Die Erfahrung im Kloster wollen Achim
To live by one’s true nature means to accept what is in the here and now.
The three pillars of Qigong
This introduction to the basic ideas of Qigong was published in the Tao Magazin about 1993. The article also draws comparisons to western therapy methods and explains the essence and the core of Qigong clearly and unambiguously.
Qigong is the modern name of a complex practice system that has emerged from the tradition of Taoism, Buddhism and Chinese medicine. CARSTEN DOHNKE describes the three pillars of these practices of life care and draws a comparison with Western body therapies. Qigong is practised primarily with the aim of promoting the flow of the life energy Qi in the human body. Traditionally Chinese belief is that the whole cosmos and also the human body are penetrated and animated by this energy. If the Qi flows harmoniously and in abundance, then we feel healthy and balanced, spray with vitality and inner strength. In short: We feel alive and experience a change in our perception of ourselves and the world.
THE INITIAL SITUATION
People of different cultures and epochs have repeatedly noticed that every being has the tendency to limit its own liveliness more and more in the course of its life, to gradually and mostly inconspicuously reduce the grand possible inner arousal, as it is often found in children. This happens, among other things, by moving some parts of the body only to a limited extent, by chronically tightening certain muscles and by adopting an inner and outer posture as one’s own, which is an expression of a clearly predominant feeling, but ignores all other feelings.
Parts of the body that are permanently tense are not sufficiently supplied with blood and energy and can only be perceived to a limited extent. Those who can hardly move their pelvic area will find it difficult to access their sexual urges and their main sources of energy. Neither can someone who always pulls up his shoulders out of fear or constantly makes a crooked hump feel an intense feeling of joy. In colloquial language this connection is often clearly expressed. Phrases such as “But he carries a burden on his shoulders” are more than common. There is a lively interaction between body and mind: attitudes to life, to others and to the world become fixed in the body and continue to be held by it. Whether the restriction of one’s own vitality is always caused by unexpressed feelings is a matter of dispute among experts today. The causes of chronic bad postures can perhaps also lie in wrong habits or congenital physical weaknesses, which all of us know only too well.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
What can I do to feel alive? First of all: I try to gradually eliminate the chronic muscle tension and incorrect posture of the spine or skeletal apparatus. Actually, I mainly pursue this one goal: to stand quite naturally and straight without doing anything. When I stand like this, my energy automatically collects in my natural center.
Often only a few small corrections are needed. But they need time. A profound process is taking place: the feelings held and hidden in the body come to the surface again and have to be processed step by step. This processing usually takes place on two levels, the physical and the emotional level. So it can happen that I suddenly feel angry or sad, even if there is actually no reason for it. But maybe I also start to sweat, feel a certain uneasiness or have digestive problems. All these processes are positive. They are the body’s response to the situation and serve only the purpose of regaining a state of inner balance. As soon as one begins to relax mentally and physically, the body begins this process of self-regulation. But the elimination of chronic postures and muscle tension is not enough to experience an intense feeling of being alive. It is only one of the three (main) pillars of Qigong. This pillar has Qigong in common with many western approaches to bodywork and therapy.
THREE PILLARS OF QIGONG
In Qigong, however, there are two more: the strengthening and cleansing of the body and the sensitization of perception.
If you practice qigong, you spend a lot of time strengthening your whole body. Not only does this serve the purpose of not being susceptible to illness, but its primary goal is to be able to absorb a high potential of energy. As a rule, the strengthening of the body takes place through long lasting standing exercises in connection with special breathing techniques: One stands like a rock and has the feeling that roots sprout out of the feet which penetrate deeper and deeper into the ground. The breath becomes calmer and finer. Its power fills the entire lower abdomen. Why this very exercise, which is called the Standing Column in professional circles, serves to build up the entire body, is often a mystery to the layman. On the outside, almost nothing happens.
But this is precisely the secret. Strengthening begins from the inside and from below: The lower abdomen expands to all sides. The deep breath massages and cleanses the internal organs. A feeling of warmth spreads in the centre and slowly penetrates from there into the periphery. From the feet, fine energetic vibrations rise up into the legs and gradually flood the whole body. With increasing practice time, the standing person transforms into a pulsating energy field. This effect can only occur because the strengthening of the body in Qigong begins in the center and at the roots: it hits the practitioner directly in his essence.
The sensitization of perception is the third pillar of Qigong. Almost all important and well-known Qigong exercises serve mainly the sensitization, i.e. the ever finer and more differentiated perception of the body, the thoughts and the outside world. Sensitivity, however, does not only mean that the practitioner becomes more receptive to the mood of his fellow human beings and the events of his environment, because he views the world more from his center.The actual change in perception occurs on another level, the energetic level: the deeper the practitioner penetrates into the practice of qigong, the more he perceives that a fine energetic field also exists around the body. When he begins to understand this field as part of his own being, the usual boundaries of his body gradually become blurred: the energetic field develops into a sixth sense organ. It becomes a kind of spürzone, with the help of which he can directly grasp the energetic radiation of his fellow human beings and the environment – i.e. without further sensory impressions. Instead of intellectual analysis, intuition moves into the foreground of perception.
THE HARMONY OF OPPOSITES
The interaction between body and mind, which also takes place through strengthening and sensitization exercises, does not only happen in the area of the musculature and the skeletal apparatus. In truth, the whole body is the expression and limitation of my being, because the interplay between body and mind takes place on all possible levels. The joints, organs, connective tissue and bone marrow are just as much a part of it as the muscles, the spine posture, the tendons, the skin and everything else.By understanding this interplay, which extends to all areas, a decisive and often misunderstood point becomes particularly clear: It is not only the goal of meditative exercises to achieve a deep state of relaxation, but to experience all parts of the body in a harmonious interplay.Many people attend a meditation or Qigong course with the idea of finally reflecting or coming to rest. The idea of Qigong is to achieve inner balance, harmony and a calming of the mind. But this goal is not achieved if you just relax. In short, harmony and liveliness need structure.
Tension and relaxation always come together. In Qigong, for example, it is said that Yin and Yang must always interact with each other. Real balance is only achieved when opposing aspects complement each other. This can be well understood using the example of a river: When a person practices for a long time, he becomes a great river. Huge quantities of water flow through a river. If one observes its flow, one feels a feeling of harmony and liveliness. If the riverbed or the dike is destroyed now, the current will overflow its banks. Maybe a lake will form there, but the flow and the liveliness will stop. The river does not flow without its intact riverbed.
It is the same with humans: A harmonious and living person is a vessel for feelings, sensations and excitement. The weaker and more porous the vessel, the lower the degree of inner arousal.
Explained using the example of correct posture, this means that it is only possible to walk upright if I stretch certain parts of the muscles. The body does not stand by itself. This basic tension gives me the possibility of inner excitement. If I reduce it beyond a certain level, it leads to the loss of my vitality. It’s that simple.
THOUGHTS, BREATH, MOVEMENT
If I want to start practicing now, I should use three tools. I need the power of my thoughts, the ability to regulate my breath and the ability to move. All Qigong exercises are made up of the skilful combination of these three aids. For a better understanding they are divided into basic exercises and higher exercises:
Typical basic exercises of today’s Qigong are gymnastics-like stretching exercises, self-massage, special breathing techniques, visualizations, grounding exercises, straight posture exercises, slow animal movements, simple meditation practices, Taiji movements and healing sounds. Many of these practices often seem somewhat mysterious to the layman. In reality, however, in many ways they resemble the health practices, relaxation methods and forms of therapy that are widespread in the West today. These include many body-oriented psychotherapies, classical healing massage, autogenic training, biodynamic massage, Feldenkrais training, positive thinking, aura work and much more.
The similarity of the different methods with the basic exercises of Qigong is that both approaches have the goal of restoring or maintaining health and vitality: They give the individual the opportunity to heal his illness and to free himself from his inhibitions and rigid behavioural structures, so that he can become a happy and active being. This being has the possibility to express his feelings, to pursue his desires and goals and to enjoy the pleasures of the senses.
Higher levels of Qigong go far beyond the approach and the idea of the physical and emotional recovery of the human being. Although they are often taught, they can only be mastered after many years of serious practice.
On these levels one learns techniques for the mental transformation of negative feelings, the transformation of sexual energy into consciousness, healing through the transmission of Qi and deep inner immersion. Such techniques are not taught in traditional Western approaches of bodywork.
Clear parallels can be found in comparison with the various yoga systems, Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, the Tantra systems and Christian mysticism. The meditative exercises of all these spiritual traditions, as well as the higher levels of Qigong, cannot be practiced without their spiritual background. They are embedded in the understanding of basic ethical attitudes and only through this unfold their full effectiveness. Because the actual goal of these exercises is not the private happiness of the individual human being, but the connection of the human being with the cosmos.
This requires the inner readiness of the individual to put his self, with all his desires, feelings and views about the world, in the background and to direct his senses completely inwards.
WHAT IS QI?
One of the biggest misunderstandings in the field of Qigong and meditation has arisen through the term Qi. In China and also among the qigong practitioners of the West one speaks constantly of Qi. For many people, however, the word “qi” conceals the great unknown. Some voices therefore ask for a concrete definition of the term or think they have already found it.
Even though such a definition is very important and is likely to clarify many misunderstandings, one thing should not be forgotten: Qi is just a name. A name for something you can experience for yourself. And somehow it has to do with liveliness. That’s why I like to ask back: “What is life?
A crack in the world view
This article was also published in the Tao magazine around 1993 and was later taken up by other magazines. The deeper meaning of Qi and a new way of looking at the world is the central theme of this article.
Carsten Dohnke wrote a master thesis about “Qi in ancient China” at the end of his studies and visited and interviewed various experts in the world. This research has changed his life and his view of the world fundamentally and lastingly.
It is often said that qi is the connection between the material and spiritual levels. CARSTEN DOHNKE reports on the results of research, which prove this in a vivid way. He points out that these insights – if we are prepared to let them really penetrate our consciousness – fundamentally change our view of the world.
When my professor told me in 1990 that I should not write my master’s thesis on a Daoist text, but rather on the term “Qi”, I was disappointed. I replied: “The Chinese themselves don’t know exactly what Qi is. What am I supposed to find out?”
The personal researches and experiences of the next years changed my opinion considerably. Today I am not only of the opinion that important things can be said about Qi. What I would like to say in this short article is the following: A more precise understanding of what Qi is and how Qi works will bring about a profound change in our entire view of the world. This applies not only to personal areas of life, but above all to areas of science such as psychology, philosophy, religious studies and medicine.
Most of the religious and esoteric teachings of this world are based on the assumption that man possesses an energy system in addition to the purely physical body, through which the individual is connected to the cosmos. The Indian and Chinese cultures have paid a great deal of attention to this idea, with different approaches and emphases, and over the centuries have developed the Chakra-Nadi system in India and the meridian system in China. The meridian system lies more in the physical realm than the chakra system, which rather describes the purely subtle aspects of being.
The underlying teachings of both systems argue that a network of non-physical channels and centers of the human body is flooded by a non-directly detectable energy. In China these Qi are called Prana, in India Prana. Only through the existence of this energy is there a connection between the physical body and the rest of the universe. Man thus becomes the “manifestation of a universal continuum of energy and consciousness” (1). According to this view, the physical aspect of man is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”. And a separate self that exists separately from the things of the outside world is pure illusion.
From a strictly scientific point of view, this theory about human nature is considered “completely unproven”. We encounter it neither in our textbooks nor at our universities, it has no influence on our traditional religious view of the world and only plays a role in everyday life for a few people.
One reason for this is that the non-physical dimension of life is difficult to prove – and science distinguishes between faith and verifiable facts. On the other hand, it is also due to the fact that it completely contradicts our entire view of the world. Therefore, there is no research in this direction at all in the western world. Although modern quantum physics goes beyond the dualism of subject and object, it has hardly any impact on the humanities. It is also interesting that most scientists who deal with modern physics still live according to a three-dimensional world view in everyday life. Only a few of them believe, for example, in telepathy or other phenomena that are difficult to explain.
Years of research
In the West, man is a clearly definable individual. All further thinking is based on this foundation. Descartes’ famous sentence “I think, therefore I am” is from a Buddhist point of view one of the greatest errors of Western philosophy, because it was formulated in the state of “everyday consciousness”, in which the illusion of a self always exists through the deception of the senses. For this reason, Qigong exercises are also often explained in purely medical terms: Qigong then becomes health gymnastics, accepted by the health insurance companies and the Western medical profession.
For this very reason it is remarkable that the “Institute for Comparative Religious Studies and Parapsychology” in Tokyo, regardless of Western science, has been working for 30 years on the research of the chakra system, the meridians and the Qi. There is also research in this direction in China and in the former Eastern bloc countries. What is special about the Institute for Comparative Religious Studies and Parapsychology, however, is that its work focuses on getting closer to the non-physical dimension of life. The aim of the research is to advance to a deeper understanding of human nature and to gain clarity about the principles of spiritual evolution.
Dr. Motoyama, Director and Head of the Institute, has conducted countless parapsychological experiments with a team of scientists over the years. Special measuring instruments have been developed for their scientific documentation. The results, as I could see during a personal visit, are amazing. Not only the existence of the chakra and meridian systems was scientifically proven, but also their effect beyond the physical realm of being. An important result is the following:
Many experiments have shown that test persons who have been meditating for a long time can consciously send Qi to another person via their meridian system. The special thing about these experiments is that they are also successful when both persons were sitting in different electromagnetically shielded rooms.
Qi can therefore not be identical with an electromagnetic or similar form of energy, the effect of which could be brought into harmony with our previous view of the world. It is more a medium that moves between matter and mind. So it can support physical functions in the body by flowing through the different meridians. At the same time it works where it is guided by consciousness. And this independent of spatial distance and apparently via a non-physical dimension, which is as good as unknown to science.
This last point is also usually overlooked by Chinese Qigong masters. They often explain the transmission and reception of Qi with the help of the model of radio and television waves. The fact is, however, that no form of wave covers any distance, but that qi works directly where the attention of the mind is. This is where a decisive crack in our world view comes into being.
Scientific research into Qi is still in its infancy. Dr. Motoyama, who is a scientist and at the same time a recognized yoga master, can therefore only formulate as a thesis what still needs to be researched: On the basis of the results of many years of research, it seems obvious to him that every genuine spiritual progress is accompanied by an increased activation of the chakra or meridian system. It does not matter which religious or esoteric tradition a person belongs to.
For Dr. Motoyama, spiritual experiences are therefore more than purely spiritual phenomena, because they leave traces in the human energy system and also have an effect on the body. On the physical level this does not necessarily have to be reflected in externally visible vitality. Especially a virtuous attitude of mind, which is aspired to in many traditions by many years of purification exercises and prayers and which is the central element of all religions, shows itself more in finer changes of the whole being than in an increase in dynamics and vitality.
Qi plays the role of a medium through which spiritual and religious experiences are made possible: it is Qi through which consciousness works in boundlessness. This is how Dr. Motoyama writes:
“Consciousness possesses an enormous power. It can connect us – and it does it unconsciously – directly with the minds of other people and other material forms. It is not necessarily limited by the five senses, by time or space. Consciousness is a unifying totality, as mystics have long claimed. The separating boundaries that we experience in daily life are, after all, only illusions.”
I hope that with the beginning of the next millennium there will be another
science and religions come closer to each other. It is important to preserve traditions, but at the same time it is also of global importance to move beyond cultural and emotional interpretations to a unified understanding of the real nature of being. This can not only be helpful for the individual human being on his path through life, but can also avoid or at least reduce cultural and religious conflicts.
The exploration of the meridians, the chakras and the Qi can be an important key to this.
The Universal Tao
The Universal Tao, a long time also called Healing Tao, is a system of ancient Taoist healing and meditation practices founded by the qigong master Mantak Chia. In addition to a variety of qigong techniques, it also includes Taoist methods for cultivating sexual energy, inner alchemy, Taijiquan, ancient Shaolin practices for physical training, Taoist organ massage, knowledge of the forces of nature, dietetics and Fengshui.
Carsten Dohnke has been closely associated with this system for 25 years and also teaches the higher Taoist practices such as “Kan and Li” – the meditative marriage of water and fire – in many seminars. In this article he introduces the basic elements of this system, which exemplify basic Taoist principles.
The practice system of the Healing Tao developed by Master Mantak Chia is divided into two stages. The practices and meditations of the first stage generally serve self-healing: they improve health, release energetic blockades, increase and refine energy in the body and strengthen strength in the lower Dantien. They are consciously called “practices of the healing Tao”.
On this solid basis the spiritual practices follow after about five to ten years of practice. Master Mantak Chia calls them “practices of the immortal Tao”. The ideal goal of the “immortal Tao” is the creation of a light body that emerges from the physical body and continues to exist in the spiritual world even after death. Clear parallels in theory and practice can be found in Tibetan Buddhism, in which the idea of a rainbow body is often represented.
The great merit of Master Mantak Chia is that he has taken essential methods and exercises from a multitude of Daoist practices that have developed in China over the last three thousand years and combined them into a new and self-contained system. This is particularly evident in the “practices of the healing Tao”: the central themes here are the cleansing and strengthening of the inner organs and the compression of the life force into a Qi ball in the lower abdomen. Both go together: If the energy flows harmoniously and abundantly in the individual organs, then it can easily be centered in the lower Dantien.
THE BASIC PRACTICES
The cleansing and strengthening of the internal organs has above all the aim of creating a “good and stable internal climate”: The basic Qigong practices like the Healing Sounds and the Inner Smile serve to transform the negative emotions internally – through the power of the mind and the Qi – to lead toxins out of the body and to strengthen the harmony of the organs among each other. This not only cleanses the body internally, but also develops a balanced and cheerful attitude of mind.
The centering of the vital energy in the lower Dantian promotes the entire vitality and makes it possible to store the energy. In the Healing Tao, the formation of a Qi ball in the Dantian area serves to build up an inner gravitational field. This is why Master Mantak Chia also speaks of the compression and condensation of the Qi energy: Through the idea of an inner suction, initially combined with a slight tension of the ring muscles of the eyes and reversed abdominal breathing, the energy in the lower Dantien is compressed and gradually refined into a glowing and bright shining light pearl. This automatically attracts the forces of nature, the earth and the cosmos through its “gravitational force”. The practitioner then lets these forces circulate along the Small Energy Cycle and other special meridians so that they are evenly distributed in the organism and, where necessary, initiate healing processes. The inner gravitational field can be compared to the attraction that the sun exerts on the planets of our planetary system: Without the Sun, none of the planets would be kept on their orbit. The same applies to the lower Dantien: If the Dantien is weakened, it lacks a natural magnetic field and no attraction is exerted on the Qi forces surrounding man.
The Taoist “novice” first learns and practices the various basic techniques of the Healing Tao separately. These include various “iron shirt exercises”, ancient practices of the Shaolin tradition to train a steel body and to improve posture and bone structure. After only a short period of practice, the practitioner also allows the sexual energy to flow through the Small Circulation. The power of the ovaries or testicles is partially withdrawn from the reproductive process and is available to supply and heal the internal organs, glands and brain. This is an ancient Taoist practice which is also called “Huan Jing Bu Nao” in Chinese: “The reversal of sperm flow to nourish the brain”.
At the next step – the “fusion of the elements” – a synthesis of what has been learned takes place: The compressed energy in the lower Dantien becomes of such intensity that it can simultaneously attract the purified energies of the organs and the forces of nature. This strengthened inner pearl of light is now guided together with the sexual energy through the Small Circulation, the Special Meridians and the Glands.
THE “FUSION OF ELEMENTS”
The practices of “fusion of the elements” primarily serve the transformation of negative emotions and the formation of virtuous qualities. They are the first step of the inner Daoist alchemy: The energy is firstly internally purified and harmonized, secondly condensed in the center, thirdly refined by circulation along the meridians and fourthly multiplied by new energies from nature and the universe. The energy merged into a new and refined form in the human body serves the purpose of gradually increasing the vibration frequency of the entire organism and initiating an inner regeneration and self-healing process from the cell level. It also leads to an extreme opening and activation of the energy pathways.
The one who practices “fusion” has the possibility to emphasize one or the other organ or natural element more depending on the innate weakness or the momentary life situation. In this way he can independently restore his emotional and physical balance and – in the longer term – gradually dissolve deeper old patterns of behaviour.
Since it has been shown that the effect of Taoist meditations without a good physical basis is very limited, Taiji, the already mentioned iron shirt exercises and “Chi-Nei-Tsang”, an organ massage developed by Master Mantak Chia, play an important role in the system of the Healing Tao in addition to the purely energetic practices. What all these practices have in common is that they deal specifically with the organ energies and the centering of the life force in the Dantien. Taiji and the iron shirt exercises emphasize the rootedness in the earth. In this way, the Dao student is given the opportunity to strengthen his physical constitution parallel to the meditative inner training, so that he can gradually move on to ever finer and more subtle practices based on a good physical foundation.
“KAN & LI.” THE MARRIAGE OF FIRE & WATER
The spiritual practices of the Healing Tao carry the name “Kan and Li”. They are high practices from the Taoist tradition of inner alchemy. Their mastery requires many years or even decades of intensive practice. The terms Kan and Li refer to two of the eight trigrams of the ancient oracle classic Yijing: “Kan” symbolizes the hot forces of fire and “Li” the cooling energies of water.
The Daoist adept, who devotes many years to meditation and inner alchemy, feels the forces of fire especially in the heart and the rest of the upper body. They are amplified by the high-frequency and also hot energies of the sky and the stars, which penetrate into the body through the apex during the meditation practice. The cool forces of the element water are mainly in the kidneys and sexual organs. The often blue earth energy, which rises through the soles of the feet into the legs through the suction of the centered force of the lower Dantian, makes up a further part of the cool energies.
Following the tradition of Chinese medicine and Taoism, the hot and cool energies in the body separate more and more during the course of life and become weaker and weaker. As a result, natural death occurs in old age. The corresponding symptoms are also known to Western medicine: Older people often suffer from muscle weakness in the pelvic floor area, bladder weakness and edema in the legs. At the same time, they complain of rising heat and other “fire symptoms”.
The Taoist adept, who is dedicated to the practice of Kan and Li, does not only want to let the decay of the elements and the natural aging process run harmoniously or slow down, but he also wants to reverse them inwardly: the different forces should unite in the body to a new form of life: Kan is no longer balancing Li, but the water evaporates in the body over the fire. This is the essential element of the inner alchemy. In Taoist classics this process is called “counteracting the course of nature”.
If the oracle master or connoisseur of Yijing strives to live in harmony and harmony by recognizing the change and the states of tension of nature and life in general, the alchemist goes one step further: He has the desire for evolution and inner development and through his practice slowly transforms the matter, which is inferior to decay, into light. The body is his medium.
In practice, the marriage of Kan and Li looks like this: The light pearl of the lower Dantien becomes a kind of “inner melting pot” in the advanced adept: the fire is led through the inner energy paths of the body deep into the lower Dantien and forms the furnace. The forces of the water are bundled into a cool ball of light and slowly led up over the furnace. The art now is not to let the water fall into the fire, but to lower it gradually and stop it above the fire. What happens then, the Daoists call “inner sexual intercourse”. The marriage of both forces takes place. The sexual energy, which makes up a large part of the cooling water forces, is refined in its quality by the inner fire and transformed into cooling steam. This steam nourishes the whole organism from the inside. It is consciously guided by the adept step by step into the individual organs, the glands, the meridians, the brain and the lymphatic system.
The goal is that after years of practice, when the inner self-cleansing process is completed, a spiritual body emerges from the excess refined energy, which can travel – separately from the physical body – in the spiritual world. This “light body” is also called the “inner child” in the Taoist tradition. This reveals the deeper meaning of “inner intercourse”: the advanced Taoist directs his reproductive energy inward and “fertilizes” himself. Together with the energies of the natural elements, a new inner force is formed which leads to spiritual growth.
In the system of the Universal Tao, qualitatively very valuable practices of the old Taoist tradition are imparted, many of which in ancient China were only given back to initiates. Mastering these practices is a life task. For the modern western student who grew up with the extreme sensory stimuli of our fast-moving media and information society and who learns complex meditations on weekend courses, this holds certain dangers: If he begins too quickly with the spiritual practices without building on a solid self-developed foundation and long inner experience, the inner “light body” can quickly become the product of the imagination. In other words, it takes many years of serious practice. Then you can reap “unimaginable results”.
This article was published in the Tao magazine around 1994 and later also in the magazine Connection. Several later master’s theses have quoted important parts of the article article.
The article gives a basic and clear overview of the history, the concrete contents and the development of Taoism as well as its significance for our present time.
Taoism as one of the great wisdom traditions is neither a religion nor a purely philosophical doctrine. Rather, it is a very practice-oriented way of life that interweaves healing arts, meditation, knowledge of the forces of nature and philosophy. A path that sees beauty in life and unfolds it with these very means.
A Taoist believes that every person’s life is beautiful. To “nurture life” and to live in harmony with oneself, nature and the cosmos is the central concern of all Taoists. Based on this idea, a detailed system of breathing and body exercises as well as medical practices has developed over thousands of years. One of the main themes of the Tao teachings, which can also be found in all practices, is the constant transformation of all things. In nature this change manifests itself through the constant interaction of the two main forces of life, Yin and Yang, the female and the male principle. Taoism therefore emphasizes the balance of these two forces in all areas of life. In addition, it teaches that the soft and apparently weak that can be attributed to yin is often superior to the hard and strong. In nature, this is particularly evident in the power of water.
The essence of Taoism includes silent meditation, Taoist sexual teachings, inner alchemy and many practices of today’s Qigong. But also Taiji and other Chinese martial arts, traditional herbalism and acupuncture are mostly based on Taoist ideas. In addition, Taoism has produced many magical and religious forms in China over the last two and a half millennia and as a spiritual current has influenced almost all areas of Chinese life. These include painting, calligraphy, literature, warfare, astrology, philosophy, natural science, geomancy, governance, and everyday Chinese life.
THE ROOTS: LAOZI AND ZHUANGZI
The spiritual foundations of Taoism were laid in the 6th-3rd century BC. In this time the two most important philosophical works of Taoism were created: the “Daodejing” (old transcription: Tao Te Ching), the classic of Tao and his power, and the famous work “Zhuangzi” (old transcription: Chuang Tzu), named after his author of the same name. Without these two writings there would probably be no teaching today that could be called Taoism. To this day, almost all schools and representatives of Taoist movements refer to the content of these two fundamental works.
The “Daodejing” consists of 81 short and partly rhymed sayings and belongs to the most translated and commented works of mankind. According to traditional Chinese historiography it goes back to the sage Laozi (old transcription: Lao Tzu), who allegedly was a contemporary of Kongzi (Confucius) and is said to have lived around 500 BC. The historical data to his person are however contradictory and legendary.
At that time China was not yet an empire, but a national territory divided into various principalities. Wars, famines and political unrest dominated life for a long time. Like many other thinkers of that time, Laozi (Lao Tzu) therefore tried to find an answer to the question of how peace can be restored. The “Daodejing” is to be understood in many aspects therefore as a political book, which was written predominantly as a councellor for the princes.
THE POWER BEHIND THE THINGS
This also makes it understandable that in many chapters Laozi is provocatively directed against the ideas of other intellectual and political currents of his time: Thus the followers of Confucius called for the restoration of virtue and duty to create unity and harmony among people, while the legalists tried to put a stop to political and social confusion with strict draft laws.
In “Daodejing” Laozi, on the other hand, takes a different view: For him, peace among the states was only conceivable through the inner peace of each individual. He therefore calls on the people, and especially the princes, to abandon their desires and desires, which only lead to strife and misfortune, and to turn to their inner nature. In this way they come to Laozi in harmony with the “Tao”, the “way”.
Tao, as a philosophical concept actually untranslatable, means as much as highest principle of being, worldly origin or also spiritual law of the universe. The Tao manifests itself in the entire creation with all its physical appearances, but is neither recognizable nor describable itself, but stands like a higher force behind things. The first chapter of “Daodejing” states: “The Tao that can be communicated is not the eternal Tao.
By living in harmony with the Tao, a person becomes a sage: He knows his true nature, understands the subtle laws of the cosmos and the changes in things. So he lives in inner silence, simplicity and deep harmony.
This connection with being leads the sage to “accomplish everything without doing anything”. He does not intervene in the natural course of things, but orients himself by the principles of nature. So for him there is nothing to add where everything is present in harmonious abundance. About the connection with the Tao through the renunciation of the world of the senses, the wise and the non-action it says among other things in “Daodejing”:
There is a beginning of the cosmos,
The mother of all things.
To know the mother is to know the son.
To know the son, and yet in connection
to stay with the mother,
Means being without worry for the rest of your life.
Close the senses,
Close the gate,
And life is always full.
Open the senses,
Always be busy,
And life is beyond help.
The wise men step back, and yet they are ahead.
When the Self is given up, it is realized.
When the ego is crossed,
you gain fulfillment.
In the pursuit of scholarship
Something comes along every day.
In the pursuit of the Tao
is getting a little less every day.
Decrease and decrease further,
Until no more needs to be done.
If nothing is done, nothing remains un done.
The world is ruled by non-interference.
It cannot be governed by intervention.
The work “Zhuangzi”, published in the 3rd century BC in the form of short stories and dialogues, is regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature. Due to its variety of themes, it repeatedly provided spiritual inspiration to many generations of Taoists. Zhuangzi” takes up the fundamental idea of the “Daodejing”, the unity of man with Tao, and developsit in a literary and poetic form.
FREEDOM AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS
While “Daodejing” gives short and concise advice in the tone of a master, “Zhuangzi” asks questions. Moreover, “Zhuangzi” is the first work in which the individual takes centre stage: Not the harmony of society and the peace of the country, but the freedom of the individual.
People – and especially those who live in harmony with the Tao – is the most important topic in “Zhuangzi”.
Two important and well-known sections of the text are “the butterfly dream” and the short passage about “Liezi riding the wind”. While in the first the transformation of all things is the theme and at the same time it is questioned what a person is capable of knowing at all, the second hints at what “Zhuangzi” understands by true freedom:
Zhuangzi once dreamed that he was a butterfly, a fluttering butterfly who felt comfortable and happy and knew nothing about Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up: There he was again, really and truly Zhuangzi. Now I don’t know if Zhuangzi dreamed that he was a butterfly or if the butterfly dreamed that he was Zhuangzi, although there is certainly a difference between Zhuangzi and the butterfly. So it is with the transformation of things.
(There were…) Liezi, who could be driven by the wind with great superiority.
Only after fifteen days did he return. He was completely independent of the pursuit of happiness; but although he was not dependent on his legs, he was still dependent on things besides him. But he who knows how to make the innermost being of nature his own and to let himself be driven by the change of the primordial forces to wander where there are no limits, is no longer dependent on any external thing.
The “Daodejing” and the work “Zhuangzi” contain many passages in which meditative elements can be found. However, both works are primarily philosophical writings whose central theme is the possibility of human unity with the Tao. Therefore, they do not provide practical instructions for states of immersion.
Nor is the idea of cultivating life forces through physical exercises and thus prolonging life a theme of both philosophical works. “Zhuangzi” even smiles at this idea in one chapter, because it leads away from being in harmony with his true nature.
The shift to breathing and body practices and the associated pursuit of life extension or even “immortality” only began in the late development of Taoism. With this, the cultivation of the life force Qi, as it is taught today in many Qigong exercises, gradually gained its present significance
YIN-YANG AND THE FIVE ELEMENTS
In the time of the pre-Christian centuries there was a departure of thinking in China. On the one hand, due to the social and political crisis of the country, a multitude of philosophical schools arose, of which the Confucians, the legalists and the followers of the Tao were the most important. On the other hand there were first pro-scientific approaches – attempts to explain the events of nature and also the changes of society in a rational way with the help of simple models and to predict possible future tendencies. This is how the “Teaching of the Five Elements” and the “Yin and Yang Teaching” developed. Both have evolved over the centuries and are still among the most important diagnostic methods in Chinese medicine. The origins of the “Yin and Yang teachings” go back to the “Yijing” (old transcription): I Ching, the “Book of Changes”. This oracle work, which already existed in rudimentary form in the 2nd millennium B.C., carries the roots of Chinese thought in itself and formed an important basis for the philosophical explanations of Laozi and Zhuangzi. In addition, there were the first beginnings of acupuncture procedures in ancient China. There were drug experts who were familiar with medicinal plants and an old shamanism in which various trance practices were widespread.
Simple gymnastic exercises were also well known.
The roots of many of these ancient traditions probably date back to the 2nd millennium BC, but can no longer be traced back. It is important that they are not necessarily Taoist, but rather belong to the general Chinese cultural heritage. But with philosophical Taoism, just like the newly developed pro-scientific approaches, they have an important common theme: man’s harmonious relationship with the cosmos and man’s relationship with one another. Soon a synthesis of the most diverse currents could come about, which led to a further development of Taoism.
In the time of the pre-Christian centuries there was a departure of thinking in China. On the one hand, due to the social and political crisis of the country, a multitude of philosophical schools arose, of which the Confucians, the legalists and the followers of the Tao were the most important. On the other hand there were first pro-scientific approaches – attempts to explain the events of nature and also the changes of society in a rational way with the help of simple models and to predict possible future tendencies. This is how the “Teaching of the Five Elements” and the “Yin and Yang Teaching” developed. Both have evolved over the centuries, and
THE ADVANCED TAOISM
Especially through the influence of the “Yin-Yang” and the “Five-Element-Teaching”, the old shamanistic practices and the medical knowledge, a new form of Taoism gradually crystallized in the first centuries after Christ, whose emphasis consisted in the “care of life”. Taoism now became a comprehensive and practice-oriented teaching encompassing a variety of disciplines, forms of practice and fields of knowledge. Among the most important are:
– Philosophy and
– physical exercises
– breathing exercises
– silent meditation
– nutrition science
– sexual practices
– shaping of fate
Various schools and currents developed, some of which were also influenced by Buddhism, which had gained a foothold in China since the 2nd century AD. Furthermore, as in pre-Christian China, there were still hermits who followed their individual Taoist path. In addition to silent meditation and the cultivation of the mind, ritual and magical practices, life-prolonging techniques, and secret sexual practices were widespread. The latter served the purpose of Yin- and Yang forces between man and woman to harmonize and the raw to internally refine sexual power and thus make it available for spiritual purposes. But the most important change and innovation of the further developed Taoism was the “search for immortality”. Thus a long lasting epoch of “alchemy” was introduced.
THE SEARCH FOR IMMORTALITY
Alchemy is generally defined as “the scientific study of chemical substances”, “the focus of which is the transformation and refinement of substances”. In Taoism one separates between the schools of outer and inner alchemy.
The followers of external alchemy were inspired by the desire to prolong life to eternity and tried to stop the decay processes of the body by adding nourishing or chemical substances from outside. However, their practices, which were similarly widespread here in the West and have many parallels with modern science, showed no lasting success. Thus this direction gradually lost its influence and significance.
The term “inner alchemy”, on the other hand, conceals a complex meditation system that has matured over centuries and is comparable in many areas to the tantric schools of Mahayana Buddhism: In both systems, the emphasis is on visualization practices and the transformation of sexual energy into mental power. While Buddhism primarily teaches the training of the mind, the path of alchemy leads through the cultivation of the body to the mind. The connecting link between the two is the life force Qi.
If one compares human life with a burning candle, the followers of external alchemy had the goal that the candle would burn forever. The inner alchemists, on the other hand, wanted the light to still shine after the candle had gone out. They used a combination of strengthening physical exercises, energetic practices and silent meditation. In addition, they often followed special diets and ate various medicinal herbs for some time to purify themselves internally and stabilize the body’s energies.
HARMONIZATION AND REFINEMENT OF THE VITAL FORCE
The focus of inner alchemy was the preservation, refinement and refinement of the life energy Qi. The approach of the inner alchemists consisted above all in balancing the Yin and Yang energies and the balance of power of the five elements within the body. Since in Chinese medicine the five elements are equated with the five main organs of the body – the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the heart and the spleen, the purification and harmonization of the organ energies formed an important part of alchemical practice. This process was supported by inhaling and absorbing fresh qi from the various sources of nature, which also contained the qualities of all elements – metal, water, wood, fire and earth.
Few are able to harness their life energy.
center and store in the abdominal cavity
Thus the alchemists could not only enter into a harmonious connection with nature and the cosmos, but also return to the unity with the Tao already proclaimed by Laozi via detours. According to the inner alchemists, this consisted in a state of complete freedom beyond the physical being, for the collected and combined Qi forces of the physical body were transformed into “Shen”, “spirit”, by the refinement that took place during deep meditation, so that within the physical body an “immortal spiritual body of light” could gradually develop.
Sexual power was considered to be one of the main sources of life energy. For the inner alchemists, this energy, which can create new life, was not only the essence of their being, but also the basis for creativity, artistic creation, vitality and spirituality. One of the most important concerns for the success of the preservation and refinement of life forces for the inner alchemists was therefore the harmonization, multiplication and transformation of sexual power into spiritual energy. Man and woman learned to preserve sexual energy and consciously increase the energy of the testicles and ovaries and lead it via the spine up into the brain, glands and internal organs. In this way, an inner process of self-healing and rejuvenation was initiated, which in advanced stages led to deep meditative states of immersion. These sexual practices, which could be carried out during but also outside sexual intercourse – as a form of meditation – and which presupposed that the man did not shed his seeds during sexual intercourse, also formed the basis for the formation of the “Golden Elixir” – the actual goal of the inner alchemists.
THE LIGHT BODY IS CREATED
The “Golden Elixir” emerged from a form of “inner sexual intercourse” after many years of meditation. The formation of the “Golden Elixir” explains which practices the inner alchemists used to strive for the creation of an “immortal light body”. Instead of seeking fulfillment in the world of the senses and increasingly exhausting the life forces over the years, the inner alchemists directed their sexual energy and the desires of their hearts inwards and “fertilized” themselves.
INNER ALCHEMY IN THE 20TH CENTURY
Together with the fresh forces of the natural elements, which they absorbed through special Qigong exercises and stored in the body, and the purified energies of the inner organs, a marriage of opposing forces could arise in the lower abdomen, the “melting pot” of the body – a condensed and refined inner energy, called “Golden Elixir” in alchemistic language. This “golden elixir” formed, so to speak, the seed for a “spiritual embryo”. From the condensed and refined life energy, the subtle “light body” could gradually develop, which according to the acceptance of the inner alchemists, was also called the “spiritual embryo”.
the death of the physical body could travel independently in the spiritual world.
Especially through its combination with meditative procedures – such as the harmonization of the five elements and the balancing of the Yin and Yang forces – the inner alchemy became the most important meditative current of post-Christian Taoism, which has been active in many forms up to our century. Not a few of today’s Qigong or Tao masters are direct or indirect successors of the ancient Chinese alchemists, because they usually do not teach “silent sitting” and direct union with the Tao, but “care of life” and the collection of Qi forces in the lower abdomen. Two of the well-known Chinese masters who now teach in the West and say of themselves that they come from the tradition of inner alchemy are Mantak Chia and Zhi-Chang Li.
If one understands the creation of the subtle body more as an ideal or as a “hypothetical possibility”, then the practices of inner alchemy become far more related to everyday life in today’s West than might be assumed at first glance. For the alchemists did not only teach the conscious use of sexual power, which can be of help to many people, especially in this day and age, but also a modern form of “energy management”: they knew how to avoid overwork, learned to center their vital energy, were able to prevent diseases by cleansing and strengthening their organs and were masters in building up and preserving their substance through physical exercises and herbs. Besides all this, they showed a detailed way to reach deep spiritual states of immersion through the “care of the body” and the refinement of the inner energies.
Many detailed knowledge of this path can also be of use to us today, because especially in the last twenty years body work, therapy and meditation are more popular than ever before, but only a few people are able – even after years of intensive practice – to center and store their vital energy in the abdominal cavity. And this is not only a concern of the Taoists, but a very important prerequisite of almost all higher forms of meditation of the most diverse traditions.
Not born, not died
I wanted to penetrate into the deep levels of meditation, into the “Dhyanas” as the Buddhists say, into meditative states in which ecstasy, happiness and deep peace soak (one’s own) being. On this path I wanted to learn to go lovingly and openly through the world and to support others on their way. With this goal in mind, I had already left for Asia so many times before. But this time there was a difference: unlike the previous journeys, I did not meditate in a monastery, but in a darkroom: for three weeks I wanted to live in the pitch dark without even a minute of light, without seeing my hands in front of my eyes, without seeing what I ate and without any outside stimuli that could distract my senses.
Fear, loneliness and emotional crises grab me already in the first days. I don’t know where I am, I am bumping into people everywhere, feeling totally lost and becoming the victim of countless bizarre dream images that seize my mind. At the same time in many meditations I experience unexpected inner orgasmic states; I feel every cell of my body dancing and uniting with the life force of the universe. These first days are an alternating bath of emotions.
The more I accept the darkness, let go and relax, the more intense the feeling of infinite love becomes in my heart. In the second week, peace without space becomes my constant companion. The images that now ascend in me during my waking dreams come from ever older layers of my existence. And I feel exactly what is always lost in the dualism of everyday life: the original security of a fetus in the womb.
After about 14 days, I have completed my inner retreat into the darkness. It becomes incredibly boring. The time seems stretched. I am ready to leave the darkroom. I have learned my lesson – at least I think so. Nevertheless, I continue to meditate and enjoy the feeling of love and silence in my heart. But inwardly I am waiting for the “door to life” to open. I want to be reborn and step out into the light.
But suddenly something unexpected happens. I am seized by the fear of death. Death permeates my being with a violence I could never have imagined: I dream, see and feel my death, the death of my wife, my parents and my friends. For days! Life has lost its magic: dancing, swimming in the sea, eating delicious food, kissing and loving each other, all these pleasures seem like an escape from the truth! And even the belief in rebirth in the face of death seems like a powerless hypocrite, trying to show me that I am immortal. Nothing makes more sense, not even to get out of this darkness. For that is now certain: before death there is no escape. He waits and fetches me at the right time.
It doesn’t go on here. On the search for peace and happiness I found granite! It is pointless – even impossible – to find permanent inner peace when this life ends in decay. This, my person cannot be freed from suffering. Its existence already contains the basis of suffering! Inside I give up! And so death begins to embrace me even deeper.
Although each of my cells is permeated by fear and powerlessness, something else is there since that moment, like a hunch, like a feeling, and yet I have not perceived anything. It is not like the light at the end of a tunnel. There is neither light nor tunnel. It is what has always been there. Never born and never died. I want to grasp it, but it is not tangible. It has nothing to do with any meditation or practice. It is neither being nor non-being. It feels more like a fog that surrounds everything. In it lies the source of love. And in it lies the gate to freedom. To pass through the gate is to die like burning in a flame. And that which may then be born is something else, no longer “I” myself.
When I leave the darkroom after three weeks, something deep inside me has changed: For a very small moment I felt a deep trust in the “essence of life”, in the “power of the Tao”, as the Chinese say. And I suspect that it is important to develop this seed of trust more deeply in order to get fully involved in life, to give up the deep fears in me that do nothing but permanently knit the illusion of an I that must constantly fight, work and prove itself in order to be loved or simply to be. What a sham!
Qigong and cooking
Published in Frankfurter ring Magazin as an introduction to Tao and Qigong training
What do Qigong and cooking have to do with each other? Carsten Dohnke, Qigong expert from Hamburg, surprised us with this comparison.
Qigong means “the art of nourishing one’s own life force”.
Practicing Qigong is similar to cooking. For a good dish I need different ingredients, which are processed together and should be well coordinated. Then it not only tastes delicious, but can also be varied according to requirements.
In qigong we distinguish between three important “ingredients”: physical exercises, working with the imagination, and silent meditation. Through their combination, inner strength develops, the flow of life energy is activated, cells, organs and the immune system are positively influenced and old emotions such as anger or fear can be processed. Qigong also creates a state of inner peace. When I understand how these ingredients work together, I can easily see what I or others are missing. This helps me as a teacher to build up a seminar or to coach someone.
Qigong is based on four principles that explain how best to “cook”:
1. let go and relax
2. find one’s own center
3. being natural – which also means omitting superfluous things and cooperating with the power of nature and
4. merge with life – the last principle is most important. It leads to deep power and inner peace.
Qigong is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. If one understands the principles of TCM – which is an important aspect of my training – it immediately becomes clear what the different forms and styles are doing. In addition, the result of the practices can be wonderfully complemented by Chinese herbs or special nutrition.
Not the method, but the human being is in the foreground. People who want to learn Qigong have very different goals. Specifically: they order different dishes. If I know the effect of the ingredients and can cook well at the same time, I am less attached to a certain recipe. In China, a good cook doesn’t just serve what has been ordered. He also looks at what his guest really needs and conjures up another dish on the table as an offer. This is where the true art of Qigong begins!
Stay in the monastery
Carsten Dohnke has participated over many years in about 13 retreats in the monastery Suan Mohkk in Thailand. Here is a short report with a lot of information about the retreat, that a local newspaper published years ago.
Sleep on hard plank beds. Instead of a warm shower there is rainwater from bowls and in the morning at 4.30 am it is time to wake up. And you can’t even complain about that, because there’s no talking – not even in sign language.
Nevertheless, Carsten Dohnke and Hans-Joachim (Achim) Drew radiate enthusiasm when they talk about their two-week stay in the Thai monastery Suan Mokkh. The similar daily routines, the low-fat food and the time free of stimulants (cigarettes and alcohol are strictly forbidden) make the head clear and facilitate the entrance into meditation (“We never had the feeling of lack, but on the contrary of abundance – it literally swells in one”). For the two friends, meditation and spirituality are not new territory: Achim had already dealt with “that which cannot be seen” at the age of 12, did not lose interest for the rest of his life, went on a search.
The experiences of the learned typesetter range from Zen Buddhism
The experiences of the learned typesetter range from Zen Buddhism (“melting through hardness”) to psychoanalysis. Achim married at the age of 26, had two sons and founded Wolkentor-Verlag in 1980. There he published poetry volumes, fairy tale books and books about conscious dreams for a few years: “A good time. I learned a lot about esotericism”. But he only found satisfying “answers” when Carsten Dohnke crosses his path in his hometown of Geesthacht: “I’ve been looking for a teacher for years and find him right next door,” the 52-year-old is still amused today.
Carsten also grew up in Geesthacht and is a teacher of Qigong, Taiji and meditation. His path began when he realized at the age of 14: “I am missing something. Life dynamics and life force”. Then he learned Kung Fu. At the age of 19 he came from the body to the mind, from fighting to meditation. (“In youth we are fighters – in old age we become healers”). Since then Carsten Dohnke has developed into a martial arts expert, learned healing and meditation techniques and studied Sinology in Hamburg. For four years the Geesthachter studied directly in Asia and is also a long-time assistant and translator of the well-known Tao master Mantak Chia. ”
Achim and Carsten absolutely want to repeat their experience in the monastery: “It is an event to eat quietly together with 140 people. And this sunrise and sunset, this subtropical landscape is indescribable.” Near the monastery, visitors can even bathe in hot springs – pure relaxation. “After three days one loses all Western feeling of time, adapts automatically to the daily rhythm of the monastery and learns to come into the silence”, Achim describes his feeling. And if you have a lot of meditation experience, you can “leave” the physical body during meditation and merge with the space: “A feeling of happiness and peace,” says Carsten. Buddhists say, “As long as there is an I, there is suffering in the world.
Information about the Suan Mokkh Monastery can be found here:
Interview with Master Mantak Chia
This interview with Master Mantak Chia was published by Frankfurter Ring Magazin
Spiritual immortality is the highest goal. Mantak Chia developed the system of the “Healing Tao” after years of research. These are techniques that contribute to the mobilization and expansion of the body’s energy capacity while at the same time relaxing. Carsten Dohnke spoke with the Qigong master about spiritual growth, the “inner smile” and the power of love.
Carsten Dohnke: You are the founder of the “Healing Tao” system. What is it all about?
Mantak Chia: The first goal is that people learn to heal themselves and to be spiritually independent. The longer term goal is spiritual growth and the highest goal is achieving spiritual immortality.
CD: How important is the power of love for your work?
MC: In Taoism love always goes hand in hand with sexuality. Love and sexuality are the most important human energies and also the most elementary forces in the cells of our organism. They help the cells to divide better and to age less quickly. By directing the sexual forces and the love energy into our organs during practice, we can let go of old ballast “lying on the organs” and feel renewed both physically and mentally. This energy is also carried on in cell division.
CD: And how important is the power of love in your private life?
MC: Love and sex are important for everyone! (laughs) Without love my life would not be worth much. I would feel energyless.
CD: Please explain to us the techniques of the “inner smile” and the “six healing sounds”.
MC: The “Inner Smile” is the most important basic practice in the Healing Tao. Through it you come into deep contact with your organs, with your cells and also with your own genetic structure. When you learn to smile inside, you bring energy into your system and organs. This leads to unity between body and mind. With the “Six Healing Sounds” the same principle works: You use sounds and certain hand postures to heal the individual organs. This transforms negative energy into positive vital energy and at the same time balances the organs among each other. This corresponds to the ancient Chinese teaching of the five elements. This leads to inner and outer harmony.
CD: How can we increase our life energy?
MC: Many people have not yet learned how to recharge their bodies with energy. That’s a pity, because it’s actually quite easy. First we have to feel the energy in Dan Tien. This important energy center is located in the middle of the lower abdomen between the navel and the kidneys. When we activate the Dan Tien, we feel a kind of inner spiralizing force in this center. When we then feel the infinity and the spiral power of the universe with the mind and absorb it through deep breathing, the Dan Tien is automatically charged with universal energy. If this energy goes even deeper, it also fills the individual organs and at the highest stage it even penetrates the bones and marrow.
CD: What is the point of bringing energy into the bones?
MC: According to Taoist teachings it is important to soak the whole body with energy. This slows down the aging process and many internal diseases can be cured. In addition, we can use the stored energy for coping with everyday life and for our spiritual growth.
CD: What do you teach in the Tao Yoga basic course in Hamburg?
MC: On Friday evening I show the exercises of “Healing Love” and the activation of the Multi-Orgasmic Energy. On the weekend I teach the “Healing Sounds”, the “Inner Smile” and finally the “Small and Big Energy Cycle”. All these exercises harmonize the Yin and Yang energies in the body and help us to go through life healthier, happier and with more ease.
CD: With which masters did you learn?
MC: My main teacher is called White Cloud. He is a Chinese Taoist master who practiced in the mountains for many years.
CD: You have developed your teaching method further in recent years. What has changed?
MC: The practices are still the same. However, I have changed the way I teach them. Many findings of Taoism have been proven by Western scientists in recent years. I integrate these findings into my teaching. For example, I will use images of crystallized water
The Tao Summer Retreat “Essence of the Tao” with Carsten Dohnke
In the one-week seminar “The essence of Tao” exercises from different schools of Qigong were taught. Basically, the seminar leader Carsten Dohnke emphasized the importance of separating the practices of the different traditions of Qigong, as each system is built in itself and the mixing can be counterproductive. Therefore the exercises of different traditions were divided into different days and were taught separately. I myself was present for three days, two of which were dedicated to the Small Energy Cycle according to the methods of Mantak Chia.
The common practice time included two blocks of three hours a day, with breaks for tea and snacks. As a rule, repetitions of the exercises or silent meditation were offered in the evenings. It always began with a fifteen-minute silent meditation, which was introduced by Dohnke with Buddhist mantras. I found this very helpful to arrive at myself.
On the first day Dohnke introduced the energy cycle theoretically, explained it with coloured schematic representations and integrated it into the socio-cultural and historical context of China. I found these teachings very interesting and never too dry. Dohnke repeatedly strewed in anecdotes from his rich wealth of experience, so that a relaxed and humorous atmosphere prevailed. Nevertheless, the subject of the body and its energy system was treated very seriously. Again and again Dohnke asked for feedback from the participants and answered their questions as far as they were helpful for all participants. He offered more intensive discussions on individual problems for the breaks.
With great radiance and devotion Dohnke led through numerous preparatory warm-up and Qigong exercises during the two days. He repeatedly emphasized the importance of the kidney center and the navel as the basis for the energy circulation of the whole body. He regards practices that promote the “power of the center” as the most important exercises of Qigong. Altogether standing and sitting, moving and meditative exercises alternated. In addition, he sprinkled exercises of acupressure and self-massage. I found this varied design very pleasant. So he carefully guided the participants to the exercise of the energy cycle, which then became a complete success even for a rather inexperienced student like me.
This intensive, annual summer retreat is rather an event for advanced students or at least for people who already have some previous knowledge in the areas of Qigong and meditation. Altogether a recommendable seminar for everyone who wants to deepen his knowledge in the area of Chinese body exercises.
Ellen Jacobs, born in 1976, M.A. in Religious Studies and Ethnology, lives in Heidelberg and works intensively with traditional healing methods and Far Eastern forms of movement.
At a glance
Trainer: Carsten Dohnke
Duration: 8 days
Prerequisites: Qigong experience advantageous
Seminar location: 3 of 5 stars (we changed already to a much better place!)
Organization: 5 of 5 stars
Worth the money: 5 of 5 stars
Seminar objective: 5 of 5 stars
Seminar leader: 5 of 5 stars
Didactics: 5 of 5 stars