Throughout the years, I’ve been asked this question in various forms, and I’ve come to realise that many students who ask it have often reached quite a profound level of practice. Of course, as with any Tao arts training, the answer lies in developing your skill with ever-more refined nei gong techniques, self-reflection and ongoing meditation practice.
To Control or Not to Control,
That Is the Question
The short answer to the question is that opening entails exerting some level of control while letting go does not. To consider the quality of difference yet deeper, we can look to the nei gong from which opening and letting go derive and how each are applied in practice.
All Tao energy arts 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.
My colleague Dan Kleiman recently launched a new podcast series, Qigong Radio, to cover a wide variety of qi gong and internal martial arts related topics.
Dan invited me to join him to discuss the fundamental levels of early qi energy (nei gong) training, and how it specifically provides the foundation for and links with long-term development in body and mind.
How to Activate + Develop
Your Soft Tissues, Fluids + Qi Energy
Although internal energy arts practice and the process of embodying ever-deeper layers of nei gong 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 qi gong, tai chi and bagua forms—that which makes all the power-generating and health benefits possible.
In my 2011 Five Element Qi Gong retreat in Crete, I discussed ways to restore balance in and revitalise the body. One method for fretting out imbalances and getting real about your practice is training with a partner, which accomplishes three important goals: