Students are always looking for tips and tricks for practicing Qigong, Tai Chi, Meditation, and even Yoga. I do my best to help by offering lots of tips in my classes and on my blog. But you don’t need a long list of tips and tricks to succeed in these arts.
All you really need to do is follow the 3 Golden Rules.
Three rules? Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can. Having taught thousands of people in a bunch of different countries, I can say with confidence that the 3 Golden Rules will solve about 75% of the problems that you’ll face.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 3 Golden Rules.
Rule #1: Let Go of your Worries
Worry will find all kinds of creative ways to sneak in. That’s okay, and it’s normal. The trick is to let go of the worries after they sneak in.
How do you let them go? Just do it! A gentle exhalation through the mouth may help, but don’t start worrying about how to let go of worry! And don’t worry if you have a lot of worries sneaking in. Just let them go as best as you can.
Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” – Jesus [Matthew 6:25-33]
Why this is important: Because worrying block the flow of Qi. This is true during your Qigong, Tai Chi, Meditation, or Yoga practice, but it’s also true throughout your day. Whenever you are worrying, your energy is stifled. As soon as you let go of those worries, the energy will start to flow again.
Remember that worry is a useless emotion (see the wonderful quote from Jesus above). It never changes anything. All it does is block the flow of Qi in your body.
Rule #2: Let Go of your Thoughts
Thoughts will creep in. This is natural. It happens to all of us, even masters. Let them go, over and over.
If you say, “I tried, but I can’t!” that’s a thought too. Let it go. Don’t let the letting go of thoughts turn into more thoughts. You can’t think your way out of thinking.
Why this is important: Because thoughts block you from entering the Zen Mind. If you’re thinking, you’re not in a meditative state of mind. And if you’re not in a meditative state of mind, then you’re not getting the best results from your practice.
Rule #3: Enjoy the Exercise
Just enjoy whatever you’re doing. If you’re doing Lifting the Sky, enjoy it. Enjoy the movement, your breathing, the flow, the experience. If you’re doing Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow, then just enjoy that. If you’re practicing Yoga asanas, enjoy them!
Why this is important: Because enjoyment deepens the Zen Mind and stimulates the flow of Qi. In other words, enjoyment does the opposite of worrying and thinking. Whereas worrying and thinking block the flow of Qi and pull out out of the Zen Mind, enjoyment pulls you back in and simultaneously gets the Qi flowing. What a great deal!
Applying the 3 Golden Rules
Over the years, I’ve been amazed at how many of my students’ issues can be solved by following these 3 Golden Rules. It’s almost like a joke. A student comes to me with _______ problem, and I “solve” it with the 3 Golden Rules. I’ve even used the 3 Golden Rules to help people from other meditation traditions, like Yoga or Vipassana.
Let’s analyze some common practice problems, and solve them with the 3 Golden Rules.
Problem: You’re are enjoying your practice, but then you start worrying about whether or not you’re doing the form of Lifting the Sky (or any exercise) correctly.
Solution: Use Rule #1. Let go of this useless worry. Just let it go without fussing. If the worry comes back, let it go again. And again. Remember that worrying blocks the flow of Qi. So the worry is worse than any physical mistakes you might be making.
Tip: Intentionally make some mistakes in the physical form. Since the physical form is not that important, these mistakes don’t matter. By making mistakes on purpose, you may find that you’re able to let go of worry more easily. Try it.
Problem: You can’t clear your mind of thoughts.
Solution: Use Rule #2. Start by noticing the thought. What were you thinking about? Catch yourself in the act. When you do this, it means that you’ve stepped outside of the stream of thoughts. (Many people get so swept away with their thoughts that they can’t even identify them. In other words, they are controlled by their thoughts, instead of the reverse.)
Tip: Wait for thoughts, as if waiting in ambush. Don’t expect the mind to be perfectly clear. Your mind won’t be perfectly clear until you are enlightened, which is probably not going to happen next week. Instead, expect thoughts to come in. And when they do — be ready to let them go!
Problem: You’re practicing daily, but you’re not getting the results that you would like.
Solution: Use Rule #3. Do whatever it takes to enjoy yourself. Focus on the joy of breathing. Feel the relaxing effect of the exhalation, or the nourishing feeling of the inhalation. Or you can focus on the movement. Feel the wonderful stretch at the top of Lifting The Sky, or the amazing spinal decompression in Carrying the Moon. Find something to enjoy. It’s there.
Tip: Acknowledge that these techniques are inherently enjoyable as long as we remain in the present. It’s only when we slip into thoughts about the past or worries about the future that the experience becomes unpleasant.
The 3 Golden Rules in Daily Life
Perhaps even better than using the 3 Golden Rules for your practice is using them for your daily life. This is what Zen is all about — enriching our everyday life. We aim to practice Zen all day, every day. Here are a few examples:
Problem: You hate your job.
Solution: Pick one work task with a clear goal, and then immerse yourself in it, even if it isn’t enjoyable. Focus 100% of your energy and attention on the task — for only 15 minutes. Do not allow anything to distract you during those 15 minutes. Let go of any irrelevant thoughts that creep in.
Tip: In the beginning, it will be hard to do this for 15 minutes without getting distracted. But keep trying. Once you get the hang of it, I recommend that you stick to 15-minute “bursts”. That’s about as long as most humans can focus before losing concentration. So do 15 minutes, take a break, and then do another 15-minute burst.
Problem: Your back hurts.
Solution: Notice how often you worry about your back pain. Catch yourself in the act as often as possible. This is the first step. After you can do this easily, start letting go of the worry in addition to noticing it. Use Rule #2 to let it go.
Tip: Remember that your back pain absolutely has an emotional component. So by worrying all the time, you are actually perpetuating the pain. If you can successfully let go of the worry, the pain itself will often melt away.
Problem: You are in a rut with your tennis game (or golf, or basketball, or whatever), and you keep losing.
Solution: Use Rule #3. Enjoy yourself. Remember when you absolutely loved to play the game? Has that changed? If you were winning in the past but are losing now, then you’re probably not enjoying yourself as much as you used to. This is a lose-lose situation. Not only are you not enjoying yourself, but you’re losing as well!
Tip: Go back to enjoying the game. Make a concerted effort to enjoy yourself, no matter what. In fact, purposely plan to lose the game, but have a great time doing it. If you rekindle your love for the game, if you enjoy the experience, then you’ll gradually start winning again. But when that happens, don’t fall into the same cycle again!
Have you been able to use the 3 Golden Rules in your practice or your daily life? I’d love to hear the details, and so would many of my readers. Go ahead and post your experiences in the comments below.
Edit: I should add that the 3 Golden Rules will only solve problems IF you are practicing regularly. If not, then the first step is to use the correct Qigong dosage. And remember they will only solve 75% of the issues. There may be other important reasons why you’re not healing.