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Elizabeth Meloney

What is Qigong?

By | Benefits of the Internal Martial and Healing Arts | No Comments

Qi (Chi)  =  “vitality, energy, life force.”

Gong  =  “time and effort spent perfecting a skill.”

Qigong can be understood as mindfully cultivating, developing and refining through practice one’s life force energy (vitality, health) and joy in life.

Qigong is an ancient system of health from China and one of the four pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with Acupuncture, Massage and Herbal Medicines. 

Qigong is most often described as systems of exercises that use meditation, gentle movements and breathing to cultivate internal energy, and integrate and balance the body, mind and spirit.  But, Qigong is so much more than that!  It is a way of living in the world with mindful awareness, using the power of your intention to change your own personal paradigm, to master and liberate your inner world and bring yourself into balance with the natural order of the universe in every moment. 

Qigong is one of the most powerful self-healing traditions developed in human history.  Those who use Qigong faithfully tend to need less medication, less acupuncture and heal faster.  The primary mechanism that is activated by one’s practice of Qigong is a spontaneous balancing and enhancing of the natural healing resources in the human system.  Over thousands of years, millions of people have received the benefit of these practices, believing that improving the flow and function of the qi (chi) reverses the effects of aging and empowers you to reclaim health and joy in your life.

The most important component of Qigong is your mind.  By directing the internal systems of your body with your focused intention and listening inward with all your senses, you are cultivating the ability to bring health, resilience, stability and freedom to your body, mind, emotions and spirit.

While Qigong has strong roots into mystical and philosophical ground, the practical healing and stress management applications are the most popular aspects of the tradition in China today.  Both the health and spiritual applications are rapidly gaining in popularity in the Western world as people realize that disease and stress are relieved by peace of mind.

From Stillness, comes Awareness. From Stillness and Awareness, comes Sensitivity. From the integration of Stillness, Awareness and Sensitivity, Wisdom arises.” –Donald Rubbo 

The Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong in the Battle Against Cancer

By | Authentic Nature, Benefits of the Internal Martial and Healing Arts, Intention Driven Action, Tai Chi Chuan | No Comments

“Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, for those fighting cancer, can be of great benefit, because your mind is engaged in the movement, and directing the energy. Exercise – which oxygenates the blood – combined with Intention-Driven-Action will boost mood, immune system and fighting spirit!”  –from Masters Donald and Cheryl Lynne Rubbo’s Facebook Page

At Eternal Strength Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, we teach a variety of practices that are of great benefit to those battling and recovering from cancer and other acute and chronic illnesses.

One of these practices is:  Balancing the Five Elements Qigong

Balancing the Five Elements Qigong is a powerful system that quickly brings body/mind/spirit into harmony.  Practicing this method of healing daily will positively transform your health and your life.

The philosophy of the Five Elements comes to us from the Taoist traditions of ancient China.  More than 5,000 years ago, Taoist sages recognized that the elemental forces of wood, fire, earth, metal and water were present both in nature and in human beings.

This philosophy became the foundation for Traditional Chinese medicine and the health systems of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong.

The Five Elements reflect the very rhythms of nature; each element has a corresponding direction and season of the year, a representative color, sound and organs in the body, and both positive and negative emotions associated with them.

We are all made of the same radiant stuff as the stars, and while we share this common bond, we are each of us irreplaceable individuals with unique experiences that shape our lives and the way we move through the world.  In order for us to be happy, healthy and fulfilled, the Five Elements must be in balance.

An excess or lack of a particular element will result in an imbalance in the other elements.  We see this in nature—if there is too much rain, for instance, it can result in flood or mud slides that have the potential to create great upheaval and disharmony.

We human beings are the same, if one of our organs is out of balance through excess or lack, it throws the others out of balance as well and our inner world falls into disharmony.  The presence of disharmony can lead to disease and emotional instability, whereas a harmonious communication between the organs leads to resilient health and well-being.

Please look for the following article from CNN Online in the Blogroll at right:  Cancer?  More exercise, not less, may be best.

And please visit our website at www.EternalStrengthTaiChi.com for more information.

The WuJi Posture and Structural Integrity

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The following teaching on The WuJi Posture and Structural Integrity comes from a workshop that Master Donald Rubbo taught on The Universal Post Standing Meditation:

As students arrive for the workshop, Sifu is singing songs of realization. . .

“. . .We are also going to be speaking about The Mnemonic of the Thirteen Movements of Tai Chi Chuan and how they relate to stillness practice, because even though you are still doesn’t mean there is no movement.  There is movement in stillness, and stillness in movement.  Remember, even the movement of the chi is perfectly pure.  It’s not strong, it’s not non-existent, it’s not existent.  So, don’t seek to have something.  Allow what is occurring to happen and then you will gradually develop awareness. . .Mindfulness will develop and eventually wisdom will arise. . .

“Many years ago, Bing Gong was teaching one of my younger kung fu brothers the Universal Post Standing Meditation.  My younger kung fu brother was eager and listened very closely to Bing’s words:

“If you stand, you will attain enlightenment by doing this posture.”

“About two years ago, my younger kung fu brother came to visit me and he was quite upset about Bing having given him this teaching, and said, “Bing told me if I stood, I would become enlightened.”

“So, he had doubt in his teacher and he had doubt in the art.   He stood for years with a distracted mind, and then he gave up and didn’t practice any more.

“Well, he was looking for enlightenment, but you are not going to achieve enlightenment in a day, unless you have the karma to achieve it in a day.  Most of us are not born with that kind of blessing, and if we are born with that kind of blessing we probably don’t need the Standing meditation to acquire that level of realization.  .  .

“Unfortunately, he missed the whole point, and I thought it was a beautiful teaching that he came and gave me about the impatience of a student.  It’s not the inadequacies of the teacher—the teacher gave the student what would give him the skills. . .if the student is diligent and practices, he will gain the fruits of the practice.  If, however, he approaches the practice with doubt about the practice, or doubt about the transmitter of the practice, then the student cuts off the root.  No teacher; no root.  So always keep your teacher close.   This does not fulfill my ego as a teacher; it helps you.  If you keep that kind of heart, it doesn’t matter the distance or where you are in the world—your mind and your teacher’s mind are one.

“Now we are going to transition into the Universal Post Practice.  . . I’m going to give you the actual transmission of this form, then I’m going to talk about structural integrity.  We talked about this at class this morning–it is an important teaching on how to overcome obstacles in one’s life.  I’m not going to go too deeply into that, but for those who weren’t there, I’m going to give a little bit–there is no separation between that practice and this . . .

“Standing meditation came out of the Hsing Yi tradition.  This practice that you are going to learn today came out of Hsing Yi; the root is in Hsing Yi.  Hsing Yi Chuan – Yi Chuan.  Mind/Body Boxing – Mind Boxing—no body.  The body is perfectly pure.

“The Universal Post practice is before Yi Chuan.  Hsing Yi is very old, a very old tradition: older than Tai Chi, older than Bagua.  Hsing Yi came out of the tradition of Five Element Theory and Taoist Arts–Taoist wisdom–and it came out of the Twelve Animals that make up the twelve months of the Cosmology (Chinese calendar). . . This has to do with directions, just like Primordial Qigong. . .so keep these things in mind. . .

“So now, STRUCTURE.

“We always want to start in WuJi.  From this very basic stance, if I can find my structural integrity, I can do anything.

(Sifu moves into the Wuji posture)  “So, if I am observing my body and I can feel—as good as this posture is right now—I can feel all kinds of tension that should not be present.  If I can feel my cervical region and my chin is a little elevated, this small amount [of being out of alignment] leads to other things that will have tension.  So, I have to have awareness first.  If I start off trying to find my posture and my mind is too busy seeking, and asking: what am I looking for?  I won’t be able to find it.  So, I need to be still and breathe.  Quiet my mind; observe my body; feel where the weight is; feel where there’s tension; feel where there’s collapse; feel where there’s excess.

“Then I make minor adjustments along the way.  I’m going to start at the top because it’s easier to start at the top and work down.  I notice that my head is off: so I’m going to draw my chin in and raise the crown of my head up, as if the crown were suspended from above—just doing that corrected four other issues.  So I don’t have to spend a lot of time correcting them, because that one little thing adjusted me.  But I want to be mindful that the adjustments are appropriate and not too much, not too little.  You see how this is affecting not only my physical body, but if you look in my eyes you see the shen or spirit.  The eyes are the windows to the soul.  See how much more alert they are?  I’m not making this happen, I’m not trying to show myself more alert; this is just from the subtle adjustments.  (Sifu adjusts his posture)  “This is: I’m asleep.  This is: I have awakened.  Simple.”

“Now, I know that I want to give my body a little space, because my armpits are a little crowded.  So, I’m just going to expand them out a little bit, but not so I wind up like a gunslinger.  Not that big, I just want to give myself a little space so I open my armpits slightly.  Now, I want to be aware if there’s tension in my shoulders.  A lot of people hold tension in their shoulders and a sense of constriction. . . release that constriction and open.  Now, I want you to go down to the thoracic region and chest.  If my arms are opened appropriately, my shoulders are sinking down, my shoulder blades are opened up (out from the spine)—they won’t be pinching back.  If they’re pinching back, my chest is going to bow forward.  So I have to have this slightly-rounded softness in the chest, and the sense that it is sinking down.  This is all information most of you have received.

“Now, my abdomen.  In the Mnemonic they talk about having an abdomen that is free of obstructions/impurities.  For instance: Belching lets go of any impurities.

“I then want to relax the abdomen.  When I relax it, all of a sudden my chi has moved down where it is supposed to be.  So the abdomen has to be free of obstruction.  Obstructions can be physical tension; obstructions can be caused by bad food, impurities, emotions–these are all forms of congestion. . .

“Now I’m going to talk about the lower back.  The sacral lumbar region has a natural curve—which is good—but what we want to do is access the channel of energy that comes up and down the spine.  The Governing channel ascends chi up the spine and the chi circulates all the way from the perineum to the roof of the mouth.  So, in order for me to create the optimum condition for chi to flow I have to release any tension.  This natural curve that we have actually slows down the flow of chi. This natural curve can be considered like a regulator: if I turn the faucet on a little bit, there’s a little bit of energy or water, and if I turn the faucet on all the way, there is a larger amount.  So this pelvic tuck activates a pump that makes not only the chi ascend through the governing channel, but actually makes the cerebral spinal fluid ascend.  When the brain is being nourished by fresh cerebral spinal fluid, one has a real sense of well-being.  When it is diminished, we have clouded senses and we can’t concentrate.  Our mind is darting about from thought to thought and we don’t feel centered.  So, we want to use this physical structure to help acquire a stable mind.  There are multiple purposes, but this is the main one.

“Now, I roll my pelvis slightly forward to activate that cerebral pump as well as the natural flow of chi up the governing channel.  The abdomen is soft and free of obstructions, the back is flat and the pelvis is rolled under, the armpits are gently open.  Now, the legs: I want to have my thighs not completely engaged.  So, if I’m straight legged, I am going to be engaged in places I don’t want to be engaged.  This straight-legged posture actually will create muscular tension and then the chi cannot flow through these channels.  So, I want to soften my knees—I don’t want to sit down here (bent)—I just want to soften my knees.  Then relax the quadriceps and the hamstrings.  The gluteus maximus I want to be relaxed, not tense, not engaged.  The lower orifices should be sealed.  Sealed does not mean plucked up.  Plucked up changes the nature.  Seal is so the chi will not flow out.  The writings say: Seal the anus if you are a man.  Seal the vaginal area and the anus if you are a woman.

“So, I have freed my legs; there are no obstructions, they’re relaxed.  My knees are not collapsed.  This is very important: this is the next big joint in the body where we have to be conscious of not losing energy—it is a contained hydraulic system.  But if there is a leak due to injury or lack of awareness, the structure can make things collapse.  (Sifu demonstrates)  Let’s say my thighs rotate in just a small amount—can you see what happens?  What is collapsed and what is excessive?  Can you tell me?  So this side has become collapsed and therefore has become excessive and is bearing too much weight.  And it has to perform more than the other side.  So, I lose consciousness of the outer and am hyper-aware of the inner.  I want inner-outer to be even–if I can do this and be mindful of the back of the knee being open.

“Don’t misunderstand.  Do not stand with collapsed knees.  You will see people do standing like this (Sifu demonstrates collapsed knees—like a car tire that is deflated), and I guarantee you if they continue in this way they will ruin their knees.  It’s just a matter of time.  We need the fluid pressure. We need the space.  Think about gardening: if I plant seeds way too close together, nothing’s going to flourish and grow.  If I give each seed enough space, the potential is there for each to mature and grow to it’s full potential.  The same thing is true for the space within the knees.  The ankles also have to have this awareness.

A student asks a question:  “I guess I’m not understanding what you mean by “space” when you’re putting pressure on it.”

“We have a ball—think about a ball.  If the ball has air in it and we press on it, it doesn’t collapse.  It has springiness, right?  So, think of a round ball of energy between your joints—now we’re getting into the spiraling energy body—but there is a ball of energy like that.  Inside the ball there are fluids.  The body has these natural fluids between the joints and hopefully they’re not leaking out.  They start leaking out due to all kinds of issues: structural alignment, disease setting into the joints due to misalignment for a long period of time—wearing down of the joints.  (Sifu demonstrates again) Now I have a leak.  It’s no longer a contained vessel anymore.  Now there’s a space, and the pressure that is inside pushes out this little hole—like the slow leak in a tire.  So, the longer I stand with this loss of integrity of structure, the more I collapse. . .the more I collapse. . .the more I collapse, etc.

“This is not mindful practice.  This is only the awareness of that bodily sensation, and it is also bearing too much pressure on the mind.

“So, when we practice, we want both the mind to be perfectly pure and expansive, and the body standing with integrity of form and structure.  Then, we can stand for an hour and there’s nothing that will distract us.  No distracting sensations will get in the way because my structure is supported.  There is no discomfort when you do this properly.

“The issue is: how to learn to do this properly.  We always tend to use too much physical effort to try to achieve something.  Over-efforting is not going to help you achieve this,  but we let beginners do over-efforting because there is a stage when the student gives up:  “Why is he having me do this?”  “I’m so uncomfortable!”  The student actually becomes enraged that the teacher is not letting him put his arms down.  “Keep them up,” the teacher says.  After a while, you’re really mad and ready to curse.  Well now your mind is so fixated on the bodily sensations that they are no longer perfectly pure.  You exhaust yourself.

“So, there’s a point where you just can’t bear it anymore and you give up the struggle.  You move from the tension of the rage and struggle to the relaxation of tension, (Sifu demonstrates the release of tension into a relaxed posture) and you say, “Oh, that’s easy.  I was struggling.  Not with my teacher, actually, but with myself.”

“Hopefully this is a stage of awakening when this happens, and you are not still fixated upon the struggle and directing it at the teacher, unlike my kung fu brother who acquired no skill after many years of practice.  So, he made me smile really big when he told me the story.  Not out of joy that he didn’t get the skill—I felt bad that he didn’t learn—he made me smile because he gave me a teaching that without the proper method of practice, it doesn’t matter how diligent, you will get nothing.  Many people go out and stand for hours and get nothing.  My job as a good teacher is to teach you how to do it properly, with the right motivation, the right intention, the right energy, and the right structure.  If you put all these ingredients together, you will gain the result.  You’ll get it and it won’t take you years to acquire skill.  Then you’ll have years of joy in practice, because you’ll be attaining a high level of realization. . .”

© 2010 Elizabeth Meloney—All rights reserved.

The Bright Smile of Spontaneously Present Joy

By | Authentic Nature, Breathing, Healing, Intention Driven Action, Meditation, Practices, Qigong | No Comments

We begin every class and every practice session with the radiant awareness described below.  This gentle, profound practice helps lift us out of the stresses of life into wholeness and limitless potential and positively supercharges our health, our outlook and every activity in our lives, both on and off the practice court.  We recommend incorporating this practice daily, and then notice what changes have taken place over the course of a week, a month, a year!

  1. Begin by sitting in a chair, feet shoulder width apart and parallel, palms resting on the tops of your thighs, arms relaxed.  If your back is strong, sit more forward on the chair, if not, scoot your body to the back of the chair and use the backrest for support.  Feel the feet connected to the earth.
  2. Become aware of the fold in the body where the hip meets the thigh, the inguinal curve, or kwa.  Feel the bottom of the torso, the perineum, where it contacts the chair.  Gently press the feet into the floor and the perineum into the chair without strain or tension, and lift up through the midriff, allowing the chest and shoulders to remain relaxed and full.  This helps to release any strain/compression from the lower spine.
  3. Allow the crown of your head to gently lift upwards, creating an elongation in the torso.  Align the crown of the head over the perineum, and notice the gentle fullness and integrity of the central energy channel in the body.  The head is aligned with the centerline of the body.  The chin is gently drawn in towards the neck and remains parallel to the floor (not tilted up or down.)  The eyes are softly on the horizon.  Maintain this gently full, upright posture throughout the practice.
  4. Now focus on the breath.  Gently breathe into the lower abdomen: long, slow, even, smooth and continuous.  Notice the diaphragm gently sinks on the inhalation.  Then exhale in the same slow, even manner and notice the diaphragm gently rises.  Allow your gently-focused mind to follow the breath in and out.  You want the belly to rise and fall gently without strain or tension, and you never want to force the breath.  This is known as diaphragmatic breathing or natural breathing.  (We will cover more on breath in future posts.)  Breathe in this manner for several minutes, and build up the time you spend in this gentle breathing practice—the more time you spend in this deep breathing, the better for your body, mind and spirit.  This is the way babies breathe!  As we age and are exposed to the stresses of life, illness and injury our breath becomes shallower, the respiratory apparatus becomes tense, restricted, and consequently we have less available oxygen.  The daily practice of deep, natural breathing has far-reaching benefits for health and peace of mind.  Ultimately, your practice will naturally deepen and expand, constrictions and tensions will be released and this will become your way of breathing.   “When one gives undivided attention to the (vital) breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as a tender babe.”  —Tao De Ching, J. Legge, Trans.
  5. Now, focus on the heart center and imagine a very bright seed of purest light in the core of the heart center.  This seed of light is so bright–as bright as 10,000 suns and moons–this light is divine, luminous joy.  (One can liken this joy to the quality we feel when we see a much beloved family member or friend from whom we have been separated for a long time.)  Allow this seed of luminous joy to expand in size and spread throughout the heart center.  See it.  Feel it.  Look for a felt-sense experience of the radiance of divine, limitless joy.  Then allow the light to move throughout the body, bathing every cell and particle in the body, mind and spirit with luminous joy.  Notice that the lips cannot help but turn up in a gentle smile; feel the same gentle smile in the eyes and throughout the body.  Gratitude permeates every cell and you have become a beacon of joy.  Continue deep, slow, even breathing and rest for as long as you wish in this joyful, limitless awareness.

Begin and end the day with this practice, and call upon it at anytime.  The idea is to cultivate this limitless, joyful awareness so that we are never separate from it.  This simple, yet profound practice creates a healing atmosphere and inner/outer unity that is filled with divine potential and helps us reconnect with our authentic nature.  This practice is known as “The Bright Smile of Spontaneously Present Joy.”

© 2010 Elizabeth Meloney—All rights reserved.

What do we mean by Eternal Strength?

By | Authentic Nature, Benefits of the Internal Martial and Healing Arts, Breathing, Extraordinary Breath, Intention Driven Action, Tai Chi Chuan | 3 Comments

To be physically resilient, powerful, peaceful and radiant with health are a few of the many benefits that accrue to practitioners of the internal martial and healing arts.  However, our conventional understanding of ‘strength’ can also connote a kind of internal tension, holding, efforting or attachment to ego that is not conducive to the pure cultivation of chi or qi (life force energy) and the realization of accomplishment in Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong.  Rather, it is by mastering the landscape of our inner world and releasing the internal tensions, attachments and discomforts of body, mind and spirit that we can open up, expand and liberate the space within.

Eternal Strength signifies for us the everlasting depth and breadth of spirit that resides in each of us–that which connects the limitless potential of our authentic nature to the Divine.  It is through cultivating the eternal strength within that we can fully awaken to the present moment and be in harmony with the matrix of the universe; it is here that we can be truly at home, comfortable, joyful and fulfilled; it is here that we can truly inhabit life.

How do we find our authentic nature?

By | Authentic Nature | No Comments

As students of the internal martial and healing arts, we spend years—lifetimes—perfecting the purity and integrity of the forms we practice. This is part of the ongoing investigative process of Tai Chi, and because the intention we bring to this process is also pure and rooted in love and compassion and truth, the result is a polished jewel of a vessel that can and does hold limitless amounts of healing elixir. To explore further, one must also engage the creative process. We must not stagnate, we must not become habitual. In this way, we truly honor the lineage of our teachers.

My own Sifu, Master Donald Rubbo, has said:

“The engagement of the creative process sets us on the path to ‘evolving into’ our own unique, authentic nature . . . this is the way of joy, the way of freedom. This is the true alchemy!”

© 2010 Elizabeth Meloney—All rights reserved.

How do we find our authentic nature?

By | Authentic Nature, Benefits of the Internal Martial and Healing Arts, Intention Driven Action, Tai Chi Chuan | No Comments

As students of the internal arts, we spend years—lifetimes—perfecting the purity and integrity of the forms we practice. This is part of the ongoing investigative process of Tai Chi, and because the intention we bring to this process is also pure and rooted in love and compassion and truth, the result is a polished jewel of a vessel that can and does hold limitless amounts of healing elixir. To explore further, one must also engage the creative process. We must not stagnate, we must not become habitual. In this way, we truly honor the lineage of our teachers.

My own Sifu, Master Donald Rubbo, has said:

“The engagement of the creative process sets us on the path to ‘evolving into’ our own unique, authentic nature . . . this is the way of joy, the way of freedom. This is the true alchemy!”