The Marriage of Heaven and Earth Qigong

Next session at Brookline Tai Chi, we are re-introducing a course on the Marriage of Heaven and Earth Qigong.

In preparation for the course, I sat down with several Energy Arts instructors who are certified to teach this set, to discuss why these exercises are beneficial, how they related to other forms of qigong, and what it’s like for people to learn some of the stranger techniques involved, like “pulsing” the joints.

Here’s what they had to say.

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Heaven and Earth Circa 1982

When Energy Arts Senior Instructor Eric Peters first learned this exercise from Bruce Frantzis in 1982, it was simply known as the “wood exercise”. Eric explains why and describes the seasonal intensives that they would do to harness the energy of the 5 Elements.

Heaven and Earth in the Energy Arts Curriculum

Next, we discuss the role Heaven and Earth plays in the entire Energy Arts system. What skills do you build from Heaven and Earth? How does it open your body and develop your energy?

Heaven and Earth as the Bridge to More Advanced Practice

We discuss why Heaven and Earth is considered a bridge between the basic practices and more advanced practices, including the way it gives you greater access to “internal” movement, how you develop a particular quality of mind, and the way that opening and closing is fundamental to all 16 neigong.

What Students Experience Learning Heaven and Earth for the First Time

This clip is a little longer, but it’s worth watching. Each of the instructors discuss what it has been like for their students to work with some of the pretty strange new ways you use your body in Heaven and Earth.

Microcosmic and Macrocosmic Orbits

In the last clip, we touch on some technical details about the microcosmic and macrocosmic orbits, two energetic pathways that are utilized in many different qigong sets. While they are central to Heaven and Earth, Eric explains the best way to work with them without getting confused or side-tracked.

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  1. I appreciate whenever various viewpoints are collected- especially on NeiGung in this system (as bits and pieces need to be collected and assembled); these recordings are a bit like the Bagua Tele-questions recording (that I saw in the Bagua Mastery Promo, whatever that might be called). Good to have this thx (especially as its been a few yrs since I’ve been able to attend any EArts events, although I’ve been studying these.

    Two things I’d mention- first just a technical point: in these types of recordings (even by others)- there are different sound-volume (ie loudness) levels, and when one is speaking more quietly… I turn up the volume and listen and then another talks- who is being recorded Much Louder (especially if, as I do, one is listening via headphones)- ouch… back and forth… (that can be tweaked by setting up recording (-perhaps via sound leveling software- or edited afterward..) if not- one can deal, but would really add to listenability.

    Secondly- my understanding of Heaven&Earth is that two aspects A) the “squishy-fully connected” movement, a way of introducing the movement quality that is all linked like a whip or wave, ie the Physical Form of H&E, which say Cloud Hands should have also but seems to be quite difficult to add, while H&E rise up lengthening and then “washing” over the head-face and down sort of forces the rotation in the arms/shoulders (per the palms facing the body & the bones connection), another example I link to this is the “smooth-form” change in Bagua, but that can be done largely in the arms-shoulders- even the torso… without having that movement in the legs as well, while to show having a movement that flows through the entire body as well as giving a “fluid-like” movement (best way I can think of describing it)- this seems to be a good intro. [as opposed to G. Playing moves where there is a fluid-like spherical wave, but it is so subtly, being balanced in all ways- the H&E Up and Down are made separate and distinct. Same with Cloud Hands- to get the wave rising from the downward-HE/closing side (arms and leg) and expand through the upward-risingKAI/opening side (arms and “rear” leg) has that soak-wring out sloshing, but not inherent in the movement unless someone frees up and puts that in there).

    Secondly B) “activating” the Energy Gates (beyond going “inside” and releasing the Energy Gates in that practice. In this regards I disagree with the way this is usually spoken of (or at least I think it could be misunderstood by those learning it)- in terms of the physical joint moving as a result of E-Gate activation, not just localized movement triggered. (thus if that quality of “Yang”-KAI (opening-growing) vs “Yin”-HE (closing-shrinking) being an energetic-frequency, which changes in the flow of the E-gate….. Opening the EGates, in this regards is seen to be (in my mind, and practice) a more internal practice than others- (although working “with” a component, is different than working “towards- being able to work with” a component; in this regards I’d put the context of how in Bruce’s ITs he has the learning-instructors do things which may not be what one learning a class would do.. example the spinal-front/back ligs (anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments) and the pulsing of each jt…. to be able to demonstate… have all strongly going, and get that part in the Instructors system enough that they are “confident” about it…thus even if the class isn’t taught it, the instructors Body-energy is doing it… that could interpret some aspects, especially as many EArts ITs may be based upon most attending have some concept of much of what Bruce teaches, and a certain kind of person/interests attends (like Don, Dan and Eric mention about targeting a class to those that attend)- those at an EArts IT have a different understanding than those they might teach.

    Thus I see A) as an intro of what this practice gives (in relation to full-body blow, which is also- in quite a different way in Beng-chuan, Hsing-I wood- that growing “hydraulic” feel, and then B) being the “internal aspect” (but so often I see that aspect being external, as the Chi-Gung TuiNa can be seen as getting physical movement to perhaps drive some ChiGung, while the ChiGungTuiNa I’ve received from Bruce emphasizes the “chigung” which can result in phy-movement (energetic flow- some connection, some consistent flow, then changed in some way- so that flow then drives the subtle physical (ie fluids and CTS~ligs and intercellular mesh, etc.) which drives physical movment) This second way is sustained in the system, and systemic (if one can first feel -be aware of, and has ‘activated” the Energy Gates (from that practice)- then they can be activated with a “frequency” that begins that occilation– doing it that way -the “pulsing” spreads and irradiates other Egates quickly.
    More so that the “shrink&grow” of the jts, the aspect I see as a bridge into this is yin-yang meridians (just distinguishing those “sides” of torso and limbs) and “wrapping” … if “wrap” around to the “inside” of the forearm (drawing from the yang-merids on back-outside of forearm- in) as “sink”-flow from fingertips down palm towards armpint… a strong sense of flow can be initiated, if then have wrapping to Yang (laterally) and then from shoulder flow out to finger tips along outside- via back of palm…. that activates a certain distinct feeling, and the “Yang and Yin Merids” each have certain “tones” in term of feeling.. which also a step in to developing distinctions in a “type of energy flow” (more likely physical affects of subtle movement vs actual energy, but stepping towards that). That was how the distinction was made that I recall (espec back 2001 Egates IT then the H&E taught after that…. then change occurred, I wonder if that focus will be shifted to the Dragon&Tiger course now?

    Anyway- the quality of the movement (point A above- being Beng like, as well as Smooth-fluid palm- but Left-Right Balanced in movement) and then energetic gates-frequency (point B)- thus the gateway to the H&E lvl2 of having the “heaven” quality and the “earth” quality brought “into” each Egate.. and contacting each… reaction (thus the “marriage”).
    thus the distinciton between Egates- aware of at all, them linked up (lines between, via Spiralling body, but a focus in ChiGungTuiNa when he did the Vancouver class, which stepped to the holographic aspect.. the “Chi Body” not being in 3d space of the physical body, vs a pt on the phy-body that may “correspond” to a particular chi-flow at a current time)…. “Yang merid”, “yin merid”, “opening-KAI”, “closing-HE”, and “heaven”&”earth” energies… all being qualities: first sense and being able to recall/consider then second be able to “evoke”-trigger….
    (thus in bagua (8 Gua- qualities of change occuring), and HsingI (5element- each a quality, many expressions, that reacts- energetically to other energies), and I believe TaiChi also, thus peng-an, etc. as energetic qualities triggered at parts of phy, that “radiate” in certain ways (although that isn’t my practice)
    These are what I see H&E as given access to, with what I sense being some of those implications (although reading all at once may make it seem a big stretch and complicated- foundation work and all, as well as my not being so good at being concise πŸ™‚
    Of course in the EArts practices I think there are “cores” and then a number of components that Bruce wants to have taught,, and then decide which to insert in which (as I’d heard him discuss the idea of having a curriculum of starting out with, XYZ and then next… with prerequisities, etc. is quite different than having people attend some here and there, and yet still giving access points to those (in the same way that a concept can be taught ABC, and then say if you do ChiGung vs TaiChi health, vs TaiChi for push-hands-martial… how ABC would be adapted for each… and yet same core-concept).

    Long-respnse-my twocents πŸ™‚ thx again for assembling and presenting this. cheers gb

  2. Hey Gary,

    So what I hear you saying is that Heaven and Earth is a great bridge between the more basic and more advanced practices? πŸ˜‰

    Just kidding, thanks for your patience on the technical side, I’m learning about that more and more.

    Really, though, you’ve laid out some interesting distinctions here and I think you’ve hit on a main issue in this system. All of the practices really are interwoven, but it’s easy to get caught up in one or another and not see those connections. Some of what you’ve said here points the way to understanding those connections conceptually.

    Thanks for that!

  3. I’m glad to have caught the ideas that came to me from listening to the above (and thus triggered what I wrote)- I’m glad you thought it was interesting to you also πŸ™‚

    I guess I’m always a bit surprised when (Opening the) Energy Gates (of “the” body) and even Dragon and Tiger are said to be good introductory, as I think H&E (whether as was previously, which some of that seems to be in Dr&T now- or as Circling Hands) would be a good intro, as well as Gods Playing (which clearly seems to have alot in it, but just doing the general movements- without really having the alignments on, just generally the elbows to the shoulders and the spine-pelvis standing on the feet, and the H&E or G.Playing circling arm moves (with or without the slight kwa-lean&SQ) gets alot moving, while sets like E. Gates, or Bend the Bow- like TaiChi- can be done without the alignments and such and end up like Karate or an Aerobics (as Cloud Hands often looks like Cross Country skiing movement stationary, or someone in a Gym working on pulleys, lifting alternating sides, and swings can look like someone shaking the circulation back into cold hands) .. Funny the comment you start your reply with is what triggered my original note in the begining— the thought from the audios above, what is a good “introductory” set, and how to Bridge to “more advanced” (especially as what I saw of Level 2 H&E looked completely different and is a whole different energetic-game, which Bruce mentioned he conceived of 5 levels.. so what else?)
    always the question I have when I’ll figure some part of it out- so that I can start “practicing” (without it constantly changing- developing, “back to the drawingboard” on my putting it all together) πŸ™‚

    thx for exchanging thoughts (I wanted to mention this site is pretty neat, I only saw it a month or so ago, from a link on the EArts Forum that you posted, just as I found this page from a diff EArts post you made πŸ™‚ best wishes to you and yours

  4. Thanks, Gary!
    We experimented with Gods as an intro set for a while at Brookline Tai Chi, just focusing on the basic movements. I think it worked well for some people. Elements of it, with the big circles as you say, can certainly be useful, even as an introduction to Tai Chi, to get the sense of smoothness and flow that circularity brings.

    I always try to watch out for the trap of “now that I have some experience, I know what would be a better way for a beginner to learn” — that’s not how I learned! πŸ˜‰