The new material for this week is a complementary combination of Taiji and Acupuncture. How do these two practices go together exactly? They are both tools to stimulate the flow of Qi of course!
We spend our mornings with Li Shi Fu, learning the Water style Taiji form. The body is likened to a bow, with the spine kept straight as the string, and the back as the arched bow. Movements flow steady and slow like water, paired with the breath, in a dance-like martial art. There are no less than 15 requirements for the body alignment for practicing Taiji. For instance, the hips are kept “scooped”, with the butt tucked in, so as to maintain the energy of the lower dan tian in the “spoon” of the sacrum. The body is also likened to two galaxies, or wheels, as the torso and the hips turn and twist. Though the body and intention of movement are active, the mind must remain clear, as the most important requirement for Taiji is to, “only move Qi, not thoughts.”
To learn the Taiji form is just the beginning. Consistent daily practice is the only way to generate one’s Qi and energetic field. Take Cheng Jiu for example. His field got so strong from his daily Taiji practice, he broke the record of weight carried up to the temple, with a 53kg sack of rice! Everyone congratulated him upon his arrival, except Li Shi Fu, who scolded him to only carry 60-70% of his maximum, so as not to injure his power.
In the afternoon lecture sessions, we are reminded to memorize (to death!) the theories and acupuncture points. “Study statically, use dynamically,” says Li Shi Fu. A strong foundation of the theories is essential to build the rest of the knowledge upon. The class had an interesting review and find session, of the prerequisite 100+ acupuncture points on our own bodies, and on a partners’ body. Cheng Shun, or Doctor Shun, led us through finding the points, which can be quite an art in itself.
“Comprehensive and dynamic” have become key words, in our diagnosis and treatment of patients. Our bodies operate both comprehensively and dynamically, and thus is the class, as we have been doing most meditations together. This team cultivation has been great to increase endurance, share the energetic vibe, and build resistance to distractions. Our personal practice of meditation is essential to becoming skillful healers, as “one half of the power of the doctor lies in their practice of gong*,” says Li Shi Fu, “ALL of the old teachers practiced gong*, and this is what let them practice at such a high level.”
*gong refers to all skill or meditation practice, such as qigong, taiji, sitting and standing meditation.
This week ended on a high note with the Mid-Autumn Festival. We assembled at the Main Temple of the Five Immortals for morning and evening scriptures, led by Li Shi Fu. In the middle of the scripture, we followed Li Shi Fu as he led us through the courtyard, to the sound of the wooden fish, to light prayer papers and burn in the furnace to send our prayers and thoughts to the heavens. A wise teacher in our presence says, as you know, “our thoughts and prayers that float skyward, are just as powerful as the heavens we gaze upon.”
We also had a Daoist naming ceremony in which new students received Daoist names. Names are given by Li Shi Fu, who picks each name to suit the student’s nature. The prefix “Cheng”, or “sincere/honest/true” precedes each name, by which we are called around the temple. Upon naming, we are reminded to follow the five precepts, to show compassion through meritorious deeds, and to use our knowledge to help others. This holiday is also celebrated with moon cakes filled with a variety of fruity Chinese sweets. As we look excitedly inside our various moon cakes, we also celebrate by looking inside ourselves, and by praying for more clarity. When we cultivate this power of looking within ourselves, as we are told by Li Shi Fu, we can better help others to look inside to heal as well.
Our Daoist medicine course is already half way, and our brains are sometimes overheating with the increasing amount of knowledge we have to remember. But we diligently keep going ! The physical daily practice remains the same, with QiGong, Longevity and TaiJi, and the new students are doing very well as they finished to learn the form. They still train separated from the old students for
a few more days, they have to repeat the form again and again and try to let it flow as water and also hold all the postures one by one. Physical practice is important and very helpful to warm up the body, as the weather is getting colder and more humid, with more and more rainy and misty days wrapping the mountain.
Our friend Yaoling, a young portugese woman who is studying Chinese Medicine in Nanjing, came back this week and joined the group for the rest of the course. She’s looking for deeper knowledge about Daoist Medicine to complement what she’s studying at university, and at the same time swapping for a while the busy environment of a big chinese city with the special energetic field of our holy heavenly horse mountain !
We are pursuing our theory studied with the huge content of acupuncture. Beside channels pathways and the 100 most commonly used points that we have to memorize, we also have to learn the Shu‐ points of all the channels, the Yuan‐source points, the Luo‐connecting points, the Shu and Mu points, the meeting points, the confluent points and the He‐sea points… Each point has to be memorized “to death” according to the location, the chinese name, the main functions and ideally the chinese character. We also learnt a traditional calculation method using the heavenly stems and earthly
branches system as well as the BaGua (8 trigrams) that helps to determine which points can be open at a specific time and be used for a more efficient treatment.
We are also now seeing the use of the previous content, like the 5 elements theory, get applied. This amount of knowledge is huge and very important as a basis of healing with Daoist medicine, because the channels and points can be used for different healing methods such as acupuncture of course, but also massage, acupressure, moxa… Everybody is putting effort to memorize as much as possible and go further in the study. As this week was the national holiday in china, this along with the good weather brought many people to come visit the temple. This meant in our spare time we had to look after them, help them light the incense and keep the temple looking tidy. Through the days there would be about 30 incense at a time and there was no 15 minutes point were there wasn’t at least one lot of fire crackers going off. In the hall of ZiSunNiangNiang (goddess of fertility) there was a small ceremony with a small table of food and gave new clothing to the statues and left lots of offerings as well.