Mainstream science does not yet acknowledge the existence of qi (chi), the invisible life energy of the universe that is said to flow through all things. Qi, also called prana by yoga practitioners, seems to exist somehow between the worlds of mind and body. The ancient masters speak of it as a kind of fluidic energy that is regulated by controlled breathing and mental intention. Scientists have found no way to detect it, but millions of meditation, yoga, taichi, and qigong practitioners around the world are intimate with it and regulate its circulation through their minds and bodies to manage their health.
Fortunately, it's quite easy to experience qi for ourselves. By performing our abdominal breathing with quiet intention, we can feel for ourselves the flow of qi through our own bodies. You don't have to be a monk or a mystic to be able to do this. To their surprise and delight, first-time beginners immediately connect with qi and begin to feel its benefits.
Conscious regulation of qi revitalizes and heals our body, calms and energizes our emotions, and clarifies our thinking. We become more optimistic, confident, observant, and creative. We perceive and experience the world around us in greater detail and depth.
In the ancient past, mind-body cultivators from all around the world discovered that the universe is filled with a life-giving energy. It completely fills the universe and we live immersed in it like fish in the water. Qi flows in and through our minds and bodies, giving us the energy and perceptiveness that we need to think clearly, feel deeply, and act decisively. Qi is a natural part of us, another aspect or dimension of our life and existence. For human beings, learning to connect with it is literally as natural as breathing. Here are instructions for discovering and regulating qi:
1. Sit with correct posture in a chair or on a meditation mat. Don't forget to place your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This is important in qi circulation.
2. Perform Preparation Breathing 3 times.
3. Begin Abdominal Breathing (For more information on correct posture, Preparation Breathing, and Abdominal Breathing, go to "Breath Counting Meditation: How to Build Mental Power.")
4. Imagine that your body is made of light. And your body is floating within an ocean of light. The surface of your body of light is permeable and the universal light circulates into your body, through your body, and out of your body naturally.
5. Therefore, immersed as you are in the universal ocean of qi, you are also saturated with qi as well. Just as a fish is completely submerged in the waters of the ocean and filled with them, too.
6. When you inhale with Abdominal Breathing, imagine that you're not only breathing in air, but the qi that flows all around us.
7. Furthermore, you're not just breathing in with your nose. You breathe in both air and qi from all directions -- above, below, front, back, left, right, and diagonally. You breath in with the entire surface of your body.
8. After inhaling, when you pause, imagine that the qi is stored deep in your dantien or "energy field," the energy storage center just below your navel in the center of your abdomen.
9. Finally, when you exhale, imagine that you're returning that which you don't need back to the universe.
As you engage in abdominal breathing, observe your body for the symptoms of qi. These are different for every person, but many people feel new sensations in their hands. You may feel your hands swell and become warm. Your palms and fingers may also turn red. Or they may tingle as if an electrical current is passing through them.
Look in the mirror after you perform this exercise. Most likely, your complexion will become more radiant and your skin will seem to glisten. The whites of your eyes will seem even more white. Your facial expression will seem more focused and confident.
Pay close attention to your hands. Practitioners of qi make the striking claim that our hands are not simply tools for grasping and holding things. They are sensors as well. Instruments for receiving and transmitting both energy and information. Nearly every traditional culture in the world has produced healers who both diagnose and heal illnesses with their hands, sometimes without even touching their patients.
You can test the healing power of your hands for yourself. Pour yourself a glass of water or juice and place it on a table in front of you. Take a sip and see how it tastes.
Now place your hands around the glass as if your are holding a small ball with the glass inside it. You don't have to touch the glass. It merely needs to be between your palms. Now sitting in proper meditation posture, engage abdominal breathing, and breathe with the intention of drawing qi into your body. You don't need any other intention than this because the qi acts automatically, almost as if it possesses its own intelligence.
After a minute or two, take another sip from the glass. The flavor and quality of the liquid have changed! Usually, both the flavor and texture seem to become softer and cleaner as if the liquid has been detoxified. If you don't believe me, try this out for yourself.
My students are inevitably shocked and delighted by the change. It seems incredible, but somehow they produced a physical, apparently chemical effect without ever touching or manipulating the water or juice in any way. Mind over matter!
The way that we perceive and experience the world through qi in some ways seems more accurate than our physical senses. For example, our eyes tell us that the world is a vast empty space filled with opaque individual objects with distinct boundaries. However, for the last one hundred years physicists have been telling us that objects themselves are mostly empty space, not solid at all.
Similarly, when we place our hands on a table, our sense of touch tells us that there is physical contact between our hands and the table's surface. Again, this is an illusion. Scientists also tell us that physical objects never actually make contact. The negatively charged electron clouds which surround the nuclei of the atoms of my hand are repulsed by the similarly negatively charged electron clouds of the table's atoms. No object in space has ever touched another. And if the negative charge of our atoms' electron clouds were somehow neutralized to enable real contact between objects, they would not collide anyway. They would simply pass through one another like ghosts because there is so much empty space within them.
Our eyes, ears, nose, and other physical senses provide a grossly distorted, highly inaccurate picture of the world. This is precisely why scientists use measuring instruments rather than their physical senses to make observations and perform experiments.
But what kind of a world does our experience of qi reveal? The perceptions that we receive through qi depict a world where everything is connected and all boundaries are porous, practically non-existent. Energy and information are exchanged and circulated freely. The universe appears as a limitless network of such energy and information exchanges. Time and space do not exist and somehow the processes of the cosmos are harmonized and unified within a single mysterious whole that is neither large nor small.
Isn't this perception of the universe more "scientifically" accurate?
I have found that when my very modern students first experience qi, it challenges their scientific assumptions about the world and, more importantly, about themselves. Suddenly, we have discovered a new and different way to perceive the world. A new dimension and power of the human mind and body. For the first time, we become open to the possibility that we don't truly know ourselves as well as we thought.
We begin to ask, "What are the limits of human possibility?"
For further teachings regarding Son meditation practice, please refer to the Youtube channel "Hwansan Sunim: Son Meditation for the Modern World" and to the Facebook page "Yonghwasa International Seon Buddhist Program." If you have questions for Hwansan Sunim, you may send an email to email@example.com.