evening meal and a late night are notconducive to a good meditation the followingmorning!
THE IMPORTANCE OF VITALITY
Vitality is so much more than a feeling of being well - it is a matter of being fully alive. If we are not enthusiastic about life, we aremissing out on vitality and the key to the V-factor is an abundance of energy that is in astate of balance. Different traditions andcultures have varying names for this energyand in the West we often draw on theChinese expression "chi" (sometimes written"qi") or from India the Sanskrit term "prana".We might prefer to call it "essence" or "life-force". The name isn't important; what is, iswhether we have enough of it and can keep itin balance.As well as blood vessels, our bodies arepermeated with channels through which finequality energy - chi - flows. Of course, bloodcarries energy; the nutrients and oxygennecessary to keep the body alive; additionally,the meridians, vessels and millions of minutepathways carry chi throughout the wholebody. If a main blood vessel becomes blocked,the consequences can be extremely serious,whereas a blocked capillary will usually beless so. In terms of the circulation of chi, thereare main pathways or meridians and vessels,which are said to affect the functioning of ourvital organs, and minor ones which carry thechi through all the tissues. Chi is also said tobe present in fluids and air; in fact, there isnowhere in the universe where chi is absent.Energy is everywhere; but to increase andmaintain our vitality – and with it our mentalclarity – the chi needs to circulate freely andnot be allowed to stagnate. When the flow issluggish, we can feel dull or off-colour, even if we are otherwise in good health.From the point of view of meditation, ourexperience will correspond to the state of thebody's energy. In simple meditation practice,normally aimed at relaxing body and mindand ridding ourselves of tension and stress,the important thing is to settle our mind andbody. More advanced meditations can onlyhave success if the first stage of calmness hasbeen established. In some practices it isnecessary to raise the energy so that clearerand broader mental states, leading to deeperunderstanding, can be known. But the energycannot be raised if it is not settled in the firstplace.
WORKING WITH ENERGY - CHI KUNG
To maintain or increase vitality, quality food,water and air and some form of exercise areessential. All physical exercise stimulatesenergy in one way or another. The type of exercise that is most beneficial will not onlystimulate the flow of chi but will also ensurethat balance is maintained. There has to bevariety – sufficient range of movements toencourage the supply of chi to all parts of thebody. Pounding on a treadmill at the localleisure centre will certainly work the legs andthe cardiovascular system but in terms of supplying energy to every part of the body, itis limited.Our vitality can be affected when there aredifficulties with our chi circulation. There arethree main classes of problem – (1) an excessof chi in part of the body, (2) localiseddepletion of chi and (3) overall insufficiency.Excess arises due either to overstimulation orto the flow of chi away from a part of thebody being blocked or congested. Localiseddepletion can occur because of lack of stimulation, or due to blockage or injury inpart of the body. Overall insufficiency arisesfrom a lack of fresh air, exercise, proper food,rest and sleep. It can also arise from excessesof living – literally wearing ourselves out.
(sometimes written "qigong") is aChinese term meaning to work with chi. Assuch, it could be applied to virtually anyexercise, physical or mental, that is designed