Three rules? Can it really be that simple?
Students are always looking for tips and tricks for getting better results with qigong. 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 with qigong.
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 your qigong problems.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 3 Golden Rules.
Rule #1: Let Go of Worries
Worry will find all kinds of creative ways to sneak in to your practice. 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. 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 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 do it!” I’ve got news for you.
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 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 Moment
If you’re doing Lifting the Sky, enjoy it. Enjoy the movement, your breathing, the flow, the experience.
The mind will wander to the past or the future, but your job is to bring it gently back to the present moment — to right now.
Why this is important: Staying present, also called mindfulness, is an aspect of the Zen Mind and it 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 issues can be solved by following these 3 Golden Rules.
It’s become bit of a joke in my classes. A student comes to me with _______ problem, 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 tai chi.
Let’s analyze some common practice problems, and solve them with the 3 Golden Rules.
Problem: You’re enjoying your practice, but then you start worrying about whether or not you’re doing the form of Lifting the Sky correctly. Doubt creeps in, with it the negative self-talk.
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: Your mind is full of thoughts.
Solution: Use Rule #2. Start by noticing a thought. What were you just thinking about? Catch yourself in the act. When you do this, it means that you’ve stepped outside of the stream of thoughts and shifted into observer mode. This is the critical step in learning to cultivate the Zen Mind.
Tip: Wait for thoughts, like you’re a ninja waiting in ambush. Don’t expect the mind to be perfectly clear. Your mind won’t be 100% 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 had hoped for.
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 qigong is 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. Ideally, we want 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 start to 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!
There you have it, 3 rules to help solve 70% of your issues.
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 the 3 Golden Rules will only solve 70% of your issues. There may be other important reasons why you’re not healing.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you had experiences using the 3 Golden Rules? Got any questions? Post your comments below. Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong (pronounced "chee gung") to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Today, I'm the director of Flowing Zen, an international organization with students in 48 counties. I've been teaching qigong since 2005, I've served on the board for the National Qigong Association, and I’ve helped thousands of people to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. If you're ready to get started with qigong, there's no better way than my best selling book, which comes with free videos and meditations. The sooner you read my book, the sooner you can start healing! Click here to see my book on Amazon.
Geoff Busbridge says
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 says
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… 🙂
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 says
I like your little “mantra”. Let us know how it works implementing the 3 Golden Rules into your daily life.
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 says
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!
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.
MC (Portugal) says
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – Zen song 😉
Fred Chu says
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!
Leo Prodz says
Wow this is a great and very complete post about the 3 golden rules. Thank you Anthony!!
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.
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 says
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.
Mark Good says
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 !
Really enjoyed reading the post (and other posts). Laughed out loud on #1 as I see it so often in myself and others – I am worried, worried about being worried, worried about how to stop be worried, etc. I thought #2 was dead on. Letting go, not grasping at our thoughts. Easier said than done but well worth the trip. Liked #3 as well. When we “play’ we are relaxed. When we are relaxed our mind and body open up. When we open up all kinds of new discoveries are possible.
I was pleased to see that you say that the alpha or theta state is the ultimate aim, over the physical. The permanent moving meditative state. It took time for me to know when I had reached theta when training in hypnosis. Because it is so easy to slip into delta. Touching the spiritual level mentally is wonderful. You have 3 suggestions for people here. Personally I have trained myself never to seek happiness, because it is fleeting, then one has to keep finding something else to be happy about. My aim was to achieve Contentment. That encompasses everything. And you stay at peace within. It’s not easy. But well worthwhile.
hi,, i have recieed the covid 19 free course and all i can say is what a fantastic course .. thanks very much i have recieved other courses in the past ,, but nothing as good as this from the bottom of my heart thank you ,,,