THREE ESSENTIALS IN QI GONG PRACTICE
Part 3- Mind
I have often been asked by students of Qi Gong how they can enhance their practice. I generally look at what they are practicing before I comment since the problems may lie in the mechanical and technical aspects of their Qi gong. These are the obvious and external qualities that are reasonably easy to rectify. Assuming all is well there I then consider the less obvious and more internal qualities like respiratory technique and integration and then lastly and arguably the most important of the Triple Unity of Body, Breath and Mind (Qing, Qi and Shen) that comprise the practice of Qi Gong, I consider the mind, since it is this last aspect of our practice that often is most easily neglected.
Mind or Shen ( often referred to in its more mundane aspect as Xin) is an incredibly complex aspect of Qi Gong and one that is impossible to do justice to in a small blog. However in the spirit of the last two blogs I will try and keep my comments simple and pragmatic without delving too deeply into definitions and the more mysterious and often obtuse alchemical and spiritual aspects of Qi Gong practices and tradition.
Firstly it is important to remember that studying a set of dynamic moving Qi Gong firstly emphasises the body work followed by the integration of breath and thirdly mind work. Generally body work dominates the students experience since it is the easiest to teach. This is followed by breath which although is harder to teach it nevertheless does often get a mention. Mind though and all that it comprises in Qi Gong practice is often neglected. This is simply because it is the most difficult of the Three Essentials to understand, teach and apply to your practice. Also many teachers I have heard about and seen do not seem to practice it to a deep level themselves and so have no way of teaching or transmitting it. Even when this aspect is included properly into a Qi Gong program there is still the additional problem of offering guidance but not knowing if the student is able to cultivate it. The only way to truly tell is if you have achieved it yourself and can therefore see the subtle signs in your developing student and also wether the student is starting to express a deeper understanding and a more profound practice. In addition most people have a heap of internal emotional and mental baggage to deal with that often deters a student going deeply into themselves.This is another big subject and also one I will speak of at a later date.
For many students learning a dynamic set is easily within their grasp since the emphasis is primarily on body work and relaxation in motion; ‘oiling the hinges’, stretching out and ‘ opening the gates ‘ and moving blood and Qi might best describe this level and although this level does infact require strong emphasis on integrating body and breath it can nevertheless constitute a reasonably fulfilling practice without ever really training the breath or the mind aspects . In other words it is easy to fool yourself that you are practicing Qi Gong simply because you are going through the motions. To enter the Qi Gong ‘state’ you have to integrate all three elements successfully.
Not being able to do this will preclude you from getting the most out of your dynamic Qi Gong as well as being unable to practice the more subtle and internal methods that comprises the less movement oriented forms of energy work. These levels of practice rely much more on internal mental activity as their primary strategy in the form of gathering and directing mental energy, achieving subtle and deep awarenes, activating and establishing patterns of energy flow and visualising techniques .
Training the mind is a very difficult undertaking both for the teacher and for the student and hence it is often neglected by both. However I have to repeat what my Qi Gong Master always told me which is, “movement without breath integration has limited health benefits and practice without mind is a waste of time” . It could not be any clearer than that.
In my next blog I’ll share some hint on how this can be achieved. So next time you are wondering why your Qi Gong practice is not yielding deeper and more profound results give this last of the three crucial and defining essential elements of Qi Gong practice a thought. If you are or want to be a serious student on the Qi Gong path then you will have to deal with it at some point. If you don’t then you are kidding yourself about what it is you are actually practicing.