Friday, September 25, 2009

A Brief Description of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

Sitting meditation is the best way to learn to relax your mind and body. The natural deep breathing is the tool you use to focus the mind and calm the internal dialogue. As the mind focuses on each breath and calms your mind, it also relaxes your body.This allows your vital energy or chi to flow freely. Remember, the mind leads the chi which leads the body.A simple example of this is when you are driving down the highway and your attention is drawn to something ahead and to the right of the road, you will notice that you naturally veer the car to the right. You did not mean to do it but it happened nonetheless. Many people, like me, try to compensate for this natural occurrence by automatically correcting to the left. Unfortunately, we usually over compensate and find ourselves veering into oncoming traffic. This is why you should always stay mindful of your actions - stay focused in the Present. I mention this because your attention plays a central role in the next topic, T'ai Chi Ch'uan.

Now that you have your deep breathing down and understand the importance of a clear and focused mind, I am going to introduce you to Tai Chi - a moving meditation. I think a description of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is in order for starters so below is a brief description of this ultimate internal martial art.


A Brief Description of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

T'ai Chi Ch'uan, literally Supreme Ultimate Fist, is a Chinese martial art rooted in Taoist philosophy of living in harmony with nature and practiced today primarily as an exercise for health. It is an extraordinarily subtle system and is one of the so-called soft style or internal martial arts. T'ai Chi Ch'uan requires relaxed natural movements that integrate the whole body with the mind. T'ai Chi Ch'uan relies on the intrinsic strength of functionally aligned postures, in contrast to muscular strength normally exhibited by hard-style or external martial arts, such as Karate.

There are styles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (notably the Chen Family Style) that incorporate some fast, explosive movements. In general, however, the Solo Form practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is characterized by slow fluid movements. To the unpracticed eye, it might look like slow motion Karate. Acting like a form of moving Yoga, T'ai Chi Ch'uan improves health and well-being. It can be practiced by people of all ages and is frequently cited for the improved health and vigor it gives older practitioners. The body moves slowly in the Solo Form so that the mind can attend to training/correcting the body to the precise configurations required. The principles on which T'ai Chi Ch'uan is based offer a distinctive approach to martial arts, physical fitness, and philosophy of life.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan approaches the ideal for a form of physical education. It is oriented to finding maximum efficiency though integrating the mind and body in harmonious movement, and does so in ways that promote overall health and well-being. The movements all have meaning, so they can sustain interest as their subtleties are explored. Practice requires no large space, special dress, or equipment. Moreover, T'ai Chi Ch'uan can be done individually as well as in groups.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan has antecedents in health exercise that pre-date written history and has roots in martial arts from around 500 or 600 AD The most popular fables attribute the creation of T'ai Chi Ch'uan to the quasi-mythological Taoist, Chan San Feng, from the Wu Tang Mountains circa 600 AD. The modern forms of T'ai Chi Ch'uan all derive from the teachings of the Chen family of Chenjiaogou in Henan Province. Yang Lu-chanYang-style Form that is widely known today. Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing (1901-1975), who studied with Yang Cheng-fu, choreographed the Yang-style Short Form (more properly called Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing's Simplified T'ai Chi Ch'uan) that I have been studying - primarily with Ben Lo. Currently, I am also studying Wu (Wu Chien-chuan) Style with Tony Ho (Square Form of Wu Kung-yi as transmitted through Pei Tsu-ying). In addition to the various Chen, Yang, and Wu styles, the other major traditional Forms of T'ai Chi Ch'uan include Wu (Wu Yu-xian, aka Hao style) and Sun family styles. (1799-1872) learned from the Chen family and popularized T'ai Chi Ch'uan in Beijing. His grandson Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936), choreographed the

~ Lee N. Scheele

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Moon On Lake" Taoist Visualization Meditation

Visualization is a powerful technique for focusing your energy and learning to move effortlessly. This is used in the moving meditation of Tai Chi. With practice, you can learn to replace left-brain thoughts with the infinite clarity of right-brain imagery. This can be a very useful way to remember events and even practice physical movements. I have used it throughout my life to recall information I had studied before to answer questions on school exams. My girlfriend "hated" it when I could answer any question she ask me at random word for word from our study! In martial arts, it it often used to practice the various forms. Scientific studies have shown visualization to be as effective as actual physical practice. In fact, many, if not all Olympic Athletes use it in their training and preparation for events.* In this beautiful meditation practice, we use our mind's natural tendency to visualize - to create internal "forms" - in a productive and powerful way. Enjoy!


"Moon On Lake"
Taoist Visualization Meditation

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Ten to twenty minutes, or longer if you'd like

Here's How:

  1. Sit with your spine straight, either on the floor (in a comfortable cross-legged position) on on a chair. If you are on a chair, place your feet hip-distance apart, and directly below your knees.
  2. Take a couple of deep, slow breaths. With each exhalation, release any unnecessary tension, allowing your belly and neck and shoulders and face to be relaxed. Smile gently and - if you'd like - touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind the upper front teeth. Close your eyes. (It's possible also to do the practice with eyes open, but for most people it is easier with them closed.)
  3. Bring your attention into the heart-space: right in the center of your chest, between your spine and your sternum (breast-bone). Become aware of a feeling of spaciousness in this part of your body.
  4. Now imagine that within this heart-space there is a beautiful lake - its surface perfectly still. Visualize this beautiful lake, and imagine that you are sitting along its banks. Imagine that it is night-time, and in the sky above the lake there is a full moon, shining brightly. Now see this full moon reflected on the surface of the lake, as though in a perfectly-smooth mirror. Let yourself be amazed and inspired by the beauty and serenity of this scene, as though you were saying "Ahhh ... "
  5. Now - maintaining this image of the moon reflected on the lake - become aware of your breath, without trying to change it in any way. Simply notice your inhalations and exhalations, each following the other.
  6. Imagine, now, that your breath is a gentle wind, which is flowing across the surface of this lake in your heart-center, creating small ripples. See the ripples flowing across the surface of the lake. Are they flowing toward you or away from you? See how the reflection of the moon is now rippling too, as the wind-breath moves across it. Feel the energy of this gentle rippling.
  7. Now allow that rippling - the surface of the lake carrying the light of the reflected moon - to expand in all directions. From your heart-center, the rippling ripples outward into every cell of your body, infusing each cell with rippling reflected moonlight - so beautiful! Feel your entire body alive with the beauty and energy of the reflected moonlight, of the rippling surface of the lake. Continue with this part of the visualization for as long as you would like.
  8. Now reverse the process: allow the rippling reflected moonlight to return to its "home" in your heart-center. Once again see the lake, with clearly-defined banks, its surface rippling gently with your breath, there in your heart-center. See the moon shining brightly above.
  9. Now allow the rippling once again to subside, until the surface of the lake, with the reflected moon, is once more perfectly still, mirror-like. Appreciate its serene beauty.
  10. When you feel ready to end the practice, simply allow the visualization to dissolve, leaving in its place a feeling of warmth and/or spaciousness in your heart-center. Notice how you feel - and let that feeling infuse the activities of the rest of your day.


  1. Different people "visualize" in different ways. For some, it may be more of a kinesthetic, or auditory experience, rather than "visual." If you're new to this kind of practice, just let yourself be curious about how the visualization process works for you - and go with what feels most comfortable and natural.
  2. If your mind wanders, no problem - simply come back to the practice. Over time, you'll develop the capacity to maintain a mental state that is both relaxed and gently focused - which is most supportive of visualization practices like this.
  3. Interesting aside: this practice is used in some of China's qigong hospitals, as part of treatment for a wide variety of emotional and psychological disturbances. It's a powerful tool for harmonizing body and mind!
  4. Over time, this practice may offer clues to the relationship between perception and creation.

What You Need:

  • A precious human body.
  • A quiet place to practice (indoors is best).

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Meditatiion Postures and 100 Breath Counting Meditation

Here is the next section from the Art of Meditation by Sifu Philip Bonifonte. A proper meditation posture is necessary to achieve the best results from your meditation. Below are descriptions of the three types of meditation postures used to facilitate a state of complete relaxation and achieve the best flow of Chi. After this section, you will find a Taoist meditation technique so you can begin your meditation. It is called "100 counting breath meditation". If this is too difficult, then try 10 breath meditation first.


In the previous exercise, we have relearned how to breathe naturally with Normal and Reverse breathing. Now we can use these breathing methods to begin our meditation practice. Before we meditate, we need to be prepared. We need to find a place that is quiet and comfortable. It is a good idea to set a time aside just for meditation, so we will not be disturbed by others. Incense and soft music will help, but they are only accessories. Whatever is best for you as long as you can stay relaxed and not be disturbed by it. It is said that "the amateur meditates to relax, while the professional relaxes to meditate." So we must relax in order to meditate. The meditative environment and meditation posture will help us greatly in achieving the state of total relaxation. There are 3 major postures for meditation: sitting, standing, and the seated pose.

Sitting pose:

the meditators cross their legs to create a base for sitting on the floor.

Crossed legs: simply cross the legs in front of the body. Both feet are hid under the thigh. It is easier, and is recommended for beginner.

Half Lotus: cross one leg on top of the other. Place one foot on top of the opposite thigh. The sole of the foot is to face upward. This posture requires greater flexibility of the leg, and the ankle. It is more difficult than the crossed leg, but it provides a stronger base. The foot that is facing upward can be used to channel down energy.

Full Lotus: same as the Half Lotus except that both legs are cross, and both feet are on the opposite thigh. Both feet should face the sky. As your flexibility increases, the feet should come closer to the body. This posture is the most difficult, but it gives the meditator a solid base. The Full Lotus also provides the body with extra blood supply from the legs, as the legs were crossed. This enables more energy to travel upward to the higher centers.

In all 3 of these sitting postures, the hands can be place either overlapped in front of the dantien or on the knee palms up. This allows us to receive energy from the Heaven (Universal Chi). Together with the energy received from soles of the feet, especially in the Full Lotus, the whole body is bathed in heavenly chi. This Universal Chi, which is yang in nature, will ascend upward to the higher centers for advanced meditation. The general rule for these sitting postures is that you should work from whichever is most comfortable first. If your body is not flexible enough for the Full Lotus, do the Half Lotus. If you force yourself into a posture, the pain will only distract you during meditation. Another rule is concerning the placement of the hands and feet. Generally, if your left hand is on top of the right hand, then your left legs should be on top of the right leg, and vise versa. Remember to keep your body and your head erect as in any other posture.

Advantages of the sitting pose: stable, ability to absorb Universal Chi, helps leading energy upward.

Disadvantages: weak Earth Chi connection, difficult on the legs for the beginner.

Standing pose:

the standing posture is popular among martial artists and healers, because it is a powerful tool for developing internal energy and Rooting. There are many standing postures, the most popular one is the Tree Standing, where the body weight is evenly disturbed between two legs.

In standing meditation, the practitioner is to stand still for up to an hour. It might seem like the person is not doing anything, but the physical and mental workloads are equal to, if not beyond, any other physical exercise. This is what the Taoist called "seeking motion within stillness". In this seemingly motionless posture, the practitioner is to observe changes in energetic patterns within and outside the body. Besides building the leg’s strength, standing opens the hands and feet channels naturally. It can also teach the practitioner grounding, where excess energy is ground to the earth. In the standing posture, Heavenly chi (Universal Chi) can come in from the crown of the head, and Earth Chi can come in from the sole of the feet (KI 1). So standing is used for cultivating the chi. (see more about standing here)

Advantages: balanced energy from both Heaven and Earth, grounding, builds leg strength, opens the hands and feet channels, cultivates chi, develops fighting and healing power, an ability to "listen" to the body, and all-over body conditioning.

Disadvantages: tiring on the legs, too overwhelming for beginner to use as a meditation pose, because too much is going on at once inside the body.

Seated pose:

meditating while sitting on a chair. It is the most comfortable meditation pose. Practitioner is to sit on the "sitting bone" on the outer 1/3 of the chair. This allows the genital to breathe. The head and back is upright and erect. Don’t lean on the back of the chair, it will obstruct the chi flow in the back. Feet are placed flat on the floor and parallel to each other. The hands can either be placed on the knee or overlapped in front of the abdominal. It is very comfortable and easy to meditate in this posture, because you don’t have to support your own weight.

Advantages: advantages of the other two postures; comfortable and easy to maintain, balanced chi from Heaven and Earth,

Disadvantages: TOO comfortable, while having little advantages of the other two postures, it is not as intensive as other two.

100 Breath Counting Meditation

Now we will use the breathing method we have learned in the past exercise and incorporate it into this beginning mediation exercise. This meditation technique will calm our mind and help us concentrate. It will also allow us to cultivate chi into the dantien.

In this exercise we are to forget about the past and stop planning for the future, so that our mind will be unite with our body. We will concentrate on the present moment. We will use our breathing to help us achieve the "now".

Use any meditation pose that is the most comfortable. Breathe with Normal Breathing as learned from the previous exercise. Keep the body relax and touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth. When breathing in, follow the in-breathe from the nostrils to the throat, lung, solar plexus, and finally the dantien. Breathe in deeply and slowly. Pause for a moment, then breathe out slowly following the same route from the dantien out to the nose. Count to yourself "one". This is one breathing cycle. Repeat. If any thought comes up, and you find your mind is wandering, recount to zero. Do this until you can count to one hundred. Then repeat the cycle if desire. This exercise is much easier to said then done. Although, it seems simple and too easy, it lays the foundation for further meditation. Once you can work up to a hundred, you can then forget about the counting. Do not cheat yourself by breathing faster. Counting to a hundred is not the point of this exercise. The point of this exercise is to gain control over the mind. Let any thought springs naturally and leaves naturally. Do not try to fight it. We are not trying to stop the flow of consciousness, but instead slow it down.

Another important point is to keep your body relax and concentrate on the dantien. This will let the chi to accumulate and sink to the dantien. Because we are cultivating chi in this exercise, we need to close this meditation with a closing form. Closing form allows us to safely store away the chi we have cultivated. It is extremely important to do the closing form after each exercise, so the energy will not get stuck somewhere in the body, causing unnecessary side effect.

Closing form:

.Close your eyes and relax your body. Relieve yourself from whatever you were doing. Calm your mind down and focus on your dantien.

.Breathe deeply three times (3 cycles) into your dantien and gather the chi there (use you mind to "lead" the chi, don’t force it). Then overlap your hands on top of other, and place it in front of your dantien.

For men: put your left hand on top of the right hand. Spiral your chi in the dantien, in a counterclockwise direction (facing the clock) 36 times, then clockwise 24 times. Condense the chi from a ball into a dot.

For women: put your right hand on top of the left hand. Spiral your chi in the dantien, in a direction clockwise (facing the clock) 36 times, then counterclockwise 24 times. Condense the chi from a ball into a dot.

.At the end, mentally say to yourself "I am done", then slowly open your eyes.

Optional closing form (this is optional, use it after you have done the regular closing form):

After chi work, our hands are charged with plenty of fresh chi. Instead of letting it disperse into the atmosphere, we can use it to refresh yourself. After the closing form, rub your hands together until they are hot, this should not take more than a few seconds, since the hands are charged with energy.

.Then use your hands to cup both eyes. Inhale and visualize light going into your eyes. [Visualization works because chi follows the mind. "Wherever the mind goes, the chi follows." Visualizing a light coming in is just as effective as using the mind to lead the chi in.]

Rub your eyes lightly with the root of the thumb (the meaty part) in circles. 8 times for men and 7 times for women. This will energized and brighten your eyes. Rub the hands again if necessary, before continue.

.Then use your hands to rub your face in a circle. 8 times for men and 7 times for women. This will rejuvenate your skin and complexion.

.Brush your hair with your hands from front to back. 8 times for men and 7 times for women.

. Beat teeth together 36 times. This will strengthen your teeth.

. Open your mouth as wide as possible, like a lion roaring. This will release tension trapped in the jaw.

. At the end, you may massage yourself at major acupuncture points. (check in a meridian map)

this optional form will rejuvenate yourself, keeping you youthful. It will also strenghten your teeth, and brighten your eyes.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Breathing Exercises

The exercises below will help you to relearn proper breathing and experience the relaxation and power that we are supposed to have. Reverse breathing is used in martial arts to generate incredible power and should be practiced with great care. I think you will be fine if you remain patient and do not hurry this practice. It will come naturally in time if you are persistent and proper with your training. If you are really interested in mastering reverse breathing, please find a good Tai Chi or Chi Kung teacher who can guide you in this training. If not, then using normal breathing will work just fine for meditation purposes. The next post will explain the various proper meditation postures to help you get the most out of your meditation.


Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercise is the foundation of any Taoist-based martial art and healing art. Without knowing how to breathe properly first will only slow down your progress. It is like building a tower without building its foundation first. The higher you build this tower, the more unstable it will become. Eventually, it wills collapse. Breathing exercise is the building blocks of Taoist-Art. All exercises in this manual utilize the art of breathing. When Abdominal Breathing is done properly, it will refresh us by forcing the old and stagnated chi out of the body. Energize us by nourishing our body with fresh oxygen. The expanding and contracting movements from your abdomen massage your internal organs, improving their circulation.

Exercise 1: Observe and relearn your breathing patterns. During our course of life, we have picked up many bad habits through our stylized lifestyle. So first we are going to relearn how to breathe naturally. The best way to do this is to learn it from your own body. First, relax yourself and lay down on your back, just try to make yourself comfortable. Take a couple deep breaths to calm down your mind. Through your nose, breathe in slowly and deeply. As you breathe in, concentrate on your in-breath and be aware that you are breathing in. Then exhale doing the same. Repeat 3 times. Now put your hands palm down, one on top of the other, on your lower abdomen. Just lay your hands there, don't put pressure on it. Now observe your hands as you breathe in and out. Notice how your abdomen expands and contracts. Do not use your muscle, or force your breath. Simply relax and observe. This is Normal Breathing. The stomach contracts, as you breathe out; expands as you breathe in. The best time to do this is when you just wake up from bed or before you go to bed.

Exercise 2: This is the same concept as above, except that this time we want to relearn another breathing method, Reverse Breathing. This exercise require more physical works, because we want to observe what happen to our breathing pattern when extra energy is needed in the body. First thing to do is to warm up your body, especially the big joints (neck, shoulders, waist, hip, knee, and ankle). Then do about fifty jumping jacks (or any exercise you prefer). Running laps is fine also. Exercise until your heart rate goes up. Stop, and put both hands on the lower abdomen. Observe how your breathing pattern is different than Normal Breathing. The stomach contracts when breathing in, expand as you are breathing out. Now try to regulate your breath by breathing through the nose. When out of breath, many people would breathe through their mouth instead, because the mouth's opening is larger than the nostrils. Breathing that way is not wrong, but it will dry up the throat very quickly, the breath will become very shallow, and the Microcosmic Channel will be cut off; so in our practice we will breathe through our nose. When you start breathing through your nose, notice how your breath becomes deeper and more rhythmic than you would breathing through your mouth. This is Reverse Breathing.

After you have relearned these two breathing methods, practice them everyday for the first week. Practice Normal Breathing for about five minutes at a time, twice a day. When practicing, try breathing deep, slow, and even breath. That is the goal for this practice. But this will not come suddenly overnight. So please do not force your breath or you will harm your body! Do it gradually, and it will come with time. Let it happen naturally, that is the way of the Tao. Do not rush. Practice carefully, and mindfully. Notice subtle details such as how your thoracic, and pelvic diaphragm lower and rise. In which way the stomach expands and contracts. Follow your breath into your body as you breathe in. Keep your body relaxed.

As in the same way with Normal Breathing, practice Reverse Breathing daily except that, don't practice more than one minutes at a time. Over practicing may strain your abdominal muscle and over heat your system, as the extra energy is not being used or store away immediately. Then gradually increase it to two minutes after two weeks of practice. Depending on how comfortable you are with it, increase to 3 minutes after about a month. Do this after you have practiced the Normal Breathing as a warm up. Try to do it with your chest relaxed. Do not over do this practice, as this is more difficult to perform. Until you have opened the Microcosmic Channel, and learn how to effectively store away exceeds energy; do not practice Reverse Breathing for more than 3 minutes at a time for the first 3 months.

These two breathings are the foundation of basic skill that you will need to continue the Taoist Art, especially the Normal Breathing. We will start each session with Normal breathing to calm down our mind, preparing us for the energy-work ahead of us. We will also use it for Chi Kung, Tree Standing, Iron Shirt, Tendon Exchange, and sitting meditation etc.

~ Teachings by Sifu Philip Bonifonte (2000)
Chinese Health Institute

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

BREATHING - General Rules About Breathing

After the last series of posts about mindfulness, or meditation, it is now time to focus on breathing correctly. In order to achieve the best results from daily meditation, you must know the proper way to breath. We are born so perfect but it does not take very long for us to screw things up. Breathing is probably one of the first natural functions that gets corrupted but I bet that very few people know they are breathing wrong. Below is an introduction to the two types of natural breathing. I bet you did not know that we naturally breathe in two different ways. After this post, I will give you exercises to practice both kinds which will help you to relearn proper breathing.



General Rules About Breathing

All breathing should be done thru the nose. We have more control over the breath thru our nose than out mouth. The nose acts as a filter and it moisturizes the air as it comes in. Originate your breathing from your Real Dantien, located between your lower dantein and ming-men point. Use your belly to help you breathe, not your chest. This kind of breathing is called "Abdominal Breathing". When we breathe in air, we are absorbing energy from the air. If we use our belly to breathe, the diaphragm sinks down, creating more room to hold the air in, thus we can absorb more energy. It also charges up our blood with plenty of oxygen. Improve our vitality by supporting our body with oxygen-rich blood. Another good side effect of Abdominal Breathing is its calming effect. It helps us relax. Often, many Energy-Work, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Taoist Inner Alchemy, and other meditation arts, start out their practice with a series of Abdominal Breathing to calm down the mind of the practitioners. When practice Abdominal Breathing regularly, the breathing will be slow and deep; which is the ultimate goal in breathing. When our breathing is deep, we can take in more air. When our breathing is slow, we have more time to fully digest the energy within the air. To maximize our breathing capacity, relax your chest by sinking the sternum and dropping the shoulder. Then round your chest from the scapulas by pushing your arms slightly forward and to the sides, creating a gap in the armpits. The reason to round the chest is to take the pressure off the sides of your rib cage, which in turn take the pressure off your chest. Relax and do not force your breath!

Normal Breathing

-There is two basic breathing patterns we use. First one is called "Normal Breathing", since it is the way we breathe normally. The stomach expands as we breathe in, contracts as we breathe out. Sometimes it is referred to as "Buddhist Breathing" or "Post-Birth Breathing". It is the breathing pattern we use after our birth. When we are in a relaxed state, we use Normal Breathing, such as the time before we go to sleep or as you are sitting down and reading this paper. As we breathe in, we are conceiving, so it is yin in nature. As we breathe out, we are expanding, so it is yang in nature. When you have the chance, observe other animals as they breathe or even newborn baby. They breathe with their belly naturally.

-During inhalations of Normal Breathing, expand the belly on all four sides (forward, backward, and sideways). Sink both the thoracic diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm. Inhale and gather the chi in the dantien.

-When exhaling, the belly contracts from all four sides. Both the chest diaphragm and the pelvic contract, lift upward pushing the air out. Breathe out thru the nose. Exhale and condense the chi in the dantein.

Reverse Breathing

-The other breathing method is called "Reverse Breathing". Also known as the "Taoist Breathing" or "Pre-Birth Breathing". The stomach contracts as we breathe in, and expands as we breathe out. It is the reverse of the Normal Breathing. It is the breathing method we use before birth, when we are still in the fetus. We use this method when we need some extra energy. When you are excited, exhausted, or exercising, you will find yourself breathing in Reverse. Be very cautious when practicing Reverse Breathing. Do not practice more than 3 minutes at a time, and don’t force it or you may injure yourself. Reverse Breathing is more difficult to practice than Normal Breathing. Do what is natural to you, and do it at your own pace.

-When exhaling, the thoracic diaphragm moves upward, whiles the pelvic diaphragm moves downward. At the same time, the stomach expands on all 4 sides, creating a vacuum effect in the center (precisely the Real Dantein). The chi in the air we breathe in is considered to be yin. The chi in our Real Dantein is considered to be yang, we called this "Original Chi". So when we exhale using the Reverse Breathing method, we are separating the yin and yang chi in our belly.

-When inhaling, the belly contracts from all 4 sides. While the thoracic diaphragm moves downward, the pelvic diaphragm is moving upward, forcing the yin and yang chi to mix together at the Real Dantein.


In order to combine or connect the Yin and Yang energies into one continuous flow, you Must be sure that the tip of your tongue is resting against your palate right behind your top front teeth. This is the Bridge that acts like an electrical switch and completes the "circuit". This must be done in all meditation and all internal martial arts. This actually happens naturally if you have not noticed.

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Mindfulness and Kindness: Inner Sources of Freedom and Happiness

I just realized that I never posted the resources on Mindfulness as I promised. I am sure there are many people interested in learning how to live a more Mindful life so please forgive me for this omission. This occurred to me while helping a new friend in need of the benefits that Mindfulness Practice produces. All of my previous posts by Dr. Hopper came from this vast resource he has created for everyone seeking this valuable information. Below is a brief explanation of this remarkable gathering of Wisdom and an introduction containing a brief description of each section. I am sure you will be very impressed by the magnitude of this resource and find something that will help you to improve your life. If you are interested in Mindfulness after reading this post, just click on the title below to go to his website. Enjoy!


Mindfulness and Kindness: Inner Sources of Freedom and Happiness

By Jim Hopper, Ph.D.
(last revised 5/15/2009)

Today there are many options for learning to be more mindful. Which ones are best for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your current ability to regulate your emotions and where you live. One key question is whether to learn mindfulness skills first from a (mental) health professional, or from a teacher at a meditation center or Buddhist community.

I recommend that you do a little research: start with the resources below, then look into resources in your area, which could involve a series of calls to gather information and referrals from local clinics, therapists, and/or meditation centers.

Three important things to keep in mind

1. There is no substitute for actual mindfulness practice (especially in a daily, disciplined way).

2. To maintain a regular practice, most people will need regular contact with a meditation teacher and/or supportive group or community.

3. You may need to learn some emotion-regulation and other skills first, so if you haven't yet, be sure to read Caution: Mindfulness Includes Pain, and Requires Readiness before reading this section.

Here are four free and inexpensive options for getting started on your own. Please don't be discouraged, though, if you find that going it alone isn't working for you.

* Mindfulness in Plain English, a book by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, includes detailed instruction on how to meditate, and is available free on the web or from

* Mindfulness Meditation Practice CDs and Tapes, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

* Meditation for Beginners, an audio CD by Jack Kornfield, another highly respected senior teacher in the Vipassana tradition.

* The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (book plus CD), by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindal Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn; though focused on depression, this is a valuable resource for anyone struggling with a lot of sadness and suffering.

Other options for developing a mindfulness meditation practice largely on your own, but more structured than the options above, are self-study courses available from Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, two of the most respected meditation teachers in the West.

* Insight Meditation: An In-Depth Correspondence Course includes an 88-page workbook and 18 hours of audiotaped instruction designed to help you establish and sustain a daily mindfulness meditation practice. There is also the option of receiving personalized instruction (via email) from an advanced meditation teacher.

* The smaller (and less expensive) Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course on How to Meditate, includes a 240-page Insight Meditation workbook, two 70-minute CDs and twelve study cards.

The Vipassana Fellowship offers a 90-day online meditation course, taught by Andrew Quernmore, a meditation teacher in England.

Online meditation courses are also available from Wildmind Buddhist Meditation.

There are many workshop and retreat options available at conference and retreat centers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries. If you're interested in a workshop/retreat I'm leading in May of 2009 with my colleague Dana Moore, a therapist and yoga teacher, see Buddhism, Yoga, and Neuroscience: Concepts and Tools for Transforming Trauma and Addiction.

Another way to learn be more mindful is by participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program.

MBSR is very accessible to people who have no experience with meditation, and was originally developed to help people struggling with medical illnesses that were not responding to Western medicine. MBSR was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, who by now have trained hundreds of practitioners around the world – including medical doctors, nurses, psychologists and other health-care professionals – who in turn are offering MBSR programs of their own. The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society maintains a web page where you can search for MBSR Programs in the United States and other countries. To get a better sense of their approach, you might want to read Kabat-Zinn's best-selling book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.

If you have great difficulty regulating your emotions, especially unwanted emotions and impulses to harm yourself (problems that are not uncommon among people with histories of child abuse and neglect), then you may benefit from learning mindfulness through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

This combined individual-and-group therapy approach, developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help people who can be said to suffer from "Borderline Personality Disorder," is available at many mental health clinics and hospitals in the US and around the world. DBT incorporates training in mindfulness skills within a comprehensive program that cultivates skills of emotion tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. If you really do struggle with regulating negative emotions and self-harming impulses, please don't let the term "personality disorder" scare you away: this treatment can be extremely effective at helping people who have not yet had the opportunity to learn essential emotion regulation skills. To learn more, read Dr. Cindy Sanderson's excellent Dialectical Behavior Therapy - Frequently Asked Questions.

If you're interested in learning more about the Buddhist tradition that has cultivated and preserved mindfulness practices for over 2500 years, and tapping into communities of Westerners practicing mindfulness and other meditation practices from this great spiritual tradition, there are many organizations and centers in the United States and around the world. Two highly respected retreat centers in the U.S. that teach mindfulness meditation are the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. The IMS web site has two pages of links to web sites of other centers, possibly one near you (for the second page of links, follow the "more centers" link on the first page).

For some people, standard sitting and walking versions of mindfulness meditation are not appropriate, at least initially. Focusing on the breath might cause intense anxiety to arise, or scatter attention, leaving one "ungrounded." Or a more physically active and movement-oriented approach might be a better match. (However, some just assume "I could never sit still and meditate for half an hour!" then actually discover that sitting meditation is not only possible for them, but quite beneficial.) Also, more active and movement-based approaches can be extremely helpful if you don't feel at home in your body and often lack awareness of bodily sensations and needs. If so, Iyengar yoga or Qigong practices like Tai Chi may be great ways to begin cultivating mindfulness. Unlike some popular yoga methods, Iyengar strongly emphasizes mindfulness of bodily and breathing sensations. Iyengar Yoga Resources includes a very clear description (What is Iyengar yoga?) and a directory of Iyengar yoga centers worldwide. The National Qigong (Chi Kung) Association explains What is Qigong and allows you to search for teachers near you.

Finally, increasing numbers of therapists and counselors are also mindfulness meditators, and many incorporate teaching of mindfulness skills into therapy. Therapists who are meditators will also tend to know about other local options for learning mindfulness – and just a couple of consultation sessions with such a therapist could be extremely helpful for sorting out your options. A few phone calls to local therapists or clinics might be enough to find such a therapist or counselor in your area.


This will orient you to this extensive webpage, via some opening comments and brief descriptions of each section.

Opening Comments and Suggestions

Is this page for you? You'll have to see, but some of the people I'm hoping to reach and benefit:

People who are curious about mindfulness, but have read little or nothing about it and never tried meditating.

People seeking new ways to overcome childhood hurts, depression, addiction, and other all-too-human problems.

Beginning meditators.

Meditators interested in the insights of a fellow meditator who happens to be a therapist, clinical psychology and psychiatric neuroscience researcher, as well as a husband and parent.

Therapists interested in bringing mindfulness and meditation into their clinical practices.

A message to those who will begin reading and find themselves thinking, "I can't see myself doing mindfulness meditation practices, so I might as well stop reading now and not bother coming back to this later":

Simply reading this page (whether you try meditating or not) will introduce you to new, and potentially very transformative and healing, ways of thinking about, experiencing and responding to your own emotional and other mental and brain processes. Just learning these concepts and perspectives (without ever meditating), has proved extremely helpful to many people, including those struggling with a great deal of emotional suffering. I can't guarantee that will happen for you, but I would like to encourage you to take the time, at some point, to find out for yourself.

A suggestion: If you discover that you are really interested in what you're reading, print the entire page. At 34 printed pages, it's too long for most people to read on the computer.

Descriptions of Each Section

What is Mindfulness? defines mindfulness by expanding on an often-quoted definition of Jon Kabat-Zinn. My elaboration speaks to struggles that we all have, with overcoming 'bad habits' that cause problems and suffering in our relationships, our work, and the most private parts of our lives. My definition also addresses common misconceptions about mindfulness by clarifying what it is not.

How Could Mindfulness Help Me? describes several ways that mindfulness can help people overcome habitual and automatic ways of responding to experiences that are either strongly unwanted (from emotionally uncomfortable to traumatic) or strongly wanted (including addictive). These include loosening the grip of habitual responses that cause suffering, quieting and calming the mind, and fostering greater awareness, enjoyment and cultivation of healthy positive experiences.

How Can I Cultivate Greater Mindfulness? begins with a few comments about meditation and Buddhism, followed by instructions for a standard mindfulness of breathing meditation. It then discusses some key issues, including the distinction between concepts and skills, daily versus intensive mindfulness practice, and formal practice versus weaving mindfulness into daily life. It ends by addressing some common questions and concerns about the cultivation of mindfulness in daily life and relationships.

Caution: Mindfulness Includes Pain, and Requires Readiness is a very important section, particularly for those who can become overwhelmed by unwanted emotions. It discusses the need for a solid foundation of self-regulation skills before practicing mindfulness meditation, and how this is essential for people who struggle with certain problems.

Kindness - An Essential Companion of Mindfulness explains why cultivating mindfulness is necessary but not sufficient, and how cultivating kindness promotes acceptance, peace, freedom, and happiness. It also includes some simple but very effective practices for cultivating key aspects of kindness.

Resources for Learning To Be More Mindful provides very specific advice for how and where you can learn to become more mindful. It has immediately useful information about books, tapes, online mindfulness meditation courses, and meditation centers. It also includes suggestions and resources for those who need more help cultivating self-regulation skills, or for whom more movement-oriented practices such as yoga or Tai Chi will be most effective.

Recommended Books, CDs/Tapes/MP3s, and Articles includes recommendations for everyone as well as therapists in particular.

Links to Other Resources on Mindfulness and Meditation has a small number of highly recommended sites.