Summer energy urges us to get moving

Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.

Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:

“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.

During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”

Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.

Master your technology or it will master you

Noel Plaugher shares insight into the martial arts exercise featured in his new book, Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang, and encourages readers to be more present in the moment.

“My book is about a still form of exercise that incorporates mind and body, and I hope that aside from the physical, readers will take heart and embrace the idea of being in the present. It sounds cliché but it seems all of us are involved in everything but the world in front of us.

In our hectic and busy lives we forget that there must be moments where we stop for a time and look around us, or simply close our eyes and be in the present. I am not talking about having a full blown meditation on a commuter train, although what the heck, you may want to try it. I try often to do this, to have these small moments (not full blown meditation on a commuter train) as I work extraordinary hours and small breaks are nirvana to me. Even for a minute or two I have found it beneficial to walk outside look at the sun and sky, take a deep breath, and think about what is happening at this moment in time. It seems like the enemy for these moments are those devices which were sold to help us save time and make things easier. I haven’t really seen that materialize. Have you?

I am disappointed that all of the science fiction movies and TV I watched as a kid that painted such a rosy picture of the future, didn’t happen the way they described. I don’t mean the flying cars, which I guess, will never happen, I mean the promise of the ease of daily activities. The one thing I noticed in science fiction was that no one was ever in a hurry. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Floyd is briefing the others on the space station, they were completely relaxed. They were talking about other life in the universe and they could have been discussing color swatches for interior décor. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” And this is when Bowman is facing death in the vacuum of space! Sure, Star Wars has some excitement, but they are shooting lasers at each other. I don’t see that I have more leisure time because of technology, and that machines are doing things for me, so I can relax on the couch. Like most people I have ended up serving the machine! Now we work everywhere. Is that an advantage? Only to the work, I think.

We are all tethered to devices that are merciless task masters. ‘Ding!’ There is a text! ‘Swoosh!’ That is the email asking about the text. ‘Swoosh!’ There is that Facebook post from the kid who sat in back of me in high school. He found me on Facebook and now I look at his posts of his family vacation and ‘like’ pictures out of some kind of bizarre obligation. ‘Ding’ a text reminding me about something that I didn’t forget, but the text requires that I respond so that the other person doesn’t get offended. Now I insert the proper emoticon and…’Swoosh’ email arrives notifying me about a picture of a plate of food that someone thinks is incredibly important. With the internet, you can read just about everything ever written by Joseph Conrad, but we use it to send pictures of plates of food. For some reason we do all of this while life is streaming by and we give it barely a notice. What the heck!

These devices are so insidious they have wrapped their tentacles around our children as well. (or did we do the wrapping?) We are often found staring stoop shouldered at our palm size czars while our children are enthralled by a screen encompassing their entire field of vision, and we all MUST HAVE IT! What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Look at this device! Look at all the things it does! Perhaps we need to be asking if we need it to do all of these things.

I have stood talking to people looking at a phone, with earphones in their ears, and they have told me: ‘Don’t worry, I’m paying attention to you.’ Really? I beg to differ. Two of their senses are occupied and tasting me is out of the question.

Usually, we think of the phone or other device as our connection to the world, when in fact it is the exact opposite: It is our disconnection from the world. The world is happening in front of us and all around us. Do we even notice? Often I am criticized for not taking pictures of events. But I refuse to do it. I don’t want to document my life for myself or anyone else. I want to experience and live it. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think my life is all that interesting to anyone but me. A few events, may be worthy of note, but a daily dose of minutiae?

So are we disconnected? How disconnected can we be? Laws have had to be passed so that we don’t type one fingered messages to others while driving a one ton death machine on a public road! Now THAT is disconnected.

So what do we do? I don’t suggest turning your back on technology. That is unreasonable. I only think we need to be prudent in its use. Give attention to what is important, and realize that what you give your attention to, whether we realize it or not, is what is most important to you at that moment. Once when I was pushing my son on a swing and checking my email on my phone, I realized that what I was looking at was the most important thing to me at that moment. That really struck me, so I put it away and when I am interacting with my son I make sure I give him the same attention I demand of him.

What about emergencies? Let’s face it if we ever only used our devices for emergencies they would be dusty and full of cobwebs. If we put them away for a moment nothing will happen. Sadly, we all must realize that we are not as important as we think we are, and we are really only important to those close to us. How often do we give our time and attention to others at the expense of the ones that care about us?

So what do we do? There are small things we can do, and I have provided some suggestions below. However, having an overall awareness of the fact that we are making choices is important. We are not helpless, unless we choose to be.

These are some things that I have found useful.

  • When you are by yourself, periodically, at least once a day, turn off your phone, or at least the volume, and be alone with your thoughts. If you have to ask what you should think about, do this more often than you were originally planning.
  • Require full attention of those that interact with you. No checking texts while speaking with you. No glancing to see if anything came in. I have instituted a “walk away” policy for myself. If when speaking with someone they choose to do other things, so do I.
  • Do the same as above for others. (How often did I catch myself doing this stuff? Too often.)
  • Look in the night sky and try to find a constellation of any kind.
  • Look at the daytime sky and observe the clouds or anything that is there.
  • Stop and think about how you are right now. What do you feel?
  • If you don’t like your child spending so much time on a device, then make it stop.
  • Breathe deeply by inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5.
  • Choose to use technology to make your life easier and realize that nothing is an emergency but an emergency.

When I was writing my book I tried to talk about being present, as standing qigong is definitely something that helps cultivate this practice, but I wouldn’t want someone to think that they can’t simply start being present immediately. I hope you read my book and the others that are coming. Now, turn off your ringer and try the suggestion where you take in a breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5. Do it now. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Great! Now, without holding your breath, breathe out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There, that is it. Look around you. Look up, look down. This is where you are. Doesn’t that feel good? This is where you are.”

Qi Gong as a “process”: Journeying from dynamic movement to inner stillness

By Michael Acton, author of Eternal Spring: Taiji Quan, Qi Gong and the Cultivation of Health, Happiness and Longevity.

I came to Qi Gong through Taiji Quan, which is considered in China to be both a high level Qi Gong and a highly respected traditional martial art. I started Taiji in London back in 1976 when there were very few serious and knowledgeable instructors around. I had already dabbled in Japanese martial arts. Taiji was like a breath of fresh air, I found it both fascinating and fulfilling. It also reflected more accurately my growing interest in Buddhism and Daoism and their expression in Chinese art and culture. My first important teacher was a Malaysian Chinese and he introduced me to Wu style Taiji Quan. After several years he returned to Malaysia. I visited him there and learned and saw aspects of Taiji I had not seen in the UK. I also saw Thai and Malaysian martial arts whilst in Southeast Asia.

Back in the UK, I continued to practice with some students from my old group but I also began a more earnest investigation of new teachers and other styles of Chinese martial arts, notably Chen Style, Ba Gua, Hsing Yi and Traditional Yang Form. I also spent six months in Dharamsala, Northern India, painting two pictures for the Office of the Dalai Lama (see below) which gave me an opportunity to study meditation and Buddhist philosophy. This had a significant impact upon my personal development and my inclination towards Qi Gong as a therapeutic and spiritual path. It also inspired me to seek out a high level teacher in China.

Michael Acton's painting of one of the great teachers of Buddhism, Shnatarakshita, displayed in the Namgyal Temple in Dharamsala.

In 1992 I went to Shanghai, the home of Wu Style Taiji and met Master Li Liqun, a fourth generation Taiji master and a senior disciple of Ma Yueh Liang. Master Ma and his wife Wu Ying Hua, (daughter of Grandmaster Wu Jian Quan who developed the Wu Style as we know it today), were the gatekeepers of the Southern Wu Style martial system of Taiji Quan and were both renowned for their skill and knowledge. Master Li was a life long practitioner of Chinese martial arts and was a highly respected Taiji master and Qi Gong doctor. It was my good fortune to meet him and I considered myself lucky when he invited me to study with him.

From Master Li I re-learned everything I thought I already knew about Taiji. I studied the weapons and martial strategies and learned the rare Kuai Quan (Fast form) – said to be the original hand form. I also had the chance to study Qi Gong in depth. I studied Master Li’s methods and his widely acclaimed 5 Yin Organ Back Step systems. It was a profound introduction to Qi Gong as a therapeutic/health practice and a cathartic experience for me. I stayed in China for nearly four years and have subsequently been back for a year’s stay plus many, many visits, including my recent visit in late 2010 when I was invited to visit the graves of Ma Yueh Liang, Wu Ying Hua and Wu Jian Quan, to pay my respects as an ‘apprentice’ of Master Li’s. Master Li has always been generous in his teaching and believed that everyone should have the chance to practice and study Taiji Quan to cultivate their vitality, health and happiness. He also encouraged me to teach in the same spirit and I have been teaching now since 1996. In 2006 I founded the Wu Shi Taiji and Qi Gong Association UK with Master Li Liqun as our Honourary Chairman. Its aim is to teach the traditional Wu Style Taiji Quan as passed down by the founder Wu Jian Quan as well as the methods and principles of Qi Gong as passed to me by Master Li Liqun.

The Qi Gong course I teach has evolved over many years of teaching, studying and investigating Taiji and Qi Gong. I confess: it has taken me a long time to acquire the maturity and depth needed to teach Qi Gong properly as well as position all the developmental stages of Qi Gong practice in an intelligible and sequential way. My course addresses the difficulties many Westerners find in accessing what I call the Qi Gong ‘experience’. I deliver a broad syllabus of principles, methods and strategies used in therapeutic Qi Gong.

The syllabus covers four main Qi Gong strategies:

  •  Dynamic movement
  • Medical/Therapeutic Qi Gong
  • Qi Absorption/Emission, and
  • Meditation

I offer both an understandable syllabus and relevant theoretical framework. My emphasis always remains true to my Masters’ with its primary emphasis on the therapeutic and healing aspects of Qi Gong rather than the mystical, martial or even religious. Generally I follow the Chinese medical paradigm as expressed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and although this can present problems for many students who are unfamiliar with the principles and theory, I always seek to explain the Chinese ideas in a digestible and experiential way.

Many of my senior Qi Gong students are either therapists, osteopaths or acupuncturists and they find that the therapeutic methods I teach both enhance their level of treatment and give them the means to manage their own health. I also teach many students who have medical conditions, some quite serious, that need managing. It is this context that has propelled and informed the syllabus and the depth to which I teach. I believe that serious students, especially those in the healing professions, need a full range of Qi Gong methods to be useful in their practice and relevant to their patients as well as to themselves. I have come to see the principles, methods and strategies as being intimately linked and interdependent, each providing a stepping stone for a deeper and more profound experience. Qi Gong is about Nourishing Vitality which requires far more than learning a few sets of movements. Nourishing Vitality means the practice of ‘conservation, restoration, nourishment and transformation’. Qi Gong should be seen as a ‘process’ and as such it unfolds progressively as you journey from dynamic movement to inner stillness. It is why in China the practice of Qi Gong is often referred to as a ‘way’ or the ‘Dao of Qi Gong’.

I have recently started running a beginners’ workshop at the Crouch End YMCA in London. It is usually held on the last Saturday of each month. There are still places available since we are still at the beginning phase of the syllabus. However, once we pass this phase it will not be easy for beginners to join this group, so call or e-mail if you are interested as soon as possible. My aim is to create a dedicated group which can progress together through the whole syllabus. Group cohesion and commitment is important in cultivating the right context for study.

Key Components of my syllabus:

  • Postural Dao Yin – Eternal Spring Qi Gong – (Yong Chuan Dao Yin Fa Gong) Dynamic Movement and posture based method.
  • Mental Dao Yin – The 5 Yin Organ Step Back Method of Master Li: Dan Tian cultivation, Energy circulation, Energy gate method, 12 Meridian method and Self Strengthening method.
  • Qi Absorption – 3 Opening and 9 Rotations, Heaven, Earth and Man Qi Gong, Qi Emission and Qi Absorption techniques.
  • Meditation – Respiratory techniques, Dissolving, Visualising Method, Blending and Transforming, Small Heavenly Circuit, and Entering Stillness.

For more information, contact:

Wu Shi Taiji Quan and Qi Gong Association UK
Tel: +44 (0)1225 832 292

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.