The following are twenty-four rules which have been passed down by generations of Qìgōng masters. These rules are based on much study and experience, and you should observe them carefully.
- Don’t be Stubborn about Plans and Ideas (Yùzhí Wàngniàn, 預執忘念). This is one of the easiest mistakes for beginners to make. When we take up Qìgōng we are enthusiastic and eager. However, sometimes we don’t learn as fast as we would like to, and we become impatient and try to force things. Sometimes we set up a sched- ule for ourselves: today I want to make my Dāntián warm, tomorrow I want to get through the tailbone cavity, by such and such a day I want to complete the Small Circulation. This is the wrong way to go about it. Qìgōng is not like any ordinary job or task you set for yourself — you cannot make a progress schedule for Qìgōng. This will only make your thinking rigid and stagnate your progress. Everything happens when it is time for it to happen. If you force it, it will not happen naturally.
- Don’t Place Your Attention in Discrimination (Zhuóyì Fēnbié, 著意分別). When you practice, do not place your attention on the various phenomena or sensations which are occurring. Be aware of what is happening, but keep your mind centered on wherever it is supposed to be for the exercise you are doing. If you let your mind go to wherever you feel something interesting happening, the Qì will follow your mind and interfere with your body’s natural tendency to rebalance itself. Do not expect anything to happen, and don’t let your mind wander around looking for the various phenomena. Furthermore, don’t start evaluating or judging the phenomena, such as asking “Is my Dāntián warmer today than it was yesterday?” Don’t ask your- self “Just where is my Qì now?” When your mind is on your Qì, your Yì is there also, and this stagnant Yì will not lead the Qì. Be aware of what is happening, but don’t pay attention to it. When you drive a car, you don’t watch yourself steer and work the pedals and shift gears. If you did, you’d drive off the road. You simply put your mind on where you want to go and let your body automatically drive the car. This is called regulating without regulating.
- Avoid Miscellaneous Thought Remaining on Origins (Zániàn Pānyuán, 雜念攀 緣). This is a problem of regulating the mind. The emotional mind is strong, and every idea is still strongly connected to its origin. If you cannot cut the ideas off at their source, your mind is not regulated, and you should not try to regulate your Qì. You will also often find that even though you have stopped the flow of random thoughts going through your mind, new ideas are generated during practice. For example, when you discover your Dāntián is warm, your mind immediately recalls where this is mentioned in a book, or how the master described it, and you start to compare your experience with this. Or you may start wondering what the next step is. All of these thoughts will lead you away from peace and calm, and your mind will end up in the Domain of the Devil. Then your mind will be confused, scattered, and very often scared, and you will tire quickly.
- Xīn Should not Follow the External Scenery (Xīnsuí Wàijǐng, 心隨外景). This is also a problem of regulating the mind (Xīn). When your emotional mind is not controlled, any external distraction will lead it away from your body and to the dis- traction. You must train yourself so that noises, smells, conversations and such will not disturb your concentration. It is all right to be aware of what is happening, but your mind must remain calmly, peacefully, and steadily on your cultivation.
- Regulate Your Sexual Activity (Rùfáng Shījīng, 入房施精). You should not have sexual relations at least 24 hours before or after practicing Qìgōng, especially martial or religious Qìgōng. The Essence-Qì conversion training is a very critical part of these practices, and if you practice Qìgōng soon after sex, you will harm your body significantly. Sex depletes your Qì and sperm, and the Qì level in the lower portion of your body is lower than normal. When you practice Qìgōng under these condi- tions, it is like doing heavy exercise right after sex. Furthermore, when your Qì level is abnormal, your feeling and sensing are also not accurate. Under these conditions, your Yì can be misled, and its accuracy affected. You should wait until the Qì level regains its normal balance before you resume Qìgōng practice. Only then will the Essence-Qì conversion proceed normally and efficiently.
One of the major purposes of Qìgōng is to increase the Essence-Qì conversion and use this Qì to nourish your body. Once a man has built up a supply of Qì, having sex will only pass this Qì on to his partner. As a matter of fact, many Qìgōng masters insist that you should not have sex three days before and four days after practice. During sexual relations the female usually gains Qì while the male loses Qì during ejaculation. The woman should not practice Qìgōng after sex until her body has digested the Qì she has obtained from the man. There are certain Daoist Qìgōng techniques which teach men how not to lose Qì during sexual activity and teach women how to receive Qì from the man and digest it. We will leave the discussion of this subject to Qìgōng masters who are qualified and experienced in it.
- Don’t be too Warm or too Cold (Dàwēn Dàhán, 大溫大寒). The temperature of the room in which you are training should not be too hot or too cold. You should practice in the most comfortable environment which will not disturb your mind and cultivation.
- Be Careful of the Five Weaknesses and Internal Injuries (Wǔláo Ànshāng, 五癆 暗傷). Five weaknesses mean the weaknesses of five Yīn organs: the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen. When you realize that any of these five organs is weak, you should proceed very gradually and gently with your Qìgōng practice. Qìgōng practice is an internal exercise which is directly related to these five organs. If you do not move gradually and gently, it is like forcing a weak person to run 10 miles right away. This will not build up his strength, instead it will injure him more seriously. For the same reason, when you have an internal injury your internal Qì distribution and circulation is already disturbed. If you practice Qìgōng your feelings may be misled, and your practice may worsen your problem and interfere with the natural healing process. There are certain Qìgōng exercises which are designed to cure inter- nal injuries, but to use them properly you need to have a very good understanding of the Qì situation of your body.
- Avoid Facing the Wind When Sweating (Zuòhàn Dāngfēng, 坐汗當風). Don’t practice in the wind, especially facing the wind. When you practice Qìgōng you are exercising either internally, or both internally and externally. It is normal to sweat, and since you are relaxed, your pores are wide open. If you expose your body to cold wind, you will catch cold.
- Don’t Wear Tight Clothes and Belt (Jǐnyī Shùdài, 緊衣束帶). Always wear loose clothes during practice because this will help you to feel comfortable. Keep your belt loose, too. The abdomen is the key area in Qìgōng practice, and you must be careful not to limit the movement of this area because it will interfere with your practice.
- Don’t Eat too Much Greasy and Sweet Food (Tāotiè Féigān, 饕餮肥甘). You should regulate your eating habits while you are practicing Qìgōng. Greasy or sweet food will increase your Fire Qì, making your mind scattered, and your Shén will stray away from its residence. You should eat more fruits and vegetables and keep away from alcohol and tobacco.
- Don’t Hang Your Feet off the Bed (Báchuáng Xuánjiǎo, 跋床懸腳). In ancient times the most common place in Qìgōng practice was sitting on your bed. Since most beds were high, if you sat on the edge of the bed your feet would hang off the side of the bed above the floor. When you practice Qìgōng your feet should touch the floor. If they do not, all of the weight of your body will press down on the lower part of your thighs and reduce the Qì and blood circulation. Furthermore, when you practice you should not put your feet up on the table, because this position will also stagnate the Qì and blood circulation.
- Don’t Practice with a Full Bladder (Jiǔrěn Xiǎobiàn, 久忍小便). You should go to the toilet before you start your practice. If you need to go during practice, stop your practice and do so. Holding it in disturbs your concentration.
- Don’t Scratch an Itch (Sāozhuā Yǎngchù, 搔抓癢處). If you itch because of some external reason, such as an insect walking on you or biting you, do not be alarmed and keep your mind calm. Use your Yì to lead the Qì back to its residence, the Dāntián. Breathe a couple of times and gradually bring your consciousness back to your surroundings. Then you may scratch or think of how to stop the itching. However, if the itching is caused by Qì redistribution in the Qìgōng practice, remain calm and do not move your mind there. Simply ignore it and let it happen. Once it has reached a new balance, the itching will stop. If you scratch this kind of itch, it means that your mind has been disturbed, and also that you are using your hands to interfere with the natural rebalancing of your body’s Qì.
- Avoid Being Suddenly Disturbed or Startled (Cùhū Jīngjì, 猝呼驚悸). You should avoid being suddenly disturbed or startled. However, if it does happen, calm down your mind. You must absolutely prevent yourself from losing your temper. What has happened has happened and getting mad cannot change anything. What you should do is prevent it from happening again. Most important of all, though, is learning how to regulate your mind when you are disturbed.
- Don’t Take Delight in the Scenery (Duìjǐng Huānxǐ, 對景歡喜). It is very common during practice to suddenly notice something that is going on inside of you. Perhaps you feel Qì moving more clearly than ever before, or you start to sense your bone marrow, and you feel elated and excited. You have just fallen into a very common trap. Your concentration is broken, and your mind is divided. This is dangerous and harmful. You have to learn how to be aware of what is going on inside you without getting excited.
- Don’t Wear Sweaty Clothes (Jiǔzhuó Hànyī, 久著汗衣). This happens mostly in moving Qìgōng practice, especially in martial Qìgōng training. When your clothes are wet from sweat you will feel uncomfortable, and your concentration will be affected. It is better to change into dry clothes and then resume practice.
- Don’t Sit When Húngry or Full (Jībǎo Shàngzuò, 飢飽上坐). You should not practice Qìgōng when you are Húngry or when your stomach is full. When you are Húngry it is hard to concentrate, and when you are full your practice will affect your digestion.
- Heaven and Earth Strange Disaster (Tiāndì Zāiguài, 天地災怪). It is believed that your body’s Qì is directly affected by changes in the weather. It is therefore not advis- able to practice Qìgōng when there is a sudden weather change, because your prac- tice will interfere with your body’s natural readjustment to the new environment. You will also be unable to feel and sense your Qì flow as you do normally. You must always try to remain emotionally neutral whenever you do Qìgōng; even if you are disturbed by a natural disaster like an earthquake, you must remain calm so that your Qì stays under control.
- Listen Sometimes to True Words (Zhēnyán Ǒutīng, 真言偶聽). You need to have confidence when you practice Qìgōng. You should not listen to advice from people who do not have experience in Qìgōng and who are not familiar with the condition of your body. Some people listen to their classmates explain how they reached a cer- tain level or how they cured a certain problem, and then blindly try to use the same method themselves. You need to understand that everyone has a different body, everyone’s health is slightly different, and everyone learns differently. When the time comes for you to learn something new, you will understand what you need. Play it cool and easy, and always have confidence in your training.
- Don’t Lean and Fall Asleep (Hūnchén Qīngyī, 昏沉傾欹). You should not continue your Qìgōng training when you are sleepy. Using an unclear mind to lead Qì is dan- gerous. Also, when you are sleepy your body will not be regulated and will tend to lean or droop, and your bad posture may interfere with the proper Qì circulation. When you are sleepy it is best to take a rest until you are able to regain your spirit.
- Don’t Meditate When You Have Lost Your Temper or are Too Excited (Dànù or Dàlè Rùzuò, 大怒、大樂入坐). You should not meditate when you are too excited due to anger or happiness. Since your mind is scattered, meditation will bring you more harm than peace.
- Don’t Keep Spitting (Tǔtán Wúdù, 吐痰無度). It is normal to generate a lot of saliva while practicing Qìgōng. The saliva should be swallowed to moisten your throat. Don’t spit out the saliva because this is a waste, and it will also disturb your concentration.
- Don’t Doubt and Become Lazy (Shēngyí Xièdài, 生疑懈怠). When you first start Qìgōng, you must have confidence in what you are doing, and not start doubting its validity, or questioning whether you are doing it right. If you start doubting right at the beginning you will become lazy, and you will start questioning whether you really want to continue. In this case, you will not have any success and your practice will never last.
- Do Not Ask for the Speedy Success (Bùqiú Sùxiào, 不求速效). This is to remind you that Qìgōng practice is time consuming, and progress is slow. You must have patience, a strong will, and confidence to reach your goal. Taking it easy and being natural are the most important rules.
The above is an excerpt from The Root of Chinese Qigong, Third Edition, Secrets for Health, Longevity & Enlightenment, Publication Date September 4, 2022, by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 9781594399107.