The philosophical concept of Heaven and Earth encompasses many practices of both the manifest and primordial realms. As a qi gong practice, Heaven and Earth is an excellent methodology for penetrating deep into the body and bringing alive the many layers of flesh, fluids and qi; whereas, Heaven and Earth as a fundamental aspect of Taoist theory enters the realm of the cosmic, having very different implications.
This dual-aspected philosophy is not unique to Taoism, as discussed in the article from which this excerpt is derived, but the pragmatic and skilful approach of the Water method allows the Taoist seeker to evolve on all levels of their being through a systematic training protocol. Derived from study of the Five Elements and I Ching, this practice methodology offers the dedicated student of the Tao effective strategies for navigating the pitfalls of living in the modern material world, and effectively growing their personal and spiritual potential.
The Manifest + Primordial Realms
The manifest and primordial realms exist along a spectrum with each at opposite ends. So although they are distinct, each remains intricately interconnected because all time, space, energy and matter are derived from the universal essence of Tao. From a practice perspective, the same principles apply as for any Tao art, which require the dedicated student to evolve their practice over their lifetime, slowly growing their ability and skill—without skipping fundamental levels to move onto the more advanced and fantastical.
As discussed in previous issues of Inner Quest, to truly understand the full implications of these concepts requires direct experience of the entire and integrated nei gong system. Then and only then can the depths and qualities of the Five Elemental and I Ching energies be fully realised.
- Study in the realm of the manifest traditionally begins with training of the Five Elements (specifically the Wood Element), wherein the energies of Heaven and Earth are connected and married in the body’s lower tantien. This practice begins locally, i.e. the part of the Earth on which the practitioner stands and the part of Heaven that is directly above.
- Study in the realm of the primordial begins with the guas (trigrams) of Heaven and Earth, the first two templates of manifestation as described in the I Ching. These practices develop the ability to tune into and draw upon the primordial energies, that is the essence of Heaven and the essence of Earth—the underlying web of universal qi that connects all things.
Heaven + Earth: The Beginning Phase + the Wood Element
The Taoist name for Heaven and Earth Qi Gong is Kai Hur Gong or “Open and Close Practice/Skill”. It is considered a practice when the student is in the learning phase and a skill once the practitioner becomes an adept.
There are two basic components to open and close (also known as “pulsing”), which are:
- Opening and closing all of the body’s joints, cavities, organs, blood vessels and subtle energy anatomy;
- Lengthening out and in along the yang and yin surfaces of the body, which is a subdivision of open and close—that is pulsing the muscles and other soft tissues.
The aim in Heaven and Earth Qi Gong is to wake up, amplify and integrate these two fundamental components, and then deepen the practice to the best of the practitioner’s ability. The stronger the pulsing and lengthening, the more qi energy that can be engaged and developed, and the stronger the connection to and the possibility of drawing upon the energies of Heaven and Earth.
For instance, yin-yang flows are initially executed in the fascia under the skin, but eventually run through all soft tissues right down to the bone. This requires directly lengthening everything from the skin to the tissues sitting on the bones (muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments) throughout the whole body, at will, and in specific patterns of motion to mobilise and develop qi energy. Through this method, the practitioner begins to extend their qi beyond their extremities to contact and draw upon the energies of Heaven and Earth.
Open-and-close techniques are initiated in the joints: in the beginning, the action is linear or circular at best; however, when the entire skeletal frame and all of the cavities get involved, pulsing edges towards the spherical and, through this method, the energies of Heaven and Earth are not only contacted, but so too are the energies of the environment.
Heaven, Earth + Man
What many students do not know is that the perennial name for Heaven and Earth (in terms of a qi gong practice infused with deep open-and-close techniques) is actually “Heaven, Earth and Man”. The name not only suggests that the energies of Heaven and Earth are moving through the practitioner, but also that the practitioner opens up to and energetically connects with their immediate environment.
This practice is normally reserved for the time and place when this level of training can actually be engaged and embodied by the prepared student. In ancient times, when Tao arts practices were being developed, our species was well integrated with the environment—both physically and energetically—so it makes sense that methodologies were created to tap into, blend with and energetically draw upon these vast and readily available natural resources. Modern living is slowly but effectively separating us from our natural environment, so these concepts are fictionalised, or reserved for fantastical children’s stories or big budget movie productions to show off the latest technological advances in CGI (computer-generated imagery)—what a paradox indeed!
However, when the dedicated student wakes up, engages and integrates the relevant nei gong, open-and-close techniques power the yin-yang flows and, likewise, the yin-yang flows feed open-and-close techniques, creating a magnificent positive feedback loop. As these two fold into each other, the developing qi activates the practitioner’s entire etheric field and permeates Heaven, Earth and their immediate environment.