The 3 Golden Rules for Qigong and Tai Chi

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Three rules?  Can it really be that simple?

Students are always looking for tips and tricks for getting better results with qigong and tai chi.  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.

Having taught thousands of people on 4 continents, I can say with confidence that the 3 Golden Rules will solve about 70% of the problems that you’ll likely 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, and meditation, 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 meditation.

Let’s analyze some common practice problems, and solve them with the 3 Golden Rules.

Example #1

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. 

Example #2

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!

Example #3

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:

Example #4

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.

Example #5

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.

Example #6

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.

Summing Up

There you have it, 3 rules to help solve 70% of your mistakes.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you had experiences using the 3 golden rules? Got any questions? Post your comments below. 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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14 Responses to The 3 Golden Rules for Qigong and Tai Chi

  1. Geoff Busbridge November 14, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Excellent advice, nicely boiled down to three easy points!

    I tell my students that it doesn’t matter if the wrong side is forward or the wrong arm is out or whatever, as long as they breathe and relax. Chi kung is like gravity – it works whether you worry about it or not, whether you understand it or not, so it’s best to just hop right in, relax, enjoy yourself, and let your chi kung work.

    Nice post, Sifu. Keep up the good work!

    • Sifu Anthony November 14, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. I mostly agree with you, except for the part about “whether you worry about it or not”. Worrying blocks the flow of Qi, so it’s really important for people to let go of their worry. Hmmm…If only we had a short set of rules to help people to do that… 🙂

  2. Melissa November 14, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I’m so glad you wrote about this, I was actually going to send you an email about how the three rules have helped me tremendously in chasing off thoughts!
    The words I put with these 3 rules are: Relax, Let Go, Enjoy. When I feel thoughts or worry creep in, I use these words over and over again, and as I go through them, I check to make sure I’m doing them. So, I’ll say to myself, “relax”. Then I go through a mental check of all my muscles and make sure there is no place I’ve unknowingly tensed up, if I have, I relax those muscles again. Then “Let Go”. I let my mind think only of breathing or the motion I’m practicing. Then “enjoy”. I do exactly that. Really enjoy what I’m doing and how good it feels to practice.
    By using that as a “mantra” if you will, I can get through a practice session with virtually no thoughts. At some point I’m not even thinking of those three words, I’m thinking of… Nothing. That lasts a few seconds. Then the thoughts come back. And I start over again. 🙂
    It’s pretty awesome. It’s made my practice not quite the battle it has been in the past.
    I haven’t really made those 3 Golden Rules a part of my everyday life, though. I think I have something new to try this week!

    • Sifu Anthony November 14, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      I like your little “mantra”. Let us know how it works implementing the 3 Golden Rules into your daily life.

  3. Chow November 14, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    This is timely, I was just thinking about how these golder rules apply to kung fu practice, or how it applies to when you are starting to learn any sort of new technique.
    My line of thinking went like this:
    Enjoyment isn’t a problem, but when I’m learning a new technique such as a solo form or working toward applying pattern I learnt with a partner, there’s always a thought component—I have to think about how I can improve my form to get the technique right.
    An example: in the “shaolin against martial arts”, Sigung had us execute a throw: sit in a stance while pushing up on the partner’s chin/neck to throw him. Sihing pointed out that I was trying to muscle the throw by pushing backward, not pushing up. In this case, in the learning process, I had to at least have to have awareness of what I was doing wrong, but then I have to consciously integrate his helpful correction.
    I was curious if Sibaak had some thoughts on this?

    • Sifu Anthony November 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      Good question, Chow. Following the 3 Golden Rules is both harder and easier during sparring or partner work (like Push Hands). On the one hand, there’s the added pressure of another person. On the other hand, pressure can make diamonds.

      I find Push Hands especially helpful for this. There’s pressure there. If you don’t do pay attention, you’re going to get pushed. But getting pushed is no big deal, so the pressure is easy to handle.

      So what happens is that you relax into the Push Hands drill, and you start to apply the 3 Golden Rules. If you get pushed — check the 3 Golden Rules. You were probably thinking or worrying, or both. Or maybe you’re not having fun? That’s a big one. If you stop having fun, you’ll tense up, and that makes you much easier to push.

      Of course, in the learning stage (like you described in your question), you have to do some “thinking”. You have to remember to move your right hand, or your left foot. But as soon as you can, start letting go of the thoughts. And even while you’re “thinking”, you don’t have to worry, and you can still enjoy yourself!

      • Chow November 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

        Thank you Sibaak, that was the answer I needed. I forget that I have perfectionist tendencies and get frustrated when I can’t get something right… example #6.
        Thank you for a great post.

  4. MC (Portugal) November 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – Zen song 😉

  5. Fred Chu November 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    This post, as well as the “How to Supercharge Your Practice” post, is extremely powerful stuff. I’m coming to the end of a three month “course” and evaluating my aims, objectives, successes, and failures. Thank you for the confidence- and awareness-building website, Sifu!

  6. Leo Prodz January 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Wow this is a great and very complete post about the 3 golden rules. Thank you Anthony!!

  7. Mark January 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Great page, great website.

    It’s amazing how reassuring and how helpful this advice is.

    I know the rules, and have repeated them thousands of times, but expanding on them here really helps.

    Thank you.

  8. Vera June 28, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    3Golden Rules is nice consolidation! Often during my teaching I see a student with posture and movement that reflect mind being somewhere else.and I talk about being in the moment.But I found people do not really know how to enjoy..
    For myself I sometimes realize during breathing meditation that my mind is on two separate planes. I notice the thoughts and the stream of zen underneath. I do not fight this, thoughts are ideas that come to me during that time. Is that ok?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 28, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

      Yes, it’s okay as long as you’re not entertaining or following the thoughts. Just observe them. They will evaporate on their own if you just observe them.

  9. Mark Good April 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    You continue to provide the things I’m interested in ! It is better than the medication the Doctor put me on ! Thank You Again, & Keep It Flowing Zen !

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