Women’s Qi Gong
Lotus Moon Qi Gong is a set of women-specific Qi Gong practices. Through utilising mostly Yin Qi and the Heart-fields energy it is possible for women to move quickly through the internal practices of the Daoists. There is an ancient saying which says ‘a man can cultivate Dao in a mere nine years of dedicated practice, women can do it in six’. In order for this to be the case women have to work with the powerful Yin energies which they have inside of them.
The Lotus Moon Qi Gong exercises are used in conjunction with non-gender specific practices to assist a woman in moving through her personal Nei Gong journey. This is the process of internal evolution inherent within the Daoist arts. The Nei Gong process works to help a woman establish a strong foundation in their health before opening up the energy body and increasing Qi flow. All of this becomes a platform from which old emotional hurts are shed and true consciousness can shine through. A stage in the practice compared to the ‘blossoming of a lotus flower beneath a radiant moon’ within the female Daoist tradition.
Lotus Moon practices include energy work for the Uterus, the Heart, cleansing the Breasts of pathogens and connecting a woman into the cycles of the moon. Meditation includes spiritual work with Mudra’s which women can use very early on in their training compared to men.
Lotus Moon Qi Gong includes:
- Standing Qi Gong for Yin circulations
- Meditation on the lunar energies
- Uterus cleansing exercises
- Various exercises for different aspects of womens energetic anatomy
An introduction to the foundations of Lotus Moon Qi Gong as well as the Nei Gong process is given within Roni’s book ‘Daoist Nei Gong for Women – The Art of the Lotus and the Moon’.
Those wishing to move deeper into their Qi Gong training will begin to practice more advanced Nei Gong methods at some stage. Nei Gong translates as meaning ‘Internal Work’ and is a systematic method of converting our essence (Jing), energy (Qi) and spirit (Shen) so that we may begin to move towards direct connection with the realm of the divine. This is the original process inherent within all Daoist practices and sadly an often missing aspect of many Qi Gong practitioners art.
The issue of gender impacts upon every facet of what we do and who we are. More than just a classification based upon biological differences, men and women have unique energetic and spiritual qualities which are a manifestation of the powers of Yin (陰) and Yang (陽). Within the eastern arts it has long been understood that men and women have individual traits which must be worked with in the correct manner if they are to successfully progress towards a higher state of conscious transcendence. Though the ultimate aim of such practices was to rise above any sense of division, the path to this point was through embracing differences and learning how to work with them. For this reason there has long been individual nuances in the way in which men and women practitioners of the internal arts should approach their training.
In modern times the vast majority of writings on the internal arts are concerned primarily with the male practitioner. These male-biased writings and teachings often have the following issues:
- The exercises are generally focused on the more masculine energy centres
- The flows and cycles of energy discussed ignore the unique flows which exist within the female body
- Important circulations of essence related to the Tian Gui (天癸), the Breasts and the Uterus are generally overlooked in most teachings
- The pace and tempo of teachings do not take into account the speed at which women may progress if they are taught in the correct manner
- Environmental connection is very important for women, in particular lunar practices, and these are given little importance within the internal arts community
- Female practitioners need to stretch and open their connective tissues along certain lines and these are normally misunderstood
In ancient texts we see countless references to female-practitioners and deities. Such eminent followers of the way as Xiwangmu (西王母) who is often known as the ‘holy mother of the west’. Another important female practitioner is Shengmu Yuanjun (聖母元君) who is the ‘supreme sovereign mother’ and, according to some traditions, was Laozi’s (老子) mother and original teacher. It was long known that women were naturally closer to the ‘source’ of all existence than their male counterparts. Indeed, within many Daoist tradition’s it is states that in order for men to progress successfully they must learn how to ‘become like women’.
This book was written by both Roni Edlund and her husband, Damo Mitchell. It provides an overview of the Nei Gong process inherent within the Daoist Arts with a greater degree of focus upon the female-specific nuances of the practices than has been written about before. The individual circulations and rhythms of the female body are looked at along with Lunar Gazing and the nature of Jing and Blood according to female internal traditions.
Qi Gong Exercises
Within our school we teach a number of different Qi Gong ‘sets’. These are taught in the usual manner of studying the external movements and then going deeper in order to understand exactly how the internal mechanics of each exercise work. What is most important though is that within the school we recognise that these exercises are simply tools. They are a set of tools we can use to change the body and our Qi in the way we wish it to be adjusted. The result of this is that we move deeper into the internal process of Nei Gong. It is the ‘process of internal change’ that we are most focused upon in our practice, not the exercises themselves.
Studying Nei Gong
Studying Nei Gong is a step-by-step process with a very clear path of progression involved. It is important to have guidance on what you need to learn and what you need to do next. Understanding the path is the best way to move towards the destination. Those without a clear idea of where they are going or why they are practicing certain exercises are likely to become stuck in their development.
Microcosm and Macroscom
In Daoist philosophy, we are all beings who are comprised of three bodies; the physical, the energetic and the spiritual. We exist within the vast universe which is generally seen as the ‘large Heaven’ or simply macrocosm. The human body is often called the ‘small Heaven’ or the microcosm. Everything in the universe operates according to cycles. The macrocosmic cycles are matched within the microcosm of our body. We are connected to our environment in ways we don’t often think about; energetically and spiritually.
Through our physical and energetic centre runs a deep, powerful energetic meridian called the Chong Mai (Thrusting meridian). This is the channel which extends up into the cosmos. It has the potential to connect us to planetary shifts and to higher levels of consciousness. When this channel begins to open up through spiritual practice, we become naturally more intuitive and aware of energetic shifts around us.
Moon’s effect on Women
The planetary body which women are mostly connected to is the moon, this is because, just as women do, it has a Yin quality to its energy. Men are more governed by the sun, which is Yang. The waxing and the waning of the moon therefore has a greater effect on women than the sun. It has a particularly strong influence upon the energy of the Chong Mai. The Chong mai is often also called “the Sea of Blood”. When the moon is full, the energy in the environment as well as us is pulled upwards. This means there will be more energy in the head around the time of the full moon. Classically therapies such as acupuncture would not be applied to the head or face around the full moon.
During the Dark moon, the energy drops down towards the ground, and generally our energy should be lower during these periods. It is also a natural time for menstruation to begin. This is not often the case in modern living, our rhythms from the sun and moon have become confused. There are Nei Gong exercises that can be practiced to increase your connection with the moon and to harmonise yourself with its energetic shifts.
Menstruation is often seen as a bit of an inconvenience and many women use pills or implants that changes the natural cycle or completely stop it. But the natural cycle of your menstruation is important because it helps cleanse your body and spirit. During our life, especially in younger years, things causes us to experience big emotional swings and tensions that in turn cause blockages in the physical and energy body. In Chinese medicine the menstruation helps to clear these blockages.
Second Spring ≈ Menopause
In Daoism the monthly cleanse of the blood and the spirit is to prepare women for their second Spring, the start of their age of spiritual maturity. This is the time when the menstrual blood stops. In the west menopause is often treated with an air of shame. In fact it should not be a negative thing at all. During this age the woman, if she has managed to cultivate herself and her spirit, should be more emotionally balanced and mentally strong. This is the time where it is possible to naturally move deeper into meditation and spirituality. Inherent strengths of the feminine spirit will be able to strengthen, such as increased intuition and further opening of the middle Dan Tian.
In order to ensure that this all happens as it should and a woman moves through the cycles of her life healthily we use lunar gazing. This is a simple Shen Gong exercise method which helps us connect to the cycles of the moon and integrate its Yin energy into our being.
Buddhist Qi Gong
One of the Qi Gong sets we use within our school is the Heart-Diamond Gong practice. They are a little different from many of the other exercises utilised within our school as they actually originate from within the Chan Buddhist line. They are a set developed at a time when Buddhism and Daoism were enthusiastically exchanging methods and ideas. Taught to Roni Edlund by Damo, they were exercises used by Damo when, during his internal development, he was working on opening and expanding the energetic field around the middle Dan Tian.
These exercise use a combination of bodily movements, Mudra’s and steady ‘listening’ with the mind in order to give the Heart’s field space to open up and expand outwards. The Mudra’s establish a particular frequency within this field and this in turn leads a practitioner towards a state of inner stillness.
Performed either standing or sitting, the Heart Diamond Gong are useful form women aiming to awaken the middle Dan Tien, the key storehouse for Jing within the energetic body. They are an intermediate level Qi Gong set in difficulty and not generally recommended for beginners.
Almost every spiritual tradition around the world uses sound in some way or another. In some traditions sacred phrases are chanted, in others prayers are said out loud but in Daoism we mainly focus upon the use of sacred syllables. Within medical Qi Gong these practices became the basis for the development of the commonly practiced ‘six healing sounds’ whereas within alchemical Nei Gong we use sounds in a slightly different manner.
Daoism has known for centuries that which science has only just woken up to. They understood that sat beyond the realm of matter was the realm of energy, look deep enough into the physical world and we find little but space and vibration. The Daoist law of energy states that ‘nothing rests; everything moves; every-thing vibrates.’ The denser the vibration the closer we are to physical matter, the higher the vibration the cloer we are to the realm of spirit.
Within the range of frequencies which make up the spectrum of Jing, Qi and Shen we also have the various emotional and psychological layers of the Heart-Mind. In short, feelings such as fear and sadness exist at the lower end of the psycho-emotional spectrum whilst feelings of joy, empathy and love exist at the higher ends of the range. Alongside the various physical, electrical and chemical signals that move through our each second there are also energetic vibration frequencies which carry with them important spiritual information. It is this source of information which serves to connect the mind and the body via the conduit of the meridian system.
Understanding this is the key to understanding many aspects of alchemical Daoism. For example, if a frequency is raised high enough then it would reach the frequency of light, move into the visible spectrum and thus manifest as the white light of Shen or illumination discussed within many spiritual traditions.
The law of resonance states that if two frequencies exist within the same space, the lower will raise to meet the higher. This is used within our practice as we generate sound and tones aimed at lifting the frequency of an energetic centre up to match that of the sacred syllable being sung out loud. As the sound is issued it corrects any imbalance or lowering of an energetic centre’s frequency and this has the effect of ‘opening’ up the energetic body. These openings then cause our physical matter to vibrate differently, this raises the frequency of emotional energy within the body and thus our spirits are raised.
Within the Lotus Moon Spiritual Arts school we use various sacred sounds from within the Daoist tradition as a form of energetic and spiritual Qi Gong.
On Spirit and Energy
Spirit and energy should be clear as the night air;
In the soundless is the ultimate pleasure all along.
Where there’s reality in illusion
Is illusion in reality,
For the while playing with magical birth
In the silver bowl.
Gathering the Mind
Before our body existed,
One energy was already there.
Like jade, more lustrous as it’s polished,
Like gold, brighter as it’s refined.
Sweep clear the ocean of birth and death,
Stay firm by the door of total mastery.
A particle at the point of open awareness,
The gentle firing is warm.
Heart-Mind (Roni Edlund)
Something often misunderstood within Eastern arts is the concept of ‘silencing the emotions’. It does not mean you should stop having any emotions and become a robot. Rather, the teachings are discussing a state of consciousness not ruled by emotions such as; fear, jealousy, worry, grief, anger etc.
Most people operate on an emotionally driven ‘mind’ level rather than a consciousness level due to the emotional programming we receive throughout our lives. The continuous numbing of our consciousness happens through the education system, media, mundane work and other societal based structures aimed at creating a total mind-based state glorifying social status, money and the acquisition of material possessions. On a ‘mind’ level a person does not actually lead their own life because all the decisions and actions are being made through an acquired layer, which often is called the ego. This acquired mind is formed throughout our life from previous experiences that form our biases, likes and dislikes etc. The acquired mind distorts our vision of the present moment because we are living our life through the mirror of our past memories. Therefore whenever an event happens in our life, which for example creates fear, the acquired mind brings forth similar memories, and the previous experiences cloud the consciousness and this decides how you act in the present moment. If we can clean the mirror of mind we can see life clearly as it is without biases.
Whilst training in the Daoist arts, you are offloading and getting rid of stored tensions and built up emotions. The shed layers gradually enable us to peel back the layers of mind to enable consciousness to come forth. Then the real skill is to bring this consciousness out into everyday life, lead your life, carrying out actions and communicating without accruing more tensions and emotional disturbances. Everything we do and say has an impact on our life and others. We need to learn to live without having a negative affect, going through life without causing ‘ripples in the pond’. To do this we must first release previous disturbances and free ourselves from our attachments to previous events and meetings. This is what happens in the first steps of Nei Gong training; through the freeing of the lower Dan Tien. After this we should aim to become aware of our actions, thoughts and communication. Most of our life is lived on ‘autopilot’ and through the lens of ingrained habitual thought patterns. Whilst our mind and ego directs and rules, we remain unconscious.
We must reconnect with our consciousness and live in harmony as an integral part of the two poles of Heaven and Earth. After the releasing stage, we can invite Heaven and Earth to breathe through our body and connect ourselves to the forces of the universe.
The sage allows his or her actions to come from full integration of the universe (Tian), forgetting about their ego or any sense of ‘self’. When we are free of ego and selfishness, our actions and interactions do not cause any ‘ripples’ or affect other people’s lives negatively. Instead we create enough space for consciousness to interact with our life. This truly leads us onto the path of Dao and enables us to connect with our life destiny (Ming). At this stage you will experience many synchronicities that seem strangely unlikely and fortunate. This is because you are flowing in the same direction as your Ming and we are beginning to reach towards our full potential and development. Through practice, when we have managed to release many heavy, stuck mental imbalances and emotional hang-ups, this leaves space for something else.
As we inhale, we receive inspiration from above. The ancient Latin word ‘Inspirare’ means ‘in-breath’. The ancients understood that breathing, when you are in an open state of consciousness, gives us divine inspiration.
When we can begin to balance our emotions the five virtues can easier shine forth and our life can become guided by innate wisdom, compassion, patience, courage and contentment. In this state energy is not wasted on engaging with negative emotional patterns, instead we can use this energy with the help of Daoist practices to nourish our spirit instead; for inner cultivation. It is at this stage that parts of our psyche that normally lay dormant can wake up. This is what enables us to tap into what often are called ‘psychic abilities’. What we don’t realize today is that these abilities are what should be considered normal and any other state of being is actually a sign of imbalance.
Within Daoism it is said that a person must work with the ‘three treasures’ if they are to maintain good health, find peace of mind and then, ultimately, some kind of spiritual liberation. These three treasures are a person’s essence, their energy and then finally their spirit.
The classical process for Daoist’s was to work through the key substances of the body in sequence. This means that a practitioner begins by refining the essence, then works up towards refining their energy and then finally development of the spirit. It is understood that to develop effectively a solid foundation must be built in each stage before moving on to the next aspect of your practice. Consolidation of essence to a certain level is required in order to ensure that a practitioner’s health is at such a stage that it can provide a high quality base from which to begin moving deeper into internal practice.
It is the case for men that their essence is lost through the natural life and ageing cycles but also through loss of sexual fluids upon ejaculation. This is why many classical schools of Daoism had guidelines around restricting sexual activity for male students or in many cases completely forbade it.
For women a large degree of their essence is lost through the monthly menstrual cycle. A woman does not lose their essence in the same way as men during sex due to the more internalized nature of her orgasm. Though female Daoists still had guidance around the most efficient manner to engage in sexual intercourse in order to work with their essence, the level of restriction was not as high. Instead women need to learn to refine the process of menstruation by aligning their energetic cycles with the phases of the moon. Once this foundation practice has successfully been worked with it will ensure a solid foundation upon which to further develop.
This puts the emphasis for women’s health upon learning how to do several things. This is because these are all aspects of feminine life and nature which have a direct effect upon the strength of their vital essence:
- Women must learn to regulate their menstrual cycle in order to avoid unnecessary loss of essence each month
- Women should learn how to work with the energetic cycles of their conception meridian which runs up the front of the body. It is this energetic pathway which assists in the extraction of essence from the menstrual blood back up towards their Heart-centre
- Women must learn how to work with the energy of the Heart as this governs the nature of their essence. Women need to learn how to express their creativity in a healthy manner and express the energy of the Heart in all things
- The Daoist teachings include a whole pantheon of teachings on the nature of healthy living and these teachings are integrated into the Daoist path
The first ‘mission’ for any woman engaging with the Daoist path of cultivation is learning about the nature of feminine essence, how it flows and how it can be refined. If this foundation is not built then progress along the path will be weak.
The Power of Seven
Our essence governs the manner in which we develop and it does this according to numerological patterns which vary between men and women. Men operate according to an eight-year cycle meaning that key events take place every eight years whilst women operate to the celestial number of seven meaning that at seven-year intervals changes take place within their system. The seven-year cycles for women are summarised below:
- At age 7 a woman’s essence should begin to consolidate around the region of the Kidneys. The result of this is her energy reaches high levels, her permanent teeth come through and her hair grows thick and long.
- At age 14 a woman’s essence starts to produce menstrual blood and so menstruation begins. The governing and conception meridian become active with regards to procreation and so it becomes possible to conceive a child. That being said, it is also the case that it takes a few more years before the procreative energy with the tow meridian stabilises enough for it to be healthy for her to become pregnant.
- At age 21 the Kidney energy is strong and abundant, wisdom teeth appear in the mouth and the body is full of vitality. The spirit should be nourished through the growth of essence at this stage resulting in a stabilisation of the emotions and the beginning of ‘adult-type’ thought processes.
- At age 28 the bones and tendons are said to be strong and fully developed. This is the peak of essence development for a woman and so the strongest point in her life with regards to levels of abundance of energy and essence. Her body at this age should be fully formed as this is seen as the height of female development.
- At age 35 the digestive-based meridian begins to move into decline, this in turn causes the face to lose some of its essence due to the pathway of the Stomach and Large Intestine meridians. This means that wrinkles can start to appear on the face and a woman’s hair can begin to grow thinner.
- At age 42 many of the meridians begin to grow more depleted meaning ageing becomes more obvious and the hair starts to turn grey.
- At age 49 a woman has reached the culmination of the developmental processes of her essence which matches the numerical pattern of 7 multiplied by 7. At this age her conception and thrusting meridians cease to function to any major amount. The menstrual blood ceases to flow and menopause is entered. This prevents a woman from being able to conceive. It is also said to be the beginning of a woman’s spiritual age, a period known as the ‘second spring’ within Daoist medical literature.
Of course, these ages are only guidelines and as such a woman can find that she reaches these milestones within a year or so either direction. It is natural for the essence to take a woman through this process and if there is too much of a deviation from these numbers then it is said that there has been a disturbance within the progression of the essence either from physical sickness or emotional imbalance. This is particularly true with regards to the ages of commencement of menstruation and menopause which are key manifestations of the quality and movement of Blood, the key internal substance for a woman to seek to regulate.