Daoist Nei Gong – The Philosophical Art of Change
by Damo Mitchell
Paperpack 240 pp. $24.95
Singing Dragon, Philadelphia, PA ( 2011)
As human beings we are interested in strengthening or health in all respects. By strengthening our physical body, mind and spiritual nature we hope to gain longevity and a higher quality of life. Practitioners of qigong , taiji, and other mind body disciplines will gain some insights in reading this book.
This book is not a treatise on Daoist philosophy and practices. However, reader is brought into an understanding of the concepts relating to an attaining real internal arts skill. Through the practices of internal arts such as qigong, taiji, et.al. and practicing Nei Gong results in the awakening of the energy body along with cultivation of our consciousness.
“Nei Gong is not a system of exercises. It is a series of internal changes which a person may go through in order to follow a path to the Dao. “( pp. 15-16)
The author creates a teaching environment as if the reader is an “inner-room” student by using very clear teachings. Nei Gong practices serve to condition the physical body(jing), then the energy body (Qi) as well as consciousness (Shen). A serious practice of Nei Gong can make the following changes; soften and relax muscles, old injuries begin to vanish, increased immune function, calmer mind, good body alignment , and an awakening of the internal energy. The author suggests that the practice of Nei Gong will enhance and strengthen previously learned internal art forms.
The author discusses in detail the stages involved with Nei Gong practice which are in sequence, conditioning and preparing the physical body, regulating the mind and breath, awakening the energy system, movement of yang qi, attainment of internal vibration, converting qi to shen and converting shen to dao. Nei Gong practices are not recommended for children and teens, pregnant women, have a history of mental illness, and being in a highly emotional state.
Two important practices are clearly described and act as a thread throughout the book are Sung breathing and a qigong practice set the author titles Ji Ben Qigong ( Fundamental Energy Exercises). The techniques of Sung breathing are designed to rid the body of physical tension. In practicing Sung breathing there is removal of tension from large muscle groups, connective tissue(ligaments, tendons and fascia). The removal of these tensions helps to re -align the skeletal bone structure as the bones relax into their natural position. The practice of Sung breathing entails 3 phases of practice. Phase 1 is beginning Sung breathing, Phase 2, breathing in tranquility and breathe out tension, and phase 3 breathe with heaven and earth . An entire chapter ( Chapter 3) is devoted to the details and concepts based on principles of Daoist teachings.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the principles and practice of Ji Ben Qigong. This qigong practice consists of 8 postures . “ They are based around the principle of moving the body’s joints in the most natural and efficient way possible. They only circulate Qi in the direction which is normal for the meridian system and so they should not clash with any other qiqong system. “( p. 101) The postures have very interesting titles, namely, compressing the pearl, flying hands,opening the chest, upholding the moon, swimming dragon, diagonal flying, cow turns its head, and the heavenly bow. Each exercise is given a detailed explanation along with photos of the movements. The photos, however, do not cover all of the movements described for each posture, but are adequate for self study.
The book transitions into a detailed discussion of the importance of the kua, proper stances, and getting in touch with your energy body. In awakening the energy system one needs to ask the following questions: Is my physical body relaxed? Are my energetic pathways blocked? Are your emotions fairly well balanced? Using the practices of Sung breathing, Ji Ben Qigong, proper alignments, microcosmic and macrocosmic orbit circulation of qi are systematically discussed to give the reader the best outcome for his or her efforts.
The last couple of chapters deal with practices for the shen (spirit). The importance of meditation techniques are discussed , the functions of shen , the notion of the “heart mind” in controlling our emotions and a nice discussion of the 5 Virtues, contentment, love(empathy), courage(conviction) , clarity and patience. The reader is advised to “Question everything you do, carefully consider everything your are taught but remember to do with an open mind and an open heart. “ ( p. 221)
In conclusion, the author suggests that the “ Dao is accessible by everyone in one way or another. The form it takes only depends upon how much you are willing to put in. “( p.224) As with any worthwhile goal in life, it takes patience, diligent practice, good teaching and persistence to get the maximum benefits. So it is with Nei Gong. This book will give the reader enough insights to persue the study of Nei Gong further. The practices of Sung breathing and the Ji Ben Qigong set are bound to be of value to all who read this book.
by Sal Casano, Ph.D. RNReview
Salvatore Casano R.N., PhD – a registered nurse with a PhD in Holistic Health, and is an ATCQZ certified Tai Chi and Qigong instructor. His Tai Chi and Qigong journey began over 20 years ago while working as a chemistry instructor, when he felt the need for a more holistic approach to health care. Participating in many programs and projects relating to health, Dr. Casano educates the community on living a healthier lifestyle to avoid obesity and diabetes, and as a way to reduce stress. Over the years, he has learned from many masters including Bill Philips, Marc Issacs, Richard Chu, as well as two ATCQA advisors, Dr. Roger Jahnke, and Bill Douglas. Dr. Casano, along with his wife Veronica, often sojourn together on his healing path, as they use their skills in helping others connect the mind, body, and spirit. They have four adult children, seven grandchildren, and a cat, “Tiger.”