All Taoist practices focus on the internal organs since they are critical to our survival and the health we experience in our lifetime—they are what makes us tick. If you lose a limb, as long as you stop the bleeding, you will survive. In fact, you could lose all four limbs and still live but, if you lose an organ—say your heart, spleen or liver—your life will come to an abrupt and decisive end. The simple fact is that it’s not your muscles or limbs that perpetuate your life, but rather your internal organs. Western exercise methods emphasise developing muscle power, shape and tone—that which makes us look good from the outside.
However, when we move past our conditioning, what becomes apparent is that the way we look is mostly unimportant and what goes on inside us is what really counts. In the East, in places like China, Japan and India, whole medical systems are based upon the health of the internal organs. From the perspective of Taoist neigong, exercising the organs begins with the foundational practices, and continues on to the deepest and most advanced studies. All neigong targets the health of the organs to some degree—even when you cannot feel them— but the game shifts into high gear when you can.
Tai Chi + Bagua Master Bruce Franztis with Senior Instructor Paul Cavel
Although both tai chi and bagua develop softness and strength, each individual student is typically drawn to one side. Most people are either more yin or more yang in their personalities and approach to life. In the West, we naturally gravitate towards our strengths, which means we tend to develop that which is dominant in us and leave behind anything that is lacking or weak. This can create further imbalance—the opposite of what tai chi and bagua practice aims to achieve. Training tai chi helps you develop softness inside bagua, while training bagua helps create more flexibility in tai chi. In turn, greater flexibility from bagua further allows you to access a softer operation of tai chi, while a softer execution of tai chi allows you to generate more strength in bagua. This positive feedback loop continues on many levels throughout your practice over years and decades as you refine and hone your skills on ever-deeper layers.
Paul Cavel Offers Taoist Energy Arts Courses in London
When you change the flow of chi in the physical body through practice of qigong, tai chi or bagua, you create a shift from stagnancy towards vibrancy. If the blockages are minor (e.g. daily stress), the shift can be permanent; if, however, the blockages are old and lodged deep in the body, any shift will be temporary (at best) as the energetic pattern of the blockage will pull the body back into the closed or distorted state. If you practise regularly, eventually the balance tips and the shift can become permanent.
The Five Elements: Old Taoism’s Cycle of Transformation
As one of the three key streams of Taoist practice, Five Element Theory can be applied to understand the manifest world in which we live, such as feng shui and astrology, music and military strategy, martial arts and medicine, diet and therapy. There are many schools of thought and many dozens of systems available to work with the Five Elements. For example, the Creation-Destruction Cycles—or Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water and Wood-Earth-Water-Fire-Metal, respectively—were popularised during the first half of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), and remain widespread today.
However, Old Taoism’s approach to the Five Elements is primarily concerned with transformation in body, mind and chi. The Transformational Cycle is represented as: Water-Fire-Wood-Metal-Earth.
In my Inner Quest journal, I’ve been laying out best training strategies to develop internal power for health, healing, stress relief and achieving high performance goals of any kind through practice of neigong and meditation. My friend Dan Kleiman of Qigong Radio had a few questions about the crossover into and the connection between neigong and meditation. For those of you who don’t subscribe to my journal, I’ll provide a little context, and then you can listen to or download the interview by following the link offered below.
Neigong + Meditation: Twigs of the Same Branch?
Simply put, neigong takes care of the body, its chi and the lower base emotions, while meditation takes care of the mind. Neigong practices are a means for making contact with your body on ever-deeper levels and, through this process, you develop a certain degree of presence. You’ve got to be really disassociated and disconnected to devote hours to qigong practice and not feel your body! But that’s a very different thing from, in sitting practice, systematically working through your body, feeling, making present, becoming aware of, and linking to the lower tantien every physical part of your body, until it becomes completely alive to your awareness.
Taoism encompasses a wide range of practices from martial and healing arts, to yoga and meditation, to poetry, painting, calligraphy and geomancy, as well as methods for working with the Five Elements. All of them are ultimately contained within the teachings of the I Ching (Book of Changes). Although throughout the ages some Taoists have studied all aspects of Taoism, most certainly do not. Instead, each individual attunes to their path to what is relevant to their personal and spiritual development. That said there are core techniques which all Taoists train. They can be classified in three categories: the 16 neigong, Five Element practices and I Ching arts.
Paul Often Describes Heaven and Earth as “Healing Qigong”
Of the several thousand forms of qigong, only a few are as simple yet penetrate the body and chi as deeply as the Marriage of Heaven + Earth Qigong. This single, repetitive exercise can contain a colossal amount of internal and energetic content with each thread amplifying and multiplying all others. The benefits from correct, integrated and fluid practice— along with the potential weaves, depth and range possible within each layer—lead those in-the-know to regard Heaven + Earth as nothing less than pure magic.
The 16 neigong create the structure, content and principles that guide all Taoist practices, forming the science of how the body, mind and chi can be developed and integrated to their full potential. Taoists used meditation practices over thousands of years to go inside themselves and discover what was there. Through this long history of practice and direct perception, they developed the neigong system as a method for cleansing the human physical and energetic bodies. The process entails removing all blocks, kinks, knots and reconnecting any breaks or holes within the human energetic matrix. Therefore, we do not create a neigong weave but, in essence, are a neigong weave. Taoist practices are about repairing and developing that which exists naturally within us.
Paul Meditates atop Montsegur in the South of France
Emancipation or freedom from slavery and bondage is ultimately what the human spirit craves. From the perspective of your spirit, slavery encompasses how the attachments in your life—such as sex, material items, money, power and all that they bring—prevent you from being free. Bondage has to do with the ways in which your ego (or collection of identities) and your karmic loops bind you into the reality you experience, and thereby limit your human growth. So the question is: How can you free your spirit and, in so doing, realise your human potential?
Taoist Meditation Can Be Practised by Beginners + Experienced Students
There are many approaches to meditation from traditional to New Age. Some methods focus purely on relaxation and the ability to reduce stress, whereas others seek to encompass the full spectrum of a spiritual path that can ultimately culminate in Enlightenment. The range, depth and focus of meditation is wide and varied, but all traditional forms agree that proficiency in meditation must be developed over time with dedicated and regular practice.
I am a senior Energy Arts tai chi teacher (Level 2) and have taught Wu style tai chi since 1996 with gratitude to and the encouragement of my teacher, Wu and Yang Style Tai Chi Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis.
Paul Cavel Interview by Dan Kleiman My good friend and fellow Energy Arts tai chi instructor Dan Kleiman recently launched a new podcast series, Qigong Radio, to cover a wide variety of qigong and internal martial arts related topics. Dan … Continue reading →
Tai Chi Instructor Paul Cavel Teaching Internal Neigong Content in Stuttgart, Germany
How to Activate +
Develop Your Soft Tissues, Fluids + Chi
Although internal arts practice and the process of embodying ever-deeper layers of neigong is a lifetime pursuit for the most dedicated practitioners, at each increment of advancement, the associated health benefits increase significantly. Many students will sacrifice content for form, but it is the internals that supercharge qigong, tai chi and bagua forms—that which makes all the power-generating and health benefits possible.
The 10-minute breathing practice was recorded while on retreat in Crete earlier this year. It’s an easy breathing practice, particularly good for beginners to the Energy Arts System, that covers some of the primary points you want to focus on when you come to sit.
Paul Cavel Teaches Tai Chi Classes in North London
Sundays, 24 February-9 June 2013
and 23-24 March 2013 North London @Kings Cross/Euston 11 am-5:30 pm
Courses by Certified Senior Energy Arts
Tai Chi Instructor Paul Cavel
Wu style tai chi starts with a short 27-step form or 8-step Mini form, containing the essence of tai chi. This form was developed by Tai Chi Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis after encouragement from his teacher, Tai Chi Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh.
Paul’s New Membership Programme Launches 15 May 2012
Human beings, with all our complexity and potential, have diversified, populated and thrived around the globe. Since the breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution, we have spent 200 years becoming specialists in manipulating our environment and making radical changes to the way in which we experience the material world. The wonders that have resulted from man’s triumph over nature will only be surpassed by those of the Information Age, capable of producing yet more dramatic and astounding changes than witnessed in its infantile 30 years, such as the ability to decode the human genome and influence the genetics of various life forms—science that seeks to uncover the mysteries of our very existence.
All internal arts derived from the Taoist Water method are based on neigong, the science of energy flows, which is comprised of 16 essential components that generate internal power for health, healing and meditation. Each component represents cosmic potential for eliciting positive transformations in body, mind and energy, and therefore must be taught in progressive and systematic layers over time.
Anyone who is serious about internal arts training is always looking for ways to get in a little extra practice in a day. Addicts like myself look for ways to practice in their normal activities—imbuing them with internal content. Normal, … Continue reading →
Walking Injuries: One of the most common pitfalls from walking–or any exercise for that matter–is knee injuries. In order to prevent knee damage, you first need to obtain the correct height of the body. Stand with feet parallel, shoulder’s width … Continue reading →
Bagua + the I Ching: Bagua is a pure energy art originally practised by those interested in the I Ching—having been derived as a physical manifestation to realise the teachings of the I Ching. That is, bagua is an embodiment … Continue reading →
I don’t have to tell you that during the day, stress and tension have a way of building up. In our extremely visual world—with books, television, signs, cell phones, computers and all kinds of gadgetry—a lot of the tension ends … Continue reading →