Points to Pay Attention To When Practicing
To study any one item to (a level of) mastery, everything must follow natural law – from the superficial descend to the profound, from the simple arrive at the complex, step by step improving. During practice, observe the “eight requirements,” avoid the “three mistakes;” do not be excessively hungry, excessively full, wantonly long for (something), or angry.
Part 1 – Observe the Eight Requirements and Avoid the Three Mistakes
The Eight Requirements are:
- When the heart is calm, the spirit is tranquil,
- When the spirit is tranquil, the heart is set at ease,
- When the heart is set at ease, it is full and still,
- When there is fullness and stillness, there are no disturbances,
- When there are no disturbances, the breath can circulate,
- When the breath can circulate, one can disregard appearances,
- When one disregards appearances, one discovers clear understanding
- When one discovers clear understanding, then the spirit and the breath will be joined together, and ten thousand things will return to their root.
In one who does not understand the three mistakes, it is easy to discharge accidentally and to imagine things. Only when one understands can one succeed in obtaining benefit. What are the three mistakes and their maladies? They are awkward strength, overly exerting breath, and lifting the chest and raising the abdomen. If one uses awkward strength, (blood in) the arteries of the four limbs and hundred bones cannot circulate, the main and collateral channels cannot be unblocked, the whole body feels restricted, and the hands and feet cannot be harmoniously put in order. Awkward strength causes the whole body to become sluggish. Where it is sluggish, that place becomes diseased. If the breath is overly exerted during practice, the breath may be too strong or energetic, and it is easy to damage the lungs. Because the lungs serve to discharge stagnant breath by squeezing, it is easy to cause overly tight closing and burst the lungs from various diseases. Similarly, if the chest is sticking out and the abdomen is raised, then the breath travels conversely and in disorder, cannot entirely return down to the dan tian, and both feet appear like floating duckweed with no root. If the heart and its ruler are not in harmony, even using ten thousand methods a neutral condition cannot be achieved. So, when practicing one cannot commit “the three mistakes” of malpractice.
Part 2 – Points to Pay Attention to When Practicing Breath Exercises
During practice, if one is too hungry, one will not have physical strength; too full, and it is easy to damage the spleen and stomach; imagining things and it is easy to be misled or go astray; if angry, then the breath will be sudden and violent, not easily traveling and circulating through the large and small heavenly circles. During practice, one cannot casually chat or laugh, spit saliva, or excrete urine or feces. If one chats and laughs as one pleases, then it is easy for the energy and spirit to be dispersed and is not easy to concentrate fully. If one spits saliva, then the mouth and the tongue become dry, water and fire cannot balance each other, and inflaming fire rises and grows. If one excretes urine or feces, then it’s easy for the breath to leak and for the strength to be scattered.
After practice, one cannot be anxious to eat or drink, take a seat or lie down. The state must gradually be released. This is expressed well by the common saying: “After practice, walk one hundred steps, (and you will) arrive at old age without entering a medicine shop.”
In order to maintain this permanently, one must persevere in practice and study. China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong is similar in this to other methods of workmanship (gong fu); all require perseverance and study. One absolutely cannot “go fishing for three days and dry the nets for two days.” Perhaps a person may think that the exercise doctrine is too high, the exercise methods too difficult, or him/herself too dull and awkward – learning and still not being able; perhaps one may think that the workmanship is too easy, oneself already has a very high-level way of performing, and so on. Only if the person practicing is modest and requests teaching, tries hard, and pursues advanced studies, then and only then can they achieve complete emptiness within the heart, a natural condition of the spirit, and an unimpeded joining of energy and breath.
Part 3 – In Practice One Cannot Practice According to One’s Own Ideas
In practicing Wudang Qigong, one cannot practice according to one’s own ideas or persist in not understanding; be stagnant not flowing. The one who focuses on and strives for the serious will be heavy not light; the one who focuses on and strives for breath will be constrained and patchy not open; the one who focuses on and strives for lightness will find the spirit flighty and lax. In short, when the body’s external form is arranged, imperceptibly and naturally physical strength will increase. When the body is connected inside, imperceptibly flowing breath will increase. During practice, breathing out and in should not have sound; leaving and entering must be continuous not broken; sometimes having, sometimes not having “breathing and resting” is called true breathing. Consequently, when there is sound it is called winded breathing; even when there is no sound (if the breath is) not long and extended it is called thin breathing; (when) going out and entering are sluggish (it) is gasping breathing. If (the breathing) is like this, everything is not connected with China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong to strengthen the essential aim of the exercise. This is because, if one “observes windedness, then the breath is scattered; observes thin then the breathing is hard; observes gasping, then the breath is congealed. Therefore, using these three (types of) breathing (winded, thin, gasping) none will be able to achieve: “leisurely, slow, careful, well-distributed, still, continuous, deep, long” these eight methods. Only if one achieves the eight methods of true breathing, then and only then is one able to make the expression smooth and steady and the state of mind cheerful. If one practices until the exercise can be performed satisfactorily, with concentrated attention at the dan tian, then the body will naturally become heavy like Mount Taishan, lead the spirit and breath to merge into one; transform to become completely empty, and the body will be naturally agile like the wings of a swan. Therefore during practice, one cannot cling to one method. If one receives the profound mystery, then one will seem to have but not have, will not expect and will not assist, the mind will seem empty and yet seem full; one will not strive and yet will attain, will not long for and yet will obtain; from among appearances will enter the Dao, imperceptibly improving. Master Wang Xixiao said: “Energy gives birth to effective root; breath gives birth to spirit. Wudang Qigong travels the true way. Dan tian practice makes a long life treasure that ten thousand measures of yellow gold cannot offer a person.”
Wudang Qigong’s profound principles are high
Diligently study, practice from memory, carefully chose details
Workmanship not ceasing; methods oneself studying,
After a considerable period of time, they prove unusually effective.