Breathing & Eating
I’ve derived the Two Powers philosophy from the Taoist ‘Three Powers’ philosophy. The three powers in Taoist philosophy are heaven (tien), earth (dee), and humans (ren).
The two essential powers of life are breathing and eating.
Why should we talk about breathing or eating? Is that important at all? I would say it is all-important. Maybe it’s not important for you that you breathe and eat because you may say that this is natural and no matter to think about. Okay. But what about how we breathe and how we eat? Is that not important?
The Taoist sages said that it is of such importance that nothing else in life had more importance in fact than this: to breathe and to eat in the right way. The one who masters these two essential powers of life, they said, attains longevity, happiness and genuine good health.
If I want to be consequent in my analogy, I should, according to Taoist wisdom, also assume a threefold way to health. Thus, there should be consciousness and mastership of breathing, eating and sexual activity.
For those of you who’d like to learn and practice Sexual Ch’i Gung, I refer you to the following erudite publications, written by Daniel Reid, an American doctor living in Thailand who became world famous through his books on Chinese medicine and Taoist health practice; his merit is in my opinion not only his excellence and mastership in his field, but also his remarkable talent to write and to explain complex topics in an amazingly simple way. Furthermore, his competent criticism of the traditional Western health system is among the best what has ever been said from the perspective of a medical doctor on this highly controversial subject.
- Daniel Reid, The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity (1989)
- Daniel Reid, Guarding the Three Treasures (1993)
The power of breathing has been known by the old Taoist masters as Ch’iGung (in English also spelled as ‘Chee Gung’). It is not a secret that many of us have lost our natural ability to breathe. How can one unlearn something so deeply fundamental to human life? The astonishment you may experience while going into that intriguing question may open the door to your finding your own way to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
Since ancient times breath or the idea of cosmic breath was seen directly related to life. In Europe, it was called pneuma, and meant the life force, the vital energy. Ancient and present masters affirm the possibility to heal every kind of disease, even cancer, heart disease or immune deficiency syndrome simply by repeated breathing exercises.
Let me first give you some references:
- Daniel Reid, Guarding the Three Treasures (1993), pp. 175 ff., and Appendix C with further references.
- Mantak Chia, Chi Nei Tsang: Internal Organs Chi Massage, New York: Healing Tao Books, 1990.
The Essential Philosophy of Ch’i Gung
Ch’i Gung is a very old science. It has been founded by Taoist masters many centuries ago. In accordance with the Chinese health system, Ch’i Gung explains how to positively influence the life energy or essence, called ch’i by the Chinese, ki or hado by the Japanese, prana in India and mana or wakonda with most native cultures, as I have extensively researched it and published about it in my monograph Energy Science and Vibrational Healing (2010). Etymologically, as Daniel Reid explains, ch’i (or chee) means breath or air, and gung means skill or work. We can thus translate it with ‘energy work’ or ‘energy control’.
Ch’i Gung can be said to be midway between meditation and the martial arts. It combines essential stillness with slow movements and conscious breathing.
In the following little report of my own personal experience, I would like to include what Mantak Chia calls Tao Yoga or the inner smile, despite the fact that this technique is similar to meditation. However, it is actually more. For Taoists, meditation means just sitting still, concentrating on your breathing. There is no control, no work in Taoist meditation. However, in Tao Yoga or the technique of the inner smile, the exercise consists of building acute awareness of the body’s energy flow.
My Personal Experience
I practice Ch’i Gung and Tao Yoga since a number of years. It began with a little red-covered exercise booklet that I discovered in a friend’s library. I took a vivid interest in the exercises, mainly because since my childhood I was suffering from the problem that my feet and lower legs were ice-cold. Since I’m sitting most of the time at my desk, writing, the feeling to be a block of ice became sometimes so strong that I had to interrupt my work and go for a walk, yet after being back, about half an hour later, I felt the warmth in my legs and feet quickly dissipating.
I tried different kinds of sport and exercises, such as jogging, running, body building, playing table tennis, but nothing of this helped against my energy problem. In the contrary, I invariably hurt my body which was not well trained, and repeatedly had to see the doctor who advised me to be more careful with exercises. Wisely, he pointed out that for example my back muscles were rather weak from my sitting occupation, as well as my leg and knee muscles, so that my impetuous getting out for sport once in a while was more hurting my body than doing good.
A thorough exam of my spine resulted in my orthopedist diagnosing an undiscovered vertebral problem resulting from my abusive childhood and youth, called Scheuerman’s Disease. In fact, some vertebrae were not outgrown because of lacking minerals in my food. The problem could be compensated, if ever, he said, only by building up strongly the spine musculature so that the vertebrae were discharged. He gave me a list of exercises and a whole lot of instructions.
I listened carefully to him and agreed, seriously starting with Tao Yoga and Kung Fu exercises. I avoided every movement that provoked a tension or pain in my body and really went on slowly, bit by bit. It seemed that this approach was welcomed by my organism and I made quick progress. A few months later, when I went again to my orthopedist for a routine check, he was astonished after having examined my spine. — It’s much better, he said, happily. Your muscles begin to really support your spine and therefore also your general posture has improved a lot.
I did not tell him that it was not the exercises he gave me that had helped so much, but the new Kung Fu and Tao Yoga exercises, but from this moment, I was relieved from years and years continuous visits to the special shoemaker, the spine treatment, massages, fango packages, ultra-wave radiations, spine stretching and all the rest that I had to go through since my youth.
In addition, I had the impression that the work was grounding me in reality, and that my mindbody was becoming more flexible. Furthermore, my breathing became deeper and slower, I was less nervous, my body felt warm up until my feet, all day long, my sleep was better, my eyesight improved, my color vision dramatically improved, and everything seemed to be brighter, more vivid, more splendid, more vibrant, and besides and to my great astonishment, my digestion and my overall wellbeing improved.
After that time, I began to engage in a new business while continuing my art activities and writings. My schedule was full and, to my regret today, I abandoned my exercises for quite a while. What happened? My body metabolism quickly fell back into the old habits with cold feet, fatigue, hay fever, extreme sensitivity towards computer radiation, need of lots of sleep (8 to 10 hours a night), and recurring pain in lower part of my spine when the weather was cold or cloudy.
This was during about two years. My fatigue became such that I several times lost consciousness while driving at more than 100 miles/h on the highway. I can only thank my inner guide that always woke me up when I had fallen asleep for one or two seconds or, who knows, more? I don’t know. Not that I did not sleep during the night, no. I slept between six and eight hours regularly. But my stress level was very high because my business went wrong and I lost much money. In the evenings, coming home often very late from my office, and no money for a house maid, I had to cook for myself — which is something very common in Europe since social security costs are so high that service of any kind has become a luxury! I always found excuses for not continuing my Tao Yoga and Ch’i Gung exercises.
I was lacking time, energy and inner peace. True. But perhaps, continuing the exercises would have given me new ideas to get out this awkward and stressing situation which, at the end, absorbed only my energy without producing anything but debts. But at that time I didn’t see it that way.
This time passed and, of course. I had to give up this unproductive trading business and reorient myself. So I went back to Germany, making up my mind with new plans going oversees. During this time, I restarted meditation and the Tao Yoga exercises, completing them with something new that I found in a book, crossing exercises.
Crossing is a technique consisting of slight exercises that are designed to engage always two members belonging to different sides of the body, for example left arm and right leg. The left arm would be directed by the right brain hemisphere, the right leg by the left brain hemisphere. The special thing about crossing is that the effect desired is one of brain coordination, not primarily physical fitness. Engaging the ‘crossing’ of body limbs leads to an equal engagement of the brain thus coordinating the two hemispheres of the brain and getting them more in synch, with the result that thought becomes more congruent, more ecological, more holistic.
Soon I left for Bangkok, Saigon and Jakarta where I had appointments with business leaders in the hotel industry to whom I wanted to talk about my training services. At that time, my concept was but a vague idea, but at least I continued my exercises on a regular basis. In the tropical climate, I really needed it since I suffered much from stomach pain, diarrhea and feverish disorders in the beginning. Now, surprisingly for me, the chronic fatigue completely vanished and I felt more energized than ever before. How could? I did regular Tao Yoga exercises, but it was not yet the real Ch’i Gung.
I think it’s time to tell the difference between the two, Tao Yoga, on one hand, and Ch’i Gung, on the other. I ask the expert readers of you now for your patience with me, and count on your understanding of my being perhaps mistaken in distinguishing the two. I’m far from being a master and actually nothing but a bloody beginner — so this is conveyed to you from my limited perspective. Well, Tao Yoga is for me a technique where you, sitting on a chair (as on the graphics at the top of this report) try to focus your attention at your breathing and the circulation of your ch’i. Thus you try to establish a small circle of energy flow which is the whole of the meditation. There’s nothing more and nothing less to do.
And it’s enough, I tell you! The first time, I needed about six months to get there. You really need patience for that.
Ch’i Gung is different! It’s much more movement which supports correct breathing. You’re not just sitting on a chair but you do real body exercises, while the principle is the same. I think it’s not actually the movements, but the breathing which is the most important part of it. The postures help you to breath deeply inside certain inner organs.
Now, at that time, I only took up the Tao Yoga part. I did not follow up on the exercises, simply because, stupidly, I had forgotten the right order and remembered only a few of them. Now what happened next?
In Asia I followed up only on the crossing and discovered a new technique in Indonesia which is called Orhiba. The name is derived from Olah Raga Hidup Baru which is Bahasa Indonesia and means New Life Gymnastics. This technique which consists of one single quite energetic movement and corresponding deep breathing is very well-known in Indonesia.
It has been invented by a Javanese doctor but was popular only from the moment it came to Bali because a group of Balinese people seriously practiced it and recorded their benefits from it throughout many years.
Gradually they reported about their experience to the public. Some years ago, Orhiba became very respected since the media in Indonesia reported the complete healing of a young Australian hiv patient who came to the Orhiba group in Bali and left the island about six months later, having practiced the exercise throughout all those months. His doctors in Australia reported him complete cured!
My next step was to draft a health program as part of my training. This program which is still part of my services, is divided into three parts. Part One is Orhiba, Part Two is Crossing and Part Three is Ch’i Gung. How did I come to take up Ch’i Gung again? It was funny how wisdom follows us, even if we travel around the world.
I had continued with some Kung Fu exercises throughout the years, and those were also part of my training program. But I was aware of the fact that Kung Fu was a martial art and to teach it I should have studied it with a master. Since I was lacking this qualification I thought of replacing it by something softer, like Tai Chi Chuan. However, I had no knowledge of it. Then, in a bookstore in Denpasar, Bali, I found what I had been searching for, the two manuals by Daniel Reid that I referenced above.
Now, I practiced Ch’i Gung again but this time with much more insight into the workings of the vital energy and the correct practice. Here are the results of eight months of assiduous work.
- No more back pain or spine problems
- The energy flow in my body is stable and continuous
- I have no more fatigues and can drive for hours
- I’ve no more influenza
- I can concentrate better to be really absorbed by a project
- I’m much more organized and focused
- My sexual life is more vivid and much more joyful
- I’ve no more depressions
- I’ve no more food allergies
- I’ve no more hay fever
- I’ve more success and better relationships
- I can forgive others and myself more easily
- I think bigger and more positively
- I’m more understanding and compassionate
- I’m more aware of my true desires and powers
- I feel I’m closer to my birth vision
I am not sure that all these results are due to Ch’i Gung? Actually, in my life when I try new things, it’s always kind of a bundle at a time, seldom one isolated thing. Now since my consciousness for a healthier life style has risen, I also take in two times a day a herbal drink and food supplements like Gingko Biloba.
Now I would like to report about the practice part. First, I must admit that I’ve again modified my Tao Yoga work recently. Since a long time I wonder why the Chinese and Tibetans seem to like more to meditate sitting on a stool whereas people in India use to sit cross-legged on the floor or on a cushion. I was never dogmatic in my choice of techniques, and find we are all special and individual in our preference for the techniques that work best for us.
To begin with, engaging in a rigid practice of Zen meditation some years ago, I found sitting in the Yogi position being a torture. However, at that time of my life I liked torturing myself if only the thing I did was considered ‘spiritual’. Today, I think quite different about that. Actually, I mastered the position so well that my friends could not believe their eyes.
But well, I needed about one year to get there. If you try to shorten this process, you may end up in hospital or with an orthopedist. So please be careful!
When, after that time, I restarted with Tao Yoga, I found the position that you see on the graphic at the top of this report, that is, sitting at the edge of a chair, quite comfortable. But only in the beginning! What happened?
From school times it was quite traumatic for me to sit for a longer time on wooden benches or chairs. When I did, I got terrible pain in the middle of my spine and could hardly bend it anymore. Also my breathing got more or less congested or obstructed by this position and the pain and tension connected to it. I know this is not the case with many people and it’s in my case just a residue from my childhood and some slight deformation of my entire spine resulting from bad nutrition and, perhaps, mistreatments I suffered in homes during early childhood.
Now I thought, why not combining the yogi position with the Tao Yoga and inner smile exercises? So at the end of my Ch’i Gung session, I use to sit on the sofa using a neck roll under my bottom. I found that this position was ideal and that I fell almost automatically in deep abdominal breathing. Actually, the Yogi position seems to favor abdominal breathing.
At the same time, my mind seemed to be more collected, more focused with this position than with sitting on the chair. There was no pain in the spine, neither during nor after the meditation session. Instead there was a feeling of deep rest and powerful new energy I was loaded with.
Despite the fact that I had abandoned the Yogi position for several years, the elasticity of my legs came back almost instantly.
Now I joined another little exercise to this session, an exercise that I’d found somewhere in a book about traditional Tibetan health practice. When you sit in yogi, you simply put your hands palms upwards on your legs, close to your belly, while slowly, very slowly breathing in. Then you stretch your arms out while the palms of your hands still show upwards.
The next movement is to raise your arms upwards in a half circle until your palms touch while you slowly breath out.
The third part is to lower your arms in front of your face and chest while still keeping palms upwards and while breathing in again. What happens? If you do it right you will feel warm energy around your hands that gets stronger and stronger the closer you get down to your navel. This is amazing because you can begin to really feel the flow of your energy around your hands and arms doing this simple movement.
It’s ideal to finish the whole morning session with it. You will feel charged like a battery and ready for fight!
To finish, let me summarize the whole session which takes about one hour every morning:
1) Ch’i Gung 1
Stand upright, legs slightly bent, arms relaxed at sides of your body. Breathe in while lifting arms, palms of your hands showing upwards, until your chest. Begin to breathe out while lifting your arms further up and turning your palms up to the ceiling. Your head follows the movement and you look straight up to the back of your hands. Stretch the tendons of your wrists as much as you can but don’t force it. Now Begin to breathe in while your arms swing gradually down at the sides of your body while the palms of your hands show away from your body and are still under tension. Release the tension once your arms are completely down at the side of your legs. Begin new cycle. Do six to ten cycles.
Feet in eagle position (like a V), raise your arms in front of your body while fingers of both hands slightly touch. Breathe in. Raise your feet up until standing on your toes once your arms are up. Look straight. Bend your arms down in a half circle backwards while palms of your hands show uncompromisingly upwards. (This is in the beginning quite painful but don’t force it. It will come gradually). Breathe out while arms go down. Feel the energy around your arms and hands. The down movement is the most important of the cycle. While your arms swing down and you breathe out, lower your body gradually from your toes back to standing on your feet once your arms are down at the sides of your body. Repeat cycle at least ten times. Orhiba strengthens the energy triangle sitting at the bottom of the spine and activates the energy metabolism of the organism. It is very important that you are straight all the time during the exercise, otherwise severe damage can be caused to the spine. So please be careful!
3) Ch’i Gung 2
Stand with knees bent, in the horse rider position, palms flat on top of your legs. Put head in your neck, look up to the ceiling and breathe in Bend your spine inwards as much as you can without forcing it. Bend your spine outwards while breathing out looking down onto your navel. Repeat cycle at least six times.
4) Ch’i Gung 3
Stand with knees bent, in the horse rider position, palms flat on top of your legs. Put head in your neck, bend your spine inwards, begin breathing in and turn your head to the left, as much as you can without forcing it. Look behind you. Come back with your head while breathing out and bend your spine outwards looking down to your navel. Do the same movement while turning your head to the right. Repeat cycles at least six times.
5) Ch’i Gung 4
Stand with knees bent, in the horse rider position, and bend down forward until your fingers touch the floor. Breathe in and out three times. Slowly and gradually lift up your spine while breathing in. Spread your arms out as you get up as if you greeted the sun and the stars and welcomed them. Begin to breathe out while bending your arms in a half circle back and bending your spine inwards. Put your head into your neck, your face directed to the skies. You can keep your eyes closed all the time, if you wish. Put your hands into your hips to support yourself while breathing in and out three times. You can breath into vulnerable points or organs of your body, visualize them and charge them with ch’i. Lift your arms again gradually up above your head while breathing in. As your arms are above your head, let them flexibly bend over in front of you as if your hands wanted to water the flowers in front of you.
Breathe out while moving gradually down with your arms and, at the same time, bending forward until your fingers touch again the floor. Repeat cycle at least six times.
6) Ch’i Gung 5
Stand with knees bent, in the horse rider position, and hold your arms as if you embraced a tree. Breathe in and out three times. Feel relaxed and quiet. Repeat six times.
7) Tao Yoga
Practice Tao Yoga and inner smile as described above in the main text.
Note: All breathing should be abdominal and very slow. Accordingly, all movements should be gradual and slow, never brusque or abrupt. Never force anything and give time to your organism to learn and develop. Be patient!
The power of eating has not been given a special name in Taoism; however this art of cooking well exists and is based upon the balance of yin and yang in every food or dish. Some call it the Tao of Cooking.
In fact, the old Chinese sages have set many rules about cooking. For example, onions and garlic are predominantly yang, meaning that their energetic impact is such that when consumed they activate the hot yang energy in us. On the other hand, milk products are predominantly yin. They impact on the cold yin energy in our body and reinforce it. The goal is always to maintain the two energies in balance.
Thus, if I suffer from high body heat, I should eat a diet that is more yin, such as, for example, more milk products, cheese, and fruits. If however, I suffer from cold hands or feet, I should avoid yin food and eat more yang food, as for example food spiced with onions and/or garlic.
I think we should refrain from sterilizing life until a point that everything becomes a duty. As Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching states, balance in life comes from caring for both the body and the essence. And caring for both body & soul means to do things out of a genuine joy of living.
Many people associate a healthy lifestyle and rich healthy food with a Spartan way of life. However, this a a misunderstanding. We do not need to be Spartan or cherish scarcity philosophies in order to live healthily. It is simply not true that we are sick because we are rich, that we would live more healthily if we were poor. This is a myth. Everybody who like me has lived for years in developing countries, knows that there, people are not more healthy. Yet perhaps they are more resistant to sickness. Why?
One reason is that they can’t afford modern medicine and thus remain free from intoxicating their organisms with allopathic chemistry, the other is that most old cultures have a set of wistful dietary rules which are followed by poor people because these diets are not only healthy but also cheap whereas modern processed food is very expensive in those countries. Another blessing for poor people is that they stay away from the second source of intoxication in modern civilizations, which is processed food, fast food and junk food!
Please forget all what you heard about rigid and dogmatic vegetarianism, as it destroys our basic joy of living. I create all my dishes spontaneously, in the same serendipitous way I paint or compose music.
Fanatic attitudes, in caring for your health, are as damaging as they are politically. Punishing, chastising the organism because of one or the other modern spiritual (?) philosophy is foolish and leads either to sickness or falling back into old (bad) habits. Thus it is wise to combine rich taste and ingredients that are highly nourishing, and not just flatly reducing appetite, with plants, nuts and nut oils so that the meals are abundant enough to cut off ‘snacking’ in between them. Here are just some samples, more will be published in the form of cook books, and those will be shown on ipublica.com, once they are published.