17 May 2019

Inspired by Angelina’s blog, I decided to write a few lines on a technique that I have found hugely beneficial in balancing the stresses of working life as a legal aid lawyer but also life in general. One day Chi Kung (also spelt Qigong) may be as popular in the West as Yoga now is. Imagine a technique that takes no more than about 15 minutes a day (ideally twice a day but once is OK), involves  no physical strain (in fact it will not work if you treat it as exercise), no stretching, no weird breathing techniques and that you can carry out at home with no equipment or special clothing. It doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are or whether you have none. Being cheerful, however, is encouraged (think laughing Buddha). In my school there are quite a few lawyers and, perhaps surprisingly to some, a number of western doctors.

Chi Kung is the art of energy and we are all energetic beings. It is said to have been brought to the Shaolin monastery from India about 1,500 years ago, although Taoists believe that the system or a version of it is much older. It is the foundation of Chinese and other oriental medical systems and the basis of internal martial arts such as some styles of Kungfu and Tai Chi. It is the secret to the ‘one inch punch’ made famous by Bruce Lee. Extraordinary claims are made about its potential but none of that need concern you. The lowest levels of Chi Kung are designed for good health, physical and mental, and for mental clarity which is what you want. You don’t have to aspire to be a Zen master or have any interest in martial arts.  If your inclination is that all this Chinese stuff is bunkum, that’s fine too.

It’s impossible to try to teach a technique in writing but the essence is relaxing the body and mind followed by a pattern (of which there are many) to help energy to flow. Everything is done standing up (if you are unable to stand, you can practice sitting). The idea is to spend a few minutes relaxing, a few minutes executing the pattern, a few minutes just letting the energy flow in whatever way it wants and a few minutes in silent mediation clearing the mind (hopefully!). Then have a brisk walk around the room. Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Your breathing will naturally slow down increasing oxygen to the body and relieving stress.  If you are interested, I strongly recommend joining a class or seeing if there is a taster class you can try out. It is not really something that you can teach yourself at home.

For now, try this. Stand upright with your feet together pointing forward, a few inches apart, arms by the side. Now, relax physically: whatever works for you. One way is to start from your head and work down relaxing your muscles as you do. Then relax emotionally – let go of all emotions. Then relax mentally – let go of all thoughts. Finally, smile from your heart (don’t ask how, just do it). This alone will help calm your mind and make you feel more optimistic. You can then try a simple exercise, with your arms still by your side, shake your fingers and hands working up your arms Do this for 3-5 minutes. After this, If you like, you can experiment placing the palms of your hands facing each other a few inches apart and you may feel energy between them. If you feel nothing don’t worry. Then just let go. Let the energy flow but try not to think about it. You may sway, you may feel nothing. It’s flowing whether you feel it or not. After a few minutes, stand still and upright and gently try to clear your mind of thought for no more than 5 minutes. Don’t get hung up about this, it doesn’t come naturally to anyone, even a few seconds is said to be beneficial. Then have a walk around to ground yourself.

The three golden rules as taught in the Shaolin Waman Institute where I train are: don’t worry, don’t intellectualise and enjoy your practice.

Finally, a word of advice handed to me by my first pupil master nearly 39 years ago and attributed to Einstein: ‘Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.’

[Martin has been practising Chi King for over 10 years including learning directly from Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit in Malaysia and is a certified Chi Kung therapist]

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