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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 72 Qigong: The Way of Healing BY FRANCESCO GARRI GARRIPOLI THE WORD QIGONG is made up of two Chinese characters. The first, qi, has a similar meaning to prana in Sanskrit and can be roughly translated as “life force energy.” The second char- a c te r, gong, means “practice,” “work,” or “discipline.” So qigong describes the various ancient Chinese practices that work with qi. Qigong offers a powerful pathway to self-healing, because to truly heal we must honor body, mind, and spirit. There are many forms of qigong. Some require you to sit quietly in a cross-legged position, some require you to lie on your back, and still others require you to stand motionless with your legs slightly bent. Typically, all qigong forms involve gentle movement and stretching that comple- ment focused breathing and visualization. The Swimming Dragon is a favorite qigong form of mine, one I learned from an old master in China. To practice it, stand with your feet shoul- der-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your shoulders relaxed. Reach out with your right hand, first to the right side, slightly behind you at hip level, then in front of you. Next, as if you were scooping something in, draw your hand toward the area just below your navel. Do the same with your left hand, and then alternate right and left. Breathe out as your right hand moves away from your torso, and inhale as it moves in toward your bel- ly. As the movement continues, one hand will move toward you as the other is moving away; this honors the balance of yin and yang. As you get comfortable with this movement, turn your torso to the side that your hand is reaching toward in order to enhance the stretch and the qi flow. Do the Swimming Dragon for at least five minutes. Throughout, visualize your connection to the qi ener- gy all around you, infinitely present. With each breath, see in your mind’s eye how you move through energy, how you are energy, and how you can enhance your physical connection with this life force by the way you shift your thinking. The Swimming Dragon reflects the Daoist view of nature as the supreme teacher. Many Doaist qigong movements mimic the movements of animals, both real and imaginary. The ultimate spiritual goal in Dao- ism is immortality; thus, Daoist-influenced qigong emphasizes strengthening the body toward that end. Buddhism has given birth to various qigong styles. Because Buddhists regard the body as secondary to the mind, the focus here is on meditation and entering into a compassionate connection with oneself and all things. Various forms of Buddhist qigong also involve movement, recog- nizing that in order to have the strength to reach enlightenment, individuals must be physically healthy. In China, Buddhism and Daoism are not competing phi- losophies but two complementary pillars. Many knowledgeable qigong masters have embraced both Buddhist and Taoist qigong, incorporating what they consider to be the best aspects of both. Da Mo, or Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who is credited as being the spiritual father of Zen, was the best-known Bud- dhist to teach movement-based qigong. During the Liang dynasty (502–557 CE), Da Mo went to the Shaolin Temple in Honan province, where he found the monks to be weak and sickly. It is said that after pondering their illness for nine years, he wrote two qigong classics, Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing. In the past, many qigong forms were considered too difficult for ordinary people to practice, and training methods were kept secret from all but a few disciples in each generation. Today qigong has become a common practice for the general popu- lation, and millions of people in China and around the world practice countless qigong styles. FRANCESCO GARRI GARRIPOLI is the author of Qigong: Essence of the Healing Dance and the director/pro- ducer of the PBS TV documentary “Qigong: Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21st Century.” www.kahunavalley.org Francesco Garripoli and his wife, Daisy, practicing qigong together.