Daoist Qigong - Training Approaches and Steps
By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu
Daoists cultivation methods are classified into Lower, Middle, and High Attainment Approaches. The Lower Attainment Approach focuses on developing one's mental power by repeated recitation of mantras, prayers, or symbolic drawings to accumulate one's potential for specific tasks. This method can only achieve a low level of attainment. The Middle Attainment approach focuses on the cultivation of qi. The High Attainment Approach is the cultivation of the Original Spirit.
Generally speaking the cultivation process is divided into several steps. The process includes: Use Movements to Purify Jing (Foundation Stage), Foster Jing into Qi, Foster Q into Shen, Foster Shen into Void, and Return the Void Back to the Dao (Shatter the Void). Each of these steps include training that is either Low, Middle, High, or a combination of the three Attainment Approaches.
Use Movement to Purify Jing includes training to discipline the mind and repair physical damage. The disciplining of the mind includes regulating the mind, condensing scattered thoughts to develop one's mental efficiency to a higher level, and attaining the ability to remain in a calm abiding state.
Most exercises are capable of purifying jing through its movements to strengthen the body. Martial artists are mostly in the stage of cultivating jing. Internal Style martial artists and beginning qigong practitioners are in the early stage of cultivating qi. Most qigong teachers, qigong healers, people that emit and absorb qi, are cultivating qi. Qi cultivators are attempting to foster qi into Original Spirit (Foster Qi into Shen). The neat stage is to Foster Shen into the Void - the cultivation of the Original Spirit. The final completion of the Daoist cultivation is to Return the Void Back to the Dao or Shatter the Void, implying that at the conclusion of the last stage, even the concept of the Void must also be given up to attain the unification with the Dao.
All training methods start by actively engaging in the training, until it is no longer necessary to follow the ritualistic methods. One must have the insights of the most subtle to understand the profound. Teachers can only guide you based on the principles. The mystical nature cannot be thoroughly explained. Teachers are also not to overly verbalize the depth and profound scenery, otherwise students may be restricted by preconceptions and have difficulty breaking through and developing their Original Spirit. Teachers sometimes use story telling to provide some examples to enlighten you, without you knowing. Whether or not you are able to realize the insights, depends on you.
The cultivation of the spirit and the physical body is equally important. Younger individuals and healthy middle age people may begin cultivating the spirit, then begin the training of the physical. Older people and weak people should begin with the training of the physical body. It is imperative that one first strengthen their health.
Repairing damage to the body can't be overly emphasized. If one is ill, one should heal the illness by using health rejuvenating qigong, herbs, acupuncture, and/or the assistance of doctors or healers. If the body is weak, jing and qi are deficient, then one must also take nourishing, energy building foods and herbs to strengthen the body.
There are people only interested in cultivating the spirit. Many people became physically weak, lose their strength to do even the minute everyday tasks. They only cultivate the spirit and ignore the physical body. Conversely, there are people that only train the physical body and ignore the cultivation of the spirit. They become physically strong, but are unable to attain the Dao. It is important that both the physical and the spirit be cultivated.
Cultivating the spirit is for improving the quality of the spirit, and training the physical is to protect the house. Daoists believe, "My life depends on me; and it is not predetermined." So they place their emphasis on never ending cultivation. They are not pessimistic and do not give in to fate. They work to understand the principle and the variations of yin and yang, one step at a time, to become one with the Dao.
The ideals of Daoism were not limited to their search for health, longevity, and immortality. Daoists were also concerned with establishing a peaceful society and equality for all. Daoists wished for humans to live in peace; respect and love each other; were against the strong taking advantage of the weak; were against one people oppressing another; and were against people that exploited other people.
Daoism was able to continue for thousands of years because of the extensive and profound nature of its teachings, which accommodated the needs of people in all walks of life. Daoism is a religion for those people that practice it as a religion. It is a philosophy of life for those that choose to lead a life following the Dao. It is a science for those that attempt not only to understand themselves, but also understand the Great Cosmos. Dao is everything that we can conceive and can't conceive with our limited mind. It is everything definable and undefinable. It is both physical and nonphysical. It has to be understood through introspection and realization of a greater consciousness.