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Qigong Master Kenneth Cohen shares the secrets of qigong and energetic healing

Monday, June 19, 2006 by: Dani Veracity
Tags: qigong, energy healing, mind-body medicine

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We all live in a field of energy. Scientists, as well as spiritualists, know this, yet most of us don't realize it in our day-to-day lives. "Like a fish in water or a bird in flight, we are unaware of the medium that supports us," Qigong Master Kenneth Cohen writes in his online essay on the nature of Qigong.

Imagine what we could do, what we could achieve, if we were to remain fully conscious of this energy field throughout our daily lives. This is a reality for people who have mastered Qigong, which is a generic term for "energy work," according to Cohen. Though very few people actually obtain mastership, study of Qigong can help improve the life of anyone, and its ease makes it perfect for the young, old, sick and healthy.

Since 1976, Cohen has studied Qigong, as well as Native American healing practices. Over the past 20 years, he has taught the Chinese art of finding, gathering and circulating the life force (qi) to more than 40,000 students in North America. Furthermore, as the author of the book The Way of Qigong and the DVD Qigong: Traditional Chinese Exercises for Healing Body, Mind and Spirit, Cohen has made the ancient practice accessible in the comforts of your home.

More than 80 million Chinese people and tens of thousands of North Americans and Europeans practice this powerful "energy work," according to contemporary figures, and this number grows every day. In November 2005, Cohen introduced the basics of Qigong to an audience at the 2005 Complementary and Alternative Medicine Conference (CAMCON) in Tucson, Ariz.

Qigong has three focuses -- athletic ability, spirituality and healing. People who practice martial arts or play sports can benefit from the stamina, speed, strength, coordination, flexibility, balance and resistance to injury that Qigong offers. In fact, Cohen says that it can improve performance in any sport or martial art. Spiritual Qigong grew from a merger of Taoism, including the fundamental Tao text, the Tao Te Ching, and Buddhism. By practicing spiritual Qigong, you can achieve tranquility, self-awareness and harmony with nature. These applications are significant in their own right, but Cohen focused more on the third usage of Qigong -- healing -- during his lecture.

Qigong healing can be used internally (Yi Gong) or externally (Wai Qi Zhi Liao). In mainstream medical terms, Yi Gong is what we could call preventative medicine. In Cohen's words, "Qigong teaches us how to control our reactions to stress so that life events do not cause such symptoms as high blood pressure, frustration or anxiety." Cohen makes note of the fact that we are all exposed to stress, making Yi Gong helpful for anyone. Even Qigong Masters practice Yi Gong to prevent "healer burnout."

Healers practice Wai Qi Zhi Liao, or external Qigong, as a form of health assessment and non-contact treatment called External Qi Healing (EQH). This form is significant in that it does not solely rely on intuition for assessment; rather, a healer learns to "tap into a well of healing energy in nature and 'funnel' it through his or her body." Healers actually do exercises to increase their sensitivity to energy fields and improve the efficiency of their treatment. Some healers use EQH by itself, while others combine it with Therapeutic Touch, massage, osteopathy, acupuncture and even body-centered psychotherapy.

Both internal and external Qigong are extremely powerful and can help cure or lessen the symptoms of disease, especially heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Qigong is able to reduce the risk of heart disease by normalizing cholesterol levels, resting heart rate and blood pressure. It targets antigens so effectively that research demonstrates it to have a "significant anticancer effect," according to Cohen. Furthermore, its effects on type 2 diabetes are absolutely amazing, as 92 percent of type 2 diabetics are able to drop their blood sugar levels down to normal by doing Qigong.

Unfortunately, like all immense power, Qigong can be grossly misunderstood and misapplied. In Communist China, for example, spontaneity promoted by spontaneous movement Qigong was misinterpreted as impulsiveness, a taboo in that society. In fact, Qigong was illegal in China until as recently as 1999. Sometimes, Qigong's power can be too much to handle, and "Qigong psychosis" results, a term coined by Cohen himself, but then picked up by the psychiatric "Bible," the DSMIV.

During his lecture, Cohen made sure to point out that Qigong psychosis is a delusional state associated with -- but not caused by -- Qigong, so the ancient art is still safe. However, though it may help alleviate mild anxiety and depression, it may worsen the mental states of people going through severe emotional disturbances, so you should abstain from practicing Qigong if you are going through such a time. You should also not practice Qigong if you get dizzy often. Furthermore, if you are pregnant, you may perform mild exercises, but only under the supervision of a teacher.

There are 7,000 different major styles of Qigong, 3,000 of which are practiced today. Some Qigong meditations are remarkably quick and easy to learn. In fact, during the two-and-a-half hour lecture, Cohen had time to show his audience three of them: Bone marrow cleansing, standing meditation and walking meditation.

Natural Qigong posture (Wu Chi, or emptiness)

Before you can take part in any of the meditations, you must learn Qigong posture, which puts the body in a natural stance:

  1. Keep your feet parallel to each other.
  2. Bend your knees and keep all your joints relaxed. Don't forget your jaw; your teeth should not be clenched.
  3. Relax and round your shoulders slightly.
  4. Keep your arms relaxed with gravity pulling your fingers toward the ground.
  5. Make sure your spine is erect.
  6. Keep your head up as if it were suspended from a string hanging from the sky.
  7. Breathe freely, making sure your stomach extends with each exhale.
  8. Soften your gaze.
  9. Look inward, observing your body, mind and the flow of qi.
Bone marrow cleansing

The founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma, is believed to have originally created this purification technique, which sends healing qi through the bones and has an amazing immune-boosting effect. It's remarkably easy to learn:

  1. Stand in a natural Qigong posture with your hands in front of you, palms inward, as if you were holding a sphere.
  2. Slowly raise the imaginary sphere up to chest level.
  3. Slowly closing your eyes, bend your elbows and move the hands in prayer-like fashion to heart level, your thumbs resting gently on your sternum.
  4. Maintain this posture for two or three minutes and focus on breathing deeply -- abdomen expanding as you inhale, contracting as you exhale.
  5. Allow your mind to become silent and calm.
  6. Extend your arms outward. As your palms separate, open your eyes.
  7. Slowly drop your arms down to your sides.
  8. Slowly raise your arms up to shoulder height with your palms facing forward.
  9. With your elbows slightly bent, turn your palms outward, facing away from the body, as if you're reaching toward the sky.
  10. Hold this position for an equal amount of time as No. 4.
  11. Imagine that your body is filling the universe. Universal qi can flow easily through you. Focus on the top of your head, the palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet. As you inhale and exhale, imagine an exchange of positive, healing qi from the universe, the heavens and the earth.
  12. Turn your palms forward and slowly drop your arms to your sides.
  13. Slowly move your left hand behind you until the center of the back of your hand is resting comfortably in the middle of your lower back. Meanwhile, raise your right hand, palm facing forward, turning and reaching your palm up toward the sky.
  14. Turn your palm downward and pull the energy to the top of your head with your palm two or three inches above your head. Feel the connection between the center of your palm and the top of your head.
  15. Inhale. As you exhale, slide your hand forward, slowly lowering the hand down the front of your body, palm facing down. Imagine healing qi flowing through the bones of your body, cleansing the marrow and pushing the stale qi out the bottoms of your feet.
  16. As your hand moves toward your side, release the hand you have behind your back and also move it to your side. Imagine the earth absorbing the stale qi and converting it to healthy qi.
  17. Now, repeat steps 13 to 16, but with your right hand behind your back and your left hand doing all the movement.
  18. Alternate hands, doing a total of three times on each side.
  19. Raise both your hands to the front of your body, palms facing up.
  20. As your hands reach shoulder height, turn your palms up to the sky and stretch up.
  21. Turn your palms down and lower your hands slightly so that they are about 12 inches above your head, fingers not touching but pointing to each other, forming a dome. Hold this position for one minute, imaging that you are in a dome of protective, healing light.
  22. Slide your hands forward and lower them down the front of your body, palms facing down, imagining that the healing qi is cleansing your entire body, even on a cellular level.
  23. Bring your hands to abdomen level and put your feet together.
Standing meditation

As well as being the foundation of Qigong practice, standing meditation can help you improve your posture, deep breathing and structural "integrity" and strength. In fact, its purpose is "to deepen our understanding of breathing and stability," Cohen told his audience before teaching the classic meditation in an easy-to-follow manner:

  1. Stand in natural Qigong posture.
  2. Separate your legs as if you were riding on a horse.
  3. Feel Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion, lifting your arms to heart level as if she were pulling on imaginary strings on your wrists. Allow your shoulders to relax during this process.
  4. Facing your palms toward your body, shape your arms as if you were hugging a tree.
  5. Roll back your shoulders and elbows and open your arms.
  6. Relax.
Walking meditation

Slowly walk forward eight steps, being sure to:

  • Lift your arm simultaneously with the leg on that side -- right leg up, right arm up and so on.
  • Lift in this order -- your heel, then knee, then foot -- as high as you can.
  • Keep your balance.
  • Keep your body upright, head up and relaxed.
  • As you lift one leg up, your weight should be on the opposite leg. Keep the knee of that leg bent.
  • As you place your foot down, place your heel down first.
  • Remember to not overstep.
  • Walk very "catlike."
  • Transfer weight to the front leg and roll onto the ball, then toes.
Slowly walk backward 10 steps:

  • As you did when you walked forward, lift your arm simultaneously as the leg on that side moves up -- right leg up, right arm up and so on.
  • Lift in this order -- your toe, then knee, then heel -- as high as you can.
  • Keep your balance.
  • Keep your body upright, head up and relaxed.
  • As you lift one leg up, your weight should be on the opposite leg. Keep the knee of that leg bent.
  • As you place your foot down, place your heel down first.
  • Keep your feet apart: Don't cross them.
  • Walk very "catlike."
  • Transfer weight to the back leg and roll onto the ball, then heel.
Repeat this entire walking meditation exercise as much as you feel is necessary.

For further information

If you'd like a visual aid to help you learn and practice these styles, watch Cohen's DVD, Qigong: Traditional Chinese Exercises for Healing Body, Mind and Spirit. You can also find more information on Qigong in general and how it can change your life in Cohen's book, The Way of Qigong, or online at http://www.QiGongHealing.com.

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