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Back to Introductory Qigong Articles

Six Paths Of Qigong and Taiji

© Roger Jahnke O.M.D.


There are thousands of kinds of Qigong. Taiji is one of the most widely recognized. There are six paths that an individual might follow through the practice of Taiji and other methods of Qigong:

1. The Self Reliance and Empowerment Path: The healthy individual seeking to sustain health or reach for peak performance.

Qigong practice activates a number of the body's self regulating systems which are responsible for the balanced function of the tissues, organs and glands. The uptake of oxygen, as well as, oxygen metabolism is tremendously enhanced by Qigong practice. The positive impact of oxygen metabolism alone has powerful implications for both physical and brain activity. In the area of sports, peak levels of performance can be cultivated through Qigong in addition to normal training.

In the work of individuals who have physically demanding jobs the refinement of function that comes with Qigong practice adds to strength, stamina and endurance. Executives, whose work is more mental, derive not only more endurance, but concentration, creativity and intuition, as well. The tremendous health risk factors of tension and stress are profoundly neutralized by the common effects of Qigong: enhanced oxygen metabolism, balancing of the autonomic nervous system, pumping of the lymph, enhancement of the bio-electrical field, etc.

Qigong is the medicine for the healer. When the directive is "physician heal thyself." The prescription, in China, is Qigong. Qigong is referred to as acupuncture without needles. Elmer Green, Ph.D., author of Beyond Biofeedback and one of the great researcher/thinkers of the western world has said "We have concluded from our work with hundreds of patients that anything you can accomplish with an acupuncture needle you can do with your mind."(27) The Qi Gong tradition in China is the discipline through which "heal thy self" (healthy self) is accomplished. Breath, motion, intention and visualization when activated together through the Qigong system are the great preventive medicine that lies within.

2. The Path to Self Healing: The unwell individual seeking healing and the restoration of well-being.

In oriental medicine it is said that disease is the physiological expression of a disharmony of the energy system of the body. Acupuncture and herbal formulas, among other modalities, are administered to rehabilitate the individual back to a state of balance and health. In a similar fashion to western medicine, these are procedures that are "done to" the patient. While these modalities are more natural and health enhancing than surgery and medications they are still done to the patient who is often a passive recipient of services. This dynamic is a betrayal of the essence of oriental medicine as revealed in one of the great laws of oriental medicine, "teach rather than treat." In the Nei Ching it says, "The inferior physician treats diseases, the superior physician teaches the well to remain well."(19) We can see clearly the consequences of not honoring this law in the modern world: people dependent on experts outside themselves to "cure" them and a resulting health costs crisis.

Qigong captures the essence of oriental medicine in a personal practice which includes all the necessary tools for self healing. Qigong is profound medicine, it is easily learned, it is medicine that is always with the person, it has no cost, requires no memberships or special equipment, the individual does not need a doctor's order, permission, diagnosis or prescription, it is not necessary to go to an clinic, hospital or pharmacy to get it. This is a medicine so completely simple that the average person, addicted to complexity, probably won't use it. The medicine is in the person and needs only to be turned on.

In the 1950's in China it was a government mandate to explore the treasure of traditional medicine as well as the technological medicine of the west for the most efficient combination of clinical strategies. A group of gastrointestinal cancer patients was divided into several experimental groups.(13) One group received radiological and chemotherapeutic modalities, one group received radiological, chemotherapeutic and breath physiotherapy (Qigong) and one group received radiological, chemotherapy, Qigong and Fu Zheng (immune enhancing tonic herbs). The results showed significantly longer survival rates for the groups that had treatments from both Western medicine and Chinese medicine together. Unfortunately, the Chinese were so enraptured with the Western techniques that they did not have a group that used just Qigong and herbal formulas so we can only speculate that such a group would have had better survival rates as well.

It is startling that this simple therapeutic tool should be so available and not have created a revolution in health care. In 1896 in the United States a small book was written on the powerful potential of breath practice, "Nature's Cure For Chronic Diseases: The Greatest Health Discovery of the Age", by H. C. Borger.(28) This book, with no reference to any oriental sources describes healing through breathing exercises. It's rationale is focused primarily on oxygen metabolism and circulation. It is clear that experts, not only in the mysterious orient but also in the western world, have found the cultivation of the breath to be a profound therapeutic agent. Why then is breath practice not a common therapeutic tool?

One especially important characteristic of this type of therapeutic strategy is that it can be done by elders and patients restricted to wheelchairs and bed rest. In fact, this is an exercise that can be done by individuals suffering from paralysis. The lying down Qigong that seems as if nothing is happening is a perfect exercise for people with paralysis. In Illinois a martial arts instructor named Cha Kyo Han uses Qigong-like breathing exercises with progressive resistance ISO-metric exercises to help people with multiple sclerosis, stroke, degenerative disease and handicaps to improve their health. One of his MS patients has had dramatic improvement and is walking and teaching the method to others. The potential in Qigong for healing as well as health cost containment is very timely and needed.

3. The Healer's Path: The doctor or health care practitioner seeking healing methods for service to others.

Patient empowerment and self care, as well as, medical cost reduction possibilities have a special potential to transform medicine as it is practiced in the western world. However, the aspect of Qigong that has greatest potential to restructure medicine, as we know it, is the amazing technique of "external" Qigong. In external Qigong the practitioner or Qigong doctor does non-touch energy assessment of the patient and actually projects or conducts Qi, in a treatment mode, to the patient.

In assessment, rather than asking questions, taking pulses, observing the tongue, palpating reflexes and ordering lab tests, the practitioner uses concentration, intuition, and reading of the Qi with off the body diagnostic scanning. In treatment, the practitioner actually projects the Qi to another to have a clinical effect. Both of these techniques seem impossible and fantastic. However, research is revealing that there may be authentic, explainable and demonstrable natural laws and mechanisms in operation during these events.(7) Therapeutic Touch, an assessing and healing technique which uses an "off the body" technique called "unruffling the field" has experienced a tremendous swell of interest in the nursing community. The research of developer Delores Krieger, RN, demonstrated that in-vivo hemoglobin values were significantly effected by the administration of this energy based technique.(29)

A unique aspect of the work of China's Qigong doctors is that a number of them have developed the ability to manipulate the limbs of patients and research participants from a distance, effect changes in the physical or chemical properties of research materials with intention and cause anesthesia by pointing at certain acupuncture points.(7) Dr. Zhang Yu of the Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Xi Yuan Hospital has amazed groups of American observers with his external conductance ability. It seems that participants may be hypnotized or faking, however, studies with animal subjects show similar reactions. An October 1986 article in the LA Times tells the story of the Beijing practice of Master Xun Yunkun who treats medical cases including terminal cancer and paralysis following stroke with Qi projection. Another article describes "harnessing electrical energy and projecting it across a distance to assist patients with Parkinson's disease, arthritis and other crippling diseases.

There is a tremendous wave of interest in this aspect of Qigong in the western world and a number of very respectable research organizations are currently expending substantial budgets on Qigong related projects. There is a tremendous amount of research attempting to explain these phenomenon. The American Foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Zheng Rong and Stanford physicist Professor William Tiller are doing a collaborative research project on Bio-luminescence and Qigong with a focus on satisfying the rational research model. One hundred and twenty eight research papers were presented at the First World Conference for the Academic Exchange of Medical Qigong in 1988 which was sponsored by the China Medical Association, Chinese Ministry of Health, China Qigong Research Institutes and the Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and attended by representatives from 17 countries.

On one hand it is wonderful that there may be Qigong doctors with such special abilities. It would be a shame, however, if interest in such phenomena overshadowed the tremendous potential for all health seekers to move toward freedom from dependence upon health experts outside of themselves through self applied Qigong techniques.

4. The Path of Supreme Strength and Conflict Resolution: The martial artist and the peace warrior seeking internal power.

The martial arts in China are like baseball in America, a national pastime. The roots of the martial arts are not particularly martial. Early systematized exercise traditions were developed in the monastic communities as techniques for the cultivation of health and personal development, often with the goal of longevity or immortality. The great styles of the movement or exercise arts emerged from natural philosophy and spiritual pursuit. Pa Qua and Hsing-I are steeped in spirituality and the animal forms honor and mirror animal gestures as a pathway to harmony and balance with the forces of nature. All of these styles and forms lend themselves to martial application and during certain periods of China's history, especially the Boxer Rebellion, the arts of personal cultivation tended to become primarily martial.(22)

It is Qigong in the martial arts that supplies the abundance of Qi that makes the practitioner seem to fly, absorb tremendous blows and knock down opponents with what look like minor punches. Qigong in the martial arts is the source of what is called the "soft styles and inner strength." Qigong in the martial arts engenders the strategy where-in the great is defeated by the small. Qigong in the martial arts suggests that through supreme development of the Qi the victor is a warrior who overcomes without needing to strike. This is the greatest, most subtle victory where the opponent's force is neutralized by a natural, nonviolent resolution that occurs through an ultimate understanding of the Qi.

Through Qigong practice the martial arts practitioner develops the Wei Qi protective energy and the surface tissue of the body into an "iron shirt" which is impenetrable and can absorb the opponent's attack. With a special understanding of the Qi the practitioner can combine a state of extreme lightness with extreme flexibility to achieve extraordinary leaping ability that has earned some of the great practitioners nicknames like "leaping butterfly master" and "dancing dragon flying."

5. The Super Natural Path: The individual seeking the maintenance of extraordinary human abilities

Tales of extraordinary human feats have always been associated with Qigong. The phenomenon of "exceptional human function" (EHF) has created quite a bit of interest in the world's scientific communities.(5,6) It would be irresponsible to claim that EHF is fully proven to the satisfaction of western rational research science. Much of the research done in China does not meet the extreme and rigorous parameters of the scientific method. However, there are many research institutes in China that are enthusiastically exploring EHF and Qigong.(5,6)

EHF has manifested in a large number of cases where children have had unusual and extraordinary abilities. These are the famous psychic children of China who have been documented as being able to read messages that are inside of locked vaults and see through objects. In his book, "Encounters With Qi",(6) David Eisenberg a Harvard trained doctor reveals his experience of two sisters who live near Beijing with "exceptional human function." These young girls were able, repeatedly, to tell what a group of researchers had written on papers that they could not have seen. Dr. Eisenberg also tells of his experience at the Qigong Research laboratories of the Shanghai Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A Qigong master named Lin Ho-sheng caused the movement of an object from a distance of several feet in an environment where no other force could have affected the object.(6)

It has been found that EHF is maintained and perpetuated by the practice of Qigong.(5) Qigong has been found to support the development of EHF in certain practitioners who were not born with the skill. In children whose EHF abilities were slipping away with age it was found that the abilities could be regenerated or induced through the use of Qigong exercises.

6. The Path of Transcendence and Immortality: The spiritual student seeking enlightenment, peace and unity with the quantum field.

In the spiritual traditions of China, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, practices and disciplines for refinement of the spirit are common. Qigong is a primary system for spiritual attainment. The practice of Qigong, in this context, is aimed at the evolution and development of the inner being. The body is seen as a local representative of the entire universe. As in the hologram of modern science, the individual is, in a special sort of way, the whole cosmos.

One description of Qigong is as a discipline to "refine the body of pure energy." The acupuncture centers on the front and back primary channels of the "microcosmic orbit" are like energy gates. When the gates are open the Qi develops and circulates. It spills out into all of the channels and circuits. This is called the circulation of the light. When the light is circulating to all of the organs, glands, limbs, tissues and cells the practitioner is filled with, acknowledges and celebrates the light. As the practitioner's attention is fixed on the body of light the dense body of substance becomes secondary. Rather than a physical body with a resonating energy field the individual, from this perspective, is an energy field that has a small dense body of flesh at its center.

Thousands of years ago Chuang Tzu asked, "Is it Chuang Tzu asleep dreaming he is a butterfly? Or is it the butterfly dreaming he is Chuang Tzu?" In the Qigong of transcendence it is asked, "Is the practitioner in the deep Qigong state a person in a moment of transcendent energetic experience, or is manifestation in a physical body actually a brief exploration into substance by an entity whose normal state is one of highly refined, resonating light energy." The post Einsteinian physics of the unified field has revealed that our world is composed of dynamic relationships of energy. Therefore, it is not that strange that the practice of transcendence should be as much a part of the Qigong tradition as calisthenics and breathing exercises that lower blood pressure.

Richard Wilhelm's translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower is a translation of a beautiful Chinese classic of transcendence that focuses on the "circulation of the light and the backward flowing breath." "Compared to the great Way, heaven and earth are like a bubble and a shadow. Only the primal spirit and the true nature overcome time and space. The energy of the seed, like heaven and earth, is transitory, but the primal spirit is beyond polar differences. Here is the place where heaven and earth derive their being. When students understand how to grasp to the primal spirit they overcome the polar opposites of light and darkness and tarry no longer in the three worlds. Only the seeker who has envisioned human nature's original face is able to do this."(21)

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