Reconnecting with Nature through the Six Healing Sounds

There is a fascinating world of new (and old) research into the world of sounds and the effects of sound vibration on everything. Sound therapy is an ancient method of healing.
Tibetan monks, for example, have used a method of “overtone chanting” for thousands of years for treating illness. The theory is that since everything in the universe is in a constant state of vibration, including the human body, even the smallest change in frequency can affect the internal organs.

Modern sound therapists consider a natural resonance or “note” that is in harmony for each part of the human body, and for each individual. Therefore, by directing specific sound waves to specific areas, they can affect the frequency of which that part is vibrating and thereby restore it to balance and therefore health.

Shawn Picarsic has been producing beautiful pictures showing the effects of sound on a bowl of water, for example. These aren’t just pretty gimics. Given that the human body is largely composed of water, imagine the effect on a human being of different sounds. 

“One has only one way for inhalation but six for exhalation”
Tau Hongjing of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 – 589)

How Qigong Comes Into It
Qi is often described as the vibratory nature of the Universe. The Six Healing Sounds Qigong uses the exhalation of breath to cause vibrations which regulate and control the rise and fall of Qi (vital energy) inside the body through six different sounds. These affect the five organs, the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys and the triple heater, which balances all the energy systems. 

These are all related to the Five Elements which will also be part of the Wild Heart Singing Weekend, I shall be using the Six Healing Sounds Qigong to enhance the total experience. Accompanied by simple movements, accompanied by birdsong and tinkling water, we will be able to explore the vibrationary nature of the elements in the beautiful surroundings of Comriach, near Kilmartin.

Booking
In this joint workshop with SueKali during the Wild Heart Singing weekend of 23rd and 24th June 2018, we will have a wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in Nature and experience many aspects of the Five Elements and the Six Healing Sounds.

This will be a weekend of songs, chants, silence, movement, nature-nourishment – experiencing the exhilaration of our senses being enlivened, our voices resonating with water, earth, rock, trees, birds, sky, sun and wind.

An early bird rate of £100 for the full weekend applies until 30th May and Sue also provides accommodation should this be helpful.

Reconnecting With Nature through the Five Elements

The Five Elements are crucial to any understanding of Chinese thinking, medicine, and culture in general. They are slightly different from the Four Elements in Western Nature, being Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

Each element is characterised by a Season, a Colour, an Internal Organ, an Orifice, Negative Emotions, Positive Emotions, a Direction, a Planet and a Process. As this is Summer, we are under the influence of the Fire element but of course all the others still exist! We just need to be aware of how they operate at this time and the effect they have on each other. The object of the exercise is to bring every aspect into harmony.

In the above cycle, the elements support each other, however, by using them in a different order, they can be destructive. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We use the destructive order when we practise Qigong because our intention is to eliminate toxic influences or excesses.

In addition to the Five Element workshop I shall also be using the Six Healing Sounds Qigong to enhance the total experience. There is a fascinating world of new (and old) research into the world of sound and the effects of sound vibration on everything.

Booking
In the Five Elements workshop which will be taking place at the beautiful Comriach Sanctuary, during the Wild Heart Singing weekend of 23rd and 24th June 2018, we will have a wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in Nature and experience many aspects of the Five Elements.

This will be a weekend of songs, chants, silence, movement, nature-nourishment – experiencing the exhilaration of our senses being enlivened, our voices resonating with water, earth, rock, trees, birds, sky, sun and wind.

An early bird rate of £100 for the full weekend applies until 3oth May and Sue also provides accommodation should this be helpful.

Trying Something New

When you get to a certain age, it becomes harder to keep pace with things in this fast moving world. I remember my aunt commenting on this and saying that she made it a rule to keep up to date with developments in her field of work/interest but just left the rest to someone else.

I think it’s good advice. Limiting how much information to attempt to absorb can be liberating. We’re constantly exposed to ‘news’ via social media and often it has been taken from elsewhere, adapted into a meme or simply not fully researched.

However, when you do have a field of work or interest that you are passionate about, then you should be an expert and you should be open to new thinking and new developments.

So, a couple of weeks ago, in the interests of broadening my knowledge about healthy bodies, I went to trigger point pilates with Jacqui Barker for the first time. Jacqui is a local fitness instructor who covers a wide range of activities. I’ve been intrigued by pilates for a while, as I believe it works on the core muscles, much like qigong  and taiji. It certainly did!

Many of the moves were similar to those recommended by various physios over the years to help with various sore bits. But these were done lying on the floor, with soft and prickly coloured balls and a giant coloured elastic band. There was a lot to take in, we seemed to rush from one move to the next but it was a good workout. I went back last Friday and found that, with familiarity, things were not so rushed and there was more time to explore the movements.

And another thing
That evening, I was really on a roll with the trying new things idea. In June I’ll be sharing a workshop with Suekali from the Cromriach Natural Sanctuary at Kilmichael. Sue combines singing with a spiritual slant at her Wild Heart Singing  weekends and I shall be complementing the elemental side with qigong exercises (The Five Elements and the 6 Healing Sounds). On Friday evenings she offers a couple of hours of chanting, so I went to see how this works in with taiji and qigong.

There were four of us and Sue led the chants in her lovely (gaelic choir) singing voice. She has studied raga, which is an Indian form of singing that uses the breath in a special way so that singing becomes effortless, with no long term effects on the throat or vocal chords. She and her partner have been approached by professional singers to help them and no wonder.

Buddhist ceremonies involve some chanting but that was the limit of my experience (we won’t mention the Giffnock Primary School choir back in the nineteenfifties). Could I sit on the floor and sing/chant for two hours without wriggling, going off key, or falling asleep?

Well amazingly I could! Each chant was very different and accompanied by a different musical instrument – what a collection! When time permits I’ll go back and as the nights get milder and longer these sessions will be held out of doors, weather permitting!

The third dose of something new came that Sunday when I went to a Tina Faulkner Elders workshop in Kinross. I admire Tina greatly. Her taiji and qigong are beautiful to watch in the way that energy radiates from her perfect movements and her smile illuminates the world around her. She trained with her father, Master Gordon Faulkner then attended Beijing University and trained with a number of masters, currently Chen Lisheng, before setting up her own school in Stonehaven.

The title of the workshop was 3 Circles and 5 Bows. It turned out to be not an esoteric new qigong routine but more pilates! Well, not exactly. We were standing up for a start. But the circles consisted of the spine, shoulders and hip and the bows are the spine, two arms and two legs. So there were lots of exercises designed to strengthen our core and keep our joints flexible. These are foundation exercises that work underneath the muscle and bone directly into the soft tissue. This finer level of releasing and connecting into the soft tissue is what underpins the development and transformation of the ‘Qi body’ so we can move and guide our qi more effectively.

In between, of course, on the Saturday, I had fun in Whitehouse with the ladies who came to go over Ba Duan Jin and learn The Healing Promise of Qi.

Something old and something new. Good for me and good for you!

 

Qigong in a Glasgow Garden

During the Merchant City Festival this summer, we discovered a gem of a garden just off the High Street in Glasgow. It’s Greyfriars Community Garden, run by and for local residents, who grow the most amazing things in 2 tonne containers that Jewson and the like deliver sand and stone in. The gardens are like mini allotments for people who live in nearby flats and tenements.

Unfortunately the land is owned by developers who will soon be wanting to realise their investment by building flats but, in the meantime, it’s not sitting derelict and unloved, it’s been transformed into a haven of peace in this busy corner of Glasgow. The wild flower garden in particular is like a meadow, full of wild flowers – you could be anywhere but in the city.

It seemed to me that it would be a lovely spot to practise taiji or qigong so I offered to run a couple of free sessions the next time the garden is open to the public. That time will be Doors Open Day, which runs from Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th October.

I’ll be doing two sessions, Shibashi and Daoyin Baojian Gong, on the Saturday and Sunday.

Please keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain!

What is this thing called Qi?

The next workshop is called The Healing Promise of Qi and is based on Roger Jahnke’s book of that name. However, in order to use qi as a healing tool it helps to understand a little bit about it.

What is Qi?

We can think of qi as a life force – an energy, the vibratory nature of phenomena. You can’t touch it but you can feel it. It is working continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels and is recognised by many ancient cultures under different names, such as ‘prana’ or ‘Great Spirit’.

The Three Treasures

Qi is one of the Three Treasures (San Bao) along with Jing, or Essence and Shen, which is similar to what we call the Mind and Spirit. The Mind-Spirit is a combination of Jing and Qi, so we can see the reason for the maxim ‘A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body.’

Where is Qi?

Like the song, qi is all around us, in heaven and earth, trees, flowers and water, as well as the meridians in our bodies. Thus there are different kinds of qi. We are born with Yuan Qi, which is inherited from our ancestors. Then we absorb postnatal qi from food, water and the environment. There is wei qi, which is protective qi that flows at the surface of the body and each organ has its own qi. According to daoist cosmology, the two most fundamental forms are yin qi and yang qi, the primordial feminine and masculine energies.

How does it work?

“Contemporary biophysics and new era cell biology are confirming much of what the ancients Daoist investigators of Qi seemed to intuit. We know that the universe is alive and dynamic with various forces including gravity, cosmic rays and the energetic frequencies of the sun. In qigong theory  a profound force enters the human system from the universe – heaven energy – and an equally potent and subtle force enters the human body from the earth, which we know is a huge magnet – earth energy…. The resources of heaven gather in the qi reservoir of the head and influence particularly the upper body. The resources of earth gather in the lower belly reservoir and influence the lower body.

“The heaven and earth link together through what is called the Central Taiji Channel… The connection of heaven and earth in the human system, through the Central Taiji Channel, parallels the vertebral column and the central flow of blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid and neurological activity.”1

Qi naturally flows through the meridians, nourishing and balancing. Like water in a pipe, if it becomes blocked, qi becomes stagnant and leads to swelling, pain and ill health: or, if there is insufficient supply, the body becomes weak and open to attack by bacteria and viruses.

Like a feng shui practitioner, we can recognise when something is not working smoothly and try to remedy it. This can be accomplished through acupuncture points using needles, cups or hand pressure but we can also use simple specific exercises to work on these points and to ensure a good nourishing flow of healthy qi. You can practise these qi gong exercises or energy work exercises at any time for health maintenance. You don’t have to wait until you’re ill!

The first part of the exercises associated with Roger’s Qigong form involve finding qi in our own bodies, becoming aware of the qi in the environment and gathering heaven and earth qi to send through the body.

The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke.

 

Silk Reeling Practise

Our next workshop will be based on the Ten Principles of taiji and qigong, first mentioned in The Canon of Taiji Chuan.

I studied these with the inspiring Barry McGinlay of the Tai Chi Life School at Tai Chi Caledonia one year. Like most worthwhile exercises, they are easy to say, but not so easy to do. It’s all very well listing the ten principles and talking about them but how do you practise them in a workshop? 

Since they are very much about linking upper and lower, inner and outer and so on, what we need are simple exercises that use the whole body. We want to be able to feel the way energy moves from the earth, through bubbling spring (yong quan) in the foot, up the legs, through the waist, up and through to the fingers. We repeat these exercises (as) many times (as you wish) so that you can explore the effect we are concentrating on.

If you already practise taiji, you already know a number of suitable exercises, such as brush knee twist step and fair lady works the shuttle. In the workshop, I’ll be offering silk reeling exercises.

Silk was and still is an important product in the Chinese economy. The silkworm larva wraps itself in a cocoon. To obtain silk from the cocoon, it has to be drawn out or reeled out extremely carefully. The action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. If you go too fast, the silk thread becomes too thin and breaks. If you pull too slowly, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled and lumpy. Thus, silk reeling is a highly skilled art. The movements are continuous, cyclic, spiralling and performed at constant speed – exactly what we are looking for in a taiji exercise.

Silk reeling can be practised single or double handed, solo and with a partner. The movements trace a taijitu (yinyang symbol) pattern using the waist while shifting the weight from leg to leg.

It’s a very popular exercise in Chen style taiji and I also spent a week at Caledonia with Master Wang Hai Jun, who makes them look wonderfully elegant and effortless. If you want to do some homework in advance, here’s a link.