Ki or energy was first written about in a Chinese document, Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen, or the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (also commonly known as the Nei Ching).
The Nei Ching is written on the subject of healing. Chinese folklore claims the Nei Ching was written during the mythological life of Emperor Huang Ti (2697 to 2599 BC), but the text is historically dated at approximately 300 BC. In the Nei Ching, ki is described as the Universal Energy that nourishes and sustains all life forms. It flows through the universe and each individual. A non-restricted flow of ki in the body allows one to remain healthy, while a diminished flow of ki in the body leads on to illness.The Nei Ching describes how ki circulates through the body and is directed by invisible channels known as meridians.
Ki is considered an integral element to everyday Japanese life. Many Japanese traditions are based on a strong connection to ki apart form the martial arts and religious training. The success of the world-renowned tea ceremony called sadô and the art of calligraphy or shadô are all based on the practitioners’ ability to channel free-flowing ki. Teachings from the Nei Ching travelled from China to Korea and eventually across to Japan in the seventh century along with Buddhist sutras, historical books, medical books, works on astronomy and geography. Ki was practised solely for medical purposes until the twelfth century when the sammurai introduced it into their art.
Hara (see Seika no Itten)
The word hara literally means stomach, abdomen or belly. Energy is stored in this point of the body from where it expands throughout the whole body. Though the abdomen is generally called the hara there are, in fact, two more energetic centres in the body. One is the head and the other is the heart. By linking all three areas the practitioner creates unity and balance. A strong hara in a practitioner is indicated by a firm and collected stance. The shoulders are low and hanging loose. The legs are slightly apart with the body weight evenly distributed.
- Hara or lower hara (approximately 8cm below the navel). In this centre, the Original Energy is stored. This is the energy you are born with, the energy that is the essence of your life and gives you your life’s purpose. The Original Energy is not only the energy you receive from your parents when you are conceived but most importantly it is the energetic connection between you and the universal life force. When the singular term hara is mentioned it is the lower hara that is being discussed.
- Middle hara (at the heart centre). The energy in this centre is connected with emotions. It is “human” energy connected with human experience. Through this centre you learn your life’s process. From childhood through to aduldhood and back to being a child. When you are a child you are without experience and as you grow older you become a child with experience.
- Upper hara (third eye area). This is the energy connected with your spirit. When you are connected with this centre you may see colours or you might have psychic ability. It is important for you not to become unbalanced and keep yourself centred. If you can use this energy in a balanced way, you can see beyond the immediate.
The word hara literally means stomach, abdomen or belly. Energy is stored in this point of the body from where it expands throughout the whole body.
- Seika no Itten (approximately 8cm below the navel). In this centre, the Original Energy is stored. This is the energy you are born with, the energy that is the essence of your life and gives you your life’s purpose. The Original Energy is not only the energy you receive from your parents when you are conceived but most importantly it is the energetic connection between you and the universal life force. When the singular term hara is mentioned it is the lower hara that is being discussed.
Literally gasshô means “to place the two palms together”. It actually has several interpretations at different levels. Initially it is a sign of reverence. It also says, “I revere the Buddha nature in you” – a non-judgemental manner of showing respect for all beings. Gasshô brings all opposites together. It creates unity within the body by bringing the left- and right-hand side together. All opposites become one.
It is possible to see how focused an individual is by their gasshô. If their connection is poor their gasshô will be loose and sloppy. A firm gasshô indicates a quiet and focused mind. This action creates an integration of mind and body as one.
There are many varieties of gasshô. When performing gasshô the eyes must be kept on the tips of the middle fingers.
Seiza, or correct sitting, is a traditional Japanese style of sitting on top of the ankles, with the legs folded underneath and the back erect. When sitting in seiza correctly, it is comfortable and easy to maintain.
To sit in seiza the legs bend at the knees and the left knee is placed on the floor. The right knee is place about 20cm from the left. Now the feet are positioned onto the floor so that the big toes just touch each other. The buttocks are lowered until they rest on or between the heels. If the legs tire or fall asleep then the practitioner must slightly rise up of the knees to allow better circulation. A pillow can be placed behind the knees to help lift the pressure off the heels. The more it is practised the easier it becomes and the longer the seiza position can be sustained.
The motivation behind sitting in seiza is that the leg that has contact with the floor along to the toes is representative of a large foot. When standing, the body’s weight is on the balls of the feet rather than the soles. This is the perfect posture of balance. So the same can be said for sitting on the ground as the weight is forward rather than on the ankles.
From this position the body must feel relaxed. Relaxation should be refreshing. Relaxation is when the body is supported permitting the circulation of blood, oxygen and energy to flow with ease. The Ancient Chinese believed that energy entered the body with the breath and moved through the body in the blood. When all three are free to move with ease — breath, energy and blood — the practitioner becomes relaxed, strong and healthy. The spine is slightly s-shaped in a natural position. To support the head it must be balanced on the top of the spine. The chin pulled in slightly and the back of the neck stretched. It should feel as if someone has taken a strand of hair from the crown and is pulling it up. Stretching the spine. Sitting supported releases stress from the body keeping it light and buoyant.