Where to start? Tao Inner Smile, Five Animals shamanic qigong, Six Healing Sounds medical qi gong, Microcosmic Orbit meditation, Internal chi breathing & bone rooting. Why is chi kung superior to ordinary exercise? How long to get results?
Fusion of Five Elements. What is Taoist depth psychology? Eight Extraordinary Vessels as Macrocosmic Orbit. Can Chi Kung deliver super powers? Tao dream practice, Deep Healing Qigong for healing chronic illness. What kind of people do this stuff?
Answer: Get the Qigong (Chi Kung) Fundamentals 1 & 2 package. It is basically a two day workshop, condensed into 8 audio CDs (11 hours) and 2 DVDs (3.5 hours), and two eBooks, each 130 pages with dozens of illustrations. There is a lot packed into this course.
These methods will serve you for an entire lifetime. Qigong Fundamentals 1 & 2 will get you oriented to how qigong exercises work and the theory behind them. After you take this course, you will be able to more intelligently choose from the rest of what I offer.
The package is heavily discounted. You’ll save $110. over buying the items separately. You have an entire year to test it, see if it works for you. My One Year - 100% Money-Back Guarantee removes all risk. You can’t lose. More likely, it will be the biggest WIN of your life.
Some people will have special needs and may choose to start with a longer medical qigong exercise like Deep Healing Qigong. Others may feel attracted to starting with a graceful movement form like Tai Chi for Enlightenment, aka Primordial Qigong (“wuji gong”). Both of these stand-alone qigong exercises offer a wonderful portal into the experience of harmonious high energy. But they take a little longer to practice and hence require more discipline.
But even if you begin with a different qigong exercise, learning Qigong Fundamentals 1 & 2 will greatly enrich your experience of longer qigong forms. If you buy both the Fundamentals and something else that interests you at the same time, you’ll save on shipping, and have valuable resources for personal growth easily accessible in your home.
“Qigong” is a modern term that became popular less than a century ago. It literally translates as “skill in cultivating the subtle breath of Nature”. Note that “chi kung” (Wade Giles system) and “qigong” (pinyin system) are identical. They are two ways of translating the same Chinese ideogram, or “picture writing”. Both chi kung and qigong are pronounced “chee gong”.
What is Qigong? From the outside, qigong looks like a slow moving exercise. From the inside one feels the Life Force is breathing you and causing your movements. When one enters the qigong state of “flow”, it feels like the breath of life is pulsing in every cell of one’s body and beating within the very heart of one’s soul.
Long time qigong practitioners don’t really think of qigong as limited to physical exercise, although most started off with that assumption. To many, qigong becomes a Way of Life. Some think of it as a kind of personal religion that honors the divine principle of “harmony as energy flow”. They feel this way because the Life Force principle underlying qigong penetrates into every moment of daily life. The energy that you get flowing during the exercise continues to flow all day long!
Every breath, every thought, every feeling, every action becomes part of one’s qigong practice of cultivating the flow of harmonious and balanced chi (qi). Inner and outer life processes gradually merge together into one. The “formal” qigong exercises are just concentrated moments of that process, where you devote 100% of your attention to feeling it.
A short description: “Qigong is the mother of tai chi”. Qigong movements look like graceful tai chi movements that most people are familiar with. Most qigong exercises are shorter, easier to learn, and give faster results.
The qigong forms I teach are mostly for medical and spiritual benefits. Most of my qigong exercises come in sets of five movements. Over time, one learns different sets to cultivate different types of subtle energy or create specific health benefits.
By comparison, a Tai chi chuan (taijiquan) long form often has up to 150 movements. Tai chi movements are designed to have fighting applications, and thus are often more complex to learn. Tai chi has secondary health benefits that over time are similar to qigong. But I’ve found that modern people are very busy, and few will make the time to learn and practice tai chi chuan deeply enough to get its benefits. Learning short qigong forms is a much more practical and effective strategy.
A second short description: “Qigong is a Way to practice Chinese medicine on oneself without acupuncture needles or herbs. Instead, one uses breathing, movement, and intention.”
In ancient China, qigong was called “yang sheng”, or “Long Life Nourishing Exercises”. Sitting and lying forms of qigong were called “dao yin”, and may appear to resemble Indian yoga even though the internal dynamics are quite different.
The earliest Chinese drawings of qigong we have are on silk scrolls found in a tomb in Mawangdui, China dated to 216 b.c. These scrolls illustrated medical applications of humans doing animal movements, while making healing sounds that were listed below each picture. They suggest shamanic origins of the exercises which I teach in Qigong Fundamentals 1: the Five Animals Play the Six Healing Sounds. This form integrates two of the oldest forms of qigong. They have survived for thousands of years because they are simple and they work to build good health.
Qigong embraces a wide variety of gentle, often circular movements and sometimes vigorous gymnastics designed to open specific energy pathways. Some exercises strengthen specific vital organs or body parts such as bones, tendons and joints. It may include special breathing or mental focus. Qigong is basically part energetic science and part experimental art. Your body-mind is the laboratory for developing super-efficiency of physical, mental-emotional and spiritual health.
You learn four types of qigong in the first two-day home study course, Qigong Fundamentals 1 & 2. But this is no ordinary weekend workshop - it distills down 30 years of experience into a single, time-tested, take-home tool kit that WORKS.
The Inner Smile is a quiet or meditative qigong, but can be done anywhere, anytime, during any daily activity. It gives you a practical process to come to peace with yourself, your body, the people in your life, and with your personal destiny, both worldly and spiritual. Inner Smile is the simplest and most heart-centered Way to connect to the Life Force. It cultivates the heart-ground of unconditional self-acceptance as the basis for loving others, loving the whole of Nature, and most important, loving the process of the Life Force itself. Without this core self-acceptance at the soul level, other types of cultivation are more difficult to stabilize.
The Six Healing Sounds (done in relaxed sitting pose) and the shamanic Five Animals Play (moving qigong) are the fastest way to release all stress and start communicating with your vital organ spirits. You learn to move stuck energy (chi). It can energize and heal you of many chronic diseases. (To read more about the many chronic illnesses healed by qigong, see the 3500 science studies on energy medicine).
The Micro-Cosmic Orbit is the most famous dynamic Tao meditation for activating flow in the deep energy channels in your spine (yang energy) and chest (yin energy). It’s a safe, gentle method for opening a truly balanced flow of “kundalini”, which is poorly understood due to partial teachings in India. This spiraling orbit of energy flowing around your body can be experienced as a grounded, continuous communication between your spirit (shen) and your sexual essence (jing).
Many yogis get problems because they shoot the energy out their crown chakra. I know, because I did kundalini yoga for years after mine opened up. I used a special breathing method to open my kundalini, a method taught in Qigong Fundamentals 3 & 4.
In the Qigong Fundamentals 2 audio course I survey the different methods used in India and China to open this core orbit pathway. I make it simple and SAFE with a customized qigong exercise and a special lineage internal practice from Wudang mountain in China. This method concentrates your energy into a spinning “pearl” or “ball of chi”. In later courses, I train how to use this concentrated ball of Life Force for many things – such as dissolving physical illness, releasing blockages in your blood/ancestral line, or to balance sexual energy.
The spiritually inclined, with deeper training in the higher alchemy formulas, can use the pearl as a vessel for their soul to rebirth itself and travel in spiritual realms. Everyone chooses their own path and gets to enjoy the freedoms - and responsibility - of whatever they choose to do with the energy cultivated with qigong and neigong.
I think sports and physical exercise is great, its one way to enjoy your body and explore its potential. I’ve tried just about every sport. I am a top skier. I was a professional white water rafting guide, with 40 trips down the Grand Canyon. I’ve hiked in many of the world’s most famous mountains. I swim a mile in the Caribbean ocean every day during my winter retreat. I especially love outdoor sports - they put me in direct contact with nature’s energy field.
But none of these sports ultimately can compare to the benefits I’ve received from daily practice of qigong. If I do a sport, I also practice qigong the same day. If I can I also practice the qigong outdoors, to absorb more natural chi. Five reasons I find qigong a superior form of exercise:
1. Qigong is a whole mind-body exercise.
The main difference is that qigong is not just a physical body exercise, it is a body-mind exercise. The mind could be defined as our ability to shape energy into thoughts, feelings, sensations, or other perceptual patterns.
When you exercise the full spectrum of your body-mind using qigong, a completely different experience happens. You begin to shape energy into flowing patterns of harmony and balance and peace. You connect your body to the sky above and the earth below, and your heart opens up a vast open creative space inside the body.
If you practice qigong in a group, you begin to experience the “group heart” of your fellow practitioners. If you practice alone, it opens a peaceful space in your heart that is easy and wonderful to share the rest of the day.
2. Qigong overcomes our resistance to physical exercise.
Qigong is so much fun, it becomes a “healthy addiction”. People love being relaxed while they exercise. Many folks tell me they cannot wait to practice it each day. Unfortunately, most people treat physical exercise as something that you “do to your body” or to your muscles or “to” your heart. They hate going to gym.
Why do so many people hate physical exercise, and drop it as the first excuse? Their mind is separated from their body. Hence, there is an unconscious fear and sometimes loathing of the body. The modern top-heavy mind sees the body like a difficult and needy child, that cannot really be controlled.
Many modern people live in their head, and just visit the lower part of the body occasionally to get it into shape. They exercise mostly so the head/face will look good sitting on top of the body. Others can only experience their body through sex. Then they quickly shift back into their head immediately afterwards. People engage in sex-ploitation of their own body without realizing it. It’s much healthier to have a full time relationship between your mind and your body.
Example: many joggers listen to music as they run in mindless circles around the block. They are not focused on what their body is experiencing while running. They ignore the joy of movement or the exhilaration of moving through space. Instead, they listen to their favorite band because they find their body incredibly boring to hang out with. Exercise is a chore. They resent having to work hard, to sweat to get the fat off their flabby muscles. There is no deep mind-body communication happening during their exercise.
With qigong it’s different. You don’t push the river, you find a gentle rhythm and you repeat it with slow, relaxed, often circular movements. Different movements open different energy channels in your body. The process invites to go deeper. You gradually find the body moves by itself effortlessly, as if propelled by some invisible energy field. You relax and enjoy a ride on an easy feeling of flow.
3.Qigong delivers better & quicker health benefits than ordinary exercise.
I could go on for an entire book all the health benefits that come about from this kind of relaxed movement. About how ONLY gentle circular movements will stimulate your lymphatic system, which is the backbone of the body-mind’s immune system. Jogging and aerobics actually shut down the lymphatic-immune system during vigorous exercise!
Why would fast exercise cause your immune system to shut down? When you go running, your body assumes that you need to conserve energy. It thinks (in the deep instinctual brain) that you are running away from a bear chasing you down for a meal. Your belly-instinct brain doesn’t see your $200. nike running shoes, it thinks you are in survival mode, so it kicks the adrenaline on and shuts the immune system. It considers your immune system an optional at that survival moment.
So vigorous exercise is not optimal for your lymphatic and immune system. It may do other things for you, and is certainly better than rotting in your chair! Does your heart need the “fast” aerobic exercise? According to Chinese medicine, no. It posits that the heart is already over-worked, and actually needs a vacation. Qigong gives the heart a vacation by getting the chi meridians and blood vessels of the entire body to take over the heart job of blood circulation.
That is why top athletes have low blood pressure – their circulatory efficiency is so high that the heart doesn’t need to overwork. Chinese sports athletes already know that qigong training will give them a secret edge over their competitors, but they don’t advertise it.
Does science back up the claim that qigong offers superior health benefits? Please check our the research from the past director of the Stanford Research Institute on the 3500 science studies proving the health benefits of qigong. (link is on the homepage, or go to Articles page).
4. Qigong gives you more energy than you expend practicing it.
You get more energy back from qigong than you put into it. When you do qigong, you are exploring the natural of perpetual motion. Your body is really a “free energy device”. Physicists admit that humans expend more energy than they take in from food, water, and air. But they cannot answer the mystery as to where the extra energy comes from.
If you practice qigong regularly, it is like making a really safe, profitable investment. You get all your invested principle back, plus huge interest. Most physical “body-only” exercise result in a net energy loss. People work hard, they sweat, afterwards they feel pleasantly exhausted. The addiction here is different – it is the need to release pent up or stuck energy in the body.
So even this type of physical workout is healthy for you, up to a point. But consider this: body builders who develop huge muscles often die young of heart attacks. Why? Because as they age, their heart has to feed blood to all that muscle, and it gets exhausted early. The big muscles turn to fat, and reduce efficiency of circulation.
Qigong in my progressive training has you store the extra chi gained in your bones, tendons, and vital organs – not in the muscles. These require far less maintenance and are part of the qigong secret to producing longevity.
5. Qigong is easy, fun, & all ages can practice it anywhere.
You can learn qigong and begin to feel the chi flow within minutes. It’s really a universal exercise – it’s super easy to learn, whether you are 8 or 80 years old. You can practice anywhere, anytime – indoors or outside, even in a small apartment space.
With qigong exercise, less is more. Less effort gives better results - the more relaxed and soft you are, the more the chi can flow through you. Forget the “no pain, no gain” exercise theory. When you push the river, you get tired of it eventually. Ordinary kinds of exercise can make your body strong, but they wear you out energetically.
With qigong exercises, you can forget the sweaty workout. Stop treating the body like a dumb sheep that needs to be herded by a head that ”knows” what is best for the body. Qigong exercise is about appreciating your body-mind, respecting its intelligence, and giving it love and energy while you are moving it. The body-mind together keep you young and healthy. Qigong doesn’t push or stress the body into a hard sweat – it seeks to release stress from the body.
I recommend people start off with minimum of 15 minutes of qigong movement exercises each morning, and 15 minutes qigong movement or sitting meditation in the evening (Healing Sounds or orbit). The Inner Smile meditation you can do all day long. Of course, if you have good discipline and can practice more, you will get even more powerful results.
You can vary or switch the qigong exercises and your practice times around to suit your schedule. Some people close the door to their office and practice there during breaks or lunchtime. Some practices, like the Healing Sounds, can be done sitting in your car while you are stuck in traffic. They are really great to release frustration and anger at other drivers. I lived in New York City for 20 years, and used to meditate on the subway instead of sitting around aimlessly.
Most people find they get so much benefit they naturally begin to practice a little longer each day. Some people sleep very heavily for the first few days of practice, part of an energetic detox or de-stressing process. After that is passed, your energy level goes up, and you often need less sleep. That frees up more time for practice.
The most important thing is to do something every day, even if for only 5 minutes. That starts to build an awareness of your relationship to the Life Force. That is the most important relationship you will ever have, and the only one that will survive death.
The Number One mistake made by beginning practitioners is to say to yourself, "Oh, I am a bit rushed today and don't have time to do ALL the practices I've learned. So I will just skip today." This is a act of self-sabotage.
It's your Resistance trying to gain some territory back and derail your moving to a higher level of practice. It is just FINE to do PART of your practice if you hit a time crunch, even one movement from a qigong set you've learned. It is the intention to stay connected to the cultivation process that is important. So on the days you have less time for external movement practice, try ot increase your internal awareness practice - the Inner Smile or the Orbit are both suitable for this.
Strictly speaking, the Inner Smile is not qigong, but rather a "neigong" practice. Neigong means "inner skill in cultivating the self". The Inner Smile cultivates the core inner heart, which is distinctly different from the outer physical heart that pumps blood
and vitality, or the wild fluctuations of the emotional heart that charges us up with enthusiasm and all kinds of feelings, from good to bad to indifferent. The inner heart operates at the soul level, deeper than these two.
The reason the Inner Smile is so foundational is because it cultivates a very profound sense of unconditional acceptance, first in oneself, and secondly of everything that is "other". I have found that without cultivating this deep self-acceptance in one's inner heart, all other qigong and meditation practices eventually feel limited or imbalanced.
Its my experience, that without self-acceptance, even the intention to express love or compassion can become unconsciously distorted by our need to be accepted by others. We are most effective in transmitting our natural virtues of love and kindness when it comes from a heart that is well grounded in our inner self. Smiling grows our ability to first be present in a safe way, beyond conflicts that are happening on the surface as arguments or even violence.
It takes practice, but inner smiling allows us to offer empathy to someone else without encountering any resistance. The feeling of warm,smiling acceptance silently transmitted to someone creates a rapor at the soul level that opens the way to communication and conflict resolution at the personality level.
I've noticed that people may only do a moving qigong practice that emphasizes harmony of breath, posture, and mind. They may skip over the inner smile because it seems too simple or too subtle to produce the dramatic energetic results they are seeking.
For a while these qigong practitioners will get very fast progress in improving their physical and emotional health. But if they practice deeper, beyond filling up the "chi deficit" in their stressed out body-mind, that is where the limitation can arise.
As soon as you begin using qigong to generate a surplus of energy, the question arises: where does that extra chi flow? If you haven't opened up the smiling, self-accepting core consciousness, it begins to flow in patterns within your Energy Body that may amplify unconscious struggles still going on within deeper levels of yourself.
That means, in Taoist terminology, there is the possibility of it flowing into "false yin" or "false yang" energy patterns. These may be in the form of dysfunctional sexual or emotional or mental patterns that get dumped internally (false yin) or projected outwardly onto others (false yang).
The Inner Smile cultivates a special type of chi called "yuan", or Original Chi or Original Breath. It is essentially neutral energy that stabilizes the flow of all the yin and yang chi flow in the body. This kind of neutral energy has no judgment, no blame, no guilt. The heart center, or middle dantian, is the balance point between the belly (Earth) and head (Heaven) centers. Ultimately our heart is the center where we cultivate our
deepest sense of Humanity, as the mediating point between physical and spiritual processes.
Inner Smiling is a simple and practical way to connect these polar forces inside our body. You could cultivate a powerful energy in either the belly or the head centers, without becoming a better human being. You can get more power in the belly, or more awareness in the head, without actually changing negative patterns in those centers, and without changing one's behavior or
personality for the better. What defines a "better" human?
For me, "better" defines someone who is more accepting, more loving, and more spontaneous in expressing their soul pattern. It is someone who exercises their divinely given free will to create greater balance and harmony within themselves and within their community. All of these qualities involve cultivating the heart center at a deep, silent, soul level.
Are you smiling from your inner heart every day? If not, your soul may not be getting the connection it needs.
I have found qigong (chi kung) to be one of the FASTEST "self-help" modalities for both the prevention and/or healing of chronic illness as well as the maintenance of higher level of wellness. This includes high blood pressure, heart illness, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis up through terminal illness treatment like cancer.
But results vary with each individual, how much you practice, and what kind of health challenges you are facing. Qigong therapy often combines well with western medical therapies and can reduce their side effects or dosages of drugs taken. Some people feel dramatic results from qigong practice in minutes, others take a few days of practice to start feeling a new experience of flow. Others may take a few weeks or months to notice health effects.
Those slow to experience chi flow are often very energy depleted or very stressed, and might need longer to recharge. So it can require some patience and faith in the process while your “energy tank” - your body’s energy channels and vital organs - is being refilled. But it will be filled with energy that is naturally balanced and healthy and that strengthens your inner self-will, all ingredients in recovering one’s health.
If you have a serious illness or mental, emotional, or spiritual crisis, you need to practice longer. The reason is that a deep imbalance has already come to surface, and it may take longer to reorganize its “sick” energy pattern with repeated practice of qigong and meditation.
It's very imporatnt to know that some people get measurable improvements to their health WITHOUT tangible experience in their physical body of chi flow. Do not confuse "chi experience" with "good health results".
Some people get positive results without feeling any new or different “chi sensations” of tingling, vibrations in various body parts, seeing internal light and hearing internal sounds.
Once a student complained to me that she could not feel any chi from her qigong exercises. I asked her what had changed in her life during the month she had been practicing. She admitted that she had quit smoking and changed spontaneously to a much healthier diet – things that she had been unable to achieve in the past. She hadn’t connected it to the qigong because she was over-focused on noticing sensations.
If you take a live course or retreat, results are usually far quicker as there is a direct and powerful transmission of chi, both from the teacher and the collective power of the group. I’ve had people suffering from a chronic injury for DECADES find it has mysteriously disappeared after ten minutes of qigong in a class! The best approach is to simply be open and neutral, yet observe closely what changes occur.
You may find it very informative to read the summary of the 3500 scientific studies on the effectiveness of qigong and "energy medicine" in healing chronic illness. .
Full question: I’ve been doing martial arts for 15 years and studied different styles of qigong. I’m not a beginner. Do I still need to learn Qigong Fundamentals?
I understand and appreciate your eagerness to progress to higher levels suitable to you. But please understand that “qigong fundamentals” does NOT mean “beginners qigong”. In this first course, I teach advanced inner alchemy concepts and theory to go along with simple breathing and movement practices.
Each person will get what they are able to absorb. A beginner will be busy trying to breath and move their body as one piece. If you have previous training, you will be way ahead of other students. But you will learn more than them - you’ll absorb the info on a deeper energetic level.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “I will take a shortcut and skip the Qigong Fundamentals 1 & 2, I’ve already been exposed to much of that”. All the later courses, from Healing Love, to Fusion of the Five Elements and “Kan & Li” (Water & Fire), assume you have knowledge of the precise practices and principles taught in Qigong Fundamentals 1 & 2. All later courses build on this foundation. It is much faster to learn these in the beginning than to try to add it later into your practice.
Remember, it’s not about how fast you go, it is about how DEEP you go. Having a good FOUNDATION is essential to going deep.
Please read the qigong testimonials from folks who have been studying martial arts for decades. They took the Qigong Fundamentals and it revolutionized their understanding and their practice.
There are many excellent qigong teachers, Chinese and Western, who are great at their particular form. But some Chinese can be very secretive (its part of their culture) when you try to probe deeper. Other really excellent qigong teachers simply don’t have the facility, experience, or language skills to teach the DEEPER PROCESS of qigong and neigong cultivation that comes into focus if you’ve studied Taoist internal alchemy. Movements that look the same on the outside may be producing very different internal experiences.
My final advice to seasoned practitioners considering testing the waters of my training program: Get the Fundamentals 1 & 2 discount package with its two DVDs, 8 CDs, and two eBooks. If you are not satisfied with the Fundamentals 1&2 package for whatever reason (i.e. I have already covered most of this material), just return it for a full refund within one year, no questions asked.
The same answer given for the previous question (from a seasoned martial artist) applies to the many people who took a Mantak Chia course a decade ago and are just now getting back into it, and want to skip ahead. Or they have read the books I edited/co-wrote for Mantak Chia on the Orbit (Awaken Healing Energy of the Tao and Awaken Healing Light of the Tao) and believe they have all that INFORMATION already.
We live in the age of Information Junkies, and this is the achilles heel - the weak point - of learning to cultivate your internal energy. "Head information" and reading a ton of books does NOT cultivate your internal energy. It is just thoughts "about" chi culitvation or Tao, that or may not initiate the actual cultivation process itself. Books open the door for many people, but you still have to walk through the door into a new self that is in a totally different relationship with the Life Force.
I cannot tell you how many hundreds of times I have met people who have been collecting the books I edited/wrote together with Mantak Chia. They love the books. It totally changed their awareness and thinking of what is possible. They may have tried to practice from the books for a bit. But mostly those books sit on their shelves, valuable stores of information, that have not yet tipped the scales of the reader into a committed internal chi cultivation practice.
I have found very few folks who are really capable of practicing from the books to a deep level. So it is especially important even for those well read cultivators of Tao philosphy and information "about" qigong that need to LISTEN to an audio course and WATCH a DVD. The information will enter through different learning pathways that are far more likely to stimulate a productive, life-changing practice.
The other important point here is that my Qigong Fundamentals 1-4 training program is completely revamped, based on what I learned teaching many thousands of students over the last 25+ years. It includes qigong forms like the" Five Animals" and the "Open Chi Flow in the Orbit" that are NOT part of the standard Healing Tao /Universal Tao curriculum.
My audio course Qigong Fundamentals 2 includes a totally different method for opening the orbit as an internal meditattion practice than the method taught by other instructors. I have found this method from Wudang Mountain in China to be at least TEN TIMES MORE POWERFUL (if chi flow density could be quantified) than the other methods I taught previously.
I use this new orbit method during various stages of my Seven Formula training program. So if you skip this, and jump ahead, you will feel lost and be operating from a different level than students who are better prepared than you.
To sum it up: if you want to have the latest and most effective chi cultivation tools I've tested, get the home study audio-video course. The books were published 20 years ago. The principles are unchanged, the books are valuable reference materials. But they make the material too heady and complicated, as if you could visualize and direct everything from your head/eyes which are reading the book.
It is possible to get some progress this way, but eventually the head tires of the game. That is why I've created qigong forms to bypas the head, and internal movement forms that are self-sustaining. These are the cultivation tools that are most effective, and they are pre-tested for you and cheap to buy.
The full original question: I practiced Fundamentals 1 & 2 for six months – it is really fantastic! I feel energy moving up my spine and down my chest – but how do i know my orbit is really open? Could I be imagining it?
Don't even worry about it. Trust your feelings.
The orbit is very likely open in your case. But understand that the quality of chi flow in the orbit will change over your entire lifetime. It's a PROCESS, NOT A GOAL. Just like the Tao itself, its an endlessly changing river. Don't try to fix your idea of "opened orbit" into a small box. It won't fit.
The orbit is like a small stream that starts as a trickle, then gradually becomes a large river that gathers strength. Sometimes the flow is dramatic and turbulent, other times it is smooth and hardly noticeable.
The orbit helps you to gather your strength for a long spiritual journey. It keeps you in balance during the difficult times. It is like a spinning gyroscope, that is self-righting and self-navigating.
Also, you may want to consider dropping any unconscious judgment against the word “imagining”. You are concerned you've imagined the orbit. Who is imagining your entire reality? Who is imagining the shape of your body, the color of your hair, the traits of your personality?
When you claim that power of imagination, you claim the power that is embodying as “you”. You are on the path of becoming a responsible, spiritual grownup accepting your role in co-creating (or co-imagining) all levels of your reality. Eventually you will learn to imagine your own soul destiny. Imagination gradually becomes reality. All clear “mind intent: is just a form of imagination. The chi field is shaped by the imagination into feelings, thoughts, color, or sound.
Yes. You can learn Qigong Fundamentals 3&4 first. You can go direct for the grounding, there is no "contra-indication" to reversing the sequence I've chosen. That's why I have no pre-requisite for students attending the 3&4 workshop.
The ideal is to learn the Qigong Fundamentals 1-4 together, then you see how they work synergistically. The week I teach at Dao Mtn. summer retreats is always intense, with people going into very deep states within their body they've never experienced before.
I consider 1&2 to be an easier and thus a better introduction to exploring chi flow for most people. It has clear correspondence between the three core Tao principles: Unity (=Inner Smile), Balance/Polarity (=Microcosmic Orbit), and Harmony (=5 Animals/6 Healing Sounds).
The standing and rooting practices in 3&4 I consider a little more challenging, because they require greater internal concentration. Most modern people are too fidgety to stand and breathe through their bones, they get impatient and need movemen to circulate their chi.. But if that is what attracts you first, there is absolutely no reason to wait. Grounding is the most essentail piece that modern people are missing. Go for it!
The Ocean, Sky, and Great Heart Breathing Qigong in Qigong Fundamentals 3 is really a stand alone qigong form. You could learn it separate from the standing-in-stillness poses or the bone breathing, or the three types of internal chi breathing. It is a very simple and powerful moving qigong, with very clear breathing patterns in each movement that connect your physical breath to your deep energy channels.
Sometimes peoples want to skip Qigong Fundamentals 3&4 inorder to get more quickly into Fusion or Healing Love. I think it is an unconscious aversion to facing their grounding issues. But if you skip the standing and deep bone breathing practices, you'll have to face your grounding issues when you deal with your emotions in Fusion or your sexual energy in Healng Love. They are much eaiser to handle if you have already developed the ability to ground your physical chi in Qigong Fundamentals 3&4.
The lower dantian (a.k.a. tan tien) is similar to your belly center or "hara" in Japan. This is widely used in the martial arts. Medical and Spiritual qigong also work extensively with a middle dantian at the heart center and an upper dantian in the head. These three dantian together reflect the trinity of the Life Force's three energetic streams of receptive/yin, creative/yang, and primordial/yuan.
The Taoists cultivated the dantian to very profound levels. It should not be confused with the Indian yogic third chakra in the belly center - that is a different system (see separate FAQ on chakra vs. dantian). There are many different systems that describe both the location and function of the dantian differently.
I locate the dantian in men two finger widths below the navel, in the center of the body/center of gravity. In women it is often described as being at the level of the navel, on the grounds that women have a sligihtly higher center of gravity due to their breasts. In ancient times women were described as having their center of gravity at the heart, between the two breasts. Modern qigong teachers in China consider that women today are much closer to men physically and in their social function, so they share a similar center of gravity.
Martial artists first popularized the term in the West. They commonly use dantian to describe a space where one accumulates and stores chi, that can then be accessed or projected outwardly for self-defense.
My notion of dantian is a bit different. I experience it as a portal, an inter-dimensional opening. It is not a physical point; if you cut someone open, you won't find anything. On one side of the portal is the external or manifest sea of chi, called dantian. On the other side of the opening is the inner formless sea of unborn chi, called "mingmen" , or the Door of Life.
Dantian is the inner space where our essence is refined and rebirthed. It receives chi from both the outer manifest world as well as flowing in formlessly through the Door of Life. This is where our "karma" or "destiny" chi is flowing in from our core self or soul.
Dantian is originally an ancient term borrowed from external or laboratory alchemy, where various herbs and minerals were fired in a round cauldron or alchemical furnace. So dantian implies a place where transformation occurs.
Dan literally means "elixir" or "pill" and tian literally means "field" or "open space". So it is the field where internal alchemists cultivated the Inner Elixir. The simple idea is that your body-miind contains the raw ingredients of higher consciousness, but that they need to be mixed together and cooked into a more refined state.
This "cooking" happens naturally in life as we face challenges and find the resources within to change and evolve who we are. Qigong and inner alchemy are just powerful ways to speed up that process of developing life wisdom. But it important to note that one's "field" does not automatically have an "elixir" or "pill" in it. That elxiir must be cultivated. Until then, your field is open space, it does not yet have any "dan" or fullness of the elixir in it yet.
Dantian in this sense is similar to the space of a woman's womb. It is an empty space, that potentially could become fertilized and grow the embryo of a physical child. But the process of spiritual pregnancy requires proper preparation.
In the Healing Tao system, One Cloud's first formula is about purifying and preparing the "field" or "tian". Inner Smile, Orbit, Six Healing Sounds, Rooting, Fusion of Five Elements, and Healing Love are all methods to first detoxify and then strengthen one personal chi field or Energy Body so it ready to rebirth a truly manificent inner child or newly embodied spiritual self.
The second formula, Inner Sexual alchemy or Lesser Water & Fire, is the stage in which the spiritual seed is planted in the field once the yin-yang and five -phase energies are harmonized and receptive. Then the fertilization and pregnancy can happen, and a special feeling is ignited.
The other 5 formulas are about cultivating this reborn inner self into a mature Sage who can function equally well in the physical and spiritual planes.