Monday, November 15, 2010

Developing balanced sensory awareness – Feeing your back and into what is behind you

Balanced sensory awareness can be experienced as an awareness that is evenly distributed between the six aspects of our body (front, back, left, right, top, bottom) and the corresponding directions that surround us (in front, behind, to the left, right, above and below).
Because four of our senses are based toward the front of our head, the bias of our sensory awareness tends to be focused to the front, with subsidiary awareness of the left and right.
General Qi gong practice opens us up also to awareness of the sky and stars above, and planetary qi below.
Which direction is left out of the equation? Yep, it is behind, and using the back of our head, neck and back (as in back of torso) to feel and sense into our world.

Consciously focusing our awareness in the back of our body and learning to sense and feel into what is behind us is an interesting exercise:

• It makes us stop and think/be aware, as it provides us with a new perspective that we do not often focus on
• It gets us out of our mind and into our body
• It brings our overall sensory awareness into balance
• It teaches us to not over-rely upon our visual sense, and to “feel” and “hear” into our world more
• It develops our tactile sense, as the back of our body has no other major sense organs, just the sense of energy and touch coming through the skin receptors
• It is just a pleasant way of re-experiencing your world
Focusing on feeling your back and what is behind you is something that you can do anytime as a mindfulness exercise that will help you balance your overall sensory awareness and get you out of your head.

• You can do it whilst walking along (hint: don’t totally loose awareness of what is in front of you!)
• You can find a piece of open space and practice walking slowly and mindfully backwards, sensing with the back of your body as you go.
• You can take a one minute pause when you are working in front of your computer and just spend that minute focusing on what you feel in your back.
• It is nice to go out and try and sense landscape around you through the back of your body, rather than just seeing and experiencing it from the front and what is in your line of eye-vision

© Toby Ouvry, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Previous articles on directional awareness:

Balancing your awareness of the six directions

Meditating on extending the six directions and drawing back Wu qi

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meditating on extending the six directions and drawing back Wu Qi

This is an extension of the basic meditation form explained on my previous article on “Balancing your awareness of the six directions” . The meditation explained below will work in and of itself, but if you have not read the previous article, you might find it useful to do so as a context.

This meditation has the following aims:

• To center ourself in the six directions

• To expand our awareness to go beyond the six directions, moving into a timeless, formless state of emptiness (or Wu Qi)

• To then draw back the infinite energy of Wu Qi into our temporal minds and bodies

From this brief outline we can see that the meditation invites experience of the deeper, mystical expressions of qi, and shows how to draw upon this deeper level of qi, drawing it back into our everyday minds and bodies in a way that is beneficial to their health and wellbeing.

The meditation on extending the six directions and drawing back Wu Qi:

1. Centre yourself in the six directions. To do this, simply be aware of:

- the front of your body and what is in front of you

- The back of your body and what is behind you

- The two sides of your body and what is on either side

- The crown of the head and soles of your feet, the earth beneath you and the sky and stars above you.

2. Find the approximate dead centre of your torso, somewhere between your solar plexus and the centre of your chest.

Imagine from that central point lines of light and energy extend out into the six directions simultaneously.

Let your mind follow all six lines simultaneously as they expand out into infinity. By doing this allow your mind to become an open, expansive, limitless empty space. Indentify this limitless, expansive emptiness as Wu qi, primal emptiness or the primal Tao.

At the same time let a part of your mind stay centred and aware of the dead centre of your torso.

If you do this you will feel a sense of being simultaneously centred in your body and limitlessly expansive.

Stay in this state for a while.

3. Now draw back the limitless energy of Wi qi back into your body, along the six directional lines that you extended outward in stage two. From the limitless expanse of primal emptiness feel the energy and light of Wu qi flowing into your temporal body as it exists in time and space, building a strong fulcrum of light and energy in the dead centre of your torso area.

4. Finnish by grounding and relaxing, allow the Qi that you feel in your torso to spread out into the whole of your body. If you like you can finish with a little core cellular breathing just to consolidate the energy into your cellular structure.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Balancing your awareness of the six directions


www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits
 One of the simpler and the more profound realizations that Qi gong seeks to impart to us is the experience of ourself as a point of primal, formless, eternal energy (also known as Wu-qi) that simultaneously inhabits a physical body located in time and space.

In order to make our awareness still, stable and balanced enough to get in touch with our self as primal energy, it is necessary to balance our manifest energy in time and space. What are the basic elements that need to be balanced in order to do this? There is more than one answer to this question, but a major one is that we need to balance and center our experience of the six directions:

• Awareness of in front and behind

• Our left and right

• Above and below

The six directions are obvious, always present, and yet often we are always not really fully conscious of the way in which we interact with them in time and space, from moment to moment.
The following exercises are designed to help us cultivate awareness of the way in which we are constantly interacting with the six directions, and help us become grounded, strong and stable within that context. It is good to do them as a formal practice a few times, but once you get a feel for them they can be done wherever you are. Just to re-emphasize, these exercises are REALLY SIMPLE, but they are also profound and if practised regularly will reward you with many different layers of insight and a sense of deep mental, spiritual and physical stability.

Exercise 1: Basic awareness of the six directional elements of your body

Sitting or standing (in the basic Qi gong standing posture, or other standing form)

- First be aware of the front and back of your body. Alternate between awareness of either the front or the back for a while, then practice awareness of them both together.

- Then be aware if the left and right halves of your body. Practice alternating between awareness of the left and right for a while, then practice holding awareness of them both together’

- Now practice awareness of the top and bottom halves of your body, alternating between them for a while before practising awareness of both simultaneously

- Finally alternate between awareness of front and back, left and right, top and bottom for a while, finishing with an awareness of all six aspects of your body simultaneously held in a single awareness.

- Conclude with a brief period of stillness, enjoying the sense of balance within your body.

Exercise 2: Basic awareness of the six directions

Again, sitting or standing as is your preference, outside if you can but it is not necessary per-se.

- Extend your awareness in the direction in front of you, both in terms of what you can see and mentally beyond that. Then extend your awareness behind you, sensing into the landscape behind you. Alternate between awareness of the space in front and behind for a while then practice holding them both simultaneously. Feel them coming together and balancing in the centre of your body.

- Do the same thing for the landscape to your left and right, alternating between the two for a while and then holding awareness of them both simultaneously

- Then practice alternating your awareness between feeling deeply into the Earth beneath you, and then up into the sky and stars above you. Alternate between awareness of above and below for a while and then practice awareness of both simultaneously

- Then alternate between individual awareness of all six directions around and above you, concluding with a simultaneous awareness of all six directions simultaneously, with yourself as the centre.

- As with exercise 1, conclude with a brief period of stillness.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Alchemical Qi gong meditation

Is alchemy an external art turning base metals into gold? Or is it an internal one which is really about learning to transform lower levels of consciousness to higher ones? My view on this is that it is both. The basic idea being that:

• If you isolate the elements of the periodic table (as in basic chemistry) from planetary and lunar influences, and expose them to primal stellar and solar forces, then they evolve or develop. Hence the idea of lead being placed in a crucible (that is, isolating it from planetary and lunar forces, and exposing it to stellar energy) and then as a result evolving into gold.

• If you isolate consciousness from the everyday coming and going of thoughts and emotions through meditation, then it will start to evolve naturally as the influence of “cosmic” or “universal” consciousness starts to fill it. Thus the mind of the meditator evolves from the “lead” of the everyday mind to the “gold” of the enlightened or cosmic consciousness.

Actually, the outer practice of alchemy and the inner practice of meditative alchemy come together in the body of a good meditator, and so it is not just the mind of the meditator that evolves, but the physical elements of the body that evolves as well. When the meditator goes into deep meditation, their mind and body are exposed to cosmic energies which cause both the mind and the body to transform.

This is why when the bodies of highly realized meditators (for example within the Tibetan Vajrayana, or Taoist Masters) unusual, pearl-like or metallic objects are discovered when they are cremated.

Another way of expressing this meditation is by saying that it is a way of connecting us as directly as possible to the non-dual energy of Wu-qi, the most powerful and primal form of qi, which acts as the source of all other forms of qi.

In terms of Three Body Qi gong™ , this is a form or practice relating to our cuasal or stillness body.
So, here is a very simple alchemical Qi gong meditation, please note I am in no way claiming that you will start to become an instant enlightened being, or that your body will suddenly increase in net worth. But it will begin a process that, if pursued will lead to expansion of consciousness and energy, and a peaceful, healthy body.

Alchemical Qi gong meditation:

- Find a quiet spot, indoors or outdoors. If indoors the room should be simple, not too many things in it and with space around your body. Actually if you have a handy cave, or other appropriate hole in this ground, this is ideal (!)

- A stone, bowl of water or solitary candle in front of you if you wish.

- Sit or stand comfortable in a suitable meditation posture that can be comfortably sustained

- Follow the breathing for a while until the mind starts to settle. If you like do some core body breathing or core cellular breathing to settle and energize the mind and body

- See your energy field like an oval or egg of light around your body, 20-40cms distance from the skin. The “shell” or edge of your energy field is dark and insulating on the outer surface, and shiny and reflective on the inside surface.

- See a small hole at the top of the oval, directly above the crown of your head

- See a small hole at the bottom of the oval, directly beneath your perineum.

- See a line of stellar or universal light coming down from the sky and into your energy field through the top hole, flowing down into the crown of your head and down into your heart/central chest area

- See a line of light and energy extending up from the core of the earth, rising through the hole at the bottom of your energy field and then into your body, rising to the centre of the chest area, where it converges with the primal star light coming down from the top of your energy field.

- In the centre of your heart space see a very bright ball, or flame of universal light being formed by the converging streams of energy from above and below.

- The universal light builds in the heart, and is contained within your energy field. As you will remember, the inner edge of your energy field is reflective, containing the light in your heart, and reflecting it back on itself, causing it to intensify.

- The outside of your energy field is dark and insulating, cutting it off from planetary and lunar sources of energy.

- Sit for a short while in this crucible-like structure, keeping your mind as gently focused and concept-free as possible. You may feel an intense flow of energy at times, sometimes deep peace. Don’t try and control it, just focus on “holding the space”.

- When you have finished, see the crucible form around your energy field dissolving. Ground your energy fully into your physical body and return to your daily wakeful state.

- 10-15 minutes should be fine, no more than 30 mins unless you are in some kind of retreat conditions.

© Toby Ouvry, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Learning to bi-locate your energy body


 To bi-locate your energy body means that your physical body remains in one place, whilst your energy body travels somewhere else.

One of the things that you may have heard emphasized in Qi gong is that it is important to find a location that has good natural qi, such as parks and other places in nature that have trees and such. This is absolutely true, but, in the absence of always having suitable location, you can always begin your Qi gong session with a brief meditation where you strongly visualize and imagine that you are in the natural, qi-rich environment of your choice.

If you do this regularly, you will start having strong feelings that you are actually in that environment, and you will actually feel the healthy qi flowing through your body. The reason for this is that your energy body, or qi body is made of light, and as such can travel at the speed of light to any location simply through the power of strongly imagining yourself there.

By visualizing yourself in a beautiful place, part of your energy body will actually go there and the experience that you have of being connected to the energies of that place is absolutely genuine.

The basic understanding here is that you can, energetically (in your energy body) go anywhere you want at any time. With regard to your Qi gong practice you can be in a concrete jungle and still practice your Qi gong connected to the beautiful, natural environmental qi of your choice!
Five minute exercise for learning to bi-locate your light body

Part 1- minutes 1-2:
Sit or stand comfortably, feel your physical body surrounded by your energy field, which is like an oval of light extending 20-30cms around the edge of your body. Gather your mental and physical energy into the present moment and into your energy field. As you breathe in feel yourself breathing light and energy into all the cells of your body, as you breathe out feel your mind and body releasing tension.

Part 2 – minutes 3-4:
Visualize yourself in the natural, qi-rich location of your choice. Strongly imagine yourself there and feel your energy body connecting to the energies of the environment. Breathe these energies in and out of your energy field for a while. If you like you can focus on breathing in the energy of particular feature of the landscape, an old tree, a waterfall, a mountain.

Part 3 – last minute:
Relax, keep present and just allow the energies that you are connecting to to flow through your energy body.
Then you can either finish the exercise or go on to do other aspects of your Qi gong practise.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Body shaking and patting

Body shaking and body patting are very simple exercises that you can do as a way of awakening the flow of Qi in your body, releasing tension and creating a state of mental and physical alertness. I do this at the beginning of meditations sometimes if I am feeling a little sluggish, or as a way of refreshing my mind and body after I have been sitting at my work station for some time or otherwise involved in stationary work

Body Shaking:

Part 1: Standing with your kness slightly bent, place the backs of your hands upon your lower back, so that the weight of your hands and arms are resting on the tops of the hip bones. Using the thighs and knees, gently shake your whole body up and down in a regular rhythm. As you breathe out, do so in short bursts in rhythm with your body shaking. With each short burst of exhalation, feel yourself releasing tension from your mind, body and energy system.

Part 2: Once you have done part one for a minute or two, move onto shaking your body rhythmically in a more free form way. Go up on to the toes and front balls of the soles of your feet, shake your arms and shoulders around, use short kicking movements to release tension from the leg muscles. This is a free form stage, the main thing is just to shake your whole body in a way that releases tension and feels good (an not in such an energetic way that you injure yourself)!

Body patting

Take a moment to imagine that the palms of your hands are filled with light and energy. Pat the surface of your body lightly with the palms, see this light and energy moving into the surface where you are patting, energizing and awakeing it. Pat the whole surface of your body systematically. I normally follow a pattern that goes something like this:

• Across whole scalp, face and neck

• Across chest and belly area

• Using one hand pat across the top of one arm and hand, then along its underside. When finished swap arms

• Using one hand pat across the shoulder of one side of your back, and then underneath the armpit from the lateral muscles down to the lower back. Once finished repeat on the other side with using the other hand

• Using both palms together, pat the butt cheeks and then down the back of the legs to the ankles. Then work your way up the front of the legs to the top of the thighs

• Then pat the sides of the legs from the hips down to the ankles. Subsequently pat from the ankles back up the inside of the legs to the top of the thighs and groin area

When you finish, take a deep breath and relax!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby's permission first! Contact toby@tobyouvry.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Learning to conserve, build and circulate your energy, not waste it though dissipation and distraction

One of the basic principles of Qi gong is that, through our awareness of energy we are trying to learn not to needlessly dissipate or “throw off” our mental, emotional and physical qi. Instead we learn to keep it within our energy field and circulate it within our mind-body continuum. Here are some practical ways in which we waste our qi and life force habitually:

• Continuous physical fidgeting and habitual muscle tension (often due to lack of awareness of how our busy mind is causing our body to feel uneasy all the time)

• Discomfort with feeling deep emotion (positive or negative), due to a habitual aversion to the vulnerability that deep emotion makes us feel. In general, deep emotion carries with it large amounts of qi that we can learn to circulate in our energy system. Repressing emotion, or becoming addicted to it/acting compulsively on it causes us to lose our ability to use its qi in an effective way

• Doing our physical actions using much more muscle power than is necessary. For example typing at a computer with our facial muscles locked in an unconscious frown.

• Compulsive and excessive (mindless or meaningless) speech

• Compulsive and excessive thinking or worrying

In all the above ways and many more, we dissipate our qi on a daily basis. So, one of the best ways to start practising Qi gong is simply to make it a daily habit and discipline to be aware of how you are using your qi on a moment to moment basis. Ask yourself questions like:

- “In the last hour, how effectively have I been using my life-force?”

- “How much physical energy do I really need to walk from one place to another, how can I make my walking more energetically efficient?”

- “Is the amount of thought that I am giving this problem really ergonomically effective?” (ie: the amount of good results relative to energy spent on the issue)

Here is a simple, 6 minute exercise that you can do to help develop awareness of your qi, and start to build it in your mind and body, rather than dissipate it needlessly. If you do this and nothing else as a Qi gong practice it will help you raise your energy levels:

For the first two minutes:
Sit in a comfortable position. Visualize an energy field around your body, the shape of an egg, extending roughly 10-20cms from the surface of your body. Simply sit still, and focus on the physical stillness of your body. Notice the temptations to fidget and don’t follow them. Try to keep all of your energy in the present moment, and within the boundaries of your energy field. Use your breathing, your still body, and the edge of your energy field as your basic points of focus

For minutes 3-4:
Use the core body breathing technique to breathe energy into the core of your body and out to the edge of your energy field. As the qi moves in and out of the core of your body, retain it in your energy field so that you can feel it building and increasing.

For the minutes 5-6:
Relax and breathe naturally, your body and energy field will now feel energised. Practice keeping mentally and physically still, whilst at the same time feeling full of energy and life-force.

This final state is the one that we are aiming to make the base line of our daily life and awareness as Qi gong practitioners: Simultaneously relaxed and energized.

For details of upcoming Three Body Qi Gong classes with Toby please go to www.tobyouvry.com/qigong

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Healing, Art and Service: The three levels of motivation in Qi gong

There are three levels of motivation that you can distinguish in Qi gong:

- Qi gong as Self-healing: Firstly you can practice Qi gong in order to learn how to self-heal your mind and body of a particular ailment. You can see stories of two people who have found Qi gong most helpful for their self-healing at the top of my testimonials page. The first is recovering from cancer, and the second found it helpful in re-establishing her body’s balance after premature kundalini activation that caused here a lot of problems.

- Qi gong as the art of energy-awareness: The second level is where you have gotten to the stage where you are basically healthy and well, and you are using Qi gong as a way of developing yourself and enhancing your quality of life. For example Qi gong facilitates the development of your energy awareness, helps facilitate your mind-body-spirit connection, increases your energy levels and mental sharpness, and enables you to commune with nature more and more deeply.

- Qi gong as an act of service: The third level of Qi gong practice is where the person’s primary motivation for practicing Qi gong becomes that of service. As this level the person is seeking to bring energetic benefit to the landscape in which he or she is practising their Qi gong. Rather than saying to the Earth “please heal me” such a practitioner says to the Earth “What can I do to be of service to you in my practice?”. This is really a level that evolves out of the first two. If you practice Qi gong and Qi gong meditation for a while then you naturally start to see your daily Qi gong as a way of participating in the life of the Planet and, by doing so enhancing the overall depth and texture of the Earth’s Qi.
A nice thing to do at the beginning of your Qi gong practice is to consciously generate all three motivations within your mind by reciting a simple prayer or affirmation such as:

“May my practice heal myself of all physical, energetic and psychological imbalances,
 May it create joy, harmony and depth in my own body and the energy body of the Earth,
 May it play a part in the restoring health and wellbeing to the Earth all who live within the sphere of her energy body.”

One of the secrets of Qi gong practice is that the level of energy that you connect to in your practice is influenced to a large degree by your mental intention. If you consciously expand your intention and motivation at the beginning of your session, then this will actually accelerate the development of your Qi gong practice!

Classes:
Upcoming Three Body Qi Gong™ classes with Toby in September and October
Related Articles:
An answer to the question "How do I experience meditation?"
Is your meditation a type of threrapy, and art-form or a spiritual practice?

©Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What s Three Body Qi Gong™? (and why should you be interested in practicing it)

Three Body Qi Gong™ (TBQG™) is a new form of Qi Gong that I hav been working on in my own personal Qi gong practice for the last few years. I will be giving my first series of TBQG™ classes this coming September/October, and I am quite exited by it.

With this in mind I wanted to write a little bit about some of the fundamental concepts of Three Body Qi Gong™; what sets it apart from other forms of Qi gong, what the benefits are and so forth:

Three Body Qi Gong™ combines physical fitness training, subtle energy training and meditation training into a single practice:
As I'm sure you are all aware, contemporary living is placing a premium on our time. Our "to do" list never seems to run out, and the amount of information that we have to deal with is ever increasing. Within this time-limited context we also understand that it is good to make time for:

- physical fitness in the form of conventional muscle, stamina and flexibility training
- energetic fitness in the form of exercises such as conventional qi gong or yoga that create a balanced flow of energy through the body
- and mental/spiritual fitness in the form of meditation training to still the mind and develop inner peace and our sense of our "centre"
What I have done with TBQG™ is to combine elements of physical muscle fitness, subtle energy work and meditative stillness into a single set of practices. With three Body Qi Gong™ you can learn to exercise your physical body, subtle energy body and causal (or very subtle/stillness body) all in one workout; mental peace, energetic health and physical fitness rolled into one practice! So this is both time effective and rewarding.

Three body Qi Gong™ simplifies a lot of complex terminology into an easy to understand and comprehensive format:
Many people interested in Qi gong have found that the way in which is explained seems to be quite complex and ambiguous. Different teachers explain it in different ways and using different terminology. TBQG™ presents Qi gong practice in a conceptual framework that is easy to understand, and therefore easy to put into practice. Whilst honoring the depth and complexity of the tradition from which Qi gong practice arises, TBQG™ aims to give people the confidence in their own ability to understand and practice Qi gong that arises from clear instructions and understanding.

Three Body Qi Gong™ will complement and enhance any physical body or sport training that you do:
TBQG™ uses traditional Qi gong stretching and bending movements to promote flexibility. In terms of strength and stamina training TBQG™ mainly works with different types of standing positions that creates gravitational resistance against which our muscles have to work. The type of muscle that we develop through this type of training is high quality, light and ergonomically effective (ie: in terms of the size of the muscle relative to its strength). It is definitely a type of fitness training in itself, but any other form of sport of fitness work that you do will be improved by the TBQG™ practices.

Three Body Qi Gong™ will complement and enhance any meditation or spiritual practices that you have:
In general I have found that conventional Qi gong practice has had a tremendously balancing and deepening effect on my own meditation practice, as it works so well to balance and harmonize the subtle energies of the body. TBQG takes this a step further by integrating muscle training and strengthening which further grounds and stabilizes our meditation practice. TBQG™ overtly integrates meditation and stillness practices into the workout, which means that formal meditation time is integrated into the exercises themselves.

Three Body Qi Gong™ will help you to develop your emotional and mental strength and balance:
TBQG™ teaches us how to transform physical resistance into energetic flow. By learning how to do this on a physical level, we will also come to understand how we can start to:
- Energetically transform emotional resistance and negativity in our mind and body, and direct it toward useful and beneficial ends
- Develop mental strength and endurance through the physical training itself

Three Body Qi Gong™ will increase your general health and energy levels as well as your body's capacity for self-healing:
Again, I have found that conventional Qi gong has has a tremendously beneficial effect upon my own general health and energy levels, and has given me a lot of knowledge and expereince when it comes to tapping into my bodie's innate capacity for self-healing. TBQG™ adds a couple of new dimensions to the health and healing power of Qi gong in general, by more overtly tapping into the healing power of meditation and the mind, as well as the health and confidence benefits of a physically strong body.

Three Body Qi Gong™ is easy to practice at home as well as in class:
The format of TBQG™ is such that, once you have a grasp of the basics it is quite easy to apply in your ow time as long as you have a little discipline. It is not like Tai Chi in the sense of being a complex set of movements that takes months to get a grasp of even the basic physical gestures. TBQG™ does however offer multiple levels of increased depth in the training, so it is a practice that you can engage in for years without feeling like you have ceased tapping into its beneficial potential!

If you are new to Qi gong and looking to start a practice, Three Boby Qi Gong is going to be a great place to start. If you have been practising Qi gong for a while and are looking for new dimensions to your practice, then I am confident that the TBQG format will provide those dimensions, perspectives and experiences in abundance!
So, if you are in Singapore, I invite you to check out the new series of TBQG™ classes that I am doing in September and October, numbers are limited to seven persons maximum, so please register your interest sooner rather than later to avoid disspointment.

For those of you not in Singapore, but following from overseas, I will be posting more articles on TBQG™ in the future, and hope to get some form of training manual together over the coming months...

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby's permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two energy meditations, one for dealing with exhaustion, and one for connecting to Wu-qi or primal emptiness

I wanted to put these two meditations together, not because they are inherently linked, but they do work well together as a way of dealing with fatigue.


I came to the practice of qi gong at a time in my life when I found my energy levels taking a nose dove for no apparent reason, and qi gong was one of the main reasons why I was able to maintain a normal routine in spite of the energetic challenges that I faced. This difficult time in my life is one of the main reasons why I have such a lot of faith in qi gong, as I found it was incredibly helpful. Nevertheless there were times when I really felt too tired to do any standing qi gong exercise, and the first technique that I describe below was a method that I developed as a way of coping with exhaustion, and I find it still comes in useful at times when life is busy and tiredness sets in.

The second technique is very simple, it is a way of connecting to Wu-qi, also sometimes described as primal emptiness or the primal Tao (see description of Wu-qi in article on 4 levels of qi). When doing this meditation we focus on the energy at our heart. However, the level of energy that we are connecting with here is primal qi, which is deeper than any of the energies in our subtle body; any of the three dan-tiens or any of the chakras, so don’t confuse it with any of these. The ideas is that we are creating a link to our primal qi, and allowing it to flow out into our subtle energy body and gross physical body.

Technique 1: For regenerating one’s energy when extremely tired

Seated (or lying down if you are too tired to sit comfortably) allow your body to become as relaxed as possible, in particular relax your physical brain as much as you can. Feel into the sense of fatigue and exhaustion in your body, don’t fight it, focus on accepting it and extending a feeling of love and acceptance toward your body and the state that it is in. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus your mind on the exhalation, and as you breathe out feel yourself letting go of the exhaustion in your body, you can feel it leaving on the outward breath. Try and relax your mind as much as possible, make it as thoughtless as you can (see meditation on “breathing through the mouth to relax the brain” ). Simply stay with this relaxed state and breathing pattern for a while
Technique 2: For connecting to the energy of Wu-qi

If you are doing this in conjunction with technique 1, do the first technique long enough for the tension of the fatigue in your body to have dissipated a little. Once the body and mind start to relax you will feel them open up, and at that point they will then naturally start to look to regenerate their energy.

Feel into the centre of your torso, along the vertical core of your body, somewhere between the heart and the solar plexus (the precise location you will ‘find’ intuitively). Sense within the centre of your being a luminous, formless, empty space. Once you have located it, breathe in and out of it for a while.

Now sense emerging from that empty space within the centre of your being a light, you can either visualize it as a pulsing centre of light, or as a flame if you like. Starting gently and subtly at first, but growing in power over time, you feel this light and energy pulsing out from the deep centre of your being into your subtle energy body and your gross physical body. As this energy flows out into your subtle and gross bodies, you can feel them being regenerated and purified. Stay with this experience for as long as you wish.
© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Learning to attune your body to Qi within the landscape

One of the basic principles of Qi gong is that energy follows mind. Indeed mind in the sense of thought and emotion is really just a subtler, more refined level of qi relative to the bio-electric or prajnic force that is most commonly referred to in Qi gong practice (see article on “4 levels of qi or energy in Qi gong”).
Most commonly when we learn how to direct qi using the mind in Qi gong it is using the mind to direct energy around our body. However it is equally useful and important to learn to use our mental awareness to attune to the landscape that surrounds our body so that we can create a positive and dynamic interface between the qi of our body and qi of the environment we are in.
One simple way that I do this is to practice walking, standing or lying whilst being aware of the six basic spatial directions that my body exists within; above, below, in front, behind, left and right.
I’ll explain this in two practical examples below that should give you an idea of how this can be applied. It is very simple and primal, but very profound and effective. If you do it regularly you will find yourself moving naturally into states of heightened awareness of the interface between yourself and your environment.
Walking in woodland
On a recent trip back to the UK to see family I spent regular time just walking in the woodland by myself. Woodland has a natural healing and regenerating energy. As I walk at a pace that feels right for me I place equal awareness on the four directions of my horizontal awareness; I am aware of what is in front of me, what is behind me, the direction to my tight and left. As I walk along I can if I like focus on one direction, such as behind, or to the left, but I try not to lose awareness of the other three directions as I do so. The first few times you do this you will probably be most aware of the newness of being aware of the direction behind you, as it is the direction that we are least aware of most of the time (our eyes being in the front of our head)
Once I have walked like this for a while, I then include awareness of the sky above and the earth below, I expand my mind up, down and out to the four horizontal directions, being aware of a flow and exchange of energy between myself and my environment from all six directions. Again I can spend a little while focusing on one direction for a while, but always within the context of a holistic awareness of all six.
The walk is spent with gentle sustained attention to directional awareness with enough flexibility to follow the spontaneous experiences that it takes you to, but enough control to keep your basic attention coming back again and again to the foundational awareness of the directions.
For overcoming jet-lag or general sleeplessness
Having just returned to Singapore from my trip I have been up in the early hours, and in general I find attuning to the six directions a great way of getting more quickly into the rhythm of a new time zone or land that I have travelled to. Here is what I did last night from about 3-5pm.
Lying down I mentally make my mind big expanding it to the horizon of the directions before and behind me, to my right and left, above and below. I alternate my focus on each of the directions, spending a short time focusing and attuning to each, and then I move into an awareness of all six directions collectively. After a few minutes of doing this I can feel my body interfacing with the landscape in a very direct manner, it is almost like “plugging in” to the landscape so that my body’s energy and the energy of the landscape harmonize and merge with each other. Although I don’t fall asleep immediately, my body becomes completely relaxed and comfortable, with a gentle energy buzzing through it. My mind becomes rapidly almost thoughtless, open and relaxed.
Temporarily this state of awareness is pretty much as relaxing and regenerating as sleep, and in the longer term my body moves into sync with the new landscape in a highly accelerated manner, which means my bio-rhythms and sleep patterns settle down much faster and much more harmoniously. Actually this is a basic form of qi meditation that I often do before I fall asleep in general.
*****
So, there you go, a simple set of basic principles for attuning your body’s qi to the qi within landscape. You can apply it to various situations, as I hope the two examples above demonstrate.
“Try it, you’ll like it!” as they say.
© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this information, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunshine qi gong energy body meditation

This meditation is designed to help us enhance the amount of energy that we are receiving from the sun on a daily basis. If we ask ourselves "What is the biggest source of qi in the solar system?" the obvious answer is the sun, as it is upon the basis of the sun that all life is enabled and sustained on the planet. In general a few minutes of sun on our body per day is good for our health even if we are not doing any conscious qi work while we are absorbing the rays, but this simple meditation enhances the amount of energy that we can receive quite substantially. It can be done as a complement to the basic Qi body / Light body meditation.

The technique:
1. Standing, sitting or lying in the sun (preferably on grass or bare earth), feel the suns rays on your body. Feel the golden light of the sun transforming your physical body into a beautiful, translucent golden light body. Feel the energy of this light body being charged and energized by the light of the sun. If you can imagine that your body is like an organic re-chargable battery, and the sunlight is like the electrical current filling it with new energy.

2. As you breathe in, breathe the energy of the sunlight into the core of your body, as you breathe it out feel the energy glowing as it expands through out your cellular structure.

3. After two or three minutes of this absorbing and breathing, you feel as if you have a minature sun in the centre of your chest area that you can either contract to a small size (say the size of a tennis ball) or expand so that it surrounds your entire body and energy field.
The entire meditation should not take longer than 5-10 minutes, especially if the sunlight is strong. Later in the day if you like you can recall the sun in your heart and spend a short while feeling it and breathing with it to consolidate the solar energy in your system.

Variation: Meditating with sunlight filtered through leaves.
You can also do this meditation with sunlight filtered through the leaves of a tree that you like. Sunlight filtered though leaves has a very gentle healing property which also varies according to the particular tree that you use. If you do this, in addition to the gold light of the sun you will also feel the green light from the leaves in your energy body.
Both of these meditations are very nice holiday meditations, and as I am on holiday right now and have been doing them, I thought I would pass them on!

Related article: Solar Qi gong meditation

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby's permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Qi gong, "jing qi" and our libido - A practical way for making wise use of our sexual energy

I wrote last week about "jing qi" or our essential energy. One of the main ways in which our jing qi is expressed is through our maleness or femaleness, and one of the main store houses of our jing qi is our sexual organs and fluids.
Thus, in qi gong practice and philosophy one of the main things that we try and do is to develop and sustain quite a high level of sexual qi or libido within our body, learning to express and/or conserve it in a wise, sustainable and healthy manner.

Two extremes
There are two responses to the arousal of our libido that we often fall into:

  • Either we repress our sexual response to a person as something " bad" or inappropriate
  • Or we may indulge it, seeking to express in in an uncontrolled, inappropriate or indiscriminate manner.

The exercises I describe below is a practical method for beginning to enjoy a balanced and energy giving approach to our libido and sexual energy.

With people
When you notice a sexual or sensual response within your body to a person, rather than falling into the extreme of indulgence or repression of that energy, try to enter into a space of appreciation, gratitude and reverence for the energy that has been stimulated in your body. As you breathe in, breathe the energy into the core of your body (the central line between the of energy going down the center of the torso, from the crown to the perineum, see last weeks article).
As you breathe out, breathe the energy from the core of your body our to the surface of your skin.
As you breathe, just relax and allow your whole body to feel alive to the gentle experience of sensual pleasure.

Alternatively, if you are familiar with the microcosmic orbit meditation, you can practice circulating the sexual feelings and energy around your microcosmic orbit. Both types of breathing exercise can be consciously done with a sexual partner if you wish. the main point is to get used to enjoying and circulating your sexual energy in a relaxed and meditative manner that allows you to comfortably hold a relatively high level of libido in your body which enhances your jing qi, physical and psychological health and meditation practice.

Concluding thoughts
In conclusion, a healthy and balanced approach to our libido is an invaluable asset in taking care of and enhancing our jing qi, or essential energy.
A balanced attitude of appreciation and reverence for the sensual and sexual energy of ourself and others enables us to derive deep enjoyment from our libido. this can be whether we are in an active, engaged sexual relationship (such as I am in with my wife for example), or whether we are a celibate Buddhist monk or nun (I was a Buddhist monk for 5 years and spent 8 years outside of any kind of manifest sexual relationship during that period of my life).

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek toby's permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guided qi gong healing visualization and breathing exercise for developing, maintaining and increasing our Essential energy or “jing-qi”

The main body of this article is going to be a practical guided exercise, but first I want to mention expand a little on the term “jing qi” which I mentioned in the overview article of the four levels of qi last week

What is jing qi?
Jing qi translates as meaning “essential energy”. Our essential energy is derived from the potency of the fluids in our body that carry the energy of our life force, particularly our sexual fluids, hormones and neuro-chemicals.
Qi gong exercises and lifestyle advice often centre on the development of this form of qi within our energy system, as when it is strong our immunity system will be strong and our energy levels will be high.
Our jing qi is supported by our “Yuan qi” or primordial energy (the pre-natal life force that we received from our parents) and “Jen qi” or true energy (postnatal energy derived from breathing and metabolism of food). Thus qi gong exercise nurtures our jing qi, and we support this by good diet and breathing habits (yuan qi), and the preservation and care of our yuan qi.
In general our jing qi pervades our body and all of the subtle energy meridians that interpenetrate our physical being. However, in qi gong the focus or fulcrum of our jing qi is explained to be in our lower dan-tien (dan tien meaning elixir filed or energy centre). For this reason the exercise below uses the lower belly area as its point of focus.

Qi gong healing visualization and breathing exercise for developing, maintaining and increasing our Essential energy

Preparation
Sit or stand in a relaxed position, with the head, neck, chest, belly and pelvis aligned vertically with each other, so that the weight of your upper body is able to travel down your lower torso in to the chair (if seated), or down your lower torso and legs into the floor (if standing).

Finding your core
Visualize a line of light and energy coming down from the sky, passing through the dead centre of your crown, brain, neck, chest, belly and pelvis, exiting through your perineum and passing down into the centre of the Earth. This is the vertical core line of your body. Once you have a clear image or feeling for it, breathe in and out of it gently for a little while.
Focusing your jing qi
Now see along the core line of your body at the level 3-6cms beneath your belly button there is a ball of light about the size of a golf ball. This is the fulcrum of the jing qi or essential energy in your body. Focus on it gently for a while, as you focus on it you will feel its light begin to glow and intensify.
(See general article for core body breathing HERE).

Building and distributing your jing qi
As you breathe in, visualize the ball of light in your belly glowing intensely with energy and qi. As you breathe our, feel light and energy flowing out from your lower belly into the energy meridians of your body. By the time time you finish your exhalation you can feel all the energy meridians of your body from your crown to your toes glowing with the light of your jing qi. Follow this breathing pattern for as long as is comfortable.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How is enlightenment measured in Qi gong practice? Identifying and connecting experientially to the four levels of qi that we work with in qi gong

Over the next few articles I want to talk about practical ways of identifying different levels of qi. In this article I am simply going to identify these levels, name them, and give some simple exercises for identifying them. To do this I am going to be using comparisons between the four kingdoms mineral, plant, animal and human.

The names of the four types of qi are:
1. “Jing-qi”, or life-force energy
2. “Qi”, which equates to consciousness or mind energy
3. “Shen-qi” which equates to self-awareness (spiritual?) energy
4. “Wu-qi” which equates to words like primal energy, non-dual energy, all pervasive energy, causal energy.

Plants possess the first form of qi. Animals possess qi-types 1&2. Humans possess qi-types 1-3. The fourth type of qi, Wi-qi could be said to inhabit and pervade all four kingdoms of mineral (in inanimate matter), plant, animal and human.

Identifying Jing-qi:
Compare a living plant and a dead plant, or a living tree and a dead one (if you can actually go out and do these exercises physically). What is it that you can see, feel and sense as present in the living plant that is not present in the dead one? That which you see feel and sense is the living plants jing-qi, or life force energy.

Identifying qi:
Compare a living plant with a living animal. What is it that you see, sense and feel as being present in the animal (literally “animating” it) that is not present within the plant? That which you see sense and feel in the animal, not possessed by the plant is its qi, or mind and consciousness energy
(Note: somewhat confusingly, the word “qi” is used as an umbrella term for all levels of energy, and in the case of this level, the same basic term is used specifically to refer to mind or consciousness energy)

Identifying shen-qi:
Contemplate your own, and human beings capacity (sorely underused unfortunately) to reflect upon ourself, our mind and our being in a way that an animal is not capable of. This capacity of human beings is their self-awareness qi, which might also be termed as soul or spiritual qi.
(Note: I am not saying animals have no soul or spirit, just not in the same self-aware sense that is being referred to in the above exercise to clearly identify this level of qi)

Identifying Wu-qi:
Observe that any object, mineral, plant, animal or human has a certain innate being-ness or presence. This sense of being-ness or presence is paradoxical in the sense that it every object has its own unique presence or being-ness, and yet at the same time the essential being-ness that we sense is the same in every object everywhere. It is like the intuitive glue that unites the whole universe into a single unified being. Wu-qi is sometimes simply referred to as the Tao.

Concluding thoughts
The objective of Qi gong practice is to unite these four levels of qi into a unified, harmonious, functioning whole within our own being, to marry the “higher” or “heavenly” energies of Wu-qi and shen-qi with the lower or “earthly” energies of qi and jing-qi. You could say that enlightenment in qi gong practice involves progressively higher and deeper levels of harmonizing, fusing and engaging these four levels within the body of the practitioner.

In my next article I will guide a more detailed contemplation for connecting experientially to jing-qi.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Email: info@tobyouvry.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why is Qi gong practice so relevant in contemporary society and in the current global climate of environmental crisis?

Here are six reasons that come at the top of my list when it comes to motivating people to learn Qi gong if you have not done so already, and for persisting in it if you already have a practice, but occasionally struggle for motivation. I have to say that for me daily Qi gong practice is never something that I have to motivate myself to do these days, as the way in which it value adds to my quality of life is so self evident, but if you want a conceptual taste of what is possible, here you are:

1. Qi gong teaches that we are in a living relationship to our environment

When we practise Qi gong we learn to experience the energy within our body as a dynamic living part of the energy of the Earth herself. We experience daily reception and sustenance of energy from the planet, and from the forces of nature. This re-awakens our sense of being in relationship to and a part of the greater life of the planet. This is good for our physical health, but it is also offers a wonderful spiritual and psychological re-connection the Earth for human beings like us who have become trapped in the sense of separation-consciousness that comes from living in artificial environments that inhibit our feeling for the subtle, bio-electrical energy exchange between ourself and our environment.

There is much talk these days about how we need to change our behaviours and become more environmentally friendly. One of the problems that people face is that they have been cut off from nature and the environment, so they do not FEEL the connection between the way they act and its impact upon the world. Qi gong practice creates a daily, living, truly felt interface between human and environment. Any person connecting to the energy of the Earth in this way is naturally going to sensitize to the relationship between what they do and their environment.

2. Qi gong teaches us how to reconnect to our body’s subtle energy and natural healing power

Qi gong empowers us with real, experiential techniques for gaining control of the subtle energy levels of our body. We learn how we can consciously direct and enhance energy flow to any parts of our body that are sick or in need of healing. When I think for example of the possibility that I may one day get cancer of another form of serious disease, my Qi gong practice always gives me confidence that I have a powerful self-healing tool that I can use effectively even in such extreme circumstances (in combination with whatever conventional or holistic therapies I might also choose to deal with the sickness.

3. Qi gong teaches us how to consciously control our nervous system

Our nervous system basically has two aspects. Firstly it has the action/fight or flight mode, called the “sympathetic nervous system” and secondly the relaxation/recuperation mode, called the parasympathetic nervous system. When our nervous system is in sympathetic mode, we are expending energy and ready for action. When it is in parasympathetic mode we are able to relax our mind and body, and regenerate our body’s energy circuits. Qi gong breathing and movement techniques teach us how to consciously control the nervous system, and ensure that we switch it regularly to “rest and recuperation” mode, rather than having it involuntarily permanently switched on to action/fight or flight/energy expenditure mode.

Having our nervous system permanently over-stimulated is a particular problem for us in today’s society as we are so informationally and energetically over-stimulated by our artificial environment.

4. Increased sensual pleasure

When we practise Qi gong the subtle energy in our bodies harmonize and flows in a way that enables our senses to experience their objects (tactile sensations, sounds, sights etc...) on a deeper and more sensually pleasurable way. We come to realize that simple acts such as walking, receiving the warmth of the sun, touching a leaf (not to mention experiences that involve sexual polarity) are naturally and wonderfully pleasurable.

5. Greater peace of mind and rapidly increased processing of negative psychic energy carried within our bodies’ cellular structure.

Every negative experience that we have had in our life has impacted or imprinted itself onto the cellular structure of our physical body. This can make personal growth (on the level of consciousness) slower than it would otherwise be, because the energy within our physical body itself resists new ideas and ways of being and experiencing our life.

Qi gong practice teaches us how to direct powerful, positively charged qi/energy through our bodies’ cellular structure, thus enabling us to energetically “de-program” and cleanse our body of the negative impact of past experiences. As a result it helps us to experience peace of mind in the short term, and makes inner, psychological progress much faster than it would otherwise be.

6. More energy

You know this benefit is as simple as that, to practice Qi gong is to learn how to circulate greater and greater “voltages” of natural, bio-electrical energy through your physical and subtle bodies, which makes them feel energized, refreshed and ready to go out there and live the life that you always wanted to, but never quite felt like you had the energy to achieve!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Basic qi gong standing postures 4: Head in the stars

I refer to this standing position as “Head in the stars” as when I do it I combine awareness of the sky and stars above and around my head. It can be done as an exercise in itself or in combination with previous standing exercises (see links to other standing postures below).

NOTE: Because we are focusing on qi/energy within the brain and head, this exercise should always be done gently, taking care to to overstrain or force anything. Remember we are trying to guide energy and encourage it to flow through the power of the standing posture itself in combination with our awareness.

Head in the stars qi gong standing form.

Preparation:
Stand in the basic Qi gong standing position , take a little time just to relax, breathe and centre yourself properly. Visualize a line of light and energy coming down through the vertical core of your body: Through the centre of the crown of your head, your brain, neck, chest and abdomen, exiting your body through your perineum (the point between the middle of your legs, between the sexual organs and the anus). From the perineum this line of light of energy proceeds down into the earth passing through the dead centre of the Earth’s core. Spend a short while aligning your attention and energy around this central line or core of energy that runs down your body and being.

Locating the ‘Upper Dan Tien’ or energy centre in your head:
See along the core line of energy within your body, at the level of the middle of the brain, there is a bright ball of light about the size of a golf ball. Gently focus your attention on this living ball of light and energy within the centre of the brain.

Hand positions:
Raise your hands up to the level of your head, so that the palms are facing either side of the front of your face at an angle. The hands are about 50-7-cms apart, angled in such a way that the palms are facing the ball of light in the centre of your brain. The distance of the palms of the hands from the head can be anywhere between 10-40cms. Find a distance that feels comfortable and ‘right’ for you. If you experiment you will intuitively find a distance that is optimal for you personally.

Breathing qi in and out of the head:
With your hands in place, focus on the golf ball sized ball of qi in the centre of your brain. As you breathe out, feel it expanding gently in size so that it s edge touches the palms of the hands. As you breathe in feel the ball of light shrinking back to the size of a golf ball. As it does so feel its intensity and brightness increasing. Do this for a minute or two only at the beginning, building to 3-4 mins when you are familiar with it.
Conclude the exercise by letting your hands go back down to your sides, and then feel all the energy in your head and brain area flowing down into your torso in general, and belly area in particular.

A further development of the form:
Once you are familiar with the exercise you can try the following: As you breathe out, feel the ball of light expanding outward infinitely into the stars and the universe. As you breathe in, feel yourself drawing universal and stellar qi into the energy centre in the centre of your brain. Do this very gently, just for a few breaths, then relax and just observe the effect that you can feel it having on the energy in your body.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first: info@tobyouvry.com

RELATED ARTICLES:
Basic facets of qi gong standing for beginners
Three aspects of qi within the human body
Basic qi gong standing postures 1
Basic qi gong standing postures 2

Basic qi gong standing postures 3

Monday, June 28, 2010

Qi Gong 101: What it Qi Gong is and the different elements of basic Qi Gong practice

This coming Sunday 4th July I will be doing a Qi Gong mini-retreat entitled “Energy in the heart of the City” , and so in view of this I thought it might be a good time to reflect upon two fundamental questions: What is Qi Gong and what are the different elements of qi gong practice?
I have placed the answer in six basic categories below. All of the Qi Gong articles on this web-site basically refer to one or another of these six categories, with a fair amount of organic crossing over. These are the basic categories that I use to practice, explain and teach qi gong in my classes, coaching sessions and so forth.

What is Qi Gong?

1) Qi Gong is learning to develop awareness of and circulate qi or energy.
All qi gong practices really focus around this one basic point. They are all methods firstly to improve the amount (quantity) of qi flowing through our body and mind, thus giving us more energy, and secondly to improve the harmony and balance (quality) of that flow of qi/energy. What is most commonly referred to as “qi” in qi gong is the subtle magnetic and/or bio-electrical energy that flows through the subtle energy meridians in our body. The qi in our body is a part of a vast field of magnetic and bio-electrical energy that pervades and infuses the planet on which we live. Other equivalent words for qi are vital energy, prajna, etheric force and “ki” (as in the Japanese word “re-ki” or “universal energy”).

What does Qi Gong practice consist of?

2) Standing
Qi gong practices teach us how to increase and harmonize the flow of energy through our body by adopting certain special standing positions. If you think about the sky and stars above you as being the positive pole of an electrical circuit and the Earth beneath you as being the negative pole, then your body is like the conductor of electrical energy between these two poles. Qi gong standing postures show how to tap into the energy of the universe simply by standing in an optimal manner.

3) Breathing
Qi gong practice teaches basic breathing techniques to develop and enhance the flow of qi around our bodies. At any given time, if you observe your breathing, you will find that it reflects the way in which your body and mind are feeling at that time. Qi gong breathing techniques focus on giving our breathing patterns eight fundamental qualities; Silent and fine, slow and deep, long and soft, continuous and even.

4) Smiling
This is such a fundamental part of qi gong that I tend to draw it out as an element in and of itself. Basically the expression on our face has a fundamental effect on the energy in our mind and body. By learning to develop a technique called the “inner smile” we can harness this special form of qi or energy for many, many positive purposes in our life.

5) Moving
Qi gong promotes special types of slow, gentle physical movement forms to help promote the flow of qi throughout the body. There is also a mechanical (in the positive sense of the word) aspect of qi gong movement that focuses on putting the joints of our body through their full spectrum of movement on a regular basis. “A used door hinge never rusts” as the saying goes, qi gong movement exercises help us to exercise our joints and basic muscle groups in a way that helps to maintain them in a healthy, optimal state.

6) Practical philosophy
Qi gong is based around a great wealth of practical wisdom from the (mostly) Taoist tradition of health, primal psychology and spirituality. This provides a context and way of life that surrounds, infuses and informs the Qi gong practices outlined in points 1-5 above.

©Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Basic Qi Gong standing postures 3: Embracing the heart-mind

This third of the basic Qi Gong standing postures I call embracing the heart-mind. For many people the mind is most commonly associated with the brain as it is the brain through which the mind co-ordinates the movements of the body. However, in Taoist thought the mind itself is said to be located in the heart centre. Since this standing position emphasizes building and balancing qi at the heart, I call it embracing the heart-mind.
In general I would say that regularly focusing on our heart space and bringing healthy energy into it is important. Energetically when we can really feel into the core of our heart space we will tend to feel balanced and in control. If we feel out of touch with our heart space, as if there is an energy in there that feels “locked in” or that we feel as if we have no access to (like the door to our heart is closed), then it is difficult to think and feel in a balanced and open manner. For this reason I generally spend a couple of minutes in this posture every day, and use the added flow of energy that comes from the standing posture to really balance and open up my heart.

Embracing the heart mind:
- Begin by adopting the basic Qi Gong standing posture
- Raise your hands to the level of your heart, palms facing the central chest area, fingers between 5and 15cm apart (you will intuitively find a distance that is right for you). The distance between the palms of the hands and the front of the chest can be anything from 10cm to 40cm. That sounds like quite a lot of variation, but again if you bring your hands up to this position and experiment, you will quite rapidly find that there is a certain optimal distance that feels right for you.
- See a ball of light/qi in the centre of your chest space. As you breathe in, feel it gently expanding outward so that the edge of the ball is resting on the palms of your hands. As you breathe out, feel it contracting back into the centre of the heart space. As it does so, try and really feel that the qi and energy at the heart is becoming compact, focused and powerful, displacing any dissonant or imbalanced energy that may have lodged in your heart space for whatever reason.
- Do this for 2-3 minutes, or as long as feels comfortable. Once you are familiar with it if you like as you breathe in feel the ball of qi expanding from your heart to enclose the whole of your body’s energy field, and then contracting once more into the heart space as you breathe out.

Note: For some people, you may feel easier expanding the qi from your heart as you breathe out, and contracting it as you breathe in. This is ok, go with what feels natural for you.
There may also come a stage (and this holds true with all the standing postures) when you feel as if it is no longer necessary to use the breathing to direct the energy in the heart because you can feel the energy in the heart expanding and contracting, ebbing and flowing naturally and intuitively. If and when you reach this stage, the formal focus on the breathing becomes unnecessary.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST obtain Toby’s permission first, and cite Toby as the author.

Click HERE to read the fourth in Toby's series of articles on qi gong standing postures.

Related articles:

Basic facets of Qi Gong standing for beginners

Qi Gong standing exercises 1: Light body Standing form

Basic Qi Gong standing postures 2: Holding your Buddha belly

Three aspects of Qi within the human body

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Basic Qi Gong standing postures 2: Holding your Buddha belly

This is the second of my articles on basic Qi gong standing postures, click HERE for the first.

This second basic standing position I think of as the buddha belly position, as your hands are in such a position as they look like you are holding a big belly out in front of you, like one of those big fat (Maitreya) Buddha’s that you see so often in chinese households and cultures. You can do it in conjunction with other standing postures (see my article on the three dan tiens HERE) or just as an energy meditation in and of itself.

- Begin by adopting the basic qi gong standing posture
- Raise your hands up to the level of your lower abdomen, with the palms facing toward and just below your belly button, with the tips of the fingers of each hand 3-15 cm apart (find your point of balance here). It looks like you are holding a big belly out in front of you, with the palms on the edge of the lower part of the curve
- Sense see and feel a ball of light in the center of your lower belly. As you breathe in it expands so that its edge rests on the palms of your hands, as you breathe out, the ball of light contracts and intensifies into the center of the lower belly.
- Spend a few minutes (2-3 should be fine) breathing in this way, if you like as you breathe in you can expand the ball of qi/light in the belly so that it surrounds the whole body, contracting to a small size again as you breathe out.
- Return to basic Qi Gong standing posture, relax and conclude.

This is a very helpful exercise for building the strength of the qi in your lower dan tien, which is the center of your physical body’s vital energy. Short time commitment, much to be gained!

Click HERE to read the next in Toby's series on qi gong standing postures.

© Toby Ouvry 20101 please do not reproduce without permission

Monday, May 31, 2010

Flow or Stillness

Comparisons between the energy based meditations of Qi Gong and the concentrative or stillness based traditions of meditation.

This Sunday (6th May) I am going to be doing a workshop on Qi Gong meditation for healing and health, and so I thought it might be a nice idea to have a look at the way in which Qi Gong meditation differs from other forms of meditation. Put in very simple terms it could be stated like this:
Whilst many traditions of meditation such as the Zen tradition and the Insight or Vipassana focuses on stilling and focusing the mind to create insight and inner peace, Qi Gong focuses on the circulation of energy or Qi within the body, in order to promote balance and harmony (for an example of Qi Gong meditation, see my articles on the microcosmic orbit meditation HERE).
So, which one is better? I personally enjoy practising them both* as they complement each other very nicely, and both move us in the same direction in the long term. For example if you practise Qi Gong meditations on circulating energy within the body, then this will make your mind and body feel very balanced and harmonious, which will make it easy to move into a state of stillness and inner peace. Conversely, when you practice stilling the mind, this has a very beneficial effect upon the flow of Qi through the body, and so an experience of bodily balance is induced through meditation on stillness.

Another reason that I practise both is because, although they take us in the same direction in the long term, the two different forms of meditation help us to develop different “skill sets” along the way. To give simple examples of this; Stillness meditation forms help to calm the monkey mind and give us insight into the dynamic of our psychological being, whereas Qi Gong energy meditation shows us how to quickly and effectively clear negative or blocked Qi within our body that is created by negative emotions or other imbalances.

So, my advice here would be to learn simple versions of both types of meditation, and by working with them together in tandem in a way that feels right for you, you can learn the specific skills that each type of meditation has to offer.

(*for examples of stillness meditations see my articles on the meditation blog on Zen meditation HERE, and Insight meditation HERE)

© Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not reproduce without permission.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Qi gong standing exercises 1: Light body standing form/Earth light standing form

Over the next few weeks I want to try and outline a few basic static Qi Gong standing postures. Although physically they involve standing still, energetically they catalyse a greatly increased movement and volume of Qi through the body. Thus, when you do them you will be outwardly still, but inwardly you will definitely feel various currents of energy flowing through your body. For me Qi gong standing postures are kind of like having a daily internal shower. In the same way that we stand under a physical shower each day to wash and cleanse our bodies with water, we can stand still for a few minutes in one of these postures and feel energy flowing though our body, washing and cleansing it energetically!
The main point with the standing Qi Gong forms is that you can achieve a much greater and more powerful flow of Qi through your body (flowing from the earth below to the sky and stars above, and vice versa) than you can when you are sitting down. So, when you are standing, you are not able to get quite the same amount of focus and concentration that you can when you sit, but in its place you get an increase in the power and force of the energy flow through your body.
The starting position for all the standing exercises that I will be explaining can be found in my article “Basic Qi Gong standing for beginners” , so please refer to this article for the structural basics of your posture.

Basic light body standing form
So, this first standing form is as follows.
- First read through my article immediately preceding this one; “Building and strengthening your light body by connecting to Planetary Qi”.
- Adopt the basic Qi gong standing posture. Stand there for a minute or two. You may feel the energies starting to flow quite quickly just from this standing posture itself. In more traditional times a qi gong adept would have been instructed to practise just this one posture by his Master for quite some time before moving onto anything more complex
- Now mentally sense below you the vast reservoir of living earth light / earth qi lying within the body of the planet beneath your feet. As you become aware of it feel two streams of earth light starting to rise up into your body through the soles of your feet.
- When you feel ready, place your hands down by the sides of your thighs. Raise your hands (just the hands, not the whole arm) so that your palms are at 90 degrees to the floor. Feel as if your palms are like magnets, substantially increasing the flow of earth light into your body through the soles of the feet. Stay in this posture for a few minutes, observing how it causes energy to flow up from the earth into your body in an increased manner. Feel your energy body filling with light and qi from the Earth.
- To conclude, place your hands back down by your sides and just spend a minute or so standing and relaxing, allowing the flow of energy through your body to gradually settle and return to normal.

Tip: Don’t try too hard, the structure of the posture itself does a lot of the work for you. So no need to try and mentally force things in your visualization, relax and you’ll start to feel the energy quite naturally after a while!

Click HERE to read the next in Toby's series on qi gong standing postures.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not reproduce without permission.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Building and strengthening your Qi/Light Body by connecting to Planetary Qi.

This is a basic, simple and powerful meditation form that is really bread and butter for my own qi gong and meditation practice. It can be done as a meditation in its own right, as a preparation for Qi Gong movement work, before going for a walk, or as a part of more detailed meditations and practices (for example see recent magical walking meditation article on my meditation blog). Once you are familiar with it you will find it quite easy to sustain just in your daily awareness, as you are going about your tasks. Apart from the basic health and energy benefits of this exercise, which are substantial, it also helps us to develop or re-develop (as it is something many of us have lost) conscious awareness of our natural relationship to the Planetary Being or Earth of which our own body and energy is a part. Doing this exercise helps us to connect deeply to the Earth, and to feel at home wherever we are or whatever we are doing, because we feel her energy and warmth in a very direct and experiential way.

Basic Light/Qi body exercise.

Sitting down on a chair, or standing in the Qi Gong standing posture, take a few moments just to relax yourself, calm your mind and centre your attention. After you have done this, send your awareness down into the land beneath your feet. Sense and feel deep within the body of the planet there is a great lake of earth light, huge and vast. As you focus upon it, feel two streams of light and energy rising up from the Earth from the lake and connecting to the soles of your feet. Feel the earth-light rising up your feet and legs, hips and belly, chest and shoulders, arms and hands, neck and face until your whole body is filled with light and qi from the Earth. You feel that in addition to having a physical body, you have a body made of light and energy which interpenetrates and inhabits the same space as your physical body. If you like you can enhance the flow of this energy up from the earth using the breathing; As you breathe in, feel light flowing up through the soles of your feet. As you breathe out, feel the light and energy from the earth expanding through your body, becoming brighter and stronger. Stay with this experience for as long as you wish.

Text content © Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not reproduce without permission

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Belly, or lower dan tien meditation for finding your centre and reducing conceptual thought.

This Qi Gong meditation form is one that you sometimes see variations of in Buddhist and Zen meditation practices. It involves the centring of our attention in our lower belly area, or lower dan tien (for a general outline of the 3 dan tiens in Qi Gong practice, please go HERE). This meditation form is particularly useful as a way of “ducking under” excessive mental or emotional turbulence in our mind, as, physiologically speaking the energy centres that hold our conceptual energy are above the solar plexus, in the heart and head. Fifteen minutes or so if this meditation a day is a really good practise for calming and centring yourself in a way that feels very grounded, solid and stable, one might almost say it is a very “physicalizing” meditation!

Stage 1:

Sitting with a comfortably straight back either cross legged or on a chair, or standing in the basic Qi Gong standing posture, visualize a line of light and energy coming down from the sky and going through the dead centre of your crown, brain, neck, chest and abdomen, then exiting through the perineum (point between the middle of the legs) and continuing down all the way into the heart-centre of the earth. Spend a short while aligning your body around this central line of energy, which we will now be calling the core of your body (see article on core body breathing). If you like you can gently rock your body a few millimetres from side to side in order to find the central point of right -left balance around your core , and then rock a few millimetres forward and back so that the front and back of your body can find their point of balance around your core. Then spend a minute or two just gently breathing in and out of your core; as you inhale, energy and Qi flows into the core of your body, as you exhale, feel Qi and energy flowing out of your core toward the skin/surface of your body.

Stage 2, locating the lower dan tien in the belly:

Now mentally follow the core line of your body down from the head and heart centres to the lower belly area, about 3 fingers width beneath the belly button (or a few inches above the hips). Visualize a luminous point of light and energy at this level of your body’s core, about the size of a golf ball. This is your lower dan tien (different from sacral chakra, see my article on difference between chakras and dan tiens.)

Stage 3, relaxing and focusing awareness in the belly:

Having found the location of the lower dan tien, the rest of the meditation is spent simply relaxing and trying to gently focus your attention and awareness in this part of your body, and letting go of excess conceptual thought and activity. If you like you can feel light and energy flowing into the belly area as you breathe in, and flowing out to the surface of your body when you breathe out. However, when you feel as if your mind and body have settled down, the main emphasis should simply to enjoy the state of non-conceptuality and relaxation that arise from focusing your awareness in the lower belly / lower dan tien in this way, and allow your mind and body to find regeneration and healing within this deep, calm space.

All text © Toby Ouvry 2010 please do not reproduce without permission.