A Healing Form of Pure Magic
Posted by Paul Cavel on 3 February 2018
Of the several thousand forms of qi gong, only a few are as simple yet penetrate the body and qi as deeply as The Marriage of Heaven and Earth. This single, repetitive exercise system can contain a colossal amount of internal and energetic content with each thread amplifying and multiplying all others. The benefits from correct, integrated and fluid practice—along with the potential depth and range possible within each layer—lead those in-the-know to regard Heaven and Earth Qi Gong as nothing less than a healing form of pure magic.*
In fact, from the perspective of the foundational Water method meditation and energy arts practices, there is no equivalent form that can be considered as central or important to training nei gong, tai chi and bagua. Heaven and Earth Qi Gong opens the door to genuine intermediate and advanced nei gong, while featuring a straightforward introductory choreography that makes it a favourite amongst beginning and dedicated students alike.
Why Heaven and Earth Qi Gong
Works On So Many Levels
Classically Water Element Qi Gong, known as Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, is the foundational energy arts practice since it initiates all nei gong practice through:
- Sinking qi
- Bending-and-stretching techniques
- Basic breathing methods
- Circulating qi
- Engaging the kwa as the leader of all motion
Energy Gates Qi Gong softens the body and prepares the “shell” by creating a containment field with the body and its energy to develop more sophisticated nei gong technology. Heaven and Earth Qi Gong takes the baton from Energy Gates Qi Gong and folds in the internal content learned there since everything you learn and the skill you develop in each previous qi gong system can and should be packed up and shipped off to the next set in the series. Yes, the arrangements will be completely unique, but you don’t throw away or leave dormant any components while developing higher-level forms. For example, Dragon and Tiger Medical Qi Gong is one of the three foundational practices in the nei gong lattice since its underlying technology develops the etheric field and wei qi, and thereby serves as a subcomponent of Heaven and Earth.
However, as a more advanced practice than either Energy Gates or Dragon and Tiger Qi Gong, Heaven and Earth Qi Gong not only encompasses everything within these sets, but also further develops and upgrades each strand of nei gong learned within them. This adds up to a serious amount of internal content—even before material specific to Heaven and Earth is on the table. These include fundamental nei gong techniques like Pulsing (aka Opening-and-Closing) and developing the macrocosmic and microcosmic orbits of energy.
Finally, as Heaven and Earth is a two-part, single exercise rather than a set of five, six or seven movements (like the other core qi gong systems), its simplistic format encourages the internal rather than external focus needed to train deeper, more sophisticated nei gong methods.
Here’s how it works:
Developing Qi with a Single Movement
With most qi gong systems, generally the aim is to develop an aspect, layer or nei gong thread in one move and then focus on different and/or deeper content in the next move. In this way, the qi generated in the preceding move is passed up to the next—if and only if executed correctly. So many internal exercises are designed to amplify qi circulation throughout a series of coordinated movements that together form a set. Energy Gates Qi Gong, Dragon and Tiger Qi Gong, Gods Qi Gong, tai chi and bagua all intrinsically operate in this way to varying degrees to generate qi and cultivate resiliency and vitality—albeit with caveats specific to their unique composition and primary modus operandi.
Heaven and Earth Qi Gong is different.
With only one continuous motion, the emphasis is on building layer upon layer of internal content through many repetitions instead of varying movement sequences. As you develop depth, content and quality of motion at each stage, energy cultivation naturally follows. So each layer of whichever nei gong thread you’re focusing on must be engaged, activated and honed before adding the next. Of course you’ll need a certain degree of embodiment at each layer before progressing, or you will simply revert to juggling layers rather than integrating them. There’s a reason the joker or court jester is often depicted juggling!
In each Heaven and Earth practice session, you repeat each individual layer several or more times in order to bring alive any given aspect of nei gong and stabilise it within the other layers you have already assimilated. Then, when focusing on the next layer, you once again have the possibility of integrating that thread into your form. If any layer is intermittent or just outside of your ability to stabilise it, spend time at that stage, adhere to the first of the 42 principles for embodying tai chi and qi gong, and don’t be too enticed by the next carrot.
For example, if you want to develop your skill with Pulsing, you must spend some time sitting or standing, focusing on and engaging the pulse with as few distractions as possible. In time and with practice, you eventually want to transfer your ability to Open-and-Close to all of your forms.
However, most students find even after they can amplify some layer of Pulsing in stillness that applying their skill to moving practices completely destabilises their form (initially in Heaven and Earth Qi Gong and eventually in all energy arts). This happens because more experience with maintaining proper alignments, Bend-and-Stretch techniques and other beginning nei gong are required to achieve and maintain the integration. Also, the outer casing of the body (fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments) must be open, free of excess tension and relaxed to a reasonable degree for Pulsing to take root.
When you have sufficient experience with Pulsing in stillness and all Heaven and Earth prerequisite techniques are sufficiently alive, your form will not be destabilised in any way. In fact, Pulsing will profoundly soften your body, completely upgrade the overall quality of motion you can generate and begin to develop copious amounts of qi.
The most common issue is that students rip through the material way too quickly and end up hitting a glass ceiling. Unless you’re a prodigy, you must be patient and allow your path to unfold with time and sustained effort. I have yet to meet a practitioner who’s hacked the learning curve or skipped steps to achieve greatness. Visualisations won’t help either. Those who follow the tried and true method of focusing on individual threads and slowly weaving them in over time have always been the ones to realise integration and higher-level training of the arts.
In a Heaven and Earth practice session you want to initially activate and bring alive each layer of internal content one by one, independent of all others, before integrating them into the whole. Over the weeks, months and years of training, you will grasp and integrate new threads and aspects of training, and eventually embody ever-deeper levels of experiential knowledge.
The phrase that describes Heaven and Earth Qi Gong’s approach is summed up by one line in the Tai Chi Classics, “One part moves, all parts move; one part stops, all parts stop”, of which there are two primary levels of meaning:
- If any body part is moving, such as an elbow, spine, hand or joint, then every other body part is also moving.
- If one nei gong thread is active, then all nei gong threads are active and integrated within the form. Of course, this is the goal and definitely not the starting point, but through diligent, systematic and regular practice you can achieve this level of development.
So why work so hard to integrate all these layers instead of just practising one after the other?
The Principle of Integration:
Synergy Is Greater than the Sum of All Parts
In qi gong, as you work through the set from one move to the next, energy is amplified by addition, e.g. 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 12. This example works for sets like Dragon and Tiger Qi Gong, wherein any energy you develop in the first move pretty much determines the outcome. Whereas, in Heaven and Earth Qi Gong, each layer you add has the potential to double whatever is already up and running, which has the effect of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64. Now that’s magic! Of course that’s if you can integrate the various layers well, so you’re better off focusing on the quality of motion in each layer than adding in more layers too soon.
The secret behind exponential energy growth lies in Heaven and Earth Qi Gong’s specialised technology, which is designed to engage everything in the human body and its energy, from the etheric field to the central channel, and all the layers in between. In terms of the learning progression, Heaven and Earth Qi Gong is the first Water method nei gong system to work at this depth, developing the bulk of physical content found in tai chi and bagua, as well as developing the foundation material necessary for advanced qi gong systems, such as Gods Playing in the Clouds Qi Gong.
Just take a look at Heaven and Earth Qi Gong’s range of internal-energetic layers—each containing incredible potential depth:
- Lengthening (yin-yang flows)
- Techniques for working with the etheric field
- Feeling, moving and transforming internal energies
- Macrocosmic and microcosmic orbits
- Techniques for working with the left and right channels of energy
- Techniques for working with the central channel of energy
- Techniques for working with the internal organs
- Techniques for working with the lower tantien
Of course, the real effort is in developing your ability to integrate all of the above exceptionally well, so I’ll post a second article in the coming weeks that covers the three stages for developing your Heaven and Earth Qi Gong practice.
A Word to the Wise
All things considered, the only way to truly embody nei gong is through live training with an experienced, competent teacher who can perform the techniques you wish to learn with little effort. While online instruction can be incredibly supportive, it cannot serve as a substitute for traditional, in-person learning of internal energy arts, especially for new students. I whole-heartedly recommend finding the best teacher possible who offers hands-on corrections and personal feedback to keep you from making common, incorrect links to what happens inside you as being akin to true internal development and squandering your well-meaning effort.
The mind is a great slave, but a terrible master! –Indian proverb
- 10-11 February 2018, London – My annual programme immerses students in core Water and Wood Element Nei Gong, including Heaven and Earth Qi Gong on Sundays
- 13 April 2018, London – Tui Na: Soft Tissue Therapy & Opening-and-Closing Techniques; this is the first course of a three-part series
- 20-31 May 2018, Spain – Choose a one- or two-week retreat on Heaven and Earth Healing Qi Gong in Andalusia
* Safety note: The practice of internal energy arts such tai chi and qi gong may carry risks. The instructions and advice offered are not in any way intended as a substitute for medical advice from an appropriately qualified physician/healthcare provider. Paul Cavel makes no claim that qi arts will help anyone. Healing is a highly individual process with many factors contributing to it, so training qi gong may not work for everybody. Any healing will likely be the result of many positive lifestyle behaviours.