In my latest book, Astrotheology for Life, in the chapter entitled "The Universe Within," I write that not only can the world's myths -- from virtually every culture and every inhabited continent and island of our planet -- be shown to allegorize the cycles of the heavens, but that the heavenly realms themselves also point towards and allegorize the invisible and infinite realm.
The chapter goes on to suggest that "the great cycle of the zodiac wheel, which forms the basis for the mighty 'battles' in many ancient epics, can also be show to have been overlaid in ancient times upon the human body, such that these great struggles can be understood to correspond not only to the endless interplay of light and dark that takes place in the great circle of the year, but also to the struggle between 'higher' and 'lower' in the human body itself, as we strive to elevate not only our consciousness but our vital energy" (223 - 224).
In his book entitled Chinese Shamanic Cosmic Orbit Qigong, Master Zhongxian Wu begins the book by recounting that,
When I was a child in China, I was curious about the way that the local Wu 巫(Chinese shaman) would give treatments to patients. How could an acupuncture needle release the pain when the Wu placed it in a suffering patient's body? How could chanting, meditation, and use of talisman's help patients recover from illness? 11.
He remembers that as a child, he was not given answers to his questions on this subject -- but that later, through decades of dedicated Qigong, he gradually began to find the answers, and he eventually came to the realization, as he says, "that ancient Wu 巫 (Chinese shamanism) is the root of all Chinese culture" (11). In support of this assertion, he explains that the observation of the cycles of the universal energies as they flow through Heaven, Earth, and Humanity "is the very source of classical Chinese culture, including Confucianism, Daoism, Classical Chinese Medicine and the martial arts" (14).
He explicitly relates the cycles of the heavens to the practice of circulating the flow of Qi (traditional character 氣 -- pronounced hei in Cantonese) when he is introducing the subject of that particular book, the Cosmic Orbit Qigong practice. Master Wu writes:
In Chinese, Zhou means cycle, circular, perfect, complete, and rotate; Tianmeans sky, heaven, and universe; together, the original meaning of Zhoutiandescribes the complete circle as made by the Earth's daily rotation around its axis. Commonly, Zhoutian translates as cosmic orbit. Through inner cultivation practices, ancient shamans discovered that the energetic patterns of human beings mirror those of the Universe. If the same patterns are reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest, macrocosmic (Universal level) scale to the smallest, microcosmic (e.g. living organisms and the cells, organelles, and particles within them) scale, they deduced that the flow of Qi in the body is just like the ceaseless rotation of the sun, moon, and stars. Therefore, in Qigong terminology, Zhoutian also refers to the specific pattern of Qi circulation in the body. The fundamental concept of balance in Chinese wisdom traditions holds that you will maintain health and experience well-being if Qi is free flowing in your body. 16.
Above is a video of Zhongxian Wu showing a some aspects of the Wu Cosmic Orbit Qigong practice. You can purchase the full instructional video of Master Wu teaching this practice on this page from his website.
The existence and circulation of qi (or hei) in the body is very real, and everybody who is alive in a physical body has this qi, whether he or she is aware of it or not. Previous posts touching on this subject including:
In an absolute treasure of a book entitled Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change, Master Damo Mitchell expounds on this subject and explains that in addition to our physical body, we also have an energy body and a consciousness body. In describing the energy body, he writes:
The energy body sits between the physical body and human consciousness. It is usually completely invisible to those who have not reached an accomplished level in the internal arts and for that reason it is usually overlooked within Western concepts of health and existence. It is comprised of innumerable channels and pathways of energy which we know as meridian. These energetic pathways transfer the energy known as Qi throughout the human body to our organs and tissues. It would be impossible to map out the entire human energy body due to its complexity but we can identify and work with some of the major meridians which are commonly used within therapeutic treatments like acupuncture and shiatsu. 40.
As part of the disciplines described in that book, practices designed to help awaken the energy body (and much more), Damo Mitchell describes a set of eight qigong exercises called the Ji Ben Qi Gong or "fundamental qigong [qi gong can be translated as 'energy work' or 'energy exercises']." Below is a video in which Damo Mitchell demonstrates these qigong exercises -- but note also that in the book he gives extensive detail on each one, including instructions for matching the breathing with the motions of the body.
The benefits of incorporating the kind of qi work described by Zhongxian Wu and Damo Mitchell into your life, if at all possible, I believe are very great. In fact, I am convinced that on one level, the ancient myths (from around the world) are teaching us about this very type of practice: the reflection within our own "microcosm" (our own body -- which does not just consist of a physical body) of the endless motions of the heavenly "macrocosmic" cycles themselves.
It is also quite likely that the forms of shamanic travel, ecstasy (or ex stasis: outside of the "static" physical body), projection of vision outside of the body or even into the body, and other manifestations of "out of body experience" is related to the integration and awakening of the energy body and the consciousness body -- a likelihood that Damo Mitchell in fact discusses at some length, such as on pages 218 and 219 (and elsewhere in the book).
There are of course very many techniques which have been given to or developed by men and women over the millennia for achieving these types of ex stasis abilities, but qigong, Daoist meditation, and Daoist Nei Gong are clearly systems that include this important concept. And I would argue that, in fact, all of the ancient sacred traditions in every culture -- and the ancient myths and stories that they preserved -- had some aspect of ecstasy or techniques for transcending the physical body as part of their ancient wisdom. Previous posts which have discussed that assertion can be found here, here, here, here and here, for example.
Note also that Damo Mitchell's teaching has been discussed in another previous post here, from the first day of this year 2017.
The understanding that all men and women have an energy body is clearly very ancient -- although this knowledge has now been largely forgotten in much of the world (primarily those under the influence of centuries of literalistic interpretation of the ancient sacred stories, stories which I believe can be conclusively demonstrated to be anything but literal in nature). In fact, this understanding has been and continues to be actively suppressed and also ridiculed.
However, I believe it can be shown to be present in the ancient wisdom given to all people. It is very interesting to point out, for example, that in the Daoist cosmology, as Damo Mitchell describes it, "The Realm of Consciousness gives birth to the Energetic Realm which gives birth to the Physical Realm" (see pages 19 and especially 157). Similarly, on a completely different continent, the wisdom tradition of the Lakota of North America teaches, in the words of the holy man Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) that when Crazy Horse had his vision, he went into "the world where there is nothing but the spirits of things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world." It should be evident that this description by Black Elk is describing a very similar understanding of the different realms as that described in the Daoist cosmology, in which this physical realm flows out of or is generated by the Invisible Realm.
Below is a series of human figures practicing postures as depicted silk panels discovered in an ancient tomb at Ma Wang Dui in China (probably dating to the period we describe as the second century BC or BCE). The figures clearly appear to be engaged in exercises very similar to the qigong forms described above (the figure second from left in the top seems to be performing something similar to the Diagonal Flying demonstrated by Damo Mitchell in the video above).
Everyone who lived back then had an energy body -- and so does everyone living today, including you. You may be interested in learning more about practices that can help you to awaken and become more integrated with your own, especially given the fact that there are today teachers such as Damo Mitchell and Zhongxian Wu who are able to assist in such awakening.
However, as Damo Mitchell also says in his book on Daoist Nei Gong, after initially trying to convince anybody who would listen that they should begin to practice this internal art, he now says that:
I have since come to realise that people simply move in to Nei Gong training when the time is right for them. It is more of a calling than anything else. [ . . . ] If you are not drawn to the practice then the time simply is not right for you. 21.
I hope that if you do feel called to explore these matters, you will find a way to do so. And I also believe that the wisdom preserved in the ancient myths may well contain additional insights for those undertaking this path, when the time is right.