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What is Qigong?

In the Chinese language, qigong is written with two characters – qi and gong. The term does not have a clear-cut Western equivalent. Qi is a substance that permeates the Universe. It has three components: material, energetic, and informational. Modern instruments can measure the first two, while the third one can be observed only indirectly through its effect on objects. Qi is either internal or external (i.e. of the person or of the Universe). Everyone possesses a specific kind of qi from birth. In addition, one can absorb a different kind of qi from the environment, which one can then multiply or expand within and release from the body. Gong stands for the action, or the work, that is required in order to learn how to direct qi. It requires time and effort, and progress takes place at a measured pace. Based on the this translation, qigong can be described as the art of managing qi: drawing it from the environment, refining it, and releasing it. More broadly, qigong is the art of maintaining good health and balance; it is a science, a philosophy, a way of thinking, of exchanging energy and information with one’s environment and of communicating with the Universe.

The time and the effort we spend on learning qigong are called gunfu. Traditionally, gunfu implies mastering the most dignified practices, understanding the secrets of creation, and living harmoniously with its laws. From the standpoint of physics, gunfu can be defined as work (expended effort), which equals force multiplied by distance. Distance is velocity multiplied by time. Consequently, gunfu has three components: force, velocity, and time. It should be noted, however, that we are not working with the traditional concept of force. In the context of gunfu, force is related to the determination with which one practices. In addition, it stands for the “quiet” force emanated from the heart and the cells during qigong practice that relaxes the body and focuses the mind. That force connects practitioners to the Universe and allows them to practice the so-called “quiet” qigong for prolonged time periods (hours, days, months, years) without moving. Velocity characterizes how fast the practitioner progresses in mastering the system. Time measures the duration of one’s practice.

If students practice the right method regularly, but do not put any effort (force) into it, gunfu would equal zero. If the practice method is inappropriate, or if the teacher is inept in correcting mistakes and in steering the student, one may practice for a lifetime with little or no progress – the rate (velocity) of progress would equal zero, and so would gunfu. If a bright student chooses the right method and a good teacher, learning will progress quickly. However, if there is little time to practice, whatever has been learned will be unable to “take root” as permanent skills and qualities; and once again gunfu would equal zero. Thus, the necessary condition for success is to practice systematically, with determination, and under the guidance of a qualified teacher.


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