Once you have accomplished your Small Circulation, the Qì circulating in the Twelve Primary Channels (Meridians) will be abundant and smooth, and then you can extend the Qì from the meridians outward to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, skin, and beyond. For example, through Grand Circulation you will be able to lead the Qì to the joints to condition and improve the strength and endurance of muscles and tendons. This is the key training of Chinese martial artists. You may also lead the Qì to the Girdle Vessel (or Belt Vessel) (Dàimài, 帶脈) to strengthen your immune system. Naturally, you will also be able to exchange the Qì with your partners or other lives such as animals or plants. Each person will experience Small Circulation in different ways and each session may be experienced differently each time.
I do not want to bind you to one way of thinking. Some may feel a tingling along the vessels, and some may feel a warm wave. Keep your mind open in each practice. Pay attention. Do not preconceive what you may feel. Theoretically, the higher the level of Small Circulation you have experienced and practiced, the higher accomplishments you will achieve in Grand Circulation. There are many Grand Circulation practices in Qìgōng society. Here, I would like to summarize some keys of these practices.
Keys of Muscle/Tendon Changing Grand Circulation Qigong
Since there are so many possible Grand Circulations derived from Small Circulation, you must have some important ideas such as what, why, and how. Without knowing these, it will be like driving a car without knowing where to go and why.
- Knowing Which Grand Circulation Practice Meets Your Need. For example, the Grand Circulation for Iron Shirt (Tiěbùshān, 鐵布衫) will be different than others. Not only do you have to know what Iron Shirt is and what results you can expect from training, you must also know what the side effects will be. There are two ways to do Iron Shirt training: from the outside in and from the inside out. The outside-in method commonly used for external martial arts is faster but can also have the side effect of energy dispersion (Sàngōng, 散功). Training Qì exchange with a partner will be different than training with a tree. Different Grand Circulations serve different purposes and have a different theory behind them. Understanding theory is just like knowing how to read a map. Without knowing the theory behind the practice, the training may be shallow and even harmful. Again, since there are so many possible Grand Circulations, it is very difficult to find a qualified teacher who has had all the various experiences. Therefore, knowing the theory behind the training remains the crucial key to safety and success.
- Knowing Why You Want to Train a Specific Grand Circulation. Other than knowing the nature of the Grand Circulation you choose to train and what the theory is behind it, you must also know why you want to know it, why it works, and how it serves your purpose. For example, Iron Sand Palm (Tiěshāzhǎng, 鐵 砂掌) is a powerful and destructive training to condition your palms for fighting. However, you must also recognize that the side effect of the training can be harmful for your Qì circulation in the twelve meridians. If you train Iron Sand Palm just to show off your destructive power, then it is not worth the risk to your health. In addition, since guns are more powerful and destructive compared to your palm, it seems this motivation for training is shallow. However, the beginning stage of Iron Sand Palm training, before the harsh conditioning, which teaches you how to lead the Qì to the palms, can be very beneficial for health. In this case, your training purpose is different. Recognition of why you do want to train is a crucial question before your training.
- Knowing How to Train. This is the final crucial key and the most important one. Without knowing how to train correctly, you may encounter various side effects or negative consequences. Other than knowing the foundational theory, you usually need a qualified and experienced teacher to guide you to the right path. Unfortunately, there are not too many qualified teachers around in today’s society. However, if you understand the foundational theory (i.e., map) clearly and proceed cautiously, you may attain a high level of training. For example, once you know the theory clearly, you may practice rooting Grand Circulation Yǒngquán Breathing (Yǒngquán Xí, 湧泉息) without a teacher. This training can be very beneficial for your stability and health. Another example is Grand Circulation of Qì exchange with a partner (i.e., dual cultivation) (Shuāngxiū, 雙修). Once you know the theory, and if you are cautious, usually there is no harm. I remind you, however, that this is serious training.
The same as with Muscle/Tendon Changing practice, Embryonic Breathing Meditation remains the foundation or root of Marrow/Brain Washing Qìgōng practice. Here, I will review the importance of this practice.
- Condition the Real Lower Dāntián (Zhēnxià Dāntián, 真下丹田)—Human Biobattery. If the Qì storage capability of your bio-battery is the same as the stan-dard level, how do you expect to store the Qì at an abundant level? From science we understand that every brain cell consumes approximately twelve times the oxygen as a regular cell. This implies that every brain cell consumes twelve times the amount of Qì compared with a regular cell as well. So in order to activate more brain cells’ function and increase the storage of the Qì in the brain, we will need a huge battery. Without the ability to focus the mind and accumulate abundant Qì, the Third Eye or Heaven Eye (Tiānyǎn/Tiānmù, 天眼/天目) will be hard to reopen. Reopening the Third Eye is a step toward spiritual enlightenment. Therefore, conditioning the bio-battery is the first task for enlightenment. If you are interested in bio-battery conditioning, please refer to the book: Qìgōng, Secret of Youth, by YMAA.
- Wake Up the Subconscious Mind. The subconscious mind leads you to a focused state, while the conscious mind makes your mind confused, scattered, and disturbed. In order to reach a high level of concentration so the Qì can be focused like a lens focusing a sunbeam, you need to wake up your subconscious mind and learn how to focus it. Without this, the Qì will be weak and it will be hard to reopen the Third Eye. This training can be done through Embryonic Breathing Meditation. If you are interested to know more about Embryonic Breathing Med- itation, please refer to the book: Qìgōng Meditation—Embryonic Breathing, by YMAA.
- Store the Qì in the Real Lower Dāntián at an Abundant Level. Naturally, once you know how to generate more Qì, you must also know how to store it in the Real Lower Dāntián. Without abundant Qì storage, even if you are able to lead it up to the brain, it will not be easy to reopen the Third Eye. Again, Embryonic Breathing Meditation is the training that provides this key.
What is Marrow/Brain Washing Small Circulation Meditation?
Marrow/Brain Washing Small Circulation (Xǐsuǐjīng Xiǎozhōutiān, 洗髓經小周天) is the Water Path (Yīn Path) (Shuǐlù, 水路) while Muscle/ Tendon Changing Small Circulation is the Fire Path (Huǒlù, 火路) (Yáng Path). Marrow/Brain Washing Small Circulation is also called Two Poles Small Circulation (Liǎngyí Xiǎozhōutiān, 兩儀小周天). Again, this Small Circulation can also be divided into two categories, a Yīn-Yáng path and a Yīn-Yīn path The Yīn-Yáng path is to build and store the Qì at the Real Lower Dāntián at an abundant level while the Yīn-Yīn path is to establish a firm foundation for Brain Washing.
This Water Path (Shuǐlù, 水路) has mostly been practiced in monasteries for spiritual enlightenment. The path focuses the cultivation of Qì on the central Qì line connecting the two human poles, the Upper Dāntián (Shàng Dāntián, 上丹田) and Real Lower Dāntián (Zhēn Xìadāntián, 真下丹田). Once the Qì has been built up to an abundant level, the practitioners would then lead the Qì upward to the Limbic System of the head and then forward, following the space between the two lobes of the brain to reopen the Third Eye or Sky Eye (Tiānmù/Tiānyǎn, 天目/天眼).
You should understand that even though Marrow/Brain Washing Small Circulation can be trained easily, reaching a profound level of cultivation remains difficult. In order to reopen the Third Eye (Tiānyǎn/Tiānmù, 天眼/天目) for enlightenment, this Small Circulation remains the root of the whole practice.
The above is an excerpt from Qigong Grand Circulation for Spiritual Enlightenment by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, YMAA Publication Center, March 1, 2022, ISBN: 9781594398452.