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 via my blog, as well as in my classes. 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.
My teacher, Grandmaster Wong, has seen it all. He has taught nearly 100,000 people over a period of 50 years, and has publicly answered thousands of questions on his website. You’d be hard pressed to ask a question that he hasn’t already answered.
And you know what he found with all of that experience? Can you guess what he came up with to address 80% of the issues that students face? Yep — the 3 Golden Rules. Without further ado, here they are:
Rule #1: Let Go of your Worries
Worry (and similar emotions) will find all kinds of creative ways to sneak in. But it doesn’t matter. Just let go of the worry. How do you let them go? Just do it! A gentle exhalation through the mouth also helps.
Why this is important: Because worries block the flow of Qi.
Rule #2: Let Go of your Thoughts
Thoughts will creep in. This is natural. It happens to all of us, even me and my teacher. But 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 the Zen Mind.
Rule #3: Enjoy the Experience
Just enjoy whatever you’re doing. If you’re doing Lifting the Sky, enjoy it. Enjoy the movement, the breathing, the flow, the experience. If you’re doing Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow, then just enjoy that. Simple.
(Note: My teacher phrases the 3 Golden Rules slightly differently. He says, “Don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and enjoy yourself.” I changed the phrasing to make things easier for an American audience.)
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. What’s even better is when students start solving their own issues by applying the 3 Golden Rules!
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 or not.
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 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: 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.