The Five Regulations
To ride the winds, how about suspending the headtop ? (Cheng Man Ching)
Regulating posture (body)
- Relaxing but not collapsing. Cultivating extension within the relaxed body (peng / inflated energy). Cultivating strong intention to broaden and lengthen the back. Seeking a straight spine with intention. Suspending the head top. Knees not braced. Tip of tongue on roof of the mouth. Chin down. Fingers long, palm hollow.
- Not holding posture rigidly. Relaxing, or not using, motor muscles to allow stabilizing muscles to support body. Finely balanced. Giving up to and not fighting gravity (fang song - release looseness).
- Remember that this is really just the natural unforced body/posture that we are trying to return to.
Regulating the breath
- Natural breathing. Cultivating a deeper, longer, subtler, calmer and more silent breath. One can practice cultivating full breathing sitting, standing or lying on back with knees up. First be aware of abdominal breathing and then thoracic and then both and breathing into the spine. We can practice 'bottle breathing'. Breathing down into the lower abdomen and then filling up to chest (do not fill to more than 80% of capacity) and emptying from top to bottom.
- Remember. Do not force the breath. Natural breathing occurs when you are relaxed. Deep breathing is promoted by relaxing chest (Let ribcage drop internally, do not collapse chest) and abdomen. Feel that you are breathing into the lower back and then into lower abdomen).
Regulating the Mind
- Again we are looking for naturalness. There is a Zen comment: “The enlightened mind is no other than the ordinary mind”. As with the body and the breath it is believed that acquired conditioning has drawn us away from natural healthy functioning. Regulating the mind is perhaps the most important part of our endeavour.
- We may have difficulty in controlling our minds. It is difficult not to think about things or be distracted by events. We use concentration meditation as a technique for acquiring control. This involves focusing on just one thing for 5 minutes or longer with the intention of not deliberately thinking about anything. If the mind loses focus or concentration we bring it back again as quickly as possible. When you do think about something else don’t get caught up in the thought. You can just acknowledge that you have been distracted and return to empty but focused mind.
- One can use different methods such as counting the breaths for beginners, watching the breath and focusing on sensation of the whole body (the latter being the preferred method for Qigong standing meditation) and the more advanced practice of minding the mind. This is best done sitting in which one just concentrates on thought generation which in itself leads to cessation of thought. It should be unforced observation of the mind and not a forced concentration. Not suitable for those who cannot keep concentration very easily in earlier methods. Also do not keep to this method if you develop headaches or any other mental disquiet.
- Remember that these are only techniques and real meditation is an unforced natural open awareness in which one resides in the present.
- This is really just another facet of the mind and body’s natural functioning – a product of awareness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said that the Qi goes where the mind (attention) goes. If we are relaxed and aware of the whole body then the Qi will flow normally. If we create tension (physical or mental) the flow will be impeded. If the mind is too aware of only parts of the body then the Qi will tend to accumulate there. Often the Qi will accumulate in the upper body because of the attention being too much in the senses of sound, sight and taste and because of too much cerebral activity. One can accumulate Qi in Dantien by focusing on that area (about one inch below the navel). We can also cultivate feeling the sensation of the whole body. This is catered for in our standing meditation and tai chi practice.
- Through raising our awareness of the body as often as possible we can reach the point where it becomes second nature and then there is always an awareness of our physical presence. Alexander (of Alexander technique) stated that in any activity 50% of the consciousness should be in the organism.
- One can train moving awareness, and therefore Qi, by imagining breathing energy to and from the centre of the body and other practices.
- Again, another facet of consciousness – attention or wakefulness. Staying alive to the present. Being alert and not sleepy. Being alive, interested and buoyant rather than bored or depressed. If we are relaxed and calm in mind and body then naturally we would tend to be more buoyant. Work on the spirit (The Shen) can involve practices for developing insight/wisdom (such as developed by Taoists, Buddhists and other spiritual disciplines).
- Underlying this regulation is again the idea that our acquired conditioning has robbed us of our natural buoyant spirit and that we need to address this and let go of habits of a lifetime. (obviously not easy!).
- In a small way we can cultivate a sense of alertness (sharpening the senses) by playing at it. Stay in the moment, be on the lookout, like a stalking cat or a bird of prey looking for its next meal (these are classic tai chi metaphors).
Returning to the One
- It is not really possible to regulate one part without regulating all. A tense body will affect the breath, a tense mind the body and so on. In our standing practice we look at each of the five regulations separately and then attempt to regulate all five at once. Hence returning to the one. We also continue to cultivate this “return” at all times. Also referred to as returning to the source (the natural state).
- By raising our consciousness we can practice all day long, or whenever we want to. Gradually it will take hold and help to lead us back to a healthier state. Gradualness is the nature of the process. It is hard at first to do the work of both formal and informal cultivation. If you persevere however it gets easier and the rewards you receive on the way compel you to practice more. However, even after 30 years of involvement with this practice I still feel I have some way to go (understatement), though I am more than happy with the progress I have made. I would probably have said the same about being contented with progress even after the first year! Even if you only climb a mountain a little way you still get a much better viewpoint than where you started out from.