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  • What: An ancient healing system which focuses on the restoration of holistic balance through gentle breathing techniques and slow movements

  • Origins: Qigong can be traced back some two thousand years in ancient China.

  • Benefits:Qigong can harmonise, strengthen and have a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems. It increases the supply and flow of energy throughout the body, can have a variety of rejuvenating effects and is believed to increase longevity as it induces calm mental and emotional states.

  • Journal:Click here

Day 9, 23/09/11: Discovering Qigong - China

A new day brought with it a different mountain, today we headed to a Taoist Mountain (Mount Qingcheng). The route alongside many other pilgrims was one of many steps, a boat and a cable car. Each step required a great presence of mind as some were large, some small, some tall and some shallow; nothing could be taken for granted.

The first stop was at The Dujiangyan Irrigation system. Now my only previous experience with water irrigation was through some time in Australia working on very basic water systems. Basically clearing out crap and re-opening channels.

With that in mind, this irrigation system represents the very nature of what it means to heal. Just like clearing out water channels to cultivate smooth and consistent flow Master Wan and his students have been working to release energy blockages. The aim, as I see it in both practices is to cultivate unrestricted flow, reduce stagnation and clear blockages.

The irrigation system was immense; the Chinese certainly like to make grand statements. In this instance discretion is certainly not the best part of valour. Built 2,200yrs ago by an engineer, Li Bing and his son this network of water channels and catchment pools has stood the test of time, along with a few earthquakes.

Over lunch I was telling Mary the fable of the beggar and the butterfly and was just talking about the Psychosynthesis perspective of stable systems within a changing system i.e. the caterpillar, the chrysalis, the butterfly; when pitter pattering behind us on the windowsill was a beautiful specimen. With haggard wings and a tired lethargy this butterfly looked somewhat defeated; the glass pane serving only to separate it from the world.

Gently, with Master Wan's support Mary lifted, tentatively at first the butterfly, releasing it with intent outside.

As we arrived at the Taoist mountain, Mt Qingcheng everything felt different. There's definitely a more authentic feel to this place, more so than any of the Buddhist places we've visited. The tops of the neighbouring peaks radiated deep green; here everything looked vibrant, fresh; alive.

Mount Qingcheng is believed to be one of the places where Taoism originated. Nowadays, particularly in the West it is perhaps better known for its portrayal in the DreamWorks animated film Kung Fu Panda 2.

At the top we played qigong and then sat in meditation. We practiced in front of a non-descript water well; basically a naked, unglamorous hole in the floor. It is believed that this well is where the fabled Lao Tzu practiced daily for years. Although the area looked pretty desolate, the atmosphere was so still; so peaceful.

In the evening we ate a vegetarian Sichuan meal, although it was spicy I really liked the food. Situated outside was a 7-11 shop so I was also able to replenish the vital stockpile of snicker bars.

After the meal a few of us headed to a traditional Sichuan show at the local opera house. Now I've been to a few of these in various countries but I have to say this was brilliant. The musician who played the two string instrument was easily comparable to Vanessa Mae or Nigel Kennedy.

With a combination of hand shadows and face changing it was a very entertaining evening. Laughter filled the air as tea was poured from the spouts of large metal watering cans. It felt like bearing witness to a live show of 'China's got talent'.

The face changing blew me away; the transformation of not only the masks but of the entire outfit was seamless. Of course the image of a hand shadow dog swallowing a hand shadow rabbit will stay with me forever, such an ingenious moment.

As red lanterns illuminated the sky we left the open air opera house; inside a warm sense of contentment radiated.