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Climbing Sentinal Peak in the Drakensberg - lots of chi in the air!
Myself at the Tugela falls near Sentinal Peak
Beautiful Disa on Table Mountain - enjoy nature!
Photo 4: Waterfall in Myburgh Ravine on Table Mountain

Chi Kung: A Way to Energise Us

Dr Sibis Mouton

I’m sure that not a single soul on earth doesn’t want to have lots and lots of energy! An abundance of life force makes us stand out in a crowd—everyone can see we have something special. But how do we cultivate this unseen thing, this golden stream that Chi Kung masters call chi? Our chi will be influenced by what we eat and drink. It will also increase if we spend more time in nature.

In my own job as a university lecturer, I have just been moved to a new campus. The adjustment and getting used to the unfamiliar surroundings are taking their toll; I leave work tired and grumpy. No matter how hard I try to fit in a yoga class in the late afternoon, I just don’t want to spend any time in another building. Instead, I drive up to the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens and go for a run in Cecilia Forest. The trees, fresh air and wind supply me with new vigour, and I feel topped up again. I lose that bad mood and return home in good spirits. (That said, remember we are all different—if a yoga class energises you, by all means, join that class!)

Another energising factor is our mindfulness. Do we stay with what is put in front of us? Do we really live only in this moment? A busy mind can be very tiring; it takes us out of what is happening now. It is also based on untruths: our thoughts are mostly illusionary, because they’re filtered through our own way of seeing things.

One Zen master challenged his pupils to walk on a busy street. He instructed them to focus their attention on the lower tantien while they walked through the crowds. (The lower tantien is an energy centre situated about two and a half inches below the navel.) This helped them stay focussed and aware that they were walking. The result was that all the people moving in their direction intuitively (unconsciously) felt their focus and got out of the way! So a focussed student discovered that he or she created an open channel to walk through a crowd. It resembles the old Bible story of Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea so his people could walk through safely. When we are focussed and mindful, we are also more in harmony with all that is. We are more in union with ourselves, rather than split into two, while mind is thinking and body is on automatic pilot.

There is an old Tibetan Buddhist exercise called “sky gazing”. One literally just gazes and gazes at the sky. This apparently helps to release the contractedness of our minds; it relaxes us and helps the brain to expand and become more fluid.

Most of the traditional ways to cultivate energy in the East mimic the movements of animals. The Chi Kung masters used to go to nature, look at the movements of the animals, and imitate them. I experienced some of these movements personally when I was privileged to attend a Chi Kung course with the Swiss master Max Weier. He taught us a series of movements called “The Five Manchurians”.

Here, each movement is centred on one of the five main organs of the body—lungs, kidneys, liver, heart and stomach—and is supposed to stimulate and energise that organ. Traditionally, one always starts with the lungs. For these we did “white crane ascending into the heavens”, a beautiful flowing movement that looks like a bird ascending into the sky.

The second organ was the kidneys. According to Eastern belief, all our sexual energy resides here. The movement that stimulated the kidneys was called “sitting on tiger”.

Third was the liver, the organ most susceptible to climate changes and to travelling. So any change of environment can throw the liver out of balance—especially if we drink too much, as well! The liver exercise was called, “lazy cat stretching”,

The movement that stimulates the fourth main organ, the heart, looked to me like riding those flying dragons in the epic movie Avatar. It had the apt name of “riding the sky horse”.

The final movement, associated with the stomach, was “golden rooster standing proudly on one leg”. This one became my favourite because it flows so naturally. I also liked the way it borrows from the Eastern martial arts styles.

Many contemporary magazines, especially Men’s Health, worship the so-called “six-pack” look. Funnily enough, Max told us, the Eastern energy system doesn’t advocate a six-pack at all. Enlarged muscles around the abdominal area apparently confuse our main energy centre, the lower tantien. So we actually have less energy when we carry a six-pack!

Max also spoke out against the current tendency of young people to wear jeans that sit far below the hips, since this exposes their kidneys to the cold. If our kidneys are the source of our sexual energy, we should try to keep them warm and protected at all times. Max himself wears a magnetic belt in the winter to keep his kidneys warm and functioning well. Chi Kung masters believe that, as our biggest energy receptacle, these organs should be well looked after!

As a behavioural kinesiologist, I found the emotional aspects of the five organs particularly interesting. Here’s a quick summary for those who may be interested in these aspects.

Lungs: To relax the lungs is to feed your courage. The negative aspect is grief, which is stored in the lungs and will negatively influence them. The healing colour to visualise is white.

Kidneys: The positive aspect of the kidneys is lots of vitality. The negative aspect is fear; people who are fearful tend to have weak kidneys. The colour associated with the kidneys is blue.

Liver: The positive aspect of the liver is generosity; the negative aspect is anger. The liver is known as the anger centre of the body. Green is the colour to visualise here.

Heart: The positive aspect of the heart is laughter and joy; the negative aspects are cruelty (a closed heart) and nervousness. The associated colour is, not surprisingly, red.

Stomach: The positive aspect of the stomach is trust, the negative aspect is worry. The colour is yellow.

For those of you whom are interested in doing Chi Kung, I will include some teachers in the Cape Town area at the end of the article. You can also have a look at some You Tube material(see sight at end) to show you what Chi Kung looks like. You’ll get the most benefit out of Chi Kung movements in the early morning, when the chi in the air is at its height.

Sounds also influence our chi. On my new campus, the building where I work is under construction. The constant noise is nerve-racking and draining, especially while I’m lecturing. By the same token, certain sounds will energise and relax specific organs. These so-called “healing sounds” can be quite advantageous for our general health, and some of them are incorporated into chi kung postures and movements. But the best sound of all is silence! Sitting quietly in meditation, either at home or in nature, will do wonders for our chi levels.

I hope you have learnt a little bit more about your own chi! May you make the best lifestyle choices for yourself, so that you have more than enough chi to enjoy the miracle of life.

Reference: Qi Gong course by Max Weier, Switzerland, 19, 20 Febr 2011

Please see www.max-weier.com

You Tube: How to practice Qigong exercises – The Eight Key Elements of Qigong

Teachers: (1) Katja Abbott in Kalkbay – 0731171987 or email: hummingbird@polka.co.za (2) Richard Jordi in Muizenberg and Rondebosch – email: Richard@taijinature.com

This article was published in Odyssey Magazine, Issue 6, Dec/Jan 2013, pg 22 – 24

© Dr Sibis Mouton