Part One of Two (Click here for Part 2)
By Paul Cavel
Stress and tension have a way of building up and compounding over the years. Many people feel tired and drained because their body does not get enough of what it needs to properly repair and rest. They are essentially operating below their capacity. And, although there are many benefits to maintaining an active lifestyle, most exercise systems focus on developing the muscles and can be seriously demanding. Some people are literally killing themselves trying to become healthy, and others sure look like it!
In both Western and Eastern medical paradigms, the state of your internal organs is what determines your health. So, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, all exercise should be focused on clearing, strengthening and systematically healing your body from the inside out. Since Chinese medical theory also considers the organs as the governors of the emotions, they are directly and intimately connect to how much energy or vitality you can express in your life.
So the questions are: How do you exercise for your internal organs? And how do you build up and grow your energy?
Heaven and Earth: A Healing Qigong
Heaven and Earth Qigong is a 3,000-year-old exercise system designed to clear out stagnant energy, heal body imbalances, progressively release stuck tissues and negative emotions, and sharpen focus and mental processing in general. As a relatively simple two-part movement:
- New students can learn the Heaven and Earth form with minimal time investment and start feeling the results of training right from the start.
- For dedicated students, Heaven and Earth’s many threads of neigong are activated and integrated in a way that offers a taste of what is possible from deeper study of Taoist arts—with a focus on internals.
There’s no question why Heaven and Earth is a favorite amongst both beginning and dedicated students alike.
Heaven and Earth takes the baton from Dragon and Tiger and Energy Gates foundational qigong sets and not only contains everything within them, but also builds on them by gently opening, stretching and further releasing tight and stuck places in the body’s soft tissues, while progressively tuning the practitioner into the subtleties of qi. Since Heaven and Earth is a two-part exercise rather than a set of five, six or seven movements (like most qigong systems), its simplistic format encourages the internal rather than external focus needed to train deeper, more sophisticated internal and energetic techniques.
Developing Qi with a Single Movement
With most qigong systems, generally the aim is to develop an aspect, layer or neigong thread in one move and then focus on different and/or deeper content in the next move. In this way, the qi generated in the preceding move is passed up to the next—if and only if executed correctly. So many internal exercises are designed to amplify qi circulation throughout a series of coordinated movements that together form a set. Energy Gates, Dragon and Tiger, Gods, tai chi and bagua all intrinsically operate in this way to varying degrees to generate qi and cultivate resiliency and vitality—albeit with caveats specific to their unique composition and primary modus operandi.
Heaven and Earth Qi Gong is different.
With only one continuous motion, the emphasis is on building layer upon layer of internal content through many repetitions instead of varying movement sequences. As you develop depth, content and quality of motion at each stage, energy cultivation naturally follows. So each layer of whichever neigong thread you are focusing on must be engaged, activated and honed before adding the next. Of course you’ll need a certain degree of embodiment at each layer before progressing, or you will simply revert to juggling layers rather than integrating them. There’s a reason the joker or court jester is often depicted juggling!
In each Heaven and Earth practice session, you repeat each individual layer several or more times in order to bring alive any given aspect of neigong and stabilize it within the other layers you have already assimilated. Then, when focusing on the next layer, you once again have the possibility of integrating that thread into your form. If any layer is intermittent or just outside of your ability to stabilize it, spend time at that stage, and don’t be too enticed by the next carrot.
The Secret behind Exponential Energy Growth
The secret behind exponential energy growth lies in Heaven and Earth’s specialized technology, which is designed to engage everything in the human body and its energy, from the etheric field to the central channel, and all the layers in between. In terms of the learning progression, Heaven and Earth is the first Water tradition neigong to work at this depth, developing the bulk of physical content found in tai chi and bagua, as well as developing the foundation material necessary for advanced qi gong systems, such as Gods Playing in the Clouds Qigong.
Just take a look at Heaven and Earth’s range of internal-energetic layers—each containing incredible potential depth:
- Open-and-closing (a.k.a. pulsing)
- Lengthening (yin-yang flows)
- Techniques for working with the etheric field
- Feeling, moving and transforming internal energies
- Macrocosmic and microcosmic orbits
- Outer Dissolving
- Techniques for working with the left and right channels of energy
- Techniques for working with the central channel of energy
- Techniques for working with the internal organs
- Techniques for working with the lower tantien.
Of course, the real effort is in developing your ability to integrate all of the above exceptionally well. So keep practicing, weed out your weaknesses, fine tune your skill set, and continue on as you layer in and deepen your embodiment of neigong.
In my upcoming post, I’ll share with you:
- The three levels of practice that will help you systematically unlock the potential of Heaven and Earth Qigong.
- Heaven and Earth’s link to the energy of the Wood Element.
- How mind and qi become one
Paul Cavel is an Energy Arts Senior Instructor and author of The Tai Chi Space, and has recently authored his second book with Master Frantzis, Heaven and Earth Qigong: Heal Your Body and Awaken Your Qi, which is due out winter 2020. He’s also the principal of The Tai Chi Space, a London-based school established to teach Taoist energy arts.