Meditation and Dayan Qigong

Dayan Qigong is not restricted to the 64 movements of the form; all day long we practice in the midst of an ongoing flow of qi, within us and all around us. Our relationship to the internal and outer world involves harmonizing and balancing this flow moment by moment. Because of this, meditation is an integral part of Dayan Qigong practice, but people have many mistaken ideas about meditation.

Meditation is not an esoteric mystery nor a harsh discipline. Zen Master Dogen is eloquent about this. In his instructions for zazen (Zen seated meditation) he advises us that meditation “is not learning to do concentration. It is the gateway to great ease and joy.”

When students learning Dayan Qigong focus only on the movements, they can easily get trapped in fantasies of accomplishment and agonies of frustration and failure. If you practice with a confused mind, you may think you can learn the movements and arrive at some level of mastery. This is a very mechanical view. Qigong is not something one ever masters: it is inexhaustible. Qigong is a lifelong practice that deepens day by day and year by year.

The mind with which you exercise your life is the body of your practice. This mind is limitless, because it is ungraspable. You can become intimate with this mind through meditation. Meditation removes all distractions and insists you find your place where you are. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs.

How you practice is just as or perhaps more important than how much you practice. If you practice with a self-centered mind seeking to gain health only for yourself, your qi will turn in on itself and become poisonous. Dayan Qigong teaches us to harmonize self and other, hard and soft, yin and yang for the benefit of all beings. This attitude emerges naturally in meditation.

Because the movements of the qigong form require concentration and attention, strength and flexibility, it is easy to fall into the error of striving too hard, get tired, and then practice too little. For this reason it is important to develop a big mind that serves as a large container. When there is space in mind it steadies your concentration and softens the harsh glare of your self-critical attention; you have room for your thoughts and muscle fibers to be supple and are refreshed with energy for stamina and power. This allows you to cultivate
wu-wei, a central tenet of Taoist practice. Wu-wei is sometimes translated as “effortless effort” or “do not-doing,” but these words fall short. When you drop your self-centered concerns and allow the movements to move you, instead of “doing” qigong you merge with the movements: yin and yang flower naturally in selfless generosity.

The qigong movements are themselves a moving meditation. They are greatly complemented by sitting meditation. Sitting meditation helps you become intimate with stillness so that, during the 64 movements, you abide in stillness. Sitting meditation allows you to taste how, at the heart of stillness, eternity still flows.

Moment by moment, moving still. When you practice, put aside all involvements and let the myriad things rest. Sitting and lying down, standing and walking, during all your hours, meditation deepens your qigong practice of wonder, gratitude, and joy.