth, light comes into the woman, watering the seed of life, and the creation of another body within a body has begun. Throughout the 9 months (270 days) of pregnancy, the embryo is nurtured, and this is a period of inner meditation.

It is a time of traveling inward, gathering and storing strength, or channeling most of it into the new being. The woman prepares her cave with the greatest care for the intense journey of the birth of her child. She is waiting in a place of intuition and insight into the unseen and eternal. She wonders if it is real, this child within her, who she cannot yet see or hear in this world. There is a glow surrounding her that other people can see clearly.

When the new body has developed enough, from the food and air of the mother, the birth begins of its own accord, nature takes control. The birth is a time of perseverance, demanding the courage and strength of the mother. There is the immense pain which is a hardship she must work through and experience, but once she does, she has reached the crossroads. The child is born and breathes the air of this world for the first time, now visible and tangible, out from the caverns of the unseen it is suddenly here, and the woman becomes a mother, one of the greatest transformations she will experience in this life. She holds her baby for the first time and experiences the enlightenment of unconditional undying love. This moment is filled with the way of the Great Dao.

isis

The rest is the journey of motherhood, or the polishing of the self through one of the most challenging and magical mirrors…children. This, to me, is the realm of the spirit, and all mothers, including myself must strive to remember that and live in the present moment. The mother perhaps no longer has the “time for herself”, for all of her energy is devoted to caring for the new being, her seed, what lives on after her, but she realizes that that is her “self”, her immortal self.

Perhaps the tasks of the home become her daily existence; folding laundry, sweeping the floors, preparing meals. Although these new tasks may feel lesser in this society, a mother must realize them to be no different than any other task, and that they are in fact deeply meditative arts if we can be mindful in the present moment as we go about them. Therefore, all mothers are alchemists. And the Dao is the Primal Mother.

Lindsey Wei is a disciple of Li Shi Fu in a traditional Daoist lineage which stretches back thousands of years. She divides her time between living as a renounced practitioner in Wudang Mountain and teaching a select group of students in North America. Discover more about her projects in China by visiting http://fiveimmortals.com. For more information on The Valley Spirit, see her Facebook page and book page.

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

Be taught by Master Zhongxian Wu – Taiji, Bagua and Sound Healing Workshop in Oxford, UK

Wu 12 AnimalsMaster Zhongxian Wu is a lifelong Daoist practitioner and the lineage holder of four different schools of Qigong and martial arts, he has instructed thousands of students, both Eastern and Western, and is the author of several books published by Singing Dragon. Master Wu is teaching a two day Taiji, Bagua and Sound Healing workshop in Oxford on the 13th-14th July 2013. The workshop is open to all and will be accessible and extremely interesting to internal arts students of any level.

The workshop will focus on the Bagua, which are the building blocks of Daoist philosophy, internal arts, and classical Chinese medicine, and are used to represent the fundamental principles of the universe. The practice will cover:

Zhen Xun – Opening the spiritual gates and accessing the Qi
Gen Dui – Strengthening and moving the Qi
Kan Li – Fire-Water internal alchemical transformation
Qian Kun – Tranquil sitting and healing with harmonious sound

This is a rare opportunity to learn from a true Daoist Master and deepen your practice.

For more information and to book your place in the workshop, contact info@rupertlander.co.uk

Date: 13-14 July 2013
Location: Botley Women’s Institute
North Hinksey Lane
Oxford
UK, OX2 0LT
Cost: £195

For more information about Master Wu, please visit his website www.masterwu.net

If you can’t wait for the workshop, you can purchase a Master Wu book before you attend:

For beginners:
Vital Breath of the Dao, an excellent introduction to Daoist thought and the principles of qigong with the 24 movement Tiger form explained and illustrated in the book.

For advanced practitioners:
Chinese Shamanic Cosmic Orbit Qigong, an advanced form of Qigong from one of China’s esoteric traditions never before written about in the West.

Loontil soup avec schmaltz and Chopstick your piano – excerpts from Chungliang Al Huang’s “Quantum Soup: Fortune Cookies in Crisis”

Huang_Quantum-Soup-Fo_978-1-84819-054-2_colourjpg-webIn these extracts Chungliang Al-Huang teaches us how to laugh at Taiji and enjoy being awkward. Taken from the classic Quantum Soup, these short excerpts highlight the author’s uplifting approach to Taiji practice, Daoism, and life, written with humour, warmth and insight.

Click here to read the excerpts.

‘Quantum Soup is a gourmet preparation of philosophical snaps and snails, sharks’ fins and puppy dogs’ tails to tickle the sophisticated palate and provoke happy, healthful belly laughs. Confucius say: “Number One good recipe!”‘

– Joseph Campbell

‘Quantum Soup is an elegant, wise and playful expression of Taoist and Zen Buddhist sensibilities in a Western setting – a philosophical entertainment with a collection of anecdotes, aphorisms and koan-like ruminations, all served up in appetizer portions.’

– Los Angeles Times

Chungliang Al Huang is the founder of Living Tao Foundation, an international cultural-arts network for lifelong learning, and the director of the Lan Ting Institute, a cross-cultural study and conference center at the sacred and historic Wu Yi Mountain, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the People’s Republic of China, and at Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast in the USA. He has written many classic books including Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain: The Essense of Tai Ji; Essential Tai Ji; and The Chinese Book of Animal Powers, all of which are published by Singing Dragon.

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

Becoming Aware of the Energy Body, by Damo Mitchell

Damo MitchellAnybody engaging with the internal practices of the Daoist tradition will no doubt encounter many difficulties along the way: many of the terms are written in metaphorical language, teachings are often contradictory and on top of that there is the crisis of faith often caused by the question, ‘is this experience real or is it my imagination?’ Even with the help of an experienced teacher there will be times when students will find themselves fumbling in the dark with practice yielding more questions than answers. These are challenges which any seeker of the way faces and it is the role of a concrete system of practice to help guide the practitioner through this darkness towards the state of conscious elevation which is the goal of all Daoist arts.

One aspect which can cause a great deal of confusion is around the meridian system. Is the idea of energetic pathways of Qi running through the body purely a conceptual framework or is it in fact an actual part of the human body-system? Whilst some may accept the concept of meridian pathways purely on faith others will disregard it on the basis that they have been brought up in a science-based society where logic prevails. In my opinion both of these stances have their own limitations. I have always sat somewhere in the middle; I am ready to accept that which has been a part of an unbroken lineage for millennia but I am also prone to retaining an element of doubt until proven through my own experience. It was this position I took when considering the meridian system.

I originally studied the meridian pathways in the conventional manner. As part of the Tui Na massage training I undertook alongside my martial arts training, I read textbooks on Chinese medicine and was guided towards locating the various points of the meridian system by my teachers. In this way I developed a working, theoretical understanding of the meridian pathways which I was utilising daily in my practice of Chinese medicine, Qi Gong and the martial arts. It was not until I was introduced to the Heavenly Streams practice of connecting with the meridian system and sending my awareness along their length that I began to understand with no doubt whatsoever that the meridians existed.  Through learning how to breathe in a certain way and direct my attention to specific ‘entrance’ points on the meridians I learnt to ‘retune’ the frequency of my mind. Like a radio switching between stations I was able to use the points to translate the energetic realm for me bringing the flows of Qi into the realm of direct experience. Now these pathways I had studied for so long could tangibly be felt. I experienced the flow of information along their length and began to feel the comparative differences between the different channels. I encountered blockages of different types along their length and found that I could move them through focused concentration; as a result I learnt how clearing these blockages had a knock on effect to the physical realm of my body and my health improved.

Image from video: Ji Ben Qi GongFurther exploration led me to understand how various body functions could be controlled through these points, for example one point in particular started me sweating as soon as I put my mind onto it. I did not increase in body temperature but rather just felt as though the pores opened allowing fluid to escape them. Other points allowed me to change my body temperature, energy levels and even my mind-set; I had connected with and learnt how to interface with the energetic ‘control panel’ of my body. Over the years I have learnt to refine this until I am able to adjust the various functions of my body to help me rid myself of illness when in the early stages, change my mind if my moods are working against me or even to prepare my body for internal training. Progression has even enabled me to now see the meridian pathways during my practice; the information of the Qi being connected with is translated visually by my mind and through this ‘inner vision’ I am able to observe the various fluctuations of Qi taking place within my energy body.

When teaching, I encourage students to engage in the same practices. Through periods of sitting and connecting through the same entrance points I have taught my students to connect with their own meridian pathways. It is always rewarding to see the face of a student who, for the first time, feels their own energy body; especially if this is a student who has already worked on a purely theoretical level with the meridian pathways up until this point.

There are numerous benefits to experiencing your own meridian pathways. For those interested in improving their own health it is possible to change the very ‘energetic blueprints’ of your own body-system. Great insight into how your body functions and what causes it to move out of balance can be had from exploring the flows of Qi through your own body.

For Qi Gong or Nei Gong practitioners it is very important to feel your own meridian pathways once you wish to move beyond the earliest stages of development. Trying to work with your own Qi without being able to feel where it is flowing is like trying to find your way through the darkness without a light. I believe that many of the problems people have caused themselves through incorrect Qi Gong training could have been avoided if people had taken the time to learn to feel their own Qi flow before going too deep into their training. Any health problems from incorrect training can clearly be felt developing within the energy body long before they manifest as a physical or psychological imbalance. I was taught that students of the Daoist tradition would originally have spent much time studying the energy body before they moved past even the most preliminary of breathing exercises; these studies would have focused largely on experiential feeling of the meridian pathways supported by theoretical teachings and charts.

Perhaps some of the greatest benefits of connecting with your own meridian system can be had by those practicing Chinese medicine modalities such as Shiatsu, Tui Na or acupuncture. Is it possible to accurately treat somebody’s energetic imbalance if you have not experienced this Qi flow for yourself? It is possible to learn every function of every point in the body by memorising lists and developing a theoretical understanding but this should be secondary to actually experiencing what happens when the individual points are stimulated. It is my opinion that experiential understanding of the meridian points and pathways needs to be an integral part of any sincere Chinese medicine practitioners training.

Mitchell-Aspell_Heavenly-Stream_978-1-84819-116-7_colourjpg-webThe meridian system is the energetic connection between the energies of Heaven and Earth; it sits at the point between the physical world and the realm of pure consciousness. It is the pivot of human creation, development and eventual demise. In life we begin to learn about the physical body as soon as we are born. We learn how we can control this vessel we find ourselves within and through this vessel we explore our connection to the physical world. What we are not often encouraged to do is to explore the nature of our inner world, the world of our energy body and for this reason our minds are no longer able to ‘tune into’ the realm of Qi. Thankfully this is an issue easily remedied.

As a general rule of thumb I believe that a fairly high level of energetic connection is attainable within a year of daily practice. Obviously this length of time will vary from person to person but a year’s practice is what I have seen from teaching my own students. Over the first few weeks a student can begin to feel the easier parts of the meridian pathways which are generally the lengths of Qi flow on the forearms, fingers, lower legs and toes. From here it seems to take around a year of daily practice for the whole energy body to open up to your awareness. From here it is possible to use this foundation of feeling the meridians to be able to scan their length for imbalances and change their nature through controlled use of the body’s meridian points. The key is to progress steadily and slowly; do not rush anything. Take your time, persevere and most importantly: have fun with the process.

Damo Mitchell has studied the martial, medical and spiritual arts of Asia since the age of four. His studies have taken him across the planet in search of authentic masters. He is the technical director of the Lotus Nei Gong School of Daoist Arts, and teaches Nei Gong in the UK, Sweden and the USA. He is the author of Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change, and Heavenly Streams: Meridian Theory in Nei Gong, published by Singing Dragon.

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved