Fragrant Qigong - Mystic Healing Powers?
by Shiney Mehrotra
‘Jade Phoenix Nodding Head'? ‘Golden Dragon Waving Tail'? Sound like characters from the b-grade kung-fu movie you picked from the video store last week? In fact, these are just some of the sequence of movements in the latest form of active meditation emerging from China. Unlike other forms of meditation, Fragrant Qigong requires little concentration and mostly involves waving your arms about...
In this age of self-healing and ‘work-life' balance, we often hear about the power of meditation and for many of us, we'd like to think that we can ‘om-shanti' with the best of them. But in reality, despite the potentially life-changing benefits, the concentration and discipline required with many forms of meditation prevents us from making it a part of our daily lives.
After having spent several years on a cocktail of medications after my own health issues, I was always eager to delve into the depths of any new ‘natural' therapies. So when a friend told me about a healing meditation class which primarily involves waiving your arms about for half an hour, I was instantly intrigued and asked her to sign me up for this weekly three month course.
Qigong (pronounced ‘chee kong') was originally devised by Taoist monks approximately 3000 years ago and is derived from ‘qi' (chi) meaning internal energy or air and from ‘gong' meaning exercise. So loosely translated, it is a ‘breathing exercise'. And like its Tai Chi counterpart, the movements are relatively slow to help stimulate the internal organs by promoting the flow of internal energy (chi).
Fragrant Qigong has been thought to have been developed around 2000 years ago, but was kept secret until the late 1980's when a relatively stable political environment in China allowed such practices to be performed publicly. Master Tian Ruisheng, thought to be the ‘last living Secret Master of Fragrant Qigong' had secretly practiced this throughout his life and began mass healing sessions that allowed this form of healing meditation to emerge from obscurity.
There are three levels in this Qigong, each consisting of 15 simple movements with colourful descriptions. For those suffering diseases and ill-health, it is recommended that Level 1 is performed at least twice a day until complete health is restored. The subsequent levels can only be performed if the steps in the previous level are performed at least twice a day for a continuous period of 3 months.
Having dabbled in my fair share of meditation classes prior to this, the absence of fragrant incense sticks and pot-bellied Buddha statuettes was mildly disconcerting. Of course, we were in a suburban high-school classroom for this community college course. Phew. So when the teacher entered garbed in a beanie and tracksuit pants instead of the expected pious robes, without even a silver whisker in sight (well, none that we were aware of)...well, I knew that this was no ordinary new-age hippie class.
In fact, the entire class consisted of relatively normal looking people (I am sure they will be delighted by that description) of various backgrounds - Lawyers, I.T. Professionals, Accountants, Stay-at-Home Parents, Education and Medical Administrators.
We formed a circle and followed the teacher's lead with some simple arm movements. The 15 steps were performed in a particular sequence, most of them for approximately 45 seconds each. Once these were completed, the process would begin again.
Despite a few important rules that must be adhered to when performing Fragrant Qigong - including no eating / drinking for up to 20 minutes prior to / after practice, no bathing 20 minutes after practice and it cannot be performed in conjunction with other forms of deep meditation or those suffering schizophrenia - the atmosphere was relaxed and surprisingly energising.
This form of Qigong has been termed ‘fragrant' due to a floral aroma that sometimes emanates when it is being performed. Frequent side effects include participants feeling itchy (especially under the nose), tired (open-mouthed yawing is not a faux-pas here), experience the sensation of having burning feet and sometimes even feeling dizzy. But we were told that this is ‘all good'. It means that it is working.
Even though this form of meditation seems to be sought out mostly by those seeking respite from illness, healthy individuals also participate hoping to improve their lives in some capacity.
Anna* (50, housewife) first heard of Fragrant Qi Gong when she become involved in Kung-Fu at the centre. During this time, she had also been suffering from severe migraines which were being treated with strong prescription medications. Anna expressed doubts to her doctors over the effectiveness of the medications. At this time, Anna's home was also undergoing a major reconstruction, adding to the stress. As a last resort, Anna began practicing Fragrant Qi Gong. That was two years ago. Although she still suffers from migraines, Anna no longer takes any medications, the severity of the attacks have reduced significantly and she feels she could not have coped with the house reconstruction without her daily Fragrant Qi Gong session. She believes it gives her a calm that allows her to cope with the stress of everyday life.
Thomas (student at the John Dolic Qigong Centre), joined initially to control his road-rage and it appears that the suburbs are just that much safer now! And after two years, he still performs it daily and found a calmer way to get from A to B.
The most difficult aspect of Fragrant Qigong has been the discipline. Despite the lax guidelines (it can be performed whilst watching television or whilst having conversations), 30-40 minutes a day can sometimes be too much to fit into our hectic schedules.
John Dolic, owner and teacher at John Dolic Traditional Chinese Medicine and Kung Fu Centre (Mosman, NSW, Australia), explains the importance of continuous practice - "for every day that Fragrant Qigong is practiced, one day's benefit is gained. For every day that is missed, 10 days worth of benefit is lost".
So upon completion of the course, where my performance had been limited to the weekly classes (instead of the twice daily requirement), I began to take it more seriously and started performing it daily. Surprise, surprise - after only a few weeks, my health and energy levels have improved dramatically. So maybe there's more to that Golden Dragon than just his waving tail...Watch this space for further health updates.
© Shiney Mehrotra 2005
*Anna is not her real name.