Centuries ago, Taoist sages in ancient China understood the workings of the Universe, and knew how to look after their physical health, wealth and happiness. By studying nature they saw that a human being was a miniature of the universe, and that by learning to harmonize and balance the forces of nature within themselves they could grow old and stay healthy. Over time, they directed their consciousness inwards and developed a number of practical techniques with which to do so.
Did you know that in ancient China your doctor was considered a failure if you became sick? The best doctors therefore trained their patients to prevent illness by maintaining a high level of health. The promise of these ancient healing techniques still available today is to reveal the methods of how to bring one’s various bodily energy systems into balance and manage one’s own health. For some this can be a major revelation.
For centuries the practices were passed down from teacher to student and taught mainly in monasteries. However, over time they have been brought to the mainstream, initially in practices such as Tai Chi and martial arts, with which most people are already familiar. Then, in the 1970’s, a complete and integrated system of self-healing and spiritual development called the ‘Universal Healing Tao’ was brought to the West by Master Mantak Chia.
Recognized very early as having great potential for spiritual development, Mantak Chia was initiated into meditation practices by Buddhist monks at the age of 6. While studying in Hong Kong, he learned Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido and Kundalini Yoga from a variety of teachers. His pursuit of Taoist teachings lead him to meet the White Cloud Hermit, Master Yi Eng, a Taoist Master originally from Central China, living at that time in the mountains not far from Hong Kong: Master Yi was to become Master Mantak Chia’s principle teacher.
Over a period of five years, Master Yi transmitted to Master Mantak Chia the most sacred and closely held Taoist practices and formulas of internal alchemy. Master Chia also learnt the ancient art of Chi Nei Tsang abdominal healing from a Thai healer called Dr Mui. He was so intrigued by the technique and by how profoundly it seemed to heal so many ailments in the body that he spent 3 years watching him with patients and also studied gross anatomy at Bangkok University.
Mantak Chia is one of the first Chinese masters to arrive in the west with a comprehensive mastery of both traditional Chinese healing arts, nutrition, herbs, Tai Chi and massage, combined with the more esoteric meditative aspects of these practices. According to Chia “There are no ultimate masters or gurus in Taoism because we become our own Masters, capable of controlling our own destinies and knowing who we really are as we explore the marvelous powers hidden within the Tao of humanity”.
The goal of these ‘Chi Kung’ (energy management) practices is to learn how to manage and master your Chi (life force). Unfortunately in our society many of us are not aware of the energy which underlies our physical, mental and emotional health, and we can inadvertently waste it. However, the quality of our Chi is the source of our health.
The first step for a beginner is to learn how to conserve this precious life force. According to Master Mantak Chia, “when a battery is drained it is harder to charge. Money makes Money. Chi makes Chi. Conservation of Chi will help gain more Chi.” He maintains that we unwittingly leak energy in 3 major ways: (1) negative emotions, (2) constantly turning our senses outwards and (3) menstruation and sexual activity.
In the beginning practices we learn Iron Shirt Chi Kung to root to the earth and build a good energetic structure. According to Master Chia, just like a tyre needs to have the correct psi, we need to maintain a good level of Chi pressure inside the body. This protects our vital organs, keeps them healthy and ensures they stay in their correct position.
Through sitting meditations such as the Inner Smile and Six Healing Sounds we learn how to clear negative emotions which may be stored in the organs and we bring our outer senses inwards to rest. Each major internal organ has a propensity to store certain emotions: for example, anger and frustration affect the liver, worry upsets the stomach and spleen, grief is stored in the lungs and fear is found in the kidneys. Left unaddressed, these energies can build up to create physical problems.
We also learn to balance our Chi, which needs to flow freely through the body’s energetic pathways (meridiens), like water in a river, in order for us to have good health. Unfortunately, due to habits and lifestyle, our Chi can become stagnant, blocked, excessive in some areas and deficient in others, affecting all levels of our being. So for example, a build up of heat in the heart will result in feeling impatient and hasty and may even lead to heart attacks, whilst an imbalance of cold in the reproductive system can result in infertility. With the Inner Smile, Six Healing Sounds and Microcosmic Orbit meditations we free up and circulate our Chi flow around our body.
Once we have started to conserve and balance our life force, we can then learn how to transform it into more beneficial Chi. It is a scientific fact that energy can never be destroyed, only transformed. In the next level of practice, the Fusion of the Five Elements we journey through the organs collecting any negative emotions or imbalanced energy and purify them through an internal alchemical process. This Chi is then recycled through our being to nourish our body and mind.
Time is also spent on the Sexual Alchemy practices, where one learns to conserve energy which is lost during sex and menstruation. By saving this energy, and recycling it within ourselves, it can be used for healing and maintaining good health.
According to Mantak Chia “at progressive stages, dedicated practice of this ancient esoteric system eliminates stress and nervous tension, massage the internal organs and restores health to damaged tissue”. He adds, according to the ancient sages “long-term practice beyond two years and most effectively if practiced life-long, reportedly could retard the various degenerative changes associated with old age, such as skin changes, senility, slowed reaction time, impaired memory, ambulatory impairment and the frequency of various diseases common at old age. A diligent practitioner often lives to ninety years of age and remains healthy and alert, is able to jog, run and climb mountains with ease and continues to enjoy life more fully than most people. Many reportedly could forecast their own time of death and pass on peacefully and gracefully in the posture of meditation”.
Chi is not only the foundation of our health, it is also the basis of spiritual development in the Tao. At first the Universal Healing Tao practices are aimed at enhancing our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. A major focus is learning how to manage our emotions rather than having them manage us. This is a great first step to personal freedom and also avoids the onset of many physical problems. In the process of creating a solid foundation of health, the basis for developing ones spiritual independence is also created. Whether you are looking to work on yourself at an emotional, mental, physical or spiritual level, these practices really are a toolbox for health.
For more information about classes and workshops with Tao Health Qi Gong see www.taohealth.co.nz
*Originally published: February 28, 2010