The New Chinese Medicine Handbook: An Innovative Guide to Integrating Eastern Wisdom with Western Practice for Modern Healing

QI GONG

Chinese Exercise and Meditation

Wholeness = Dietary Guidelines + Herbs + Acupuncture + Qi Gong

Exercise/meditation is the fourth pillar of Chinese medicine therapy. Without its Qi-balancing effects and benefits to mind/body/spirit, wholeness cannot be achieved.

I recommend Qi Gong to many of my clients as part of a total program. (Some of my clients prefer Yoga or other forms of exercise instead.) Qi Gong can be very important to the process of restoring harmony. For people who are not particularly interested in exercising, it offers you immediate gratification—you feel good right away—without having to go through a painful aerobics routine, joining an overcrowded health club, or spending money on equipment. If you are an exercise enthusiast, Qi Gong offers you many of the health benefits of running or weight training—without the risks. Also, Qi Gong does what other forms of exercise cannot do: It strengthens and harmonizes the flow of Qi.

Many people come into my clinic suffering from the fanatic pursuit of Western exercise: sore muscles, bruised bones, twisted ankles, sore backs, tension, and stress. These frequent injuries occur in part because the concept of exercise has become distorted. Feel the burn. Bop ’til you drop. No pain, no gain. We battle to make our bodies look like the modern ideal—which has little or nothing to do with genuine healthfulness. We compete with one another for glory, prestige, and ego gratification. This notion of exercise often injures the mind/body/spirit; it makes us sore and exhausted instead of agile and refreshed. For some people, it damages the Qi by reducing energy. They end up feeling generally fatigued overall. For other people, exercise has become a kind of poison to the system instead of an expression of the joyous unity of mind/body/spirit.

In contrast, Qi Gong exercise/meditation is a unified process dedicated to creating balance, strength, agility, and grace that assures vitality through old age. Qi Gong and its relatives, Tai Chi and some martial arts, have evolved as the logical outcome of the Tao and recognition that the body is infused with Qi, which must be nurtured and tended to if wholeness is to prevail.

Historically, many different groups have used Qi Gong. The pragmatic followers of Confucius found the manipulation of Qi to be an aid in managing the demands of the world at large. Taoists thought of Qi Gong as a way to empower their pursuit of immortality and self-improvement. Buddhist monks, relying heavily on meditative/breathing techniques, used Qi Gong to help them escape the confines of earthly woes and to increase strength. A Shaolin monk developed the first text of muscle-training routines in the sixth century, when he became alarmed by the physical weakness of his fellow monks. His Yi Jin Ching (Muscle Development Classic) laid out ways to use concentration to develop Qi and increase circulated Qi—and Kung Fu was born.

Eventually, many Chinese schools of thought and practice embraced the concept of working with Qi to increase mental, spiritual, and physical powers. Today, millions of people practice various forms of Qi Gong throughout China and the world.

Following is an introduction to several of the basic techniques, in hopes that you will integrate them into your exercise routines, expanding your definition of physical fitness and experimenting with ways of combining Eastern exercise with Western sports activities. Your expert guide is Larry Wong,1 an accomplished practitioner and teacher.

QI GONG 101: UNDERSTANDING THE CHINESE CONCEPT OF EXERCISE/MEDITATION

by Larry Wong

Welcome. I am Larry Wong, and I am going to introduce you to what I know of the arts of Qi Gong. I urge you to keep in mind that there are many approaches to Qi Gong. Each one provides far-reaching health benefits. I will share only a few of those with you. But that doesn’t mean that one method is inherently better than another. With Qi Gong, you may learn the principles and gain the benefits from any number of approaches.

What Is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong, which combines meditative and physically active elements, is the basic exercise system within Chinese medicine. Qi Gong practice is designed to help you preserve your Jing, strengthen and balance the flow of Qi, and enlighten your Shen. Its dynamic exercises and meditations have Yin and Yang aspects: The Yin is being it; the Yang is doing it. Yin exercises are expressed through relaxed stretching, visualization, and breathing. Yang exercises are expressed in a more aerobic or dynamic way. They are particularly effective for supporting the immune system. In China, Qi Gong is used extensively for people with cancer.

Qi Gong’s physical and spiritual routines move Qi energy through the Twelve Primary Channels and Eight Extra Channels, balancing it, smoothing the flow, and strengthening it. Chinese medicine uses Qi Gong to maintain health, prevent illness, and extend longevity because it is a powerful tool for maintaining and restoring harmony to the Organ Systems, Essential Substances, and Channels. Qi Gong is also used for nonmedical purposes, such as for fighting and for pursuing enlightenment.

Anyone of any age or physical condition can do Qi Gong. You don’t have to be able to run a marathon or bench press a car to pursue healthfulness and enjoy the benefits. When you design your exercise/meditation practice, you will pick what suits your individual constitution. Some of us are born with one type of constitution; some with another. We each have inherited imbalances that we cannot control but with which we must work. That’s why for some people it is easier to achieve balance and strength than it is for others. But whatever your nature, Qi Gong can help you become the most balanced you can be.

Qi Gong is truly a system for a lifetime. That’s why so many people over age sixty in China practice Qi Gong and Tai Chi. The effects may be powerful, but the routines themselves are usually gentle. Even the dynamic exercises—some of which explode the Qi—use forcefulness in different ways than in the West. The following are some effects of Qi Gong.

Maintaining health: Qi Gong helps maintain health by creating a state of mental and physical calmness, which indicates that Qi is balanced and harmonious. This allows the mind/body/spirit to function most efficiently, with the least amount of stress.

When you start practicing Qi Gong, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Qi is different. Qi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.

Managing illness: It’s harder to remedy an illness than to prevent it, and Qi Gong has powerful preventive effects. However, when disharmony becomes apparent, Qi Gong also can play a crucial role in restoring harmony.

Qi Gong movement and postures are shaped by the principle of Yin/Yang: the complementary interrelationship of qualities such as fast and slow, hard and soft, Excess or Deficiency, and External and Internal. Qi Gong uses these contrasting and complementary qualities to restore harmony to the Essential Substances, Organ Systems, and Channels.

Extending longevity: In China, the use of Qi Gong for maintaining health and curing illness did not satisfy those Buddhists and Taoists who engaged in more rigorous self-discipline. They wanted to be able to amplify the power of Qi and make the internal Organ Systems even stronger. This arcane use of Qi Gong was confined mostly to monasteries and the techniques have not been much publicized. One of the most difficult and profoundly effective techniques is called Marrow Washing Qi Gong. Practitioners learn to master the intricate manipulation of Qi—infusing the Eight Extraordinary Channels with Qi, and then guiding the Qi through the Channels to the bone marrow to cleanse and energize it. The result, according to religious tradition, is that monks can extend their life span to 150 years or more. The Taoists have a saying, “One hundred and twenty years means dying young.”

Although few if any of us can devote our lives to the stern practices of the monks, the health benefits of Qi Gong certainly do improve the quality of life of everyone who practices it.

Waging combat: Around 500 CE, in the Liang Dynasty, Qi Gong was adopted by various martial artists to increase stamina and power. For the most part, the breathing, concentration, and agility were assets to the warriors and improved their well-being.

Attaining enlightment: Buddhist monks who use Qi Gong in their pursuit for higher consciousness and enlightenment concentrate on the Qi Gong’s ability to influence their Shen. Mastering Marrow Washing allows the practitioner to gain so much control over the flow of Qi that he or she can direct it into the forehead and elevate consciousness. The rest of us can enjoy the influence of Qi Gong on our Shen, but at a lower level.

Whatever reason you use Qi Gong, the practice should raise your Qi to a higher state if you increase concentration, practice controlled breathing, and execute the Qi Gong routines.

The Basic Techniques

Here are the basic Qi Gong techniques.

Concentration: Concentration leads to and results from Qi awareness, breathing techniques, and Qi Gong exercises. It is a process of focusing in and letting go at the same time. Focusing does not mean that you wrinkle up your forehead and strain to pay attention. Instead, through deep relaxation and expanding your consciousness, you are able to create a frame of mind that is large enough to encompass your entire mind/body/spirit’s functions, yet focused enough to allow outside distractions, worries, and everyday hassles to drift away.

This inward focus that expands outward to join you with the rhythms of the universe epitomizes Yin/Yang. Yin tends to be more expansive, and Yang more concentrated. You discover your Yin/Yang balance by treating Yin and Yang as ingredients in a recipe: Add a bit more Yin, toss in a dash of Yang to make the mixture suit your constitution or circumstances. Some people need more or less Yin or Yang, depending upon the situation. Extending the Qi exercise on page 183 provides a clear demonstration of how you can practice establishing your balanced blend of Yin and Yang.

You will find that as you do exercise/meditation you become more adept at this form of concentration, because it is the natural expression of the practice. As you learn to concentrate more effectively, you will find you have greater power to affect Qi through the various Qi Gong exercises in this chapter or through the use of other focused meditations and Tai Chi.

Breathing: In the sixth century BCE, Lao Tzu first described breathing techniques as a way to stimulate Qi. From there, two types of breathing evolved: Buddha’s Breath and Taoist’s Breath. Both methods infuse the body with Qi and help focus meditation.

• Buddha’s Breath: When you inhale, extend your abdomen, filling it with air. When you exhale, contract you abdomen, expelling the air from the bottom of your lungs first and then pushing it up and out until your abdomen and chest are deflated. You may want to practice inhaling for a slow count of eight and exhaling for a count of sixteen. As you breathe in and out, imagine inviting your Qi to flow through the Channels. Use your mind to invite the Qi to flow; you want to guide the flow, not tug at it or push it.

• Taoist’s Breath: The pattern is the opposite of above. When you breathe in, you contract your abdominal muscles. When you exhale, you relax the torso and lungs.

Qi Gong Routines

There are two basic types of Qi Gong activities: Wei Dan (external elixir) and Nei Dan (internal elixir). Both focus on strengthening and balancing the Qi by using dynamic routines and still postures, but they approach the tasks in two different ways.

WEI DAN

This practice focuses exercises on the muscles to build up your Qi until it becomes so concentrated that it overflows and runs out from where it has collected, through the Channels, and into all parts of your body.

In dynamic, moving Wei Dan exercises, muscles are tensed and released over and over again with complete concentration. The tension should be as light as possible because tension causes Stagnant Qi, which is the very antithesis of what you want to accomplish. In fact, it is often suggested that you simply imagine that you are tensing the muscles. After several minutes, the generated Qi warms the muscles.

Typical routines that use dynamic, moving Wei Dan exercises include the Dan Mo or Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic. In this routine, you slightly tense or imagine you are tensing isolated limb muscles, such as your forearm, your palm, your wrist, your biceps, your shoulder, and then relax completely. Concentration and breath control are vital components of the process.

There are other moving Wei Dan routines that call for moving legs, torso, and arms into specific positions to relax or massage the Organ Systems. For example, you may extend and stretch your arms over your head, hold and relax, thus massaging the Lung Channel and Lung Organ System more enthusiastically than with the less mobile Dan Mo style.

In the still Wei Dan exercises, muscle groups are targeted but not tensed. For example, hold your arms fully extended, palms down, out to the sides of your body. Don’t tighten muscles, but hold that position for at least a minute—building up to longer—until the arms begin to shake or feel warm. When you let your arms fall to your side and relax, shrugging your shoulder muscles and shaking your hands gently, the accumulated Qi is sent coursing out through the Channels. In this manner, Qi is stimulated at various locations in the body by continual muscular exertion combined with concentration.

Wei Dan practice is relatively simple to learn, and it provides immediate benefits. But it is not a lesser form of Qi Gong. Even masters of the more arcane processes use Wei Dan for its Qi strengthening powers.

Qi can also be stimulated to a higher state through acupuncture, acupressure, and massage, which are considered Wei Dan exercises.

NEI DAN

This is a more demanding, less easy to master, and more time-consuming form of Qi Gong. It uses mental powers to direct Qi through the Channels. You must have a teacher to guide you and to help you avoid the potential risks associated with doing the practice incorrectly.

In one Nei Dan exercise, you concentrate Qi on the Dantien (below the navel) and then disperse it through the body using the powers of the mind. Qi may travel in the following three pathways:

• The Fire Path: In the Fire Path, you build Qi in the abdomen through breathing and/or thought, and once it accumulates sufficiently, you direct it with your mind along the two Extraordinary Channels known as the Conception Channel and the Governing Channel: This is known as the Small Circulation.

The next level is to move Qi through the remaining six Extraordinary Channels. This is called the Grand Circulation.

• The Wind Path: In the Wind Path, Qi moves in the opposite direction as it did on the Fire Path.

• The Water Path: In the Water Path, Qi moves through the spine and is used in Marrow Washing to prolong life and increase enlightenment.

The Qi Gong Class

This is a beginning class, designed to help you become sensitive to the positive benefits of Qi Gong and to prepare you for taking classes with a teacher who can guide you through the learning process. One word about teachers: Make sure you find one who has a watchful eye, is compassionate, can perceive your individual blocks, and can direct you to exercises and routines that release those blocks. Not all great masters make good teachers. A teacher must be able to do Qi Gong well and also communicate effectively.

The first part of class is devoted to improving your awareness of tension and blocks in your body, so you can shed unnecessary stress. If you practice Qi Gong without letting go of blocks and tension, it will impair your practice, and your Qi will not flow evenly or as well as it can.

The next step is to begin to be aware of your internal organs and to tune into the flow of Qi throughout the body. Then you’re ready to explore breathing exercises and basic Qi Gong routines.

As you travel through these steps, remember that Qi Gong is a process of building awareness. However you are comfortable doing the routines is what’s right for you at that time.

WARM-UP EXERCISES (10 TO 15 MINUTES)

Exercise One: Gentle Sway: For five minutes, move both of your arms from your shoulders in a gentle swinging motion. The motion itself is initiated from your waist: Twist from the waist as though your torso were a washcloth that you were wringing out. Don’t twist from the knees or you may harm them. Furthermore, twisting from the waist provides a massage to the internal organs and provides you the full benefits of the exercise.

To get started, move your arms side to side across your torso, and then back to front. Keep your knees slightly bent. Let your hips sway. Allow your mind to clear. At first, focus on the release of unnecessary and unconscious stress. After several weeks, you may shift your focus so that you think only about the swaying of your arms and the motion of Qi.

This introduces you to the concept of being mindful of the present, much the same concept as found in Zen walking.

Exercise Two: The Bounce: In the beginning, try this for one to three minutes.

With your feet parallel and about shoulder’s width apart, bounce with your knees loose and your arms hanging at the sides like a wet noodle. They should feel empty and neutral. This is the zero position for your arms. When you are bouncing back and forth, your arms in zero should get a nice jiggling effect.

Keep your shoulders natural; neither pull them back or let them slump forward too much. When the zero position is used on the whole body, you should receive a feeling of deep relaxation and your internal organs and skin should hang down. This process brings awareness of internal tension so that you can do something to dispel it, if you choose.

The combination of exercises one and two gently massages and tonifies the Organ Systems, which helps promote longevity.

QI AWARENESS EXERCISES

Exercise One: Accordion: In this, you feel the Qi by using your hands like the bellow of an accordion or a bicycle pump.

Close your eyes halfway. Clear your mind and concentrate your attention on your palms.

Allow your breath to become slow, easy, without force. In a way, you are creating the very lightest trance.

Bring your hands together, palms touching and fingers pointing upward. The palm chakras, called Laogong, located in the center of the palms, should be touching. These chakras are areas where Qi can be felt emanating from the body.

Slowly move your hands, keeping the chakras aligned. When they are about 12 inches (30 cm) apart, slowly move them together using the least amount of physical effort possible. You will be compressing the air between them like an accordion would.

Feel a warm or tingling sensation at the Laogong points on your palms.

Move your hands slowly back and forth, varying the range of the bellows. Repeat the accordion technique in different directions: horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

This exercise cultivates Qi, builds awareness, and sensitizes yourself. When you feel Qi for the first time, it changes your mind-set.

Exercise Two: Making the Point: Using your index finger is a powerful way of directing Qi. If you are right-handed, use you right index finger; if you are left-handed, use your left index finger. Point it directly at the flat palm of your other hand. That hand should be perpendicular to the floor with your fingers pointing straight up.

Use your index finger like a paintbrush to swab back and forth across your palm. Begin with your fingertip about 8 inches (20 cm) from your palm. Slowly move it closer and farther away, swabbing all the time.

You may feel a tickling sensation, a cooling, or a warming of your palm.

Exercise Three: Extending the Qi: If you have Deficient Qi, you should perform this exercise with your eyes half closed to cultivate and accumulate Qi.

If you have Stagnant Qi, the exercise may be done with your eyes fully open. You will inhale swiftly through your nostrils with your eyes open or half closed when you exhale.

Note: You should exercise caution when practicing Qi exercises at home—without a teacher nearby—because they are powerful, and Qi can leak out your eyes.

Once you can sense the Qi, exercise your intention (which is the mind/spirit part of the exercise) and use your mind to move your Qi out from your body, expanding the zone in which you are comfortable. You may allow the Qi to drift out on the exhalation and then hold it there as you inhale.

First move the Qi into an orbit 1 inch (2.5 cm) from your skin. In increments of 6 inches (15 cm), move it outward, aiming for 3 feet (91 cm), but find the point where you are comfortable with it. Then bring it back in until it returns close to your body.

This exercise allows you to communicate with your Qi. By increasing the distance away from your body that you can feel Qi, you expand your area of comfort—your field of generosity—in the world around you. You will have less fear and greater abilities. By being able to bring your Qi halo in to skin level (or inside your skin) you may become more centered, calm, and self-assured. When you have learned to be comfortable expanding and contracting your Qi, you will feel stronger, healthier, and more in harmony internally and externally.

Exercise Four: Pumping the Qi: This is a tricky exercise that moves the Qi along the two connecting Extraordinary Channels: the Du Mai and Ren Mai. You may think of it as evolve, devolve, because your posture goes from a slumped, gorilla-like stance to an upright extended pose. It is adapted from the Wild Goose Qi Gong routine.

The first position pushes the Qi down. As your hands push flat down, your spine and head straighten upward. Then as you allow the Qi to flow back upward, your hands rise, elbows bent and palms parallel to the floor. Your shoulders hunch. Repeat this six or seven times, inhaling as your hands come up and exhaling as your hands go down.

When you are comfortable with this exercise, you may combine it with a slow intentional walk forward: left knee bent and raised in an exaggerated stepping motion. When your knee comes up, your hands go down and back and your spine straightens; when your foot touches the ground, your hands come up and your back hunches. Place your feet very gently on the ground and allow each step to proceed in slow motion, at a tempo that soothes and relaxes. Remember to maintain a breathing pattern, too. Inhale as your hands come up and your shoulders hunch. Exhale slowly, expanding your chest as you straighten your back. If this feels awkward, don’t despair. Even in a classroom situation, it takes a while to catch on to what to do.

Exercise Five: Blending Qi: This exercise should help you become aware of various resonations of Qi and learn to blend them into a harmonious flow.

Stand with your feet a shoulder’s width apart, with your knees slightly bent. Allow your hands and arms to hang at your sides.

Shift your weight slightly to the balls of your feet. Simply be aware of the front side of your body. Concentrate on the Channels that pass along the front of your legs and torso, the top of your hands and arms, and your face.

After one minute, shift your weight to your heels. Become aware of the back of your body: the back of your head, your arms, your spine, and your legs. With practice, you may hold these postures for up to five minutes or longer.

You can also do this for the left and right sides of the body.

In each instance, you may want to become aware of each section of the body. For example, the side of your head, the side of your arm and torso, your outer hip, the side of your leg and ankle, and the length of your foot. This makes the exercise a meditation.

Now, shifting to a more Nei Dan form of Qi Gong, repeat the first three steps, but the motion should not be detectable visually. Use your mind to shift your weight forward and backward, feeling your Qi flowing along the front and back of your body.

Next, try to feel your Qi flowing along your back and front simultaneously.

Students are often bewildered by the idea of feeling two sensations at the same time, but a useful analogy is to think of the color yellow and the color blue. When you blend those two colors together, you produce green. That green then becomes its own entity with its own wavelength. The same is true of blending the Qi from your front and from your back. The blend becomes another entity with its own resonation.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing can direct Qi through the body like the wind filling the sails of a ship. Breathing exercises can invigorate or sedate, depending on how you use them.

On alternate days, practice the following routine, using Buddha’s Breath and Taoist’s Breath breathing techniques. (See both “Buddha’s Breath” and “Taoist’s Breath” on page 179.)

Sit on the floor with your legs crossed in lotus or cross-legged style. This is important so that Qi does not enter and become Stagnant in the lower body, but follows the breathing path through your torso and your head.

Inhale to a count of four to eight, depending on what you are comfortable with. For Buddha’s Breath, extend your belly, filling it up from the bottom. For Taoist’s Breath, inhale, contracting your abdomen, and exhale, letting your abdomen relax outward.

As you inhale, turn your attention to your nose. Guide the Qi downward from your nose toward the Dantien, 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) below the navel. Women should not concentrate on the Dantien during their periods. Concentrate on your solar plexus instead.

Exhale to a count of eight to sixteen and move the Qi down the torso, around your pelvic region, and up to your tailbone.

Inhale and move the Qi up the back to the top of your shoulders.

Exhale and move the Qi up the back of your head and back to your nose.

If you cannot feel the Qi clearly, patience and practice will make it more apparent. Once you are comfortable with this practice, you may increase the pace by completing the cycle in one inhalation and one exhalation. On the inhalation, move Qi from your nose to your tailbone. On the exhalation, move Qi from your tailbone back to your nose.

Thanks again to Sifu Larry Wong for his generosity in sharing his insight, expertise, and practice of Qi Gong.

MEDITATION

In this section are meditations that we recommend at Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine.

As a beginner, you want to allow yourself the time and pleasure of learning to meditate. If it feels awkward or if you have difficulty maintaining concentration, take a step back.

Don’t set your standards too high. If you expect too much too soon, you disturb your mind/body/spirit and promote restlessness, frustration, and stress. This may defeat the whole purpose of meditation.

Your first goal should be simply to be quiet, relaxed, and comfortable for a few minutes.

Try to meditate in a comfortable environment. As you progress, distractions will become less of a problem. In the beginning, you want to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Choose a quiet room that is not so warm that you fall asleep nor so cold that you tense up. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Turn on meditation music to help block outside noise if need be.

Find a posture that works for you. Not everyone can sit on the floor in a full or half lotus or cross-legged. You may want to lie down, sit in a straight-backed chair, or stand.

Don’t eat heavy foods or drink alcohol or caffeine before meditating.

Don’t hold on to disturbing thoughts. One of the goals of meditation is to disconnect from worries. If you’ve had a tough day at work, a disagreement with your spouse, or worries about money, each exhalation of breath is a chance to let a piece of that tension dissipate.

Qi Meditation

The following is a meditation/visualization that is designed to help you tune into the motion of Qi throughout the Channels and to help in the body’s natural process of self-healing.

The first few times you do this meditation, you can have someone read it to you in a gentle, slow voice, cuing you as to the steps. You can also tape this in your own voice and listen to it as you go through the meditation. Eventually, you will be able to go through the steps silently.

Get into a comfortable position. Allow your body to begin to relax. Close your eyes. Close your mouth and place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This connects the Yin and Yang Channels and allows for Qi flow.

With your eyes closed, bring your attention to the area around and below your navel; in Japanese it is called the hara; in Chinese it’s called the Dantien. This is one area where Qi is stored.

Allow yourself to begin to breathe into the area. You may use either breathing technique.

As you breathe into your abdomen, into your belly, into the Dantien, notice a warmth from the center of your abdomen, beginning as a small glow and getting brighter and brighter until there is a ball of light filling your abdomen. Allow yourself to feel this ball of light, any color that you’d like.

Now, as you breathe, notice the energy moving up into the area of your heart and opening up into your chest.

Next feel it move to the area in front of your arm, just below the shoulder bone. This energy moves from the area below your shoulder bone, down the outside of your arm all the way to your thumb, on the inside of your thumb. Feel the warmth and the movement of energy down the Lung Channel.

When it gets to the end of the Lung Channel at the tip of the thumb, move your focus over to your index finger, where the Large Intestine Channel begins.

The Qi then moves through your hand, up the outside of the arm, coming up over your shoulder, up the side of your neck, and up to the outside of your nose. Then move to the Stomach Channel that begins below your eye. It flows down the neck, over the front of your body, through your chest, down outside your navel, around your pubic area, then down the outside of your leg, to a very important point, just below your knee, where the energy of the body becomes very strong. It then moves on down across the front of your foot and into the top of your toes, where it meets the Spleen Channel.

The Spleen Channel allows food energy to move through the body and impacts digestion.

Begin inside your big toe, coming up the arch of your foot, in front of your ankle bone, on the inside of your leg, all the way up by your knee, continuing inside your leg, and up the front of your body, curving around your ribs, and ending in your costal (rib) area.

The Spleen Channel then connects internally with the Heart Channel.

The Heart Channel emerges from your heart into the centers of your armpits, moving down the insides of your arms, all the way to your small fingers, where it attaches to the Small Intestine Channel.

The Small Intestine Channel is a very good Channel to help open up the brain.

This Channel runs up your outsides of the arms, coming all the way back up, across your scapulas, up the back of your neck and around your ears, where it ends in front of your ears.

This connects to the Urinary Bladder Channel, the longest Channel, at the insides of your eyes.

From your eyes, the Channel comes up across the top of your head and down the back of your neck, where it splits into two parallel lines, which then extend down your whole back on either side of your spine, connecting the organs together.

The two rows of the Urinary Bladder Channel are side by side, and they connect again at the back of your buttocks, coming down the backs of the middles of your legs through your knees, all the way down your legs, around your ankle bones, and into your little toes.

The Urinary Bladder Channel connects with the Kidney Channel on the very bottom of your feet. The Kidney Channel moves up from your feet, around the insides of your ankles, all the way up the insides of your legs, and up around your navel. And this Channel comes all the way up to the upper part of your chest, where there are some of the most important points in Chinese medicine for meditation and connection with the Shen.

Here the Kidney Channel connects with the Pericardium Channel, which starts in front of your arms, moves down the very middles of your arms, into the palms of your hands, and to your middle fingers, where it then connects with the Triple Burner Channel, the Channel that helps regulate the temperature of your body. The Triple Burner Channel begins on your fourth fingers, comes up over the top of your hands, all the way up your arms and around your elbows, over your shoulders, and up your neck and around your ears, where it connects with the Gallbladder Channel.

The Gallbladder Channel is the most crooked Channel on the body. It zigzags across the top of your head, comes down the back of your neck, across your shoulders, and down the sides of your body, zigzagging again on the sides of your body, and all the way down over your hips and the deepest point in the muscle of your body in your buttocks, then moves down the side of your legs, all the way down to the top of your toes, to the fourth toes.

You pick up the Liver Channel on the big toes. It comes across the top of your feet, and again toward the insides of your feet and around your ankles, up the middles of the insides of your legs by your knees, and all the way up the insides of your legs. This Channel circles the genital area, coming up into your rib cage near the Liver, yet on both sides of your body. And then we return again to the Lung Channel.

Once you have completed the cycle, sit or lie peacefully, allowing yourself time to make your transition back to your surrounding environment in a graceful manner.

Lotus Blossom Meditation

This is one of my favorite meditations. It is a brief and simple meditation that can be done almost anywhere, any time you feel the need to ease stress or allow your feelings of affection and connection to expand.

Sit peacefully, breathing evenly.

Half close your eyes.

Inhale slowly, filling your body with air.

At the same time, concentrate your attention on the area of the fourth chakra that is located at your breastbone in the center of your chest.

Imagine a beautiful lotus blossom. Its petals are closed, and its scent is but a promise.

As you exhale, see that blossom unfold. The velvety smooth petals extend, reaching out, releasing a beautiful scent.

Inhale and smell the fragrant aroma.

The petals are opening ever further. And as they open, you feel your heart and chest opening up to the world, expanding, relaxing.

You may extend the opening petals as far as you want. Feel your heart open in the same proportion.

When you have arrived at an openness that is comfortable, hold it there as you enjoy the scent of the flower and breathe in and out slowly.

You may practice this meditation concentrating on a chakra, or energy center. Particularly effective are the third chakra, located at the diaphragm, and the second chakra, located below the navel in the Dantien or hara area.