Muna’s Gigong Blog #7
December 1, 2021
As we begin the darkest month of the year, I share this wonderful text with a warm heart and spirit for the holidays.
FU 復 the return
Sandra Hill, 20th December, 2018
The Yi Jing (I Ching) hexagram 24, The Return (fu 復), is associated with the winter solstice. It illustrates the beginning of the return of the light, the return of the yang after its total withdrawal. The image of the hexagram ䷗ shows one yang line emerging at the base. The upper trigram has three yin lines and is called kun (坤), the earth ☷, the lower trigram is thunder ☳, the arousing, zhen (震), and represents the stirring of the yang in the depths.
At the winter solstice there is a break, heaven and earth no longer communicate, life goes into hibernation. But at the moment of complete darkness, ultimate yin, there is the inevitable return of the yang. The movement continues and can do nothing other than move towards the light.
In classical dictionaries, the character fu is to retrace one’s steps, to go back over the same ground, to renew or restore something to its original state. In the Daoist context, fu suggests a return to the origin – as in Laozi chapter 16:
‘To reach utmost emptiness, observe deep tranquility.
The ten thousand things arise together, I simply contemplate their return (fu 復).’
致 虛 極，守 靜 篤， 萬 物 並 作，吾 以 觀 其 復。
The return (fu 復) comes after jue (厥) – which is a recession, the low point, the jue of jue yin (厥 陰)… the stage before the reversal. It is used to describe the tide when it is at its lowest point, and the dark moon, which is hidden, but about to begin its return to fullness. The character for the new moon (朔 shuo) shares the same element on the left and has the moon on the right (月).
In medicine, we often find jue (厥) used in a phrase with ni (逆) which shares part of its phonetic – described etymologically as a small plant pushing up through the earth and meeting resistance. Ni suggests some kind of blockage, and the character for ni has the radical for movement on the right . Blockage causes the qi to flow erratically. The phrase jue ni (厥 逆) is often used to describe blockage caused by an inner deficiency, a withdrawal. Jue yin is the point of exhaustion, the end of the cycle; in Shan Han Lun pathology, at the jue yin stage one either dies or begins again…
Fu (復) is the return to the light after the darkness of the winter solstice, the return to life after the danger of a reversal of qi, a return to fullness after the low ebb of the tide, the beginning of a new phase of the moon.
At this time of the year fu reminds us that there is always a return to the light, that the yang is beginning to move again in the depths of the earth, making preparation for another spring.
Muna’s Gigong Blog #6
May 7, 2021
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,”
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.” (Quotes from Confucius)
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Confucius (Kongzi 孔子, 551–479 BCE) how it informs to my life and my qigong practice. In this time when we are isolated, remember that even the most solitary of journeys is not one of isolation. In our weekly Zoom class together, we share a common wellspring of collective knowledge and ideas. It is a form of sociability and optimism.
Chloe Zhao in her Oscars Award acceptance speech spoke the 2 phrases I remember well from my primary grade education in Hong Kong: Confucian scholars believed that human beings are inherently good and nature endowed them with four fundamental virtues: humanity (仁), righteousness (義), propriety (禮) and wisdom (知). Like Chloe, I had to memorize these opening phrases of the Analects and can still recall them well.
The teachings can be very patriarchal, but I overcame the male-centric reading by making my own feminist interjection. Filial piety was also something I resisted much as a rebellious teenager as I was searching and asserting my identity as an artist against my parental disapproval. However, I now find many of the teachings very wise. I think societies can learn from Confucius on good government, trust and equitable service to its people during this current climate of the American society of the racial injustice and political wrongs, and in the dangerous revival of “Nationalism” all over the world, such as the narrow spiralling inward propaganda of “Make America Great Again” or in BREXIT.
The Five Key Relationships; they are the relationship of ruler to subject, father to son, husband to wife, elder to younger and friend to friend. “Have no friend who is not your equal.” friends should “loyally admonish one another and tactfully set one another right.” Friends should be dependable: “even if the season is cold, we know that pines and cypresses are evergreen.”
Let’s keep in mind The Five Virtues, they apply to our qigong practice as well as in life:
- Jen – goodwill, empathy, generosity.
- Yi – rightness, duty as guardians of nature and humanity.
- Li – right conduct and propriety, demonstrating your inner attitude with your outward expressions.
- Chih – wisdom.
- Hsin – faithfulness and trustworthiness.
Muna’s Gigong Blog #5
April 1, 2021
Spring is here! It is the season of activity. We start to loosen up as energy in the body begins to move up and out. Spring is naturally the time to nurture yang, our action principle. Spring is the season to eat foods with upward energies, such as young, green, sprouting above-ground vegetables. Just as the trees and shrubs start budding with the onset of spring.
It is also the season of wind, both in the environment and in our bodies. Wind can occur in any season, but it is more of a potent force in spring, as it is the time when the liver is most sensitive and very susceptible to the effects of wind. Wind appears quickly, can change without warning and is as destabilising as it is unpredictable. New York weather can switch on a dime, swinging wildly in temperature. North cold winds from Canada battle with south warm winds. So we need to be more careful about exposure to cold or getting chilled. The average daily temperature should be above 60 degrees F before people start taking off the wraps and wearing lighter-weight clothes. A Chinese proverb says: chun wu qiu dong or “bundle up in the spring and stay cool in autumn” (literally spring muffling, autumn freezing).
If you have internal wind (a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concept, not flatulence :-)) you may experience some of the following symptoms: dizziness, cramps, itching, spasms, tremors, pain that comes and goes, twitching, pulsating headaches, ringing in the ears or dryness in the upper body. On an emotional level, wind can cause manic depression, nervousness and emotional turmoil. Internally, wind often moves other conditions around, such as heat or cold in the form of fever, moving pains or the common cold. The Chinese people say: “don’t catch the evil wind” meaning don’t catch a cold. The body is vulnerable to the “invasion of pathogenic energies” that cause illness. The nape of the neck and upper back areas are referred to as the ‘Wind Gate’. This is the place where all of the yang channels of the acupuncture meridians are said to intersect. This area is particularly important to protect with a scarf or coat as well as keeping the legs and lower body warm. While the external temperature is changing and adjusting to the new season, it is important to keep the body’s internal ‘climate’ as stable as possible by wearing warmer clothes to keep in the heat. Wearing layers can also help as these can be taken away or added to help regulate the body temperature.
Just as vegetable sprouts need the protection of a greenhouse in early spring, the internal yang of the body is still too weak to resist the coldness of the external environment.’ Wu’ (bundling up) is necessary for people so the yang energy can be adequately nurtured towards its summer-time peak.
So stay warm, and go out to enjoy the flowers!
Muna’s Gigong Blog #4
January 30, 2021
Pericardium – in the center of the palm – connection to the heart. When a fist is made, the point is where the tip of the middle finger touches. Laogong or Pericardium 8 is called “Palace of Labor”.
HOW TO ACTIVATE LAO GONG
Imagine the Qi rising up the Ren channel (a line drawn from the lowest point of the trunk (the perineum), up the front of the body to a point just a little below the lower lip), and out along the Yin channels on the inside of your arm. In particular, pay attention to the Pericardium channel that runs right down the center of the inside arm to end at the tip of the middle finger. With each exhalation, imagine the Qi flowing down the Pericardium channel to the palm of the hand. Focus on the Laogong point in the center of the palm. This point must be open and hollow for Qi to spread into the hand and fingers, and to the entire upper body, to release pent-up heat in the heart and the head. Laogong is excellent in calming the spirit and resolving exhaustion and fatigue.
To massage your own Lao Gong, simply rest one hand, palm up, then use the other hand’s thumb to locate and press Laogong. Apply moderate pressure, with your thumb, moving it in tiny circles, as you place your mental focus gently upon the point.The sequence of massaging is left Yongquan, left Laogong, right Laogong, then right Yongquan, to make a full circle. It’s best to use this technique before bed, however, it can be used anytime of the day. One, two or three minutes will be sufficient daily, a full week of self-massaging will renew your vitality tremendously.
Taoist practitioners and other energy healers who use Qigong emission (external qi therapy) techniques to amplify and balance another person’s Qi frequently use this point from which to emit energy, it is also known as “Palm healing”.
Muna’s Gigong Blog #3
January 11, 2021
After last week’s disturbances in our country in our Capital that sent earthquake-like shocks throughout the nation, my class on Saturday January 9th was designed to ground us in our fundamental core.
The beauty of Qigong to me is its ability to support a comprehensive foundation for life through movement and breath. It is a system of cultivating vitality and awareness while we do exercises of mobility, strength, and physical function. Ultimately we approach daily life with an integrated axis of mind, body, heart and spirit.
From my own direct experience within my own body, I have developed metaphors and language which I hope are evocative for you. These are filtered through my haphazard curiosity to knowledge of symbols and keys used in spiritual world practices. I also find it a fascinating journey to evolve and deviate from certain strict forms (often developed by male practitioners), to “embroider” with my personal touches.
I hope you find them as pleasurable and delightful as I do.
Muna’s Gigong Blog #2: Baduanjin
November 25, 2020
I think of the beauty and richness of Brocade, which we can embroider as we like. Each meridian is a different color silk thread, interweaving and connecting to make a beautiful cloth to wrap the fascia, bones, sinews, tendons and ligaments. By the end of the series, we have a beautiful “robe” of qi, we can wear it beneath our silk cocoon this winter.
8 Brocades can also be expanded to 12 Brocades….in time.
The Baduanjin qigong(八段錦) is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. Variously translated as Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight-Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements or Eight Silk Weaving, the name of the form generally refers to how the eight individual movements of the form characterize and impart a silken quality (like that of a piece of brocade) to the body and its energy. The Baduanjin is primarily designated as a form of medical qigong, meant to improve health. This is in contrast to religious or martial forms of qigong. However, this categorization does not preclude the form’s use by martial artists as a supplementary exercise, and this practice is frequent.
The Baduanjin as a whole is broken down into eight separate exercises, each focusing on a different physical area and qi meridian. The Baduanjin traditionally contains both a standing and seated set of eight postures each. In the modern era, the standing version is by far the most widely practiced. The particular order in which the eight pieces are executed sometimes varies, with the following order being the most common.
Two Hands Hold up the Heavens (Shuang Shou Tuo Tian)
This move is said to stimulate the “Triple Burner” aka “Triple Warmer” or “Triple Heater” meridian (Sanjiao). It consists of an upward movement of the hands, which are loosely joined and travel up the center of the body.
Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Eagle / Hawk / Vulture
While in a lower horse stance, the practitioner imitates the action of drawing a bow to either side. It is said to exercise the waist area, focusing on the kidneys and spleen.
Separate Heaven and Earth
This resembles a version of the first piece with the hands pressing in opposite directions, one up and one down. A smooth motion in which the hands switch positions is the main action, and it is said to especially stimulate the stomach.
Wise Owl Gazes Backwards or Look Back
This is a stretch of the neck to the left and the right in an alternating fashion.
Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
This is said to regulate the function of the heart and lungs. Its primary aim is to remove excess heat (or fire) (xin huo) from the heart. Xin huo is also associated with heart fire in traditional Chinese medicine. In performing this piece, the practitioner squats in a low horse stance, places the hands on thighs with the elbows facing out and twists to glance backwards on each side.
Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
This involves a stretch upwards followed by a forward bend and a holding of the toes.
Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely (or Angrily)
This resembles the second piece, and is largely a punching movement either to the sides or forward while in horse stance. This, which is the most external of the pieces, is aimed at increasing general vitality and muscular strength.
Bouncing on the Toes
This is a push upward from the toes with a small rocking motion on landing. The gentle shaking vibrations of this piece is said to “smooth out” the qi after practice of the preceding seven pieces or, in some systems, this is more specifically to follow Sway the Head and Shake the Tail.
This study demonstrates promising efficacy of Baduanjin in preventing bone loss commonly occurring in middle-aged women. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17080541/
Current evidence indicates that practising TQ has a physiologic impact on immune system functioning and inflammatory responses. Rigorous studies are needed to guide clinical guidelines and harness the power of TQ to promote health and wellbeing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32629903/
Muna’s Gigong Blog #1: Yijin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Change Classic)
November 23, 2020
Practise regularly, at least once weekly.
Enjoy every moment, taste the sweet flow of the fluids through the tendons, muscles, joints, saliva in your mouth, elixir of life flowing throughout.
Bright wet eyes and lively bushy tail, 4 lively “paws” to anchor into earth and claw at heaven.
Cultivate and weave the silk cocoon to protect yourself.
The Yijin Jing (simplified Chinese: 易筋经; traditional Chinese: 易筋經; pinyin: Yìjīnjīng; Wade–Giles: I Chin Ching; lit.: ‘Muscle/Tendon Change Classic’) is a manual containing a series of exercises, coordinated with breathing, said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently. In Chinese yi means “change”, jin means “tendons and sinews”, while jing means “methods”. The number of exercises tends to change; some contend that 18 should be the correct one (if based on the 18 Arhats), but can vary from 10 to 24, to 30. Today the most respected routine is that of Wang Zuyuan, composed of 12 exercises, and has been adopted by the Academies of Chinese Medicine in China.As the name implies, “sinew transforming exercise” is the method to train the tendons and muscles. The exercise is designed according to the course and characteristics of Qi circulation in the 12 regular channels and the Du and Ren channels. During practice, Qi and blood usually circulates with proper speed and with no sluggishness or stagnation.
The basic purpose of Yijin Jing is to turn flaccid and frail sinews and tendons into strong and sturdy ones. The movements of Yijin Jing are at once vigorous and gentle. Their performance calls for a unity of will and strength, i.e. using one’s will to direct the exertion of muscular strength. It is coordinated with breathing. Better muscles and tendons means better health and shape, more resistance, flexibility, and endurance. It is obtained as follows
* postures influence the static and nervous structure of the bod
* stretching muscles and sinews affects organs, joints, meridians and Qi
* torsion affects metabolism and Jing production
* breathing produces more and better refined Qi
* active working gives back balance and strength to body and mind (brain, nervous system and spirit).
Yijin Jing unifies in fact Yi (intention) with Li (strength), consciousness (yang) with muscular force (yin). The mind is free from thoughts, has a correct and well-disposed attitude, the breathing is harmonious. Internal and external movement must be coordinated, like movement with relaxation. Externally must be fortification; inside must be purification; unifying matter and spirit.
Some classic recurring points of Yijin Jing can be described as follows:
* Most of the movements use open palms, fists are used only for stretching the tendons.
* The names of exercises change, but often the basic idea of movement remains the same. I.e. Wei Tuo greets and offers something (Nanjing Ac. of Tuina); Wei Tuo offers gifts to the sky (Liu Dong); General Skanda holds the Cudgel (Zong Wu-Li Mao).
* Movements are done standing, sometimes bending forward, but never lying or sitting.
* Eyes are always open, never closed.
* Movements are slow but full and tensed, face and body shows relaxed attitude.
* All directions of the upper body section (especially shoulders) are active and moved.
* Dynamic tension rules the moves.
* All parts of the body work together.
* There are different ways of practicing the same Yijin Jing form, according to the basic rules, to the body shape, to the time of practice and to the general health conditions.
According to traditional verbal formulas, we have that:
* The first year of training gives back physical and mental vitality.
* The second year enhances blood circulation and nurtures meridians.
* The third year allows flexibility to muscles and nurtures the organs.
* The fourth year improves meridians and nurtures viscera.
* The fifth year washes the marrow and nurtures the brain.
The Five rules of Yijin Jing are:
* Like lake water reflects the moon, a calm spirit allows energy to move inside the body.
* In order to use and flex muscles deeply, to get maximum extension and move Qi and Xue, slow movements are required.
* Each movement must be brought to the maximum.
* Efficacy comes through waiting and keeping tension for a longer time.
* Limbs and trunk must be extended so that blood and energy can circulate, so we have flexibility.
Breathing in Yijin Jing is a controversial point. Many modern sources insist on a deep, forced, reverse breathing in order to develop power and more thoroughly energize the body. Other sources suggest that this may often create excessive strain and pressure on the body. Robert W. Smith, in his article on the J.A.M.A. in 1996, suggests that there are differences between the northern and the southern way of breath. The southern variants seem not to have a developed system of regulating breathing or working on Qi. In his work on “Breathing in Taiji and other fighting arts”, Smith analyses not only Taiji veterans and classics, but also known fighters out of his personal experience, and concludes that the kind of breathing which is most effective, be it for martial or for health purposes, is located between classic abdominal breathing and a slow, unconscious breathing, with scope for explosive exhalations of the kind typically used to accompany strikes in many martial arts styles.