Art of Qi Dao
Welcome to my world of Qi Dao, the ancient art and science of Tibetan Shamanic Qigong. As many generations of Tibetan lamas and Shamans from time immemorial, I live in a magical world where everything you have just imagined is totally real. In this realm of possibility and mystery, the miracles of natural healing and empowerment are a common place among my brothers and sisters. Every day we receive revelations directly from spirit and learn to follow the inner guidance to live our lives in the flow of the dream we call life.
This amazing realm, traditionally known as Shambhala (for Americans, Shangri-La may sound more familiar), is inhabited by not only Tibetan lamas, but also by the Shamans of many a tribe from all over the world. Virtually every indigenous nation on the face of earth has developed some stories about the heroes whose lives were dedicated to the exploration of the unknown, be that unknown lands, or the netherworld. Those spiritual warriors, regardless of their origins and life stories, acquired a capability of living in both worlds: the world of daily life and the magical world beyond the ordinary reality, also known as Dreamtime.
Unpredictable are the ways of spirit, and so are the paths of spiritual warriors. Their heroic journeys take them to the realms of amazing adventures and otherworldly experiences. Despite their peaceful nature, the heroes often have to fight off different foes trying to distract them from their spiritual quest. Of course, some may consider the art of war to be at the opposite end of the scale from the peaceful meditations of Tibetan lamas. Literally, Qi Dao means the Path of Energy, or the Flow of Life Force. Energy, the substance of all Being, flows through all things and all living beings manifesting in various forms. The forms of things are essentially the vessels for their energetical content. So, when we speak of Qi Dao, we speak in terms of energetical nature of things – and not things only, but events, actions, thoughts, etc.
Most martial arts are presently based on some philosophy or doctrine theoretically explaining the reasons for practicing a particular art. Here, we intend to offer an unorthodox view on the whole sphere of martial arts rather than any specific style or school of martial art. This is because Qi Dao is not a mere style or technique, but an underlining principle that supports all styles and goes beyond them. It is an ancient Shamanic discipline that views all the styles and methods as raw materials for an alchemical process designed to transcend all the original components in order to get designed to get the martial artist to the metaphorical gold, to the martial art’s Nirvana – the Dao.
What is this mystical Dao? It is unseen, but it is everywhere. We want to know it, but it is not to be understood by the intellectual mind. We want to attain it whilst it has always been right here. “To become one with the Dao” has been the ultimate purpose of spiritual practice and training in martial arts for millennia. For a person who experiences oneness with the Dao is in the flow, effortlessly navigating through life, free of attachment, conflict and suffering. Nobody can harm or kill such a person because anyone who would dare to go against him would also go against the whole Universe.
Now, the question is: How do people learn to become one with the Dao? To answer this question we need to take a look at who we are and what our mode of being is at the present moment. It would not be too great an exaggeration to say that most of us have a culturally programmed frame of mind which helps us to keep our attention focused on particular things in life that seem to be especially important. At the same time, what is utterly important to one person may be irrelevant to another, or even ridiculously unimportant to others. How often do we experience misunderstanding between people regarding the most basic things or ideas such as money issues, family relationships, religious beliefs, etc.?!
Metaphorically speaking, humankind is an island in the ocean of life with a number of villages located of different sides of the island. The villagers in each and every village have historically developed a particular unique direction facing which they learned to build their houses. It usually is simply the direction towards the ocean. We can imagine the villages on different sides of the island as different points of view from where one can see only in a particular direction, distinct from directions available from other vantage points.
People occupying different sides of the island may at times try to communicate with each other, but most of their communications cause only trouble because of the profound distinctions between the viewpoints of different villages. Of course, due to their beliefs in the importance of their own “true” direction, villagers on one side of the island consider the inhabitants of other sides strange, to say the least. And most likely, they believe that the people on the opposite side of the island are totally weird, if not downright evil.
The differences in viewpoints and lack of communication cause most of our conflicts and fights. Most of us also know that the grass on the other side of the island is greener than at our own site. Hence feelings of greed, envy and unrest arise. How can we sit here quietly when someone over there seems to enjoy life better than us here? But when it comes to really getting off the butt and going where the grass is greener, we may suddenly remember our previous experiences when we did exactly this – left our old place and got into another one (perhaps pushing away the former inhabitant of the place,) and sooner or later we realized that the new lace sucks and we want again a juicier grass, more grass, more stuff that would satisfy our hunger and other instincts. Such an experience of dissatisfaction is very frustrating, making us suffer as well as feel mean towards each other. Of course, assuming that other people are also mean motivates us to learn martial arts in order to protect ourselves and be able to kick everyone else’s butt.
No doubt, there are very tough styles specifically designed to kick ass such as Kyoushinkai, Tae Kwon Do or Muai Thai. If you practice such styles, you can definitely face another fighter and be ready to fight fiercely, viciously, using your fists, elbows, knees and even your shins as instruments of destruction. You steel your body so that it would be as if carved out of stone monolith. This is because you utilize and invoke the element of, or earth. Bones and sinews represent these elements in the structure of the human body and the energy of the element of earth is conducted through the hardest part of the body – the head – that serves as the energy center for this particular vibration of Qi.
Psychological implications of such kind of energy distribution are pretty obvious: many a martial artist fights aiming to prove that his skill is greater than the one of his opponent. Or, in case of an occasional fight on a street, they fight to protect themselves, their beloved ones or their honor (or whatever is important to them: their property, their titles, their beliefs, etc.) Truly, what is important to you provides you with enough motivation to practice martial arts; otherwise, you’d rather spend your time somehow else. The feeling of importance stems from your particular position that you occupy on the imaginary island we’ve just talked about. Everyone feels that his honor, title, money, property, family, country, style of martial arts and whatnot is more important than anyone else’s stuff. But the most important thing for many islanders is their worldview, their belief systems imminently connected with the place on the island they inhabit. For the world styles became relevant to them. We know of innumerable cases when people risked or lost their lives due to their attachment to their beliefs.
Think of the feelings that arise when you fight: Rage, hatred, fear or, maybe a cold-blooded desire to kill the bastard. Whatever emotions you feel, they will immediately disappear when you receive a strong blow to your head and get shocked for a while. You would not experience the same shocking effect from a punch into your stomach or a kick into your leg. It is simply because the energy center located in your head gets switched off when it is attacked, so this energy cannot continue feeding your actions as well as your reactions. This is also the reason actions why so many fighters operating from this energy center tend to aim their most aggressive movements toward the head of their opponents. Subconsciously, they try to sw3itch the opponent’s’ energy center off.
Now imagine yourself at a tournament or anywhere where you are fighting against your opponent. Do you concentrate your entire attention on your opponent, or do you look around, listening to the shouts of the people around and checking the time on the wall-clock? Most fighters experience a complete concentration on the opponent and usually look straight into his eyes. The eyes reflect the state of mind of the person and the energetical nature of the ongoing process. When the eyes are fixed on a particular object, the person whose eyes we are talking about has a fixed from of mind. This frame of mind allows one to view the situation mainly in a form of polarity: Subject v. object, me against him, my victory is good, his victory is bad. Such a black-and-white mental dualism is a standard way of perception exercised by the mind running on the energy of the element of earth.
There is nothing wrong or evil about this element, it just has a specific vibration that allows the mind to perceive only one-dimensionally on the scale from good to bad with (hopefully) various gradations of gray in between. The physical body of the fighter follows this pattern of thinking where one linear dimension dictates rather simple straightforward movements seen in most techniques of hard styles of martial arts. Of course, we can find enough circular movements in these styles too. It only means that the masters of these styles did not dwell on one spot, but explored the rest of the island, symbolizing human potential in general. Potential for exploration abounds, indeed, because other sides of our island (which looks, as a matter of fact, like a coral atoll) represent very different examples of human experience, some of them totally condemned and cursed by certain islanders. It is as if the inhabitants of the East part of the island considered the Western part to be an abode of evil forces, while the West side population thought the same about the East side.
Such a dualistic one-dimensional mentality can be easily changed into a more rounded Daoist “yin-yang” type of thinking when you circle the whole island and come back to your old good spot. However, those who gave circumnavigated the island oftentimes do not find their old dwellings any longer more attractive than other parts of the island. And if you keep wondering on your walkabout around the island for a while, you will inevitably find a large lagoon in the center of the island. It has always been there, but you habitually maintained your glance fixed on the dry land, on the element of earth. This fixation existed also due to the way the human mind prefers to perceive things that have a form and can be given a name. Waves and swells in the lagoon have no particular form and cannot be easily labeled.
Eventually, every islander who has noticed the lagoon wants to test the water in there. Swimming in the lagoon feels so different from walking on the land, but it is a lot of fun! Who have tried it once will never be the same, for their minds and their bodies discovered another natural element – the element of water.
Our usual awareness of energy is like an iceberg – we consciously know of only a little tip sticking above the surface of the water. More than 99% of the energy potential of the human body is still a mystery to us. The submerged part of the iceberg is as hard as the tip of it, but it constantly melts being exposed to the element of water. Human mind can melt and become fluid too. It happens totally naturally with every one of us when we relax, let go of mental and physical tensions, feel like just sitting and doing nothing, or daydreaming, or maybe, falling asleep. It is when the mode of being prevails over the mode of doing or attaining something.
Every mystical tradition of spirituality pointed out at such natural occurrence as at a blissful way of “non-doing” which does not lead anywhere, but to our own essence, our true nature. And being on this way is more relevant than getting to any point of spiritual destination. Like surfing waves is not about getting from point A to point B, but rather about being in the flow. The same is applicable in Qi Dao – when you shift your attention from the element of earth with all its ramifications) to the element of water, then you suddenly find yourself moving effortlessly and spontaneously. Simultaneously, you discover that your mind becomes more quiet quitting judging and labeling things in the way it use to. From the one-dimensional reality of the strip of land surrounding the lagoon, you step into the two-dimensional water world.
It is not better or worse here, it is simply different. Another degree of freedom allows you to avoid direct confrontation with the element of earth represented by your opponents. What can they do to you? They may try to punch or kick you with their full force while you remain calm and peaceful deflecting their attacks and redirecting the force back to them. A martial artist operating from the energy center of the element of earth in his attempt to prove his superiority may look like a samurai with his sword going against the river. He can cut the water to his heart’s content, but only until a particularly strong wave reaches him causing him to lose his balance, his sword and, perhaps his life.
Aikido serves a great example of development of a style that designed specifically to deal with attacks by armed or unarmed opponents of such kind. While virtually all Aikido techniques come from the energy center in the lower abdomen that conducts the energy of the element of water, it teaches mostly to deal with those who operate on the level of the element of Earth. In Aikido, most atemi (counter attacks) are directed to the head because it is where attacks receive their energy from. It takes just a slight smack in the face of under the chin to distract this energy or even to turn the energy center off for a while. Then it becomes so much easier to throw the opponent on the ground utilizing his own inertia and lack of balance. Though when two martial artists operating on the element of water meet, their encounter usually resembles Tai Chi Chuan rather than Aikido. The method of dealing with one another in Tai Chi Chuan is called “tui-show” which is often translated as “pushing hands.” But in fact, the practice of tui-show has very little to do with pushing. It is about developing a more acute sensitivity and ability to move with the flow. Seemingly slow movements do carry a lot of power, though this powers to be used not against the opponent’s attack, but along its vector of force just slightly redirecting it to miss its goal. In this case, the one who pushes harder, as a rule, loses his balance and has to re-establish himself in the flow.
Again, the metaphor of surfing comes up when we discuss the experience of being in the flow. Catching a wave requires perceptivity and great timing. You need to observe a lot of waves to figure out when and where to attempt to ride one. You’ve got to be right in time, neither too early, nor too late to catch your wave. And if you paddle too fast or too slow, it will be impossible for you to ride the wave either. We will discuss the subject of timing when we get into the fourth dimension – the dimension of time. Now let us just mention that for a martial artist it is as crucial as it is for a surfer to experience the flow being precisely in time, nether too slow, nor too fast.
Although our lagoon is a great place to learn about the element of water, to catch real big waves you need to go into the open sea. There you will be able to enjoy many other things besides surfing, such as windsurfing, sailing, parasailing, etc… you name it. There you’ll be able to learn navigation as well as discover other islands in the limitless ocean of life.
While the lagoon symbolizes trance and meditative states of mind, the ocean manifests the process of dreaming. The waves of dreams wash the shores of our island every single night (and also often at the day-time) bringing us news from the unknown and delivering messages from other lands. When we dream, we become like waves ourselves navigating the ocean of Dream-being. We may feel as if having separate identities, but to perceive a wave as an independent entity is certainly a delusion. We are all interconnected Dream-beings – parts of the universal Dream-benign – like waves are inseparable from the ocean.
Some people more frequently than others get a chance to practice mart6ial arts or related disciplines in their dreams when having nightmares and encountering monsters. Different dreamers have different attitudes towards their dream-characters, but at least once in a blue moon each of us experiences moments of lucidity, consciousness dreaming. It is when we realize that we are dreaming at the present moment; hence the entire dream world with all the dream-characters is dreamed up by us. The characters in our dreams are products of our own dreaming mind representing different aspects of it in Dreamtime. They are not separate from us, but totally interdependent and interconnected by the means of energy channels invisible to us. Qi, which manifests through the interplay of these energy channels and energy fields, has power over any dream-being that exists in our dreams. And the process of surrendering to the power of the flow of Qi is synonymous to the process of boiling water and evaporating it into steam.
Steam, like air or any king of gas, symbolizes a new element – the element of air. This element has such unique qualities as being able to compress and expand, being invisible while capable of influencing hard matter as well as fluids. In case of the human body, the most vivid example of the influence of air is breathing.
When breathing, imagine the air circulating throughout your entire body. There is not distinction between the air inside of you and the air outside; Qi flows freely within as well as without. You can compare this with the air that is the same above the island and above the ocean. When you wake up to the nature of your dream, you can also realize the sameness of your dream-being with the totality of your dream-world. It is what we call awakening.
Every awakened being enjoys enormous freedom and great power. Such experiences result from a simple realization of oneness of the realities of dream and daily life. However, this awareness hardly has anything to do with intellectual cognition or understanding. The more you try to comprehend this, logically thinking about it, the more you employ the energy of the element of earth that feeds your mind. Trying not to think about it does not help either, because this is no different from your ordinary state of mind.
One of the most natural ways to experience the energy of the element of air would be by becoming lucid in our dreams. Elsewhere, we return to the subject of lucid dreaming to cover it more adequately. Here, let us find out how we can explore the element of air by the means of Qi Dao during your waking hours.
Both dynamic and sitting meditations serve us well as vehicles delivering us into the three-dimensional works of the element of air. Metaphorically, you can lift above the surface of water up in the air when windsurfing or parasailing. You’ll have to take off and learn flying for sure if you find yourself running against an obstacle on your runway, such as your own island. When you get into the flow while exploring the lagoon on the center of the island, you may perceive the land as an obstacle on your way, but instead of crushing into it you will fly over it. It is a matter of your perspective on things – you either perceive them as roadblocks on our way destined to stop your movement, or you accept them as challenges destined to make you overcome them by flying over them. There may appear new obstacles to encounter, but the old ones will remain on their old level. By changing levels of vibration f your energy field, you can change everything in your world. The bird’s eye’s point of view will allow you to perceive everything on your island as well as on the surface of the sea from a totally new perspective seeing yourself and other people much more objectively.
The third dimension offers you anew degree of freedom – the freedom of the wind that nobody can catch or even predict. Such an intuitive spontaneity will change not only your technique, but turn the whole martial art into a completely new kind of experience. On one hand, you will see the people you encounter as your partners or even patients, rather than opponents. This means that your experience with different energy fields will let you detect any aggressive energy directed towards you before it even manifests in a physical movement. In a sense, you’ll become capable of reading people’s minds and perceiving their dreams as well as intuitively harmonizing them. Knowing that you play a role of a particular dream-character in their dream-dramas will give you an opportunity to help them create their dreams in synch with the flow of Qi.
Some people will have to go through profound healing processes when encountering you becoming spontaneously aware of their lives’ dreams. Your touching will be able to reach the depths of their beings, because it will relate to their energy centers that are located not in the physical, but in the dream-body. Therefore, an access to the very essence of their being may become a possibility.
Simply speaking, when a person operating on the earth energy encounters the one who is in the element of air, the former usually feels like he cannot figure out what is going on, due to the inability of the one-dimensional mind to grasp the wind. The latter does not even need to contradict with the former one, he can either avoid counteraction altogether by shifting his level to a higher one, or by switching off the energy center of the earth person so that there would be no more energy available for any aggressive actions. The first method is particularly educational, for it shows an example of great freedom and flexibility. The second method helps to break through particularly strong walls of a person who is unable to see the extraordinary example and attempting instead to prove his dominance by any means. In this case, the person needs to start processing his own energy that would probably render him unconscious although unharmed.
The meeting of water and air is something completely different in its nature. There is an increasing degree of challenge, but this challenge is friendly, rather than hostile. Besides, there is a great deal of learning and healing in such an encounter, since the water person is, supposedly, at least somewhat aware of the power of the element of air. Both of the martial artists (though there may be more than one person being in the element of water) employ much greater variety of movements than in the previous example. The rule of a thumb remains the same: Relating to each other’s energy centers.
How does some amount of air look like when surrounded by water? Absolutely right, it creates a bubble! The bubble constitutes the energy center of the element of air. It surrounds the physical body forming a kind of protective energy field that elevates the necessity to be defensive. The martial artist becomes protected without being protective. Indeed, both defensive and offensive techniques disappear when the artist enters the third dimension. He just becomes inaccessible to any attackers; being free as a wind, he joyfully plays with people perceiving their actions as children’s games. For the person who is awakened to the dreamlike reality of our world, nothing is too important or too dangerous. The challenges of this particular plane of Dream-being just encourage him to become airborne and keep flying higher.
The navigation skills developed during the ocean voyages allow our martial artist to find his way to heavenly realms, too. However, flying in the sky is not the end to the adventures in the third dimension, there is another huge area for exploration – the underworld. It is where all the powers and skills of the element of Air person get tested and honed. The underworld is the forbidden area of the Universe where only Shamans and mythical heroes go when undertaking their epic quests for knowledge and power.
You’ve got to be a mighty fearless adventurer to commit yourself to the exploration of the Underworld. For example, the near-death experiences that people become more and more aware of nowadays are the most profound kind of experiences available for us mortals in this world. And Martial Arts prove to be quite a reliable method to receive such an experience, just ask for it! Of course, you take all the responsibility for whatever may happen to you. But aren’t you are supposed to do every moment of your life anyway?
The awareness of time is crucial for a serious martial artist. Experiencing shifts of your perception of time will eventually substitute most of your martial art training, transforming the art into something else – into magic or something of this nature. Timing plays a decisive role in any martial art experience, but it will eventually become your ultimate feedback device, your interface with the fourth dimension – the dimension of time.
As soon as you encounter a realistic threat to your life your awareness of the fourth dimension will start growing and developing by itself, naturally. Just a simple meditation on the death, an ultimate challenge waiting for every one of us, may induce a significant change in the way you view your life and entire world. A decision to begin exploration of the fourth dimension cannot even be made by your ego, because it threatens the existence of the ego by showing what it really is – a bunch of empty words that serve as labels for something truly mysterious and mystical. For some unknown reason, your spirit manifested in this world as a human being, a Dream-being having an amazing experience of living a human life. To balance the pain of being a human being with the beauty of being the Dream-being really constitutes the true purpose of Qi Dao. It turns into a Shamanic alchemical process that reunites you with the Dao.