Cultivation of Qi

This handout has been used by Dan Ogrydziak and others to support students in their practice.


Cultivation of chi(Chinese), prana(Indian), ki(Japanese), pneuma(Greek), manna(Hawaiian), has been the basis of methods of transformation since ancient time in both east and west. Although the ultimate goal of these methods is a foundation for spiritual practice, their ability to bring healing to the mind/ body/ spirit makes their dissemination a boon for current culture. In the Chinese Taoist tradition, which includes T'ai Chi Chuan, there is a simple, elegant presentation of the theory and practice of chi cultivation. 

The typical condition for a person's energetics is described by one of the hexagrams from the I Ching (the Chinese classic of change) called Before Completion. Before Completion is composed of two trigrams; Kan (water) below, and Li (fire) above forming the hexagram. In this configuration, the fire will rise and the water will sink, causing a separation resulting in the loss of both. In other words the vital energy of the spirit of pure awareness (fire), and the pure vitality of life energy (water) will not interact to moderate and transform each other. This is a situation that the I Ching denotes as unsustainable, literally lacking sustenance.

The remedy for the dissipative condition of  Before Completion is describe by the hexagram in which Li (fire) is below, and Kan (water) is above, like a pot of water warming on the stove, forming the hexagram After Completion. In this configuration the fire and water interact, transforming each other, and moderating the excess of both.  

In practice, After Completion is accomplished by placing the fire of pure awareness in the movement center of the body, the Tan T'ien.  The Tan T'ien is a sensitive point three finger widths below the navel, and one third of the distance back to the spine. 

In the Tai Chi classics, it is said that the mind (awareness) mobilizes the chi, and that chi comes first in cultivating life, Therefore, the fire of awareness placed in the Tan T'ien will be naturally followed by accumulating chi. This is known as sinking the chi to the Tan T'ien, which is the ideal place for mind and chi to join in chi cultivation. Thus, to end dissipation and begin to nurture chi, the mind and chi must remain united in the Tan T'ien. The classics also say, do not force it, and do not forget it. By remembering to remember, the cultivation of chi can become, at any moment, an opportunity to practice mindfulness inseparable from daily life. At anytime, and anywhere, when walking, eating, sitting, talking, standing, or lying down be mindfully present by joining your awareness and chi in the TanT'ien. All the classics agree that such practice will result in the highest benefit.

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