Twenty-four Guidelines for Qigong

This came off the web somewhere, and I can no longer remember where it came from. Commonly taught to students, it also appears in various forms on the web, in books and video – as such, it falls into the category of common knowledge about Qigong practice. However, if I could remember where I got this, I would gladly give proper credit. Instead, I have tried to embellish or interpret the ideas, as I understand them.

A list of the twenty-four rules passed down by generations of Qigong teachers. These rules are based on much study and experience, and one should observe them carefully.

1. Do Not Make Plans or Hold Preconceived Ideas About Qigong. An easy mistake for beginners to make; when we begin Qigong we are enthusiastic and eager. However, sometimes we do not learn as fast as we would like and we become impatient and try to force things. Often you will hear people describe certain things they feel or experience when the practice and then we can develop expectations that we too should experience the same. We may even setup a schedule for ourselves to add some structure to our practice. Structure itself is not bad, but expecting things to happen or trying to force them to happen will not help. Avoid making a progress schedule for Qigong as this may lead to rigid thinking and cause stagnation. Everything happens when it is time for it to happen. If you try to force it, it will not happen naturally.

2. Do Not Place your Attention Indiscriminately. Our minds often become trapped in abiding places, whether in practice or during our daily lives. When practicing, do not place one’s attention on the various phenomena or sensations occurring. Be aware of what is happening, but keep the mind centered on wherever it is supposed to be for the exercise you are doing. If you let your mind go to wherever you feel something interesting happening, the Qi will follow your mind and interfere with your body's natural tendency to rebalance itself. Do not expect anything to happen, and do not let your mind wander around looking for various phenomena. Be careful and do not allow your mind to focus on your Qi, when you do, your Yi (mind, specifically the mind generated by clear thinking and judgment, and which is able to make you calm, peaceful and wise) is there also, and this stationary Yi will not lead the Qi. Be aware of what is happening, but do not pay attention to it. Through proper practice, our qi will become self-regulating.

3. Avoid Miscellaneous Thoughts Remaining on Origins. This is related to idea #2 and deals with regulating the mind. The emotional mind is strong, and every idea is connected to its origin and thus our minds can become trapped in these abiding places. If you cannot cut the ideas off at their source, your mind is not regulated. You may also find that even though you have stopped the flow of random thoughts going through your mind, new ideas pop into our head during practice. When these happen, acknowledge them, but let them go – do not dwell on them.

4. Your Shen should not follow the External Scenery. Shen or spirit: according to Chinese Qigong, the Shen resides at the Upper Dan Tian, the third eye. This is also a problem of regulating the mind (Shen). When your emotional mind is not controlled, any external distraction will lead it away from your body and to the distraction. You must train so that noises, smells, conversations and such will not disturb your concentration. It is okay to be aware of what is happening, but your mind must remain calm, peaceful and steady.

5. Regulate your Sexual Activity.  It is commonly taught that you should not practice Qigong within 24-hours of having sexual intercourse. Sex depletes men’s Qi through release of sperm. Women can gain Qi by absorbing men’s sperm and their qi, although they should still wait to give their bodies enough time to ingest it. Since your qi will be in an abnormal state after sex, your feeling and sensing will be affected, so you should give yourself sufficient time for your qi to return to normal before resuming practice. There are certain Taoist Qigong techniques that teach men how not to lose Qi during sexual activity, and teach women how to receive Chi from the man and digest it. It would also seem logical that women lose qi during menstruation and possibly through breast-feeding. However, it is well beyond the scope of this site and my personal knowledge on this subject to go any further.

6. Don't be too warm or too cold. The temperature of the room in which you are training should not be too hot or too cold. You should practice in the most comfortable environment that will not disturb your mind or cultivation. Personal environment is important, such as dress. It is advisable to wear loose fitting clothing – nothing too restrictive. Some people advise against wearing rubber shoes or sneakers as they feel it acts as an insulator and can block or interfere with the flow or exchange of qi through the feet and into the earth.

7. Be Careful of the Five Weaknesses and Internal Injuries. Five weaknesses mean the weaknesses of five Yin organs: the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen. When you realize that any of these five organs is weak, you should proceed very gradually and gently with your Qigong practice. Qigong practice is an internal exercise that directly related to these five organs. If you do not move gradually and gently, it is like forcing a weak person to run 10 miles immediately. This will not build up their strength, but instead may lead to injury. There are specific Qigong exercises designed to focus on these organs. Master Jianye Jiang has developed and teaches a variety of exercises specifically for enhancing the health of these organs and other common ailments.

8. Avoid Facing the Wind When Sweating. Do not practice in the wind, especially facing the wind. When you practice Qigong, you are exercising either internally or both internally and externally. It is normal to sweat, and since you are relaxed, your pores are wide open. If you expose your body to cold wind, you could become ill.

9. Don't Wear Tight Clothing or Belts Always. See item #6, wear loose clothing during practice because this will help you to feel comfortable. Keep your belt loose, also. The abdomen is the key area in Qigong practice, and you must be careful not to limit the movement of this area because it will interfere with your practice.

10. Do Not Eat too Much Greasy or Sweet Foods. You should regulate your eating habits while you are practicing Qigong. Greasy or sweet foods will increase your Fire-Qi, making your mind scattered, and your Shen will stray away from its residence. You should eat more fruits and vegetables, and abstain from alcohol and tobacco; common sense stuff that sounds a lot like what you might hear about healthy eating and living habits.

11. Don't Hang Your Feet off the Bed. This bit of wisdom refers to maintaining proper body alignment and position when practicing. Anyone who has studied even a little Taiji or Qigong has heard their teacher explain how to hold the head, the importance of alignment of the back, shoulders, elbows, knees, etc. For instance, in sitting meditation, as this refers to, one should sit with back straight, head suspended, and have their sitting bone on the edge of the chair so their genital are not touching the flat surface on which they sit, i.e. your genitals should be suspended over the edge of the sitting surface. The knees should be bent at 90 degrees with the feet flat on the floor. Arms should not be pressed against the body, but have a slight bow so that one could hold a lemon or an orange under the arm pit. Place the hands on top of the thighs and turn in slightly. This position will facilitate the flow of blood and qi to all parts of the body.

12. Don't Practice with a Full Bladder. You should relieve yourself before starting your practice. If you need to urinate during practice, stop your practice and do so. The same is true for sneezing or blowing your nose. Holding in any bodily function disturbs your concentration. Mindfully stop your practice to relieve yourself and then resume.

13. Don't Scratch an Itch. If you itch because of some external reason, such as an insect walking on you or biting you, do not be alarmed and keep your mind calm. Use your Yi to lead the Qi back to its residence, the Dan Tien. Breathe a couple of times and gradually bring your consciousness back to your surroundings. Then you may scratch or think of how to stop the itching. This can be difficult, but is an important step in learning how to regulate the mind. If the itchiness or other sensation is caused by Qi concentration in one part of the body try not to move your mind there, simply let it happen as it will likely move on to another place in your body. Allowing it to move naturally on its own means your body is learning how to balance the Qi flow.

14. Avoid Being Suddenly Disturbed or Startled. You should avoid being suddenly disturbed or startled. However, if it does happen, calm your mind. You must absolutely prevent yourself from losing your temper. What has happened has happened, and getting angry will not change anything. What you should do is prevent it from happening again. Regardless of when or where it happens, during our practice, at work, in our relations, or any other point in our daily lives, what happens may be important, but how we react to it is even more important. We must learn to control our minds and our emotions. This is not any easy thing to do, but if we can manage it during our practice, it will help us develop the mental conditioning to cope with stressful situations in our daily lives

15. Don't Take Delight in the Scenery. It is very common during practice to suddenly notice something that is going on inside of oneself. Perhaps you feel Qi moving more clearly than ever before, or you start to sense your bone marrow, and you feel elated and excited. You have just fallen into a very common trap. Your concentration is broken, and the mind divided. You must learn how to be aware of what is happening inside you without becoming excited.

16. Don't Wear Sweaty Clothing. This happens mostly in moving Qigong practice, especially in Martial Qigong training, but it can happen during intense stationary practice. When your clothing is wet from sweat, you will feel uncomfortable, and your concentration affected. It is better to change into dry clothing and then resume your practice.

17. Don't Sit When Hungry or Full. You should not practice Qigong when you are hungry or when your stomach is full. When you are hungry, it is hard to concentrate, and when you are full, your practice will affect your digestion.

18. Heaven and Earth—Strange sDisaster. It is believed your body's Qi is affected by changes in the weather. It is generally advisable to avoid practice when there is a sudden change in the weather occurring as doing so may interfere with your body's natural adjustment to the new environment. You must always try to remain emotionally neutral whenever practicing Qigong; you must remain calm so that your Qi stays under control.

19. Listen Sometimes to True Words. You need to have confidence when you practice Qigong. You should not listen to advice from people who do not have experience in Qigong and who are not familiar with the condition of your body. Some people listen to their classmates explain how they reached a specific level or how they cured a certain problem, and then blindly try to use the same method themselves. You need to understand that everyone has a different body, everyone's health is slightly different, and everyone learns differently. Stay patient, be relaxed, and have confidence in yourself.

20. Don't Lean and Fall Asleep. You should not continue your Qigong practice when you are sleepy. Using an unclear mind to lead Qi is dangerous. In addition, when you are sleepy your body will not be regulated and will tend to lean or droop, and your bad posture may interfere with the proper Qi circulation. When you are sleepy, it is best to rest until you are able to regain your spirit.

21. Don't Meditate When You Have Lost Your Temper or Are Too Excited. You should not meditate when you are too excited due to anger or happiness. Since your mind is scattered, meditation will bring you more harm than peace. In these situations, it is best to try some other calming techniques prior to qi gong.

22. Don't Keep Spitting. It is normal to generate saliva while practicing Qigong. Swallow the saliva and allow it to moisten your throat. Do not spit out the saliva because this is a waste, and it will disturb your concentration. Taoists call this Jade Nectar; when you swallow the saliva, picture a golden, white light descending your body and begin to envelop the stomach and then eventually spread throughout the whole body.

23. Don't Doubt and Become Lazy. When you begin your practice, you must have confidence in what you are doing no matter your skill level. You will have to slough off doubts about qigong’s validity or whether you are practicing correctly. If your mind begins to doubt, your thoughts will become self-defeating and you will not succeed. In this case, your practice will falter and not last, remember to be patient, good things will come.

24. Do Not Ask for Speedy Success. Refer to item #1, remember that Qigong practice takes time and you should not expect instant results. Unfortunately, this is opposite of what many of us in western society, especially America, expect. You must have patience, a strong will, and be consistent in your practice. Being relaxed and natural are critical. Having no expectation may be the best way to practice.

Patience, patience, and more patience along with regular, focused practice may be the best we can hope to do.