Week 3: Yi, and more about Qigong Practice
The first important concept to understand this week is Yi.
Yi, or I (pronounced "ee" either way), is a concept that is rather hard to translate into English, in the same way that Qi or Jing is. It's a unique concept, and has no English equivilent word. Yi is often explained as being intention or willpower; it is much more than that. Yi is an equal combination of willpower, intention, focus, concentration, physical movement, and doubtlessness. That is the complex part of Yi- you must do all of these things at once for the best effect!
Willpower is strength of mind and determination. Intention is determination to do a specific act in a specific manner. Focus is putting your attention on a certain thing. Concentration is a closed or fixed attention. Physical movement, though not always needed, is moving in a prescribed manner that supports the qi flow. Doubtlessness is having total confidence that what you want to happen will happen. All these things together make up Yi. At an intermediate level, Yi becomes unconscious, to the point that you simply have internal control over your energy- it becomes as easy as lifting your arm or turning your head. At an even more advanced level, Yi is refined to the point that the energy just moves without you noticing it. At the level of a master, there is no Yi! Whatever happens, happens beyond conscious thought. This is referred to as wuwei (non-doing, Chinese), or mushin (No-mind, Japanese).
Yi exists in many more expressions than we realize. It can be much more than just the combination of the above ideas; the above ideas can be elaborated on and refined. They are simply the base ideas to facilitate development and control of internal energetic power.
One such expression that is oft-overlooked is the power of prayer. Most practicing Muslims turn towards the holy city of Mecca and pray at scheduled times five times a day. That is an enormous amount of focus and concentration! Prayer can often times be more specific and broad compared to qigong, as well- you really can't ask qi to protect you, give you good luck, or help you find love- but you can ask your personal deity, God, or higher force to.
Note that Yi, most simply, means "intention"- that does not include visualization! You can visualize all you want, and most of the time it simply ends up getting in the way. By focusing during meditation and energy work sessions, an individual learns how to focus qi to an area of their body simply by focusing on it; the energy isn't felt coming through the body, it seemingly appears there. When you are this rooted and in line with the qi around you, it becomes a simple task to move qi.
Additionally, it would also be apt to describe Yi as being a deep inner expectation that what you want to happen, will indeed happen. This comes from kobok's Dynamic Psi course. If you believe you are moving energy on the level of the soul, and expect it to move, it will move given enough time and focus. At a higher level, this deep expectation becomes easier and easier to believe in and put into practice. After some time training, you will realize that the expectation of doing something with Qi does not need to be explicitly formed and focused on; instead, it just is, and you are merely becoming aware of the expectation and allowing things to happen, because they just are. The expectation was always a part of you and never separate, or something you had to work towards to make real- it just is, and whatever you want to accomplish simply becomes true because you let it.
Also, to keep myself from sounding hypocritical, visualization does have it's benefits and applications in energy work if done properly. The problem with this lies in the facts that one, you don't need it. It is perfectly possible to move energy using the faculties described above and take steps to confirm that yes, you did indeed move energy to a certain place. Secondly, it needs to be affirmed that visualization alone does not equal energy work
. If I visualize say, a tree, in my mind...I have an image of a tree in my head. If I did not give that tree some of my energy, or the energy around me, to form it as a construct, than it will not exist as a construct. It will just be a picture of a tree. It is when visualization is used with the other components of Qigong, such as Yi (Intention, focus, concentration, expectation, doubtlessness) and emotion, that it begins to have power.
This is something that is not easily understood by many beginners and takes time and training and direct experience to appreciate. It is also something that is a major stumbling block for beginners on every path, because they just visualize fantastical things and believe they are doing real spiritual work. This explains why in the past we have sites with kids teaching Dragonball, Naruto, or Avatar techniques- overactive imagination and a reliance almost solely on visualization. They also don't take steps to objectively confirm that what they're doing is having any effect on reality. So, keep in mind that visualization can be of great benefit, but it can also be the ultimate crutch.
Next, we will discuss Yin and Yang in the energy body and how to observe and remedy symptoms of Yin/Yang imbalance.Yin/Yang balance and energy blockages
This section is for reference and deals with energy blockages and yin/yang imbalance in the practitioner and how to remedy them. This is good knowledge to have, and when you have more experience training your Qi you will be able to recognize and correct these problems.
- Energy blockages in the head can cause headaches, poor sleep, delusion, self importance, empty headedness, and incoherent thoughts.
- Energy blockages in the heart or chest cause things like self pity, self doubt, uncontrollable emotion, negativity, and negative emotions.
- Energy blockages in the solar plexus cause mostly anger, rage, outbursts, etc
- Energy blockages in the lower Dantian cause problems with sex or too much sex drive, problems urinating, and problems of the stomach and bowels.
- Energy blockages elsewhere (arms and legs) would cause mostly pain or poor blood flow, and sometimes weakness or nausea.
Additionally, there can be an overall dysfunction and imbalance between yin and yang that affects the energy system on the whole.
Symptoms of yang Qi imbalance:
A feeling of rising heat from the Dantian, feeling hot, jumbled thoughts, anger, sickness of the stomach, mania, psychosis, paranoia, hyperactivity.
Symptoms of yin Qi imbalance:
Trouble feeling Qi, feeling cold, passive-aggressive behavior, general apathy, lack of motivation, fatigue, lack of energy, lack of thoughts (e.g. overly empty/quiet mind when not meditating), depression.
Methods of balancing Yin and Yang and removing blockages:
- Alternate nostril Pranayama from Yoga balances Kan and Li (Fire and Water), and subsequently Yin and Yang.
- The microcosmic orbit removes blockages and also balances Yin and Yang of the energy system, since the Governor and Conception vessels regulate the Qi of the rest of the body, organs and meridians.
- If you have yang qi imbalance, eat lots of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Drink a lot of cold water to cool the rising heat from the Yang imbalance. If you have yin qi imbalance, eat lots of meat (chicken and fish), nuts and protein. Also, drink hot liquids like green tea.
- For Yin Qi imbalance, do Qigong and Dantian meditation at noon for three days. For Yang Qi imbalance, do the same at midnight for three nights, or sunset if you aren't awake at midnight.
Now we will move on to this weeks' first exercise: Pumping Qi.
Next exercise: Pumping QiExercise 5: Pumping Qi
This is an exercise to allow you to feel your qi for the first time. It can be done further on as an exercise to energize oneself quickly. This exercise will also start to develop the state of mind in which qi is to be cultivated...
Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, bend at the knees a little bit as if you were sitting on top of a ball supporting your hamstrings and resting on the backs of your calves. Keep the back upright and straight. Stand mostly on the outer edge of your feet, so the instep is slightly raised off of the ground. Having your feet in such a manner promotes upward flow of Qi easily and freely. Push your tongue against the upper palate. Make sure the anus is squeezed shut- while uncomfortable at first, it quickly becomes natural. This further supports the qi flow and will make the microcosmic orbit easier later on.
Holding your hands at your sides, keep them relaxed and loose, and swing them forward and backward.[ed: breathe slowly and deeply with a Buddhist breath while doing this.] Focus on the Dantian, a spot 3 inches below the naval and one inch in. Repeat swinging the arms back and forth, and stop after about 50 repetitions. Look at your hands- you will note them feeling warm, and possibly find your body tingly and energized. Your hands may also appear to be red with patchy white spots. This is a normal reaction of any energy work. Remember this feeling! You will soon learn to be in control of it.
It is important to breath deeply and slowly while doing this exercise.
Practice this for a few minutes daily and pay attention to the sensations you experience in the arms and hands while doing it. Report your experiences with this exercise in it's thread.
Next, on to the second exercise of the week, bringing Qi to the hands.Exercise 6: Bringing Qi to the Hands
Get into a basic meditation position. Meditate until you reach a calm state of tranquil mind, and you can feel your Qi. Quiet the thoughts and attempt to feel out your Qi. Focus your attention on the Dantian, and begin to do deep belly breathing as you would in Dantian meditation. Now, raise your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground, and open your eyes. Position the hands like this:
(This is the "Zai" Kuji-in hand mudra from Ninjitsu, but the Daoists actually had hand signs like this too that got transferred to Japan as a part of C'han (Zen) Buddhism)
This hand formation is "control of nature". Pay attention to the height of your hands.
Continue to meditate and focus your awareness on your hands. If you wish, you can state to yourself: "I am holding a large ball of Qi in my palms". Focus on the act of moving the Qi from the Dantian to the ball in the palms of your hands. For practical purposes, it isn't really a ball of Qi that is separate from the hands, more like a ball around each hand, and this "Qi ball" cannot really affect any sort of physical change in the environment, so don't get deluded. It is simply a large amount of Qi being brought to the laogong point in the palms. Simply breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, focusing every fiber of your being into your hands, and perceive the Qi flowing there. Try to notice any sensations in the body, in the meridians, and allow the ball to take shape. Try not to visualize; what you want to be doing is moving energy to a location by willpower, focus, determination, concentration, and deep inner expectation. A good analogy for doing this is to imagine the Qi as being like water.
Continue to do this until your "ball" feels quite large and heavy. Be sure to take note of the height of your hands and arms when you started as compared to where they are now.Additional exercise for those having trouble
This is an additional exercise for those having trouble with the previous two exercises.
This is a classical exercise to feel the Qi. You do not need to post experiences with this. If you want to, you can in one of the two threads this week, with your other experience post, but it isn't necessary.
1. Meditate standing up for about 5 minutes, or however long it takes for you to reach a calm state of mind.
2. Raise your dominant hand to chest level. Relax the hand totally with it palm down and the fingers relaxed and loose. Close your eyes.
3. Begin to do deep belly breathing and focus your awareness on the hand. If you want you can sink the weight of the body into the ground, such as Wu Qi stance with Lifting the Sky. This will make the effects more powerful.
4. Imagine or visualize your arm, and your hand, filling up with water. Pay attention to any sensations you receive in the arm or hand, and fingertips. Continue to maintain this focus and visualization for about 5 minutes. It doesn't matter where the "water" is coming from, just that it is filling up the arm and hand.
5. Open your eyes. Take note of where your hand is and how it feels.
Post your experiences in the appropriate forum thread.
That concludes the theory and exercises for week 3 of the Qigong study group.
Good Health And Training,