This article takes a deeper look into the ancient art and Chinese national treasure of Qigong. However, the word advanced doesn’t apply to Qigong in the way it might to some other activities. Given that the aim of any Qigong practitioner is to achieve a healthy mind, body and spirit in order to be happy, whatever makes you truly happy can be said to be the highest form of Qigong. If it was possible to achieve this state from basic Qigong techniques then that would be all you need to know. Learning more advanced techniques cannot make you happier. In the same way Master Lau is often asked by people how to quiet down their thoughts and empty their mind. Master Lau usually replies that what they really mean is how to rid themselves of negative thoughts. Logically, if they only had happy, positive thoughts in their mind they wouldn’t have the desire to get rid of them. Naturally for such an ancient art that many great minds have spent entire lifetimes practicing and developing, there exist a number of methods of Qigong practice that can only be learned by experienced practitioners. In general though, a word of caution for those wishing to take their Qigong training to a deeper level. As one’s practice deepens and matures, supervision from a qualified Master becomes even more necessary. As one’s energy becomes stronger through cultivation, unfamiliar mental and physical sensations will surface. These must be experienced under proper guidance.
Usually the first and most common experience of more advanced Qigong is Zi Fa Gong. Once energy has been cultivated and developed through Dong Gong and Jing Gong it will try to break through the blockages (natural healing) that obstruct the flow of chi throughout the body. This process causes the spontaneous movements of Zi Fa Gong. A good metaphor for the three basic sets is the maintenance of a car. ‘Dong Gong’ is like checking that the car’s tyres; oil, exhaust and engine are all in good working order. ‘Jing Gong’ is like putting petrol in the car and ‘Zi Fa Gong’ is taking it for a test drive. Chinese practitioners often say that practicing ‘Zi Fa Gong’ is like inviting a Doctor into your body for a check-up.
These spontaneous movements are involuntary external manifestations of a certain state of meditation. When the practitioner adopts a certain physical position and achieves total relaxation, the brain enters a certain state which allows the movements to take place. They tend to centre generally on the ailing parts of the body and in other parts of the body which are related to those ailing parts. Typical examples include swaying of the limbs, walking, turning around, jumping, dancing, folding and stretching, tapping, thumping, massaging of ailing spots and their related nervous and blood circulation networks, crying, laughing and shouting. The location, form, extent, duration and rhythm of these movements are very diverse. They vary according to the physical condition, temperament, personal background, the type and severity of the ailments and length of Qigong practice. It should be noted that some people do not experience these movements at all, but beginners need guidance before they experience them. Apart from external movements, internal movements may also occur. However, apart from the more obvious phenomena such as abdominal noise, breaking wind and increased saliva production, most internal movements are not felt. Yet both types have their own healing effects.
The cause of spontaneous movements
It is one of the instincts of the human body to adjust its biological balance through the movements of the body. Researchers suggest that when the brain enters a deep meditative state the electric waves in the brain flow out to reach the entire surface of the temples. When the practitioner enters a regulated and disciplined state of meditation and breathing exercise, some of the nerve clusters under the skin become liberated from the abnormal suppression by mild ailments. The impact of this liberation generates a strong, sudden burst of reaction in the form of electric waves, which attack the location of the ailment. This process appears externally as various movements in those parts of the body which are connected by the nervous and blood-circulation systems with the part where the ailment is located. These movements are the natural, biological response to the ailment, arising from the body’s need for adjustments and under the control of the subconscious and not imagined or imposed from outside. However, since bones and muscles are mainly controlled by consciousness, these movements can therefore also be generated, controlled and terminated by will.
The functions of self-generated movements
1) The exercise for self-generated movements aims at calming the brain through the involuntary movements of the limbs, thereby achieving a general adjustment of all bodily functions. It is a higher level Qigong exercise, more profound and more extensive than pure meditation or those exercises with conscious movements.
2) The self-generated movements are the outward signs of a natural process of biological adjustments and self-healing. This exercise sets the body off to search out and attack the ailments of the body. This is a more accurate, more suitable and more effective way of self-healing than consciously searching for ailments. It is called the ‘superior doctor’ not only because it is highly effective in curing ailments, but also because it has an even greater effect in preventing diseases.
3) It can help improve physical fitness and awaken potential intelligence.
4) When reaching a high level of this exercise, it can help to regulate the functions of the internal organs, as well as to harmonies with cosmic electric energy externally, through the consciousness of the practitioner.
The complementary functions of the internal organs and their relationships are represented by the ‘Five Beasts’ (Five Elements). These ‘beasts’ correspond to types of spontaneous movement observed. They are represented in the following diagram:
However, a note of caution is required when considering Qigong exercises involving spontaneous movements. They must not be carried out by those suffering from any of the following: mental illness, hemorrhage, high fever, very high blood pressure, acute cardiac disorder, malignant and growing tumors, broken bones, joint dislocation, convalescence after a major operation, acute gastric ulcers with frequent perforations, acute inflammation of the liver, lungs, kidneys and gall bladder, advanced tuberculosis, and for women: during menstruation, pregnancy and after giving birth. Similarly the exercise should not be carried out when one is very hungry, after a large meal, very tired, in anger or in ecstasy.
The movements which occur during the exercise should not be too exaggerated or too energetic; they should be suitably controlled and not too contrived. The duration of the exercise should not be too long. Generally speaking, it should last 20 to 30 minutes each time and no more than once or twice per day. Choose and open, quiet site for the exercise, where the air is fresh and the ground is flat. Do not exercise on a riverbank, boat, balcony, at great height or next to machinery.
In addition, do not lightly undertake to teach others exercises of this type. Those qualified to do so must be well versed in the exercise, possess a certain level of medical knowledge and have confidence in the correct transmission of both the theoretical and practical aspects of the exercise. They must also be well aware of the safety measures for preventing errors. Above all, they must be familiar with the external manifestations of the internal movements of energy so as to know how to deal calmly with different the phenomena which arise during the exercise.
Beyond Zi Fa Gong one can go on to practice forms of Qigong such as Guanxiang Fa. The main theory and method of this practice is to observe (quanxiang/mingxaing) and contemplate (cunxiang/cunsi) a certain imagery when one is in the Qigong state. Both are methods of concentrating one’s thought on the contemplation of a certain part of the body, or of a particular imagery of an object and its changes. The practice of the advanced level of internal exercises is a mainly a mental exercise. The most common ones being the Yi Shou Fa and Guanxiang Fa. The function of Yi shou Fa is to meditate and consolidate the chi. It is thus an internal, closed method for practicing Ming Gong. Guanxiang Fa on the other hand can be applied to reflect on the internal body and its organs, as well as to envisage freely all the things in the universe. In other words, it can be closed and internal or open and outgoing. Not only can it be employed from meditation and consolidation of chi, thereby improving one’s physical health and curing diseases, it can also be employed as a vehicle to reach the channel through which all things in nature unite with the universe – thereby attaining the stage of Xing Gong to elevate, improve and stimulate the functions of the brain.
The theory of Guanxiang Fa is based on the natural flow and evolution of the universe as perceived through Chinese culture, the central tenet of which being the unification of man with nature. Ancient people believe that all things had their origin in the Dao. The Dao is the most primeval and essential of existence, it permeates every corner of the universe providing a basis for the creation of all things. It is said: “The Dao begets one