There is one common thread shared by different types of meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other spiritual practices: They all can help to improve the body’s natural energy system, known in Chinese medicine as Qi (pronounced “chee”). My own understanding of Qi is based on the teachings of Chan Master YongHua, with whom I have been studying Chan meditation for over seven years. During this time, I have participated in meditation retreats twice a year, each lasting from 4 to 8 weeks, with 14 one-hour meditation sessions daily. Through years of this practice, some meditators look younger and younger, and others have resolved serious health issues, and here’s how.
We all have Qi energy flowing through our system. Just like our blood circulates, our Qi circulates. With better Qi flow, we can improve our physical and mental health, and recover our natural glow. When we meditate, we can increase Qi flow by clearing Qi blockages and minimizing outflows, or leakages in our energy system. For instance, various meditation and yoga techniques are designed to help us look inside, instead of looking outside, thereby improving our concentration. When we observe inside, the leakages in our Qi energy system, known as outflows, naturally decrease. For example, by observing our own breathing, we can reduce the scattered thoughts through which our energy is constantly flowing outwards. The less outflows we have, the stronger our body’s internal Qi flow will be.
In Chan Meditation, people are taught to sit in full lotus posture, or at least to train themselves towards reaching lotus posture. Sitting in full lotus helps our Qi flow become stronger much more effectively than other techniques. When we initially sit in the full lotus posture, the blood can’t circulate well due to the crossing of the legs. Therefore, it will be very uncomfortable at first. However, sitting in this posture will naturally help you build your concentration. As you sit longer in this posture, your body will naturally increase its Qi flow, in an attempt to get the blood moving through the constricted areas at your knees. When the pressure of your Qi builds up enough, it will finally push through where the legs are bent and all the pain and discomfort will suddenly disappear. Yogis call this the first pain barrier. This is the most effective way to enter Samadhi, a meditative state of concentration, and to clear out your Qi blockages.
According to Chinese medicine, all illnesses are caused by blockages in our Qi flow. By learning to sit longer in full lotus, we can clear more and more of these blockages, and thus experience tremendous health benefits, both mentally and physically.
For those unsure how to even get started meditating or clearing out their Qi blockages, here are some simple meditation pointers to help you master your craft:
- Meditate in a crossed legged posture. The best posture is full lotus.
- Don’t seek comfort in your meditation. This will not take you very far.
- Put your attention around your navel area.
- Don’t manipulate your breathing. Just breathe naturally.
- Recite “Amitabha,” “Yao-Shi-Ru-Lai,” or the mantra of your choice in your mind repeatedly.
- When you notice your mind wandering, return to your recitation.
- Keep meditating when you feel uncomfortable—push your limit a little further every day.
The more you can endure, the faster you will progress. If you can train yourself to strengthen your body’s Qi flow in this way, you will also be building up your mental strength. With greater mental strength, the difficulties of life will have less of an effect on you and you will naturally become more peaceful.
About the Author: Shana Han is the founder and CEO of Hansderma, Inc. and the creator of HanSkincare brand. She is now a frequent speaker and meditation instructor at various conferences and expos, and in recent years has dedicated her time to practice Chan Meditation and Mahayana Buddhism in order to overcome personal struggles. With her teacher’s help, Dharma Master YongHua, she started to teach Chan Meditation. She received her B.S. and B.A. in microbial engineering and business from Konkuk University in South Korea and studied international business management at UC Irvine.