As a meditation teacher, many people ask me how to use meditation to control chi, which is said to be important for health according to the laws of Eastern medicine.
Thankfully, there are many such exercises. Most of them derive from Taoism. And as many of you will know, I have previously written a guide to Taoist Meditation.
Today I will share the basics of Chi meditation with you. And I will cover some wonderful meditation techniques.
But first, you might be wondering just what chi is.
What Are Meditation And Chi Energy
I find the concept of chi fascinating. But it is a little hard to describe exactly what it is.
Peter Wayne [research director, Harvard’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine] tells THE DAILY MEDITATION that “chi” is hard to translate. He describes it as “vital energy”.
Chi, Qi, or Ki, is the energy of the universe. And it is the same energy that flows through you and me.
When this energy flows freely through your body and mind, you will be highly energised, healthy, and rarely tired.
It’s an energy that surrounds our being and “binds the universe together.” Bonus points if you noticed my reference to Yoda from Star Wars, our little green friend whose teachings are often based on the concepts of chi. [Read: Jedi Meditation]
Why chi is essential for health and healing
Chi has a storied background in traditional Eastern healing. Ancient texts explain that the energy runs through rivers called nadi, into our chakras. It is a process of subtle energy. And it is essential to our health. .
Limited research supports this. MRIs and EKGs reveal that our bodies are electromagnetic. And many healing techniques such as meditation and “Shiatsu” (massage) have been scientifically shown to stimulate electromagnetic energy in the body.
In the East, the concept of chi is a near universally accepted fact. And indeed, Eastern healing includes many techniques to cultivate the energy. We practise these exercises to help chi move freely through the body and mind.
And so there are many exercises for chi:
- Tai chi
We will discuss tai chi and qigong a little later. But first, let me show you my favorite chi meditation technique, which I often teach in my online meditation lessons.
Guided Chi Meditation
NOTE: I have given instructions for seated meditation. You can also practice tai chi meditation in a standing position. Indeed, standing meditation is the simplest pose used in Tai Chi according to Cynthia McMullen .
- Sit comfortably. Plant your feet squarely on the floor so that you feel grounded. Relax your knees and position them directly above your ankles. Distribute your weight evenly around your sitting muscles. Sit up straight with a straight spine. Roll your shoulders back. Tuck your chin slightly down so it extends your neck a little.
- Place your hands in Gyan mudra (palms-up on your thighs with your thumbs and index fingers touching)
- Breathe naturally while focusing your mind on your breath moving in and out of your lower abdomen. Paul Lam, [a member of the Tai Chi Association of Australia], states that proper breathing is essential in tai chi. He advises that while inhaling you focus on bringing life energy into the body, and when exhaling you focus on releasing it.
- With your eyes open, focus on a point at eye level in front of you. This point should be approximately six feet away. Do not move your eyes. Continue to focus on this point for 5 minutes.
- Move your eyes to a position approximately 3 feet away and 45 degrees down in front of you. Focus here for 5 minutes.
- Continuing to breathe in the same fashion, move your gaze to a point between your feet. Try not to move your head too much; only move your eyes. Focus here for 5 minutes.
- Continuing the same pattern, focus on the tip of your nose for five minutes. Both your eyes should be fixed on the same point.
- Close your eyes while still gazing towards the tip of your nose. Feel your breath entering through your nasal passage and moving through to your abdomen. The air will feel quite cold as you breathe in and quite warm when you breathe out. Continue for five minutes.
- Focus on the sound of your breathing for five minutes.
- Now focus on your lower abdomen for five minutes.
- Still sitting with your eyes closed, breathe in this fashion: Breathe in for three counts, hold for three counts, then breathe out for six counts.
- Imagine all impurities leaving your body as you breathe out. Rub your palms together counter-clockwise so that the palms warm, then hold them over your eyes, warming your eyes.
- Place your hands on your lower abdomen. Now open your eyes and sit still for a few moments.
- And you’re done!
Now you know how to do chi meditation. You can use this technique to start to control chi energy inside of you.
On Tai Chi & QiGong
Some of the best chi exercises include qigong and tai chi, which The Tai Chi and Chi Kung Institute calls “meditation in motion”.
Qigong is an exercise involving very precise poses that are specifically designed for cultivating chi. Tai Chi, meanwhile, is similar but not as complicated. Indeed, many people enjoy the simple Yang style, which is easy to get into.
We also have External Qigong, in which a gigong therapist uses the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to facilitate healing.
According to a 2010 article published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, both Internal Qigong and External Qigong do indeed influence the flow of energy and help improve mind-body functioning.
Tai Chi Meditation
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now take the “Holding A Ball” pose (arms in front, with one hand about a foot above the other, palms facing each other, like you’re holding a ball).
- Now, this is where we go from tai chi to meditation. We want to focus the mind on the position of the body, just like you do when you’re doing mindful breathing. To do this, start with the energy in the palms of your hands. You should be able to feel qi flowing through the palms of your hands. It is a warm and soft energy. Focus your mind on that energy. If thoughts enter your mind, simply let them pass.
- Very slowly rotate your arms so you end up with the hands the other way around (the hand that was on top will now be on the bottom). While you rotate your arms, mindfully observe the sensation of movement (similar to how you would focus on your legs in Zen Walking). The key is to focus your conscious awareness non-judgmentally on the sensation of your body moving.
- We are going to repeat the same process, rotating the hands again. However, this time you will focus on more of your body. So far, you have been focusing on your hands. Expand your focus so you are aware of the entire movement of the arm.
- Repeat the same process again and again, gradually increasing your awareness. So, with each repetition, you focus on a larger area of your body. By the end you will be able to focus mindfully on the movement of your entire body. That is the meditation aspect.
- Repeat the same process with different movements.
Benefits of Chi Meditation
Research from Seoul National University shows that meridians do exist. These are energy centres in the body that life energy flows through.
Researchers say that the meridian system allows energy to be relayed by biophotons and DNA.
How do we know this?
The Journal Of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena published research in which a dye was injected into the body to reveal the existence of the meridian system . This gives evidence to the traditional Eastern healing techniques that have existed for thousands of years.
Plus, there is research into the biofield, which The United States National Institutes of Health defines as “a massless field, not necessarily electromagnetic, that surrounds and permeates living bodies and affects the body.”
And so, there are certainly aspects of Eastern Healing that hold up to modern science.
Eastern Healing Works
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine investigated healing techniques that involve influencing the human biofield.
The researchers found that approximately two thirds of Eastern healing techniques are effective.
Those healing techniques focus on stimulating the flow of energy in order to enhance health. One effective way of doing this is with meditation.
Because meditation focuses the mind, it relaxes the body and improves the immune system. Plus it provides many other benefits.
Let me finish with a fun story about chi energy
There is a famous story in which a man is living in the Asian mountains. He is suffering from tuberculosis and only has a few days left to live.
The man ascends a mountain to its very peak. He sits on a rock and begins to meditate. While resting, he comes to accepts his fate. His mind and body become serenely calm. And he still sits there today, waiting for death.
But death is no longer inevitable. Why? Because he has gained acceptance and restored the flow of chi. And in doing so, he has completely healed himself.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison