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The Map of the Qigong and Tai Chi Universe

In that state, the miraculous is at hand, the elixir
is spontaneously produced and circulated,
In that state the distance from here to the stars
or to the depths of universe,
is not, and the extent of our brilliant
and profound uniqueness is less than vapor thin.
In that state what could be discovered and known
is not somewhere else.
Can you surrender to what is true?

-- Wu Wei, a student, with appearances here and there in history

Mapping the Qigong and Tai Chi Constellations

It is estimated that there are 10,000 various methods of Qigong (Chi Kung), including many forms of Tai Chi (Taiji). There are Qigong forms named for nature – heaven, earth, the five elements (fire, earth, wind, water, wood). Many forms of Qigong focus on gathering Qi from trees, mountains, rivers and oceans. There are forms named after the legendary immortals and Chinese myths as in Yellow Emperor Qigong, Laozi Qigong. Some are based on the insights of recent teachers. Others are historic developments with roots that lead to actual people and actual lineages. Others go all the way back through the veil of pre-history and are linked by rumor and story to the supposed originator of Qigong shamanic Master Yu’s pace of the Dipper Stars.

There are forms that are done lying down, sitting , standing and walking. Special lying down Qigong methods can be used either for the very ill or for those who want to broaden their practice to include the periods just before sleep and just after awakening. Particularly if one’s life is busy and extra time is short, the lying forms provide a way to do Qigong at moments that are typically not devoted to anything else. Lying down Qigong was developed even further for those who wish to try to extend their practice into directed dreaming as did the famous Daoist Monk Chen Tuan at the Jade Spring Monastery near beautiful Flower Mountain in central China.

While it is not necessary to give an exhaustive catalog of the 10,000 forms here, it is quite inspiring to explore a simple system for thinking about the kinds of Qigong just briefly. This is not a completely comprehensive system, yet it is very useful for making some sense out of the many forms that you may encounter. Imagine that all of the Qigong methods are stars scattered throughout the heaven in what at first appears to be a random way. Look again, as you observe carefully over time the random stars appear to cluster together. I think that you will be inspired to find that the 10,000 forms arrange themselves into constellations.

Many forms of Qigong, particularly medical Qigong, are very practical and named for their intent – Vitality Method, Muscle and Tendon Method, Back and Spine Enhancing Method, Cancer Recovery Method. Some Qigong forms are named for cosmic qualities. Many Qigong forms are named Primordial (Wuji) and describe that pristine, primordial state of the universe before the big bang which caused Yin/Yang to arise. Tai Chi, which translates as the Supreme Ultimate, is an exploration of the harmony and balance of the essential – Yin/Yang -- forces of the boundless universe. There are hundreds of forms of Tai Chi alone –Yang style, Wu style, Chen style, long form and short form. There are dozens of variations on what is called Tai Chi Qigong, a modification for making the beauty and poetry of Tai Chi more accessible for medical Qigong and stress mastery practice in situations where the classical 108 Tai Chi movements is too complex to implement.

There may be dozens of different forms with the same name and focus. This would all be confusing except for the fact that the heart of Qigong lies not in the form, but in the essence. The essence of Qigong is the Qigong "state," in which the Qi channels are open and circulating, inner resistance is at a minimum and the mechanism and spirit of the being are maximizing and operating optimally. All the forms are tools to leverage the practitioner into this state. The immense diversity and sheer numbers of forms reflects the wide array of theoretical and philosophical backgrounds along with the tastes and preferences of the people who developed them. In the end the only forms that are important are the ones you love and use and share.

For those who would like to explore how the different kinds of all the 10,000 forms can be understood as a comprehensive, interconnected and integral system, there are several general categories

The Kinds of Qigong

The Roots
Legendary or ancient

The Tradition
Fitness and Prevention

The Body

The Dynamic

The Form
Form – specific, directed, formalized
No form – spontaneous, formless, non-specific, intuitive

The Focus
Internal - Neigong
External - Waigong

The Map

As you move toward greater understanding of Qigong and Tai Chi it becomes quickly obvious that the body of knowledge is immense. And yet it is claimed that it is easy to learn and practice these health enhancement and self-healing arts. The best path is to work with an approach that you find interesting and fun. As always in finding and following a path, it is useful to have a map. Whether you practice with friends, begin in a class at your hospital, align with a particular teacher who has advanced in Qi cultivation or travel to China to seek the original master teachers, this information will help you to get your bearings.

The Roots and Traditions of Qigong

The soil into which Qigong extends it roots is deep and rich. The most ancient roots penetrate beyond history into mysterious and legendary times. More recent forms, though still antique are historic and associated with specific traditions. There are many innovative contemporary forms as well. From its ancient and historic roots Qigong flowers as numerous bountiful traditions --Daoist, Buddhist, fitness and longevity, medical and martial.

The Roots
Legendary or ancient

The ancient legendary forms and methods of Qigong arise from prehistory, before writing and record keeping began. In The Pace of Yu, described earlier, Shaman Yu practiced walking or dancing the pattern of the stars onto the ground. Shamanic interpretations of animals and the forces of nature were common to all original cultures. In China some of these evolved into early Qigong forms. The Flying Crane Form that we explored earlier in Purple Bamboo Park is very likely associated with shamanic origins and is reputed to have been a form of ritual called the Crane Dance. In a way all Qigong has ancient legendary roots in prehistoric time.

The roots of the historic forms, those that can be traced to their actual origination, are still typically linked to the ancient and legendary. In [date??] Zhuangzi, traces the cultivation practices from his own era to another legendary shaman from ancient time who, as the legend goes, lived to 800 years of age. "To pant, to puff, to hail, to spit out the old breath and draw in the new, practicing bear hangings and bird stretchings, longevity the only concern. Such is the life favored by the scholar who practices Dao Yin, the man who nourishes his body with the hope of living as old as Pengzu." Zhangzi uses the earliest name for Qigong, Dao Yin, meaning to guide and direct Qi.

The transition to historic forms of Qigong came with the earliest detailed writings that teach Dao Yin in the Han Dynasty era, 206 BCE - 220 CE. The Dao Yin Jing, one of the original Qigong texts, was among the scrolls of the library of Master Ge Hong from the 4th century CE, a great Qi cultivation master that I have quoted a number of times. In 1972, one of the most spectacular archealogical finds in the historic era of Qigong occurred. In a group of tombs from the Han Dynasty at Ma Wang Dui a silk scroll was discovered with 40 detailed figures in an array of Dao Yin postures. This is one of the first clearly inscribed historic forms of Qigong.

Another of the first historic forms is known as Hua To’s Animal Play, a set of practices that express the Qi of the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and crane. Hua To (hwah toe), a well known and highly revered first century physician of Chinese medicine, was famous for quite a few impressive innovations, including the use of hemp as an anesthetic and for being the "first" surgeon. There are several dozen places where he is supposedly buried, and when I visited the grave of Hua To on the grounds of the Jade Spring Temple at the foot of Flower Mountain, the monks assured me that the burial site is the most authentic one. Obviously, even the historic aspect of Qigong approaches the legendary. It is inspiring to think that from this ancient physician’s insights, the promise of the Qi and Qigong has continued through to physicians and citizens in China today. And now Qi and Qigong are participating in a health care renaissance in America.

It is typical for the more renowned of the historic forms of Qigong, like the Animal Play of Hua To, to spin off dozens or even hundreds of versions over the following thousands of years. I have learned at least a dozen versions of the Animal Play in China and been exposed to a handful more in the US. In this context it is very nearly impossible to know whether the variation of a historic Qigong form that you may encounter is "authentic." However, given the intent of all Qigong, it is very likely that interpretations or modifications to historic practices are often quite valuable and may even contain significant improvements on the original. For example, when people ask about how to work with children using Qigong I almost always suggest modifying Hua To’s Animal Play to be light hearted and easy to learn. How long does it take a group of five year olds to "act like a tiger?"

The Tendon Changing and the Marrow Washing forms that were originally developed by Bodhidharma, are prime historic forms that have developed in dozens of directions over many years -- some gentle for healing, others rigorous and demanding for the martial arts. When Buddhism came to China it was immediately embraced with enthusiasm. Many felt strongly that Buddha may have been a reincarnation of the great Daoist Immortal Laozi. Or that Lao Zi had been a primary teacher for Buddha. Buddhism was considered by many to be the later teachings of Laozi form after his ascension as an immortal. As the legend goes, Laozi grew tired of the small mindedness of men and the empire, and he elected to disassociate with popular culture in around 450 BC. by departing to the west of Xian, into the Zhong mountains (Zhong Shan). Bodhidharma (Da Mo to the Chinese), who helped to import Buddhism to China, did arrive from those same mountains and his teaching were very profound and deep as were the teachings of Laozi.

When Bodhidharma came to the Shaolin Temple at Song Mountain (soong), he taught the monks a number of Qigong forms including the Tendon Changing and the Marrow Washing Methods. Due the very ancient history of China and its sheer immensity, hundreds or even thousands of versions of these practices exist today. These two methods have become a foundation in my own teaching. I have personally studied dozens of versions of these forms in my own Qigong evolution. I actually teach both in a very simple form that is very practical for all new students whether they are overcoming disease or building personal strength. This evolves to a more esoteric form as students advance and wish to deepen their practice.

Because Qigong is derived from our relationship with Qi and this relationship is constantly transforming due to social, scientific, political, spiritual and personal factors, Qigong is always changing. Every era has its newly developed or contemporary forms of Qigong. In some eras, like the Tang or Song dynasties, Qigong flourished and evolved rapidly and many new forms were developed. Such forms were contemporary then and are historic now. The period between 1970 and the present was another such renaissance era for Qigong. The explosion in Qigong following the Cultural Revolution in China was so radical that it is already known by historians as the Qigong Rush.

Contemporary forms of Qigong have their roots in the forms that come before them, all the way back to the ancient legendary era. The Flying Crane Form that we saw earlier was first legendary, then historic and now a contemporary interpretation has evolved to suit contemporary needs. Guo Lin’s Cancer Recovery Walking Qigong, a very recent contemporary form, developed in the 1970s, has roots in the teachings of her grandfather who probably learned from a historic or even legendary lineage. Universal Intelligence Qigong, from a huge Qigong hospital in the mountains east of Beijing and attributed to Dr. Pang Ming, is an immensely popular contemporary form. The standing method from the hospital in Hangzhou is a contemporary version of the standing forms from earlier eras. Spontaneous Qigong is probably the most ancient Qigong, it is formless and was probably first done by humans who could not even speak an organized language somewhere around 60,000 years ago. And yet it is very contemporary due to its very personal nature.

Given that all 10,000 Qigong methods were created by someone, with their source in the richness of the ancient legendary realm, it is very likely that many more will be developed in the future. Some will be further improvements and innovations, others will be odd additions with limited merit. Most forms are developed by sincere Qi lovers as they adopt what is universal to their own personal situation. This implies that you should feel free to explore the forms from the past with the idea of creating a personal form that works for you.

The Tradition
Fitness, Longevity and Prevention

Probably the richest way to look at the kinds of Qigong is from the perspective of the traditions. The stories that can be told, particularly of the Daoist, Buddhist and Martial traditions are part of why Qigong is so fascinating. Besides the beautiful links to nature and the universe, the eloquence and poetry of Qigong comes from the extraordinary stories of wandering Daoist monks, compassionate Buddhist Masters and the fighters who used Qi rather than muscle power to defend Emperors, court ladies, ministers and even, in certain eras, to disempower unethical dynasties.

Qigong for fitness, longevity and disease prevention is the ideal in modern China. The billions of people could, if unhealthy, create a terrible health crisis. The national health system encourages people to sustain their health by using Qigong and Tai Chi. The quest for healthy longevity is traditional in China. In the West we now live longer, but there is doubt about the quality of life in people who are sustaining their lives with drugs and at risk for side effects and drug interactions. Qigong also aims for performance, productivity and effectiveness enhancement by addressing the health and function of those who are relatively well, including athletes, scholars and business people. At a more ultimate level, Qigong helps to create healthy, happy and compassionate people. Traditionally, in China people of wisdom are fondly considered to be immortals.

Medical Qigong is typically practiced by patients who work with special physicians who prescribe specific Qigong methods for specific medical conditions, consistent with the diagnosis of Qi deficiency or Qi stagnation. A person with deficiency of kidney Yang leading to cold extremities and fatigue would be prescribed a completely different practice than a person with stagnant liver Qi. However, general Qigong practices that are used in hospitals and clinics and any form of Qigong that is targeted at resolving medical challenges is considered by many to be medical Qigong. Medical Qigong also includes Qi emission healing or clinical treatment.

Daoist Qigong is the most ancient Chinese framework for intentfully perceiving the multi-dimensional nature of the world. The health or healing gained from one’s practice is a side effect of exploring one’s relationship with the essence of nature. Daoist Qigong operates on the premise that we are given a body in this life and there is significant value in honoring and caring for it. Your grandmother’s idea that the body is a temple is very consistent with Daoist Qigong.

Buddhist Qigong merges the foundations of Buddhist philosophy and religion with Daoism. When Buddhism arrived in China it was immediately embraced because so much of it is consistent with the Daoist thinking that is indigenous to the Chinese culture. There are some differences between the two, however. Daoists do Qigong to honor the spirit by the filling the vessel with vitality, attaining a clear and undisturbed mind and merging with The One. Buddhists tend to discount the body and even the mind, which are considered to be illusions -- distractions from ultimate reality which is pure emptiness.

Martial Qigong is the aspect of the martial arts associated with accelerating or maximizing fighting (or sport) strength to engage in any challenge, physical or mental, empowered by the Qi. The great Daoist temples – White Cloud, Dragon-Tiger, Jade Spring as well as the great Buddhist temples – Souls’s Retreat, Shaolin, Nine Flowers were all called upon at many points in China’s tumultuous history to produce monks with the highest spiritual training and values who, because of their cultivation of the invisible forces of Heaven and Earth, had radical fighting powers. This created the extremely unique Chinese tradition of Daoist and Buddhist monk warriors who, were also compassionate monk healers. The martial artist with the greatest skill brings Qi cultivation to the conflict.

The highest value in this context is conflict resolution, achieved with no violence. This innovation of spiritual warriors from China is one of the great contributions of the Chinese Qi community to the world. The same Qi that makes the warrior mighty is the Qi of healing. The greatest victor is the martial expert who solves the conflict without use of martial force. Obviously, there were times when the conflict was resolved by terrible violence, but this framework of bringing peace of mind and highest spiritual values to bear on disputes will have a positive effect on conflict resolution in contemporary time as the arts of Qi cultivation become more known outside of China.

The Body in Qigong

One of the easiest ways to describe the kind of Qigong being practiced is to describe the body component. A method with Buddhist or Daoist roots may appear indistinguishable to all but the most informed eye, but the difference between a method done in the lying posture is very clearly different from a method done sitting or standing, or walking.

Qigong Lying Down
With breath focus and meditation
With self-administered massage or postural adjustments
With gentle movement

Sitting Qigong
With massage
With movement

Standing Qigong
Meditation in stillness
With gentle movement
With massage

Walking Qigong
Gentle movement
Dynamic movement

Qigong Lying Down means to move the hands, feet, fingers, toes or to shift the posture while lying down. Just prior to sleep and just after awakening are perfect times to do Qigong Lying Down. One of the most innovative features of Qigong is that it is easily adapted for those who are recovering from surgery or experiencing severe illness, even those who are unable to get out of bed.

Sitting Qigong is really any meditation in the Chinese tradition, or from any other tradition, whether sitting in a chair or cross legged. Unique to the Chinese tradition are sitting and moving forms. I first learned sitting Qigong with movement from Chang Yi Hsiang of the Tai Hsuan College during my study of Chinese medicine. The Silken Sitting Form starts with two relatively simple forms called Blooming of Spring and Lighting the Back Burning Spaces (associated with the Gate of Life. Then in one of the most beautiful forms I have ever seen, The Ascending Dragon, the practitioner goes from sitting to standing.

Standing Qigong is probably the most common. Standing in stillness, like at the hospital in Hangzhou is a classic Qigong meditation, totally unknown in the Western world. Most Qigong is from the category of standing with movement. Most of the methods we are learning in this book are from this category. While most forms can be adapted for sitting they are usually done standing by those who are well. Standing in this way builds strength and endurance.

Walking Qigong is any form where the practitioner advances or steps back. Tai Chi is the most widely known walking form of Qigong. While Tai Chi is quite complex, the Cancer Recovery Walking Qigong that we explored under the "contemporary" forms is one of the easiest forms of Qigong to grasp and use. This is excellent because people with cancer need powerful tools that are easy to use. Research has proven that the method developed by Guo Lin is also very effective for many other disorders including diabetes. One of my favorite forms of walking Qigong is the Wild Goose (Dayan Gong). In it you "become" a wild goose, the bird revered by the Chinese to fly the highest and which has the most direct experience of touching Heaven and collecting the Qi of Heaven.

Notice that massage can play a role in each of these. Self administered massage, to both the muscle groups or pressure points along with patting and even gentle pounding, is frequently included in Qigong. anything that enhances, refines and cultivates the Qi is Qigong. Massage is a key feature of most Qigong systems. Because we did a thorough exploration and instruction on this in the Healer Within, I will not address it here except for in the Phases of Cultivation under Directing the Qi in The Healing Promise of Qi.

Dynamic, Form and Focus in Qigong

There are many subtle features to mapping the universe of Qigong. The dynamic of Qigong reveals the huge difference between absolute stillness which is Yin and extreme movement, Yang. Specific and directed Qigong forms cultivate Qi in a completely different context than purely spontaneous and formless methods. An almost separate universe of Qigong emerges in the context of the external focus of Qigong.

The Dynamic of Qigong

One of the highest priorities in Qigong is deep relaxation and a purposeful freeing of the nervous system and inner function from the effects of tension. When one elects to enter the Qigong state, whether during a Qigong practice session or anytime throughout the day, posture and breath are important, but it is the state of clear minded relaxation that has the most power to pull you into the Qigong state. Most Qigong forms are relatively Quiescent, allowing for the decrease of inner resistance and maximum flow.

It is not impossible to attain the Qigong state in dynamic or vigorous practices. In fact Gongfu (kung fu), the renowned martial arts now called Wu Shu in China, has the intention of sustained Qi focus through clear mindedness during intense activity and conflict. There are cleansing or purifying methods that are more vigorous with the intention of expelling spent or extra Qi. And some practices are more vigorous to activate the Qi and increase the circulation including the Qigong Warm-Ups that we will learn at the end of this chapter

While all forms of Qigong are meditations, the quiescent forms are the closest to what we usually associate with meditation. In lying, sitting, and standing Qigong there can be absolute stillness or there can be movement. In quiescent Qigong – lying, sitting or standing – there is only stillness.

According to an ancient proverb, "The more you focus on movement outside, the less you can focus on movement inside." When you place your attention on external movement, Qi and inner resources are busy attending to the function of the muscles and the metabolism of "doing." When the mind is externally focused the preferred state of inner directed, clear and neutral mind is less attainable.

It is also stated, "Those who practice only quiescence become ill with diseases of stagnation." Given the value of inner focus and calm in Qigong, it seems like a major contradiction that the quiescent state causes stagnation of inner fluids (blood and lymph) and a stagnation of Qi which can lead to disease. Rather than a contradiction this a revelation of Yin – Yang harmony and balance. It is best to have a Qigong practice that combines the quiescent methods with the dynamic methods.

This is why the martial arts almost always include meditation practices. The meditation is Yin, the vigorous martial arts methods are Yang and the two together foster balance and harmony of the body, mind and spirit. And this is the reason that so many forms of Qigong are mildly dynamic, that is neither completely quiescent nor wildly vigorous. Such forms inherently harmonize Yin and Yang within one method. All forms of Tai Chi are mildly dynamic and carefully balanced -- allowing mind clearing, meditation and relaxation to occur simultaneously with gentle movement. This is probably the most important innovation of Qigong because it allows for the healing and empowering effects of both meditation and gentle movement to act synergistically.

The Form
Form – specific, directed, formalized
No form – spontaneous, formless, non-specific, intuitive

While some types of Qigong, like Quiescent lying and sitting Qigong, are relatively formless, the words "Qi Gong Form" usually describe the actual physical movements in a dynamic or vigorous Qigong method or technique. One of the most provocative and eloquent components of Qigong is that the forms frequently have beautiful poetic and philosophical names that deepen their meaning. What other fitness practice uses images like "Hands Pass Like Clouds" or "Immortal Dragon Cultivating Golden Elixir"? The inner practices can also have very poetic descriptions as in "Merging Water and Fire to Transcend the Matrix" or "Circulating the Light of the Inner Heaven." The most provocative formless Qigong is the Spontaneous Method that we explored in Hangzhou Hospital. It is one of the most important methods in all of the history of Qigong and we will practice it as one of our Warm-ups at the end of this chapter.

Some Qigong forms are brief and simple and easy to learn practice and teach. For example, in the Flowing Motion which is a classic, used by millions of people in China you simply start in the Preliminary Standing Posture that we learned with the Qigong Opening in Chapter Two. On the inhalation, with arms at your side, you swing the arms forward and upward slowly on the inhalation, until at about the level of your eyes. On the exhalation you allow the arms to drift back down, gently. You may repeat a few or many times. I have heard now from many people who love the idea that simply doing 100 repetitions of the Flowing Motion is reputed in China as a way to "be healthy for the rest of your life." In fact, it is said that if you do a thousand of the Flowing Method you will become immortal. Most people understand that, to the Chinese, this means you will gain access to your universal and eternal self.

Some Qigong Forms are detailed and lengthy. Tai Chi (Taiji) is an elaborate Qigong Form with 108 movements done in the same order and in the same way every time. In Tai Chi you become deeply involved in purposefully coordinating yourself with universal energies and principles -- the Supreme Ultimate. There are many such forms. The Wild Goose Form (Dayan Gong), has two sections of 64 movements.

Most forms can be broken down into smaller components for ease of learning and practice. The Tai Chi 108 is often cut to a short form of 24, 28 or 32 movements. The 108 is often distilled further to a small set of 10 to 13 movements that are repeated, called Tai Chi Qigong. One of the most beautiful and poetic Tai Chi movements that is used as a brief Qigong form is "Waving Hands Like Clouds", the method you will learn with the Conserve Qi Phase of Cultivation. Typically people learning Qigong will find themselves combining their favorite methods and practices to create their own personal forms. After all every form was developed by some one, that’s why there are 10,000 of them. You are sincerely invited and encouraged to develop forms of your own as well, by linking your own favorite methods. All of the methods in this book come from a different traditional or contemporary form.

The best form is not so much one that is famous, the favorite of a renowned master or from a particular tradition. The best form is the one you will actually use. The form most likely to be used is the one that is fun instead of serious, easy instead of hard and practical instead of esoteric.

Spontaneous or Formless Qigong is particularly fascinating because there is nothing to learn and nothing to follow. Natural Flow Qigong is formless Qigong. Quiescent Qigong meditation where there is no external movement is formless as there is no external movements to learn and practice. Methods that include body movement, but are not directed, specific and formalized, are also formless. We visited the hospital in Hangzhou where both approaches were used. First there was a standing meditation that was completely internalized and formless. That was followed by Spontaneous Qigong which included movement but is formless, spontaneous and intuitive.

The very simple nature of formless Qigong makes it particularly accessible to people who feel uncoordinated or don’t believe they have the time to grasp Qigong forms. The difference between a beginner and someone with lots of experience in formless Qigong is invisible. When I lead classes or practices in formless Qigong people always comment that it was their favorite part. This is because it is so very simple and yet very deep. With the formless method you can work the Qi into the deepest places where it is needed, the way water finds its way deep into the ground.

Spontaneous Qigong is sometimes called Wuji Qigong or Dancing in Primordial Chaos because each practitioner tunes in to their own pre-birth nature -- their pre-natal, primordial or original state -- beyond personal conditioning and local personality. It is believed that while you may be unwell or challenged in your present personal situation, you are already healed and supremely well in your universal self – the Spirit (Shen). Dancing in Chaos can also be called Shen Qigong, a method for accessing the ultimate and essential perfection of the universal self (Shen). In this formless method the practitioner channels or absorbs their Shen, their universal nature, purposefully into the body/mind of the local self. This primordial potential is collected in the Qi channels and Elixir Fields (Dan Tian) to enhance the present condition. Eventually it becomes clear that the primordial self -- the already perfect version of the self -- is latent within. Wuji Qigong at this point becomes less focused on collecting something from outside and more on revealing what is already buried within -- perfect health, intuition and insight, productivity, creativity and inner peace.

Many know that the highest Qigong attainment is impossible to teach, because the most advanced methods are formless. The most advanced Qigong comes from direct experience of the true nature of Qi, one’s eternal nature and the Universe itself. The

Internal Qigong - Neigong
External Qigong - Waigong

Ancient philosophical traditions are often somewhat paradoxical, and so too can be the concepts of internal and external focus in Qigong and Tai Chi. Let’s try to keep it simple. Internal refers to that which is always within you. However, external can mean two completely different things. Understanding this will make many discussions and written resources more clear to you, particularly those that refer to external Qigong. For some this discussion will be useful and clarifying, others may find it confusing. If such detail pulls you out of the Qigong state, turn to the practice of Natural Flow Qigong. This can help to reengage that inner state of flow. You can come back to these ideas another time.

Internal Qigong simply means that the focus of the practice lies within you. All forms of Qigong, from Tai Chi to the thousands of health improvement Qigong techniques practiced in the parks and hospitals in China, are types of internal practice. Deeper or more advanced internal practices usually refer to Qigong methods that are called Inner Alchemy (Nei Dan) and are focused beyond health improvement on the domain of spiritual transformation -- as in the Heaven Phases we will be exploring in Part II.

External Qigong, particularly when used to describe the focus of one’s personal practice usually means that the methods include movement of the muscles and extremities. Given the internal self is represented by the organs, fluids and the merging of Heaven and Earth in the HeartMind, the extremities and muscles are relatively external. Martial arts practices, which often have a Qi cultivation component, are primarily externally focused - on expressing the power of the Qi in the muscles and extremities. But the paradox of Qigong is that an external form of Qi cultivation, the martial arts for example, can have an internal component as well, in this case Kung Fu. And the most paradoxical -- Tai Chi is considered to be an internal form of martial art, but a relatively external form of Qigong.

Many forms of Qigong are considered external because they focus on external body movement, bodily health and building strength and flexibility of the limbs. Internal Qigong typically focuses on more quiescent body methods (less external movement) along with mind and spirit -- not only for healing and longevity but to enhance wisdom and insight as well. Both internal and external become relative when the martial aspect of the Chinese disciplines are discussed. You could say that internally focused martial arts are usually somewhere near equivalent to externally focused Qigong.

There is one additional aspect of external Qigong, however, that is one of the most fascinating aspects of Qi cultivation.

Qi Transmission Healing

External Qi Healing (Wai Qigong), describes a practice of Qigong where a practitioner transmits or channels Qi to help or treat another. Qi is invisible and difficult to explain or categorize scientifically. As a result, external Qigong based in transmitting healing influence to others is somewhat controversial. However, as you will discover in The Light of Science on Qi, we are rapidly gaining a better understanding of what the Chinese ancients discovered in research on what is now called non-local or distant healing.

There is wide variety of such distant healing methodologies based on Qi, Prana, magnetic energy and consciousness including Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki, Prana Healing, Polarity Therapy, SHEN Therapy as well as Qigong Healing and prayer. Many, many people have derived powerful health enhancement and dramatic healing from such modalities.

One of the important differences between Qigong healing and many of the other forms of distant healing is that Qigong inherently includes an entire system of personal practice -- internal Qigong -- to complement the healing from a practitioner. Whether Qigong healing is provided by a friend, a Qigong Healer (Chi Kung Healer) or a physician, it should always include self-practice of internal Qigong methods. If you find yourself with a teacher who does not enthusiastically combine personal internal practice with Qi transmission healing or if you find yourself with a "healer" who does not enthusiastically suggest personal internal practice to complement external Qi healing, I caution you sincerely to seek alternative teaching or treatment. Phase Ten of the Phases of Qi Cultivation and Mastery in The Healing Promise of Qi is devoted solely to external projection of Qi -- Qi transmission.