What is a regulation?
All Qigong practitioners are familiar with the five areas that should be regulated through their Qigong practice: physical body, breathing, mind, Qi and Shen (spirit).
The word “regulate” in Qigong means that you constantly align, adjust, tune and harmonize something until your aim is achieved.
These five regulations are not practiced one after another, linearly, but rather simultaneously with different emphasis. For example in the training of the beginners the biggest emphasis is on a physical cultivation, but beside that some knowledge and exercises related to the breathing, mind cultivation and sensing Qi are introduced. Later on when your focus is more on breathing or leading Qi you will continue to refine and improve your physical body as well. The five regulations always interweave and support each other in getting higher and higher (toward greater perfection and harmony).
What is a “true regulation”?
Your final goal is a “true regulation”. You can talk about the true regulation when you can do things without thinking about, without being consciously focused on them. Things that you have understood, learned, repeated, adjusted and used again and again are now the part of yourself. This stage is called “regulation without regulation”.
But how to get there?
This is not a secret. You practice and practice until you reach the goal and this can take quite a long time. It sounds simple but it is not. A lot of people don’t understand well the process which leads to the stage of regulation without regulation. Some expect too much from themselves (too soon), others underestimate the importance of regular practice, third are not willing to accept changes which occur on this path…
Often happens that people become discouraged or overwhelmed on this path. Therefore my intention is to help you understand that on a path toward the regulation without regulation you move through different stages. And also that understanding the dynamics of this process will help you greatly to overcome eventual difficulties and persist on this path.
Four stages of processing information
In Qigong the learning process of regulation is not divided into phases. But for better understanding I will use the model of learning called “four stages of competence” which is used in a modern psychology and I think it can serve well to my purpose.
The learning process in this model is divided into four stages: 1. unconscious incompetence, 2. conscious incompetence, 3. conscious competence and 4. unconscious competence.
These four stages are not sharply divided. It is more appropriate to talk about the gradual transition from one stage to another.
I will explain these 4 stages of competence on an example of body posture which is in Qigong a part of physical body regulation. But these 4 stages can be applied to any of five regulations.
Let’s say that you start to learn Qigong from the scratch. You come to the Qigong class and you stand as you usually stand. You are not consciously aware of the posture that you use day after day. The posture you use was influenced by your way of life, your experiences, emotions, traumas… Maybe your current posture causes you troubles but you don’t relate them consciously with the way you stand or sit… You don’t know anything about the relationship between your posture, your health, state of mind and emotions. Let’s say you are in the state of unconscious incompetence. You don’t know that you don’t know.
When the teacher starts to explain about the correct posture you start to recognize the deficit of your knowledge and skills. You recognize your incompetence on this subject.
Then you start to learn about the correct posture, you find out things that you have never heard about and you start to understand the importance of it. You are eager to try and learn a new way of standing.
But if you are not teachable at all you will not recognize the deficit of your knowledge and the benefits of a correct posture and your story end here in the first stage.
In the next stage you start to apply new principles to your posture. It is normal that you do a lot of mistakes. You also feel strange when you try to stand in a new way. It might feel uncomfortable, unnatural and maybe even painful. This is a normal process anytime you want to change something (physically, mentally…) because your body and mind have to adapt gradually to a new situation.
When you diligently practice a new posture the new body alignment start to take place and a lot of changes can happen. They might manifest in a transient feeling of tension or even pain in some areas of or as change in your mood. These phenomena can also mean that you didn’t yet find the right position or that you are too tense. This stage is for people usually the most difficult and strenuous physically and/or mentally. As you are learning new things your mind is very concentrated and heavily involved in the process of learning and understanding and it can become tensed. This tension reflects also on a physical body and you may feel uncomfortable.
People get confused by these “negative reactions” if they don’t know that they are a normal part of the process.
In short, if you don’t know anything about the gradual process and the only thing you see is the final goal, this second stage can be pretty challenging and even unpleasant… 😉
In the past I had really a hard time with this stage. I understood how something should be done but of course I wasn’t able (yet) to do it correctly. Sincerely a lot of times I wasn’t not even close to it. 🙂 Therefore I became frustrated and I used to react very emotionally. I was overwhelmed by feelings of inferiority, incapability, sadness, powerlessness … (Each one might feel emotions typical for him/her.) Being aware of different stages of learning and above all about their transient nature can really help you on this path.
Today I’m a different person. I’ve changed my mindset a lot. When I start to learn something new I’m more self-confident, patient and calm. I trust in the process and I’m looking for the fun and joy on the way toward the greater skills.
A lot of people come to the second stage but they don’t have enough patience or will or self-confidence to practice, experience and improve their skills. They get some intellectual knowledge and a little practice but they are not ready to accept changes that a practice of a new knowledge would bring in their life.
But if you continue your practice in time you will (naturally) move to the third stage.
After you have practiced something (in our case a posture) for a long time, you can notice that you are better and better. Uncomfortable sensations gradually disappear and standing in a new way really feels good and you start to enjoy it. You have improved a lot. In time you are capable to use some principles not only in a still standing posture but also while you are moving.
But you still have to be present with your mind and consciously think about your posture. There are still many moments during your practice or in a daily life when you forget about the correct posture.
But you continue your conscious practice and in time you notice that it takes less and less time to regulate your posture. It is as if you are more and more attuned to the new posture. You are slowly becoming sensitive to the most little tensions which arise when your posture is not correct
Then a time naturally arrives when there is no need to control your posture consciously anymore. You have practiced so much that a new skill is a part of you, it is your “new skin”. It is imprinted in your cells, it is something you do naturally and spontaneously without thinking. This is called regulation without regulation. This is The Thing that Qigong practitioners strive to attain. But sincerely I think that you never come to the end.
Qigong practitioner (Master) who has attained a very refined level of unconscious competence, in Qigong called regulation without regulation, reflects spontaneity, smoothness and flexibility in his/her movements, breathing, Qi flow, behavior and thinking.
Master doesn’t think how to stand, breathe, which technique to use, where to lead Qi… His/her body, breathing, mind, Qi and Spirit are one. In his/her appearance and movement you see beauty and naturalness.
There are not many practitioners who have attained such a high level of perfection. And I admire these masters knowing that they have dedicated so much time and patience to develop, unify and internalize their skills in all five areas of regulation.
Your moments of true regulation
But I ensure you that anyone of us can find some tiny moments of our perfection. When a single movement feels great, when few breaths feel really smooth, when the mind is completely empty for few seconds, when you feel Qi flow in your hands… Notice and acknowledge these moments and continue your practice. In time they will become more frequent and longer.
May the Qi be with You!
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