Buddhist Mindfulness Training & Qigong Practice

The Best of Both Worlds

Mount Kailash is revered by spiritual practitioners from various traditions.

A major theme in Buddhist Mindfulness practice is insight into impermanence (aniccha). There is a deep link between the experience of impermanence in Mindfulness and the Taoist concept of Qi (Chi) as used in East Asian medicine and martial arts. In a sense, they approach the same phenomenon from opposite yet complimentary points of view. In Mindfulness practice, we simply pay attention to ordinary experiences: mental images, internal talk, physical and emotional body sensations.

As the result of this, it sometimes happens that ordinary experiences become extraordinary. Thoughts and sensations break up into a flowing energy that expands, contracts, undulates and vibrates. In other words , “Qi”!!

Qigong (and Inner Alchemy) practice starts from the other end. It involves exercises that activate the experience of flowing energy. To combine the two practices, then, is to invoke the best of both worlds. The Buddhist Mindfulness training increases our attention and awareness skills, allowing us to detect the energy/vibratory nature underlying ordinary experience. On the other hand, the Qigong subtly activates that energy - and since we have the magnifying glass of mindfulness we're able to better detect that subtle activation.

In Chinese medicine, health is associated with a smooth, abundant and balanced flow of qi through the meridians. Dis-ease, on the other hand, appears when there is a deficiency, stagnation or imbalance of this flow of Qi.

Qigong practice works to supplement energetic deficiencies, as well as to move stagnation and create a harmonious flow of life-force through our bodymind's channels of awareness (meridians). Since Mindfulness trains us to open to - rather than congeal around - internal mind/body experience, it perfectly compliments and deepens these processes initiated by Qigong practice.

The combination of these Buddhist and Taoist practices therefore amplifies the potential for profound healing and insight into our True Nature.

What does this mean, then, in terms of your daily practice? The suggestion is to toggle back and forth between, on the one hand, body-centered practices such as qigong (or yoga asana); and, on the other hand, mindfulness meditation or nondual spiritual inquiry. In this way, the alignment of the subtle and physical body, and the clarifying of your conceptual understanding, can happen in ways that intimately and productively support each other. Both body and mind can then arise as expressions of your deepest spiritual insight.

Special thanks to Shinzen Young and Shelly Young, both of whom contributed in significant ways to this article.

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