When it comes to training Qigong there are thousands of different forms and numerous methods of achieving the same goal of energy (life force) flowing freely.
However, not all roads will get you to Rome as quickly.
When my teacher starting learning Qigong and Kungfu, at the tender age of 6, he followed the, then, traditional method of teacher says, student does. For many years he diligently practiced picture perfect form, while remaining physically and mentally relaxed, an invaluable lesson he learnt from his master over a casual conversation.
Although my Sifu (teacher) knew the importance of training energy (chi), he had not yet crystalised the concept that it is energy flow that gives the wonderful benefits of Qigong.
At first, my teacher thought that performing Qigong exercise was practicing Qigong. It was later that he realised the essence was chi flow, and without chi flow it was only gentle physical exercise.
(Much later in his evolution, he taught Qigong as a mind, body, energy practice, the three pillars of Qigong, and students got quicker results).
Then, teaching in English, he developed more expedient methods for developing skills for cleansing, building and nourishing energy, such as generating an energy flow at will, as well as developing flowing and consolidating force. (Flowing and consolidating force are terms coined by Sifu Wong, not openly mentioned in the Qigong classics, but methods for developing skills, understood and passed to students of longstanding).
This led Sifu Wong to an important realisation and conclusion that the three essential requirements in Qigong or any internal art training were mind, energy and form in that order of importance, confirming another classical principle “internally, train mind, energy and essence: externally, train tendons, bones and muscles”, or “noi lean jin shen hei, ngoi lean kern quat pei”.
As a result of teaching a Western audience, he developed the use of frameworks for helping students achieve useful outcomes. An approach that successful businesses and individuals use to maximise efficiency and results.
Frameworks are a useful tool for training and application, they are not a rule that one must abide by. I mention this as some people get confused, thinking modern frameworks means throwing out well established training methods. I can confirm it does not mean that. A framework allows us to navigate the process and components of learning for efficient development of skills and results.
For instance, take my teacher’s first experience of learning Kung Fu and Qigong. He followed the instruction of the teacher to practice the form, repeatedly, while remaining relaxed, resulting, eventually, in a smoother flow and increased energy. However, this took many years. Nowadays, students can achieve this within a few months or less than a year.
Later he applied the method of intentionally allowing energy to flow, like a gentle breeze, swaying willow, following a qigong exercise/s. He then intentionally added the method of Entering a Qigong State of Mind proceeding the practice, resulting in developing the skill of conscious energy flow.
The benefit/outcome of the practice is that he achieved increased internal energy (force) and was happier and healthier than before, compared to when he was concentrating on the form only. Had he merely stuck to practicing form, it is unlikely he would have developed his current skill level, nor would he have formulated the methodology for faster progress, helping students achieve efficient results.
A Qigong Framework
The framework I use to describe the components and methodology is:
- Aim – Purpose
Your reason for practice, leading you to a purposeful outcome
- Forms – Patterns
The physical aspect of the training practiced singularly or collectively as a set
(Similar to Tai Chi)
- Method/s – Technique/s
This is the way that you practice. How you perform the Qigong
(This can have a profound influence on the outcome)
- Skill/s – Application
This is a practice with purpose and awareness. Your ability to apply what you practice, helping you achieve the aims, both at the time of practice and in everyday life. It is your ability to develop, use and manage energy consciously.
(It is the skill that separates a novice practitioner, an adept or master)
- Outcome – Result
This is where your consistency of practice pays off (well, that’s the aim). If you haven’t achieved your aim, review forms, methods, skill or application.
The idea is not to become fixed or obsessed by any one of these components or even the framework. Instead, we realise that practice is a process that can be made up of several factors, that once understood and applied, help speed up our progress, provide real-life benefits and allow us to achieve our aims.
Take a moment to consider the following:
“Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason. Without a purpose life is trivial, petty, and pointless.” Rick Warren
Of course, if you only have an aim, a reason to practice, but do not practice, then you will be no closer to achieving your aim.
It is useful to have a clear reason why you are training.
What is so important in your life that you want to change, that you are willing to train consistently?
Consistency in practice is essential to your success.
If you only practice the forms but have no idea why or how you are to practice, then you are unlikely to improve beyond having good form. (This is where many people get stuck). If you only practice at the level of form then Qigong is simply a physical exercise, like any other. Eventually, you may stumble into something deeper, but you are unlikely to know how you got there.
What makes Qigong stand out from physical exercise is that it integrates mind, energy and body in a single practice.
If you know the method, like how to breathe to influence the energy flow, or how to use conscious awareness and intention to develop energy flow, you can progress more quickly.
Speed of movement, dynamics and pauses used in practicing forms will also influence your energy flow and development.
If you use the method of physical, emotional and mental relaxation, (entering a Qigong state of mind) as opposed to being tense, worried and overthinking your practice, you will achieve the benefits Qigong is widely reported to provide.
Sounds obvious, I know, but you may be surprised how many people unnecessarily tense, worry and over-intellectualise.
If you know how to harmonise mind, energy and body you will be able to develop your skill more easily. Once you are skilful at something, it takes less effort, less energy and helps you achieve a greater outcome. A skill could be the ability to direct your energy where you want it, to be able to expand your consciousness into the Cosmos, or remain calm and present in stressful situations. There are many Qigong skills you can develop and apply to daily life.
If you have an idea of what you are aiming for, you are more likely to get there. A driver without a map may stumble upon their destination but is also likely to head down some cul-de-sacs along the way, delaying their arrival.
Has your practice yielded the results you aimed for? “Yes, very good, carry on” my teacher would say. No, review your practice, forms, method, intention or skill level. Is your aim realistic according to your practice, understanding and skill level?
Qigong is not magic, but it is profound
Qigong is not magic, but it is profound. It also includes a long history of positive results for millions of people around the world, when used skilfully as a mind, energy, body practice.
If you find this framework useful, please use it as a guide. Remember, don’t get stuck at the form level. Instead, try to find ways to develop your mind, energy and body for a holistic life.
One important piece of advice I remember from my teacher (and there where many nuggets) is that Qigong is not meant to enslave your life, it is meant to enhance it.
Another nugget was “Relax, Don’t Worry, Enjoy your Practice.”
If you can do that well, then you are already on your way to success.
Develop Energy Mastery in this unique 14-month online course.
Qigong means energy work or skill in using energy.
If you are yet to have a felt experience of energy and energy flow as a natural, everyday part of life, the idea of reaching energy mastery might not even make sense.
But if you have read this far, you probably haven't dismissed the idea of being able to influence your own energy as 'woo woo'. And perhaps you would like to learn more.
The first two modules/eight weeks of the Energy Mastery course will teach you the skills you need to become aware of your energy through body awareness, breathing and relaxation practices.
You will discover the old habits and conditioning that can cause tension and stop energy flowing freely. Then you will learn to generate and circulate energy, and to use this in movement, walking and working.
Being able to generate an energy flow is the fundamental skill of Shaolin Cosmos Qigong that sets it apart from gentle movement exercise and makes it powerful in helping you clear tension, stress and illness.
Discover: Relaxation, Breath and Body Awareness
The first four weeks of the Energy Mastery course explore alignment, breathing and relaxation. You will learn techniques to increase your awareness, let go of old habits and enter deeper states of relaxation.
This part of the course is all about developing awareness of energy in states of stillness. With these skills in place, you will have a strong foundation for the mind and energy practices that come later in the course.
Energy Mastery 1: Discover consists of four hour-long recorded classes to take in your own time, with permanent on demand access and support by email. Price £79.
Circulating: Generating Energy Flow
The next part of the Energy Mastery course, starting Wednesday 1st February, will focus on the skills of generating an energy flow and circulating energy.
If you want to learn to experience energy flow and be able to use it in everyday life, this part of the course is ideal for you. And if you are already experienced, you will be able to go deeper into your practice, refine your skills and develop your awareness and understanding even further.
Book Energy Mastery 2: Circulating Energy and join classes live online, every Wednesday 7-8pm in February, or take the four classes in your own time using the recordings. Price £79.
After the first two modules, you may find you have enough to work with, or you may want to develop your skills further. With this course, you can pick and choose modules and dip in and out as you want to.
Mastering energy is mastering self.
Rather than just getting through the day, week, year or life we start to embrace all things that come our way.
With the mastery of energy, we learn how to heal ourselves, situations, relationships and others.
We get to experience life as a ‘meaningful flow of energy’. We feel connected to something beyond ourselves. You could say we become at one with everything.
As human beings we are resilient by nature, often able to adapt to demands and conditions.
We also waste a lot of energy as result of our conditioning, thoughts, emotions, actions, beliefs and automatic reactions. As you develop your energy skills, it will become clear where your energy is going and how you can use it differently.
In qigong and meditation practice, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations will come into our awareness. It is sometimes described as holding up a mirror and seeing ourselves more clearly.
Often simply becoming aware of something will allow it to change. What comes up can pass easily, like clouds on a windy day. But some things seem to stick around, and may appear to get in the way of our progress.
People are drawn to qigong practice because they want to clear old thought patterns, stuck emotions and physical tensions. When someone is new to the practice, the changes that happen may be obvious, like a sudden jump from one state to another. There can be moments of profound understanding and sometimes blissful feelings. Later it can be difficult to remember what has already changed, and deeper patterns might start to emerge that don’t clear as quickly. So what do we do when this happens?
First, we aren’t trying to get rid of any thoughts and feelings. It’s more about relating to them differently. By coming to a place of stability and stillness in every practice, and developing a felt sense of the physical body, thoughts and feelings automatically become less consuming. Over time the sense of stability grows. We start to see things more clearly and some things naturally stop bothering us as much. But some ‘stuff’ may keep coming back. And that’s ok, and not a sign you are doing anything wrong.
Relax, don't worry, enjoy!
As Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit would often say, it is important not to worry, to relax, and enjoy the practice. These are principles that are built in from your very first lesson. Sometimes it is easy to be relaxed and to enjoy what you are doing. Sometimes less so. Ideas can start to come in that we are getting it wrong, or maybe there is something wrong with the practice itself. There has to be an element of trust: if you do the practice and follow the instructions without adding anything extra, then things will change. Whatever is coming up will clear in time, like changes in the weather.
It may help to remember that the practice is time-tested, and people have been using the same principles for hundreds of years in the Shaolin and Zen traditions. And as things do shift and change, trust will start to develop in your own capability and in the practice itself.
Having a teacher and a community of other students is so valuable, because when you reach a difficult point in your training (which you will), then you get the support you need to go beyond it. If you only practice on your own, it is much, much harder to overcome the challenges that arise, and so you may stop making progress or give up altogether.
Why do we keep practicing?
The question might then come up, why would anyone choose to step out on this journey when it can be so challenging?
The answer is that it does make life more enjoyable. You feel better, more free, with more energy. You find yourself able to do things and deal with things that you couldn’t before. Maybe opportunities open up that previously you wouldn’t have seen.
Carl Jung said "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate". So we keep doing the practice and keep unfolding.
Practicing qigong for just 10 minutes a day can be a journey of transformation. We can use tried and tested principles to allow positive, useful change.
In qigong and meditation practice, with the right guidance you can easily reach deeply relaxed states of mind that can feel quite profound or blissful. But aiming for these states, and wanting to stay in them, can be a trap that slows down your progress.
Regulating Mind States
In classes with Fully Alive, you learn skills that allow you to be deeply relaxed and expanded. You also learn how to safely come back to a more everyday state of mind. You will practice regulating between a more expanded state and a more ordinary state of mind.
In an expanded state you might be more open to inspiration. Or you might have a direct realization of the interconnectedness of everything and a sense of the bigger picture. But there is no need to go to this place every time you practice.
Getting the right balance
As well as the two extremes of expanded and ordinary consciousness, it is really useful to be able to consciously find a balance somewhere in between.
Being able to adjust mind, body and energy to stay relaxed and open as well as present and focused, moment by moment, makes everyday tasks much easier. And everyday life can become more enjoyable.
For example, being able to maintain a relaxed focus for work or hobbies makes you more productive without feeling drained of energy. In relationships, being able to relax without disconnecting or disappearing makes it easier to resolve difficulties and makes good times more satisfying.
Opening up to new possibilities
Opening up the mind, body and heart creates opportunities for change and new possibilities. Practicing relaxed, open presence in classes can transform our relationship to ourselves and our lives.
But this is not always a completely smooth journey. As you become more aware, you may have to deal with issues that are challenging or difficult.
In classes with Fully Alive you will make progress safely and progressively. With a clear understanding of skills and principles, and guided practices that build gradually on what you learn, you become equipped to deal with what comes up. And there is a supportive space within the classes for this process of transformation to take place.
A student who recently completed Level Two – Developing Skills for Conscious Energy Flow made this comment:
“My whole being feels different. I feel more at peace and, after a long time of not feeling very happy, I feel, in a gentle way, happy. I suppose one could say finding some sort of contentment.”
Another student commented:
“I always need a way of returning to 'Being mode', to return to a real sense of myself, and to the bigger picture beyond. I have found a real home here in these classes where that is understood.”
Take a journey of transformation
If you are interested in starting out on a journey of transformation, why not try one of our weekly classes? You will learn at your own pace, and according to what you want to get out of the class, whether that is change on a physical, emotional, mental or energetic level.
If you are interested in learning the skill of generating an energy flow, which is the foundation skill of all qigong classes with Fully Alive, you might be interested in our pre-recorded Level One course to take in your own time and at your own pace, with support by email from Tim as and when you need it.
Many people practice Tai Chi and Kung Fu to reduce stress.
As well as helping to manage stress, practicing an internal martial art like Tai Chi or Shaolin Kung Fu will increase your confidence and to help make life flow more easily.
Tai Chi and high-level Kung Fu are internal martial arts because they focus on training mind and energy. These aspects will inform the way the external physical form looks.
In classes we practice responding with ease and flow, without getting disrupted. This practice will also allow us to change how we respond to situations in everyday life.
We may start to notice that we have alternative ways to respond to things, that reduce our stress levels and make things easier for us.
When something stressful happens and we are disrupted, we can use the tools and techniques we learn in class to relax and release any unnecessary tension. With practice, returning to a state of balance becomes easier and more natural.
Applying what we learn in class to everyday life takes the practice from a fun, relaxing, rewarding hobby into something far broader, that can really change the way things happen in our lives.
So our Shaolin Arts or Tai Chi practice becomes a way of living more meaningfully every day, with the confidence that comes from knowing we have more choice over how we respond.
This is not something we need to work out intellectually. We just do the practice, and things will naturally start to change in our lives more widely. Life can seem easier and we feel more peaceful. We may also find that we have more energy, because we are using it more efficiently.
Learn a practice that really will change your everyday life. Find out more about our classes:
Our lives can be full of demands.
Overwhelm and burnout are common. How can we save time and increase our energy? How can we make more time in our lives to do all the things we want or need to do?
If you want to make more time for yourself, it's worth thinking about how you spend your time and energy. Maybe you're spending half an hour scrolling through social media every day.
What's nourishing you, and what's depleting you? Can you make any simple changes to save you time and energy?
It's so easy for our time to be taken up with things that don't really add any value to our lives.
If we want to increase our health and wellbeing, we can make that a priority and give less time to something that's less important.
Making time to practice qigong for a short amount of time every day can bring about positive changes - having more energy, being able to deal with stress better, increased balance and mobility, and a clearer mind.
Perhaps you already have a practice, but things aren't changing as quickly as you would like. Regular practice is key.
When you learn how to use your mind, body and energy efficiently, qigong practice only needs to take 10-15 minutes. It can even be for just 5 minutes if time is limited. Daily practice has a cumulative effect.
As our practice develops and our awareness increases, it can become clearer where we are putting our energy. We notice more, so we have more freedom to choose.
One of the students on the Unfolding Being course shares some insights from his practice...
Identity is a part of who we are. Through time we collect and hold onto passing events and get distracted by our predictions of the future. Our minds create a story out of this which we then identify with as “I”. This “I” is then the place where we relate from and to ourselves and the world around us.
Awareness is to experience what is without identification. Imagine there is a space inside all of us where everything may be seen from, where all is already in relationship with one and another, without having to make any connections or relate to things, as this is already inherent. It is a place where you may come to rest and surrender your “I” to be with all beings as one.
Chi Kung is a way to enter into this awarenessing. By developing the skill of generating an energy flow and letting go you awaken this awareness. It only a matter of time and dedication to become familiar with this mode of being. It will certainly help with broadening your view and understanding the bigger picture of things.