Wisdom Chi Gung: Practices for Enlivening the Brain with Chi Energy by Mantak Chia, Destiny Books, 2005, 2008.
When reviewing a book, I always ask myself who else might be interested in it. This book has many audiences. Here are just some of the people who might want to read it.
Chapter 1) practitioners of meditation
A shocking report from Vienna: scientific studies on the effect of Eastern meditation on brain waves reveals that Buddhist and Zen meditation practices disconnect a person from the outer world and deplete physical energy. According to the scientists, as well as Mantak Chia, only Taoist meditation helps the practitioner gain energy.
Chapter 2) anyone interested in “monkey mind” and its debilitating loss of energy Monkey mind is here defined as the disconnection of the brain from the body. According to Chia, smiling into the organs is key to keeping the brain from overheating or becoming “cooked.” Organs (other than sexual organs) along with “tan tiens” (energetic centers in the body) are superior in storing energy; they even store the energy generated by strong emotions.
Sexual organs and our brain, on the other hand, generate a lot of energy, but can’t store it well. Along with the inner smile, the fusion practice is the key to connecting the organs and tan tiens with the brain in order to store and reuse energy that it loses during the day. Taoism asserts that the “second” (or “gut”) brain and the organs communicate and share energy with the “first” (head) brain, even during sleep.
While the a cautionary note on page viii of this book clearly disclaims any medical use for these practices, one can easily see a possibilities for those with mobility issues or diseases involving energy imbalances. Diabetes mellitus, type 2, for example, has now become an “epidemic” in the United States, often afflicting children, a group previously untouched by it. Our materialistic, blame-the-victim, society points to soft drink and snack consumption as the cause.
However, diabetes is a disease of too much storageof and not enough accessto energy.
This lack of access to energy in the diabetic’s body makes for tiredness, crankiness, and depression. It also exacerbates cravings for quick fixes like sweets, cigarettes, and caffeine, along with rage, risky behavior, and other adrenaline rushes in hopes of raising the energy level in the body. Could Mantak Chia’s Inner Smile and Cosmic Fusion practices help? I think it’s certainly worth a try.
Chapter 3) athletes and other physically active people
Returning to the main subject of Chapter one, the brain waves study in Vienna, we learn that energy isn’t lost only because of the way we use our brains. The way we use our bodies also makes us less and less effective. A study of professional athletes shows they too lose energy. That is because their muscles become tense with use. Chia sets forth his ideal state of relaxation in meditation for maximizing energy, stamina and strength. Then he tells how to attain this state.
As usual he gives a nod to leaders of other religions in order to connect readers to his own religion of Taoism. In this case, he mentions Buddha and Jesus. Neither of these great leaders, he notes, put their energy into a church or into an external type of worship. Each looked inside himself for wisdom. The body is the Taoist’s temple too. Smiling first into the heart allows one to begin to build the inner temple. The heart, like the gut, has a brain of its own which can also help preserve and increase energy. The heart he refers to as the “third brain.” The gut he refers to as the “second brain.”
In Chapter two Chia offers quotes about our gut brain (the enteric nervous system) from a 1996 New York Times article. In this chapter he offers an astounding story by a heart surgeon about cellular memory in a heart transplant patient. (Chia says the title is The Cold Heart, but apparently he means The Heart’s Code by Paul P. Pearsall.)
Chapter three concludes with instructions for doing the sitting version of the spinal cord breathing exercise. I found this exercise easy to follow, fun, and stimulating. It’s the first step to begin the Chi Gung Wisdom practice described in the next chapter.
Chapter 4) those who want to have fun and feel way younger Here we add a laugh to our smile and activate the Three Fires. Previously in Chapter two, Chia mentions the three states of water, (ice, water, and steam). He says that Taoists know that fluids are the source of all energy. Here, standing up to do the spinal cord breathing exercise, we get the body’s fluids moving. We have three “pumps” along our spine to help get fluids up to our brain and upper body. In this way we don’t “dry out” or freeze up with age.
Laughing is another way of breathing. It activates the tan tien. It gets things inside, like the blood, flowing. It helps the heart work with less effort. Here you learn to laugh in three different ways.
The Three Fires are activated in the tan tien, kidney, and heart. Then the brain begins to be rejuvenated.
As with Chia’s book, The Inner Smile (reviewed last month), here too Kan and Li, the elements for water and fire in the Taoist system, create an inner alchemy. The Wisdom Chi Gung Practice can fill a person with enhanced life force. In this chapter’s final set of exercises, the body’s organs are brought into play with an inner smile, and we may combine our chi (energy) with the “Universal Energy.” After this cosmic journey, we laugh again, learning, if you haven’t already tried something like “laughing Yoga”, to laugh at ourselves laughing at nothing.
Most importantly, at the end of this chapter, we learn the practice of “ending the meditations” so we can get back to our usual activities with the new energy we’ve gained.
Chapter 5) multitaskers, writers, musicians, and type A personalities During the discussion of the fusion practice in his book Cosmic Fusion: The Inner Alchemy of the Eight Elements, Chia mentions this practice enables a person to do 15 to 20 things at once. (And I’ve thought it was so great I could do two things at once!) Chia returns to the idea of the first (head) brain and second (gut) brains. He wants to teach us to nourish these brains so they can help us accomplish more.
Western and Eastern ways of viewing nutrition are set out side-by-side for use in feeding the first brain. Unlike Western (chemical) nutrition, the Eastern (energetic) way of nutrition is based on the needs of the organs and make use of our senses. Spiritual food (“True Breath”) for the whole body follows. Then we learn a about a traditional Taoist practice called Chi Nei Tsang for use in feeding the second brain.
Chia came to link Chi Nei Tsang with the second brain after reading about research on the gut brain reported in the 1996 New York Times article. Chi Nei Tsang aims to release emotions and break up blockages in the abdominal area. Here Chia does promise relief from physical diseases, even from suicidal thoughts, after six month’s use of the Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage practice. As the gut (intuitive) brain “softens,” it becomes able to store and use more information. Then it can do more of the work of the first brain, while the head brain gets some needed rest.
This practice is easy to learn, fun, and best of all, you can do it while lying in bed in the morning.
Chapter 6) those interested in the links between Taoism and The I Ching This chapter is called “Clearing the Spirit to Increase Wisdom.” We’re going to give this chapter a whole review next time in Daykeeper. We’ll be looking at the way Chia talks about Kan, Li,yang and yin when introducing Taoist memory and brain enhancement techniques in this chapter. Kan is the name of the I Ching trigram for water. Li is the name of the I Ching trigram for fire. Along with these two major I Ching trigrams, we’ll take a closer look at the most widely-known Taoist symbol, the Taijitu, or as it’s more commonly called, the yin-yang symbol.
Chapter 7) those interested in pictures, big and little Last, but not least, the final chapter of this book contains a summary of the theory and all the exercises in the Wisdom Chi Gung practice. And speaking of pictures, did I mention the gorgeous illustrations in this, as in other books by Mantak Chia? Artists, illustrators, visionaries, and cosmic lovers of the senses will find their fill here too.