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Discovering Qigong

by Miranda Smith

Flip through the brochure from your local recreation center, and you’re likely to find qigong classes listed. Check out the offerings at an expensive spa, and there it is again—the word with the “qi” in it without a u after the q.

But what is qigong? What does it do for you? How do you choose which type of qigong to learn?

Qigong is a holistic system that encompasses training for the body, mind, and spirit, although most types of qigong currently taught in North America focus solely on the body. It is an ancient discipline: Archeological evidence shows that it was practiced as early as the Neolithic period in China. Over the centuries, it has been modified and refined to suit changing times and knowledge.

One way to describe qigong is to say that it is the practice of moving energy, or “qi” (pronounced “chee”), through the body in specific ways. Qigong practitioners say, “Where qi flows, disease disappears.” Stress, high blood pressure, and a host of other physical and psychological symptoms of distress and imbalance vanish away. In China, thousands of replicated research projects have conclusively demonstrated these effects and more, and in the West, contemporary experiments are showing the same results. (To see some of these studies, go to http://www.qigonginstitute.org/html/database.php.)

You might think that something this effective would be very hard to do—visions of pretzel-shaped legs and Shiva-like arms may be dancing in your inner eye. But the opposite is true. Qigong is easier to practice than yoga, for example, and can be modified for people who are very young, aging, bedridden, or wheelchair-bound.

One qigong, two qigong

You might also think that all forms of qigong are much the same—that the differences between one class and another are simply a difference in the skill of the instructor. But this isn’t so. There are three major branches of the energetic arts in China—the Shaolin, Wudang Gongfu, and Emei—and more than 3,000 different types of qigong. One key difference is in the intention of the practice. The Shaolin and Wudang Gongfu schools focus on the martial arts, while Emei concentrates on health, healing, and spiritual development.

Emei is also the only school whose lineage holder—the person entrusted with preserving and advancing the entire body of the school’s knowledge and passing it to the next generation—is teaching in the West. Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong, the 13th lineage holder of Emei Qigong, spends half the year in China, training the monk who will succeed him, and half the year in the United States, teaching and training teachers here.

Emei Qigong was founded nearly 800 years ago by Bai Yun, an enlightened monk who combined 3,600 disciplines, schools, and practices, including many Buddhist and Daoist traditions. For centuries, Emei Qigong theories and practices were held secret and passed only to monks of the Emei Linji School, with the highest and most treasured secrets given to only the succeeding lineage holders.

This secrecy began to change a generation ago. Between the two World Wars, the school’s lineage holder at the time envisioned the coming chaos in China and the rest of the world. Concerned that the treasured knowledge of Emei Qigong would be lost forever, he decreed that henceforth, the lineage would pass between a monk and a chosen layperson.

Fu Wei Zhong is the second lay lineage holder. When he was selected, he was given an instruction by his predecessor to teach Emei Qigong to lay people in both China and the West.

A distillation of knowledge

After years of isolation and meditation, Grandmaster Fu emerged and began fulfilling this mission. He has developed and is continuing to refine qigong forms that are appropriate to Western audiences; has written several books for English-speaking seminar participants; and has prepared a multi-level training program to teach basic qigong as well as train those who wish to become Emei Qigong teachers. Fu’s goal is to develop teachers both inside and outside of China who will pass on the knowledge with the same purity as they learned it.

Participants who attend a four-day Level I seminar learn how to heal themselves and others. Students are taught a gentle but potent qigong form that enables them to generate and store qi and are introduced to a heart-centered philosophy that allows them to clear past and present negative emotions and events. Moreover, for those working with others, Emei techniques also protect the healer while they treat the client—which is not true of all qigong practices.

It’s impossible to say precisely what each person who attends an Emei Qigong seminar will gain because no two people experience identical benefits from the practice.

But there are elements in common. The overwhelming majority of those who practice what they are taught experience improved health almost immediately. Their senses sharpen and so does their intuition and subtle awareness. They become calmer and more able to direct their feelings and actions, and this transforms their life path.

Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong will be teaching a Level I seminar in Burlington, Vermont, May 28-31,2011. For more information, please visit www.emeiqigong.us., or contact emeiqigong123@gmail.com or call 802-233-6377 for more information


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