Sunday, May 29, 2016

Qi Gong and Health

The following is an excerpt from the Level 3 Yi Fa Society book, "The Great Book of Yi Fa".

Qi Gong and Health

Practicing Qi Gong can provide various health effects. First, and centrally, it improves the connection to one's own body. This strengthens one's general physical well-being, and can improve the immune system, physical awareness, attentiveness, and strength. The movements and breathing improves circulation, the stance improves posture which is helpful for a variety of problems (including digestion, back pain, etc.). The exercises stimulate the lymphatic system which helps with one's overall energy level and vitality. The practice overall contributes to relaxation and reduces stress, which helps prevent all kinds of ailments.

But it should also be noted that Qi Gong is not exercise. It has elements of physical activity, but it is not the same as the western approach to exercise. It is also not in any way a substitute for proper physical care, or western medical care.

Keeping this in mind, when you are teaching Qi Gong to others, it is important not to overplay the elements of Qi Gong as being for 'health' or 'exercise'. Most ordinary people who have heard of Qi Gong already think this is the main purpose of Qi Gong practice; it can be an easier 'sell' for people than talking about Cultivation. But Cultivation is the central goal of serious Qi Gong practice. While it is perfectly fine for an ordinary person to want to make use of the health and stress-relief benefits of Qi Gong, you should strive to make it clear that the more important part of Qi Gong is its use as part of a whole spiritual practice of Cultivation for the purpose of self-transformation. Even in the context of talking about health, you should make it clear to any students that Qi Gong cannot do much for your health if you are not approaching it from the perspective of transforming yourself, of changing your habits, your virtue, and your perspective of your 'self'. 

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please get in touch with me here, on Facebook, or Google!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Working Tools

The working tools of an I Ching practitioner are the yarrow or staves, the paper, the pen or stylus and ink, and the book itself.   The yarrow or staves are used to cast the oracle, paper is used to record the oracle on, the pen to draw the lines of yin and yang, and the book is used to study and analyze the hexagram and consider its implications.

However, in the Yi Fa Society we are not just fortune-tellers but cultivators, so we apply these tools to the development of enlightenment. 

In that sense, the staves or yarrow stalks represent Time and the nature of Change. 

The paper represents the vast potential of Space.

The pen represents the noting of confluence of these forces, manifesting in the specific measurement of Change in this one point in space-time.

And the book represents the wisdom of the Sage in comprehending the significance of this measurement, in order to know how to manifest the Superior Individual in any point in time and space, in any circumstance of change.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Yi Fa and "Belief"

The following is an excerpt from the Level 2 document of the Yi Fa Society, called "the Universal Yi Fa". 

Yi Fa Qi Gong is not a belief system. You could also say, perhaps even more accurately, that it is not a “belief-based system”. Belief is largely a process of convincing one's self of something that one actually has no true understanding. No 'belief' is required in Yi Fa Qi Gong. However, it is also important to to avoid what could be termed “anti-belief”; just as one's preconceived notions should not lead to some kind of blind faith in things one has not experienced, notions also should not be allowed to shut down or dismiss things one has not experienced.

In the early stages of practice, a student should approach Yi Fa Qi Gong with an open spirit of curiosity and inquiry; not accepting anything purely on faith, but not rejecting anything without testing it. Engage with the practice as though you are conducting experimentation on your own inner being. Be open to accepting results, and not trying to project pre-made results (either favorable or unfavorable) on your practice.

As a student develops, they will have certain experiences that will serve to confirm certain things they may have already been told about the practice. At this point, the student can feel a greater certainty based not on blind faith but on their own experiences! They can also thus trust the practice they are engaging with; still not taking anything for granted or following anything blindly, but practicing with a confidence in the practice itself based on a proven track record of certain confirmed experiences.

This type of Certainty (not faith) is quite important as an attitude to develop to ensure that the practice proceeds effectively. Doubt what you are told, but doubt it in a way that is open to testing, and without making assumptions for or against. And absolutely trust what you have actually experienced. Trust yourself.

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please feel free to contact me here, on Facebook or on Google+!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Join The Magician's I Ching; and the Yi Fa Society!

The Facebook group created in honor of The Magician's I Ching, but which is a general discussion group for all I Ching related subjects, has now reached 1400 members!

So if you haven't already joined the Magician's I Ching Facebook Group, please consider joining!  It's free, and filled with interesting conversation and material related to the I Ching and I Ching studies.  It's open to people coming from western or eastern traditions.  It's very welcoming to newcomers to the I Ching, and you can get questions answered or useful advice. But it also has many very learned and highly experienced advanced students of the I Ching, and if you are one of those people you'll find some excellent higher level discussion about some of the finer points of I Ching study.

While you're at it, please consider joining the Yi Fa Society.  Members of the Yi Fa Society also have a (secret) discussion group, and benefit from a complete and detailed training program for studying Yi Fa Qi Gong and the I Ching.   Members of the Yi Fa Society are taught additional Qi Gong and I Ching secrets that are not available anywhere public.
At higher levels of membership, the advanced exercises of Yi Fa Qi Gong are taught, and students are provided large numbers of instructional materials (whole books, like "Secret Techniques of the I Ching", "Universal Yi Fa", "The Yi Dao", and "the Great Book of Yi Fa", among others) on how to deepen their work with Qi Gong and I Ching for self-transformation and the work of enlightenment.

Members of the Yi Fa Society can work personally with me to keep up their practice, to resolve problems in their practice, and to develop discipline and structure in their spiritual path.   Members also have the opportunity to have monthly Skype meetings with me for the same purpose.

Yi Fa Society membership is not free, but basic membership is on a monthly donation basis set by each student.

If you are interested in joining the Magician's I Ching Facebook group, just click on the link and join, and start reading and sharing with us!

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please contact me, here or on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Story of Zhu Xi's Retirement

The Master Zhu Xi (1130-1200) was one of the greatest sages of Chinese history; second among the Confucians only to Confucius himself. He is considered the founder of Neo-Confucianism, and was the only Confucian who was not a personal student of Confucius himself to have been granted the status of a Confucian Immortal.

He is of particular significance to the Yi Fa Society because he was the teacher who perfected the expression of the Yi Fa as a concept. Some details of his life and his discovery of the Yi Fa are detailed in The Magician's I Ching.  He wrote two texts on the I Ching and was one of many true Sages who tried to restore the genuine role of the I Ching in Confucian society; as had happened many times before, in Zhu Xi's time the mainstream establishment of Confucian literati did not believe in actually using the I Ching for divination, but he strongly advocated that to truly understand the I Ching it had to be worked!

We can assume that Zhu Xi made frequent use of the I Ching. However, there is only occasion in history that a record remains of his use of it. This event is recorded at the time of the greatest crisis in Zhu's life and the future of his school.

Near the end of his career and life, Zhu Xi was a provincial governor, and was part of the movement that attempted to clean up the rampant corruption and incompetence of the late (southern) Song Dynasty Imperial court.  Naturally, those who benefited from this corruption sought to accuse him and his followers of conspiracy against the Emperor.  He nevertheless pushed forward, quoting the I Ching in defending his actions, pointing out that if good men do not join together to mobilize change, bad men will triumph ("Base men use their power, if the Superior Individuals don't use theirs"). This was treading dangerous ground, as in the earlier period of the Song Dynasty (when they were based in the north) sages had attempted to reform the State to save it from its decline, and they were ignored and accused of treason. The failure to reform had led to the eventual collapse of the Song and the court was forced to flee to the south in the face of barbarian invasions.

By 1195, the corrupt officials opposing Zhu Xi's faction had begun a series of purges, accusing those involved not just of treason, but of "wei xue", meaning "false (or empty) learning".  They were accused, in essence, of teaching untrue and harmful ideas that were dangerous to the state.  Zhu Xi's mystical practices in his school also led to these corrupt officials accusing him and 58 of his students of practicing 'sorcery'.

Zhu Xi's students were very frightened for him, that he might soon be imprisoned or executed.  They begged him to retire from public service to save his own life, but he would not listen to them, being determined to fight on, and not to abandon his students and allies to these false accusations.  He planned instead to write a manifesto condemning the corrupt officials and their abuses in the most extreme terms.

One of Zhu Xi's students, Cai Yuanding (who would eventually die in exile after being persecuted by the "false learning" purge), was one of the most dedicated practitioners of the I Ching in Zhu Xi's school.  He tried one last attempt to get Zhu Xi to back down; he suggested that Zhu Xi consult the I Ching to be certain of his path.

Zhu Xi agreed to this, and cast the I Ching. The result was Hexagram #33: Retreat. Its changing lines were L.1 ("he delays his retreat and is routed. Cornered - disaster! It is useless to seek any goal") and L.4 ("Even though he cares for his subordinates he must retreat!").   These lines create the resulting hexagram #37 "The Household", with the description "the family, and home".
Realizing that the I Ching made it clear that his cause was lost, and that there was nothing to gain in persisting now, he destroyed his manifesto, and retired for the last time.  He took on the title of "The old man who retreated".  He was nevertheless stripped of all offices and died under sentence of execution.

In spite of this, it was thanks to his retiring at that moment that after his death, his students were able to gradually change the balance of power and win over the Imperial Court to the wisdom of Zhu Xi.  The same Emperor who had condemned Zhu Xi and forbidden his teachings would, only eight years after Zhu's death, giving him the title of "Venerable man of Culture" and in essence conceding to the Virtue of Zhu's teaching.  His guidelines for education and civil service would become the standard for Chinese culture for hundreds of years to come, throughout all the rest of the Imperial period.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Explaining the Value of the Yarrow Method Probabilities

In the Yi Fa Society, we advocate the use of two methods for I Ching casting (aside from various non-casting practices, like the Plum Blossom method).  These are the "Four Staves" method I designed and explain in The Magician's I Ching,  and the Yarrow Stalk method that has long been used in tradition for casting the I Ching.   Here is a video explaining a simple way to use this method:

The other common method, the "3 coin" method, is not recommended.  That is because the probabilities of that method are different from those of the Yarrow Method, or from the Four Staves method (which uses the same probabilities as the Yarrow, but with a simpler faster process).

Some advocates of the '3 coin' method actually suggest that the probabilities in this method are 'more balanced', because there is an equal chance of getting a stable Yin or Yang, or a changing Yin or Yang, whereas in the Yarrow Method (or Four Staves) there's a 1/16 chance of getting a Yin changing to Yang, a 3/16 chance of a Yang changing to Yin, a 5/16 chance of a stable Yang, and a 7/16 chance of getting a stable Yin.

However, these probabilities mean that not only is the Yarrow method in fact balanced, it also better reflects the nature of Change in the Universe. It is a more accurate method.

In the Yarrow method, you have a 50/50 chance of either a solid (Yang) or a broken (Yin) line. What changes, however, is that it is more likely that the solid line will be a changing line, and more likely that the broken line will be stable.

Yin is the "weak" or "soft" force.
Yang the "hard" or "strong" force.

Now, it is more likely for something soft or weak to be STABLE.
It is more likely for something strong or hard to be unstable.

That which is strong is likely to weaken.
That which is soft is likely to endure.

It is more common in Time and Space for things that are strong to become things that are weak, and less likely for things that are weak to become strong.
That is the nature of entropy.

All of this put together creates the perfect balance of the fully accurate perspective on the nature of the probabilities of change.

On a final note: this is not to say that the 3 coin method, or indeed other methods, are completely 'wrong' or not usable.  The I Ching is a system of measurement (to measure Change according to Space and Time).  You can measure something with a meter stick, or a measuring tape, or a GPS-assisted program.  What varies is the overall degree of accuracy of the measurement.