The Eight Section Brocade is one of scores of exercise sets in the large Chi Kung (Qigong) family. “Ch’i” or “Qi” is the Chinese word for breath, energy, vital force, air, or life power; and, there are different types of Ch’i. The Sanskrit word ‘Prana’ and the Japanese word ‘Ki’ are very similar in meaning to ‘Qi.’ The word “Kung” or “Gong” implies a regular, systematic, intense, long term, and dedicated training regiment. Therefore, “Ch’i Kung” or “Qigong” is a long term training program to circulate, cultivate, regulate, enhance, and guide vital internal energies to achieve health, vitality, and spiritual awareness. Prior to the mid-20th Century, qigong was referred to as “Dao-yin.”
In traditional Taoist practices, the teachers speak about the need to do this exercise routine for a minimum of 100 days before any benefits become noticeable, and before you decide to stop doing the exercise. The cultivation of the “Dan Tien” or “Field of Elixir”, like the cultivation of any garden or field, requires work (Kung) over an extended period of time before the crop grows to harvest size. The long term cultivation of the “Field of Elixir” demands that we continue these qigong exercises for many years to assure longevity and to aim towards attaining the special powers of a chen-jen or “realized being.” The ancients Taoists said,
“Only after a hundred days of concentrated work is the light real;
Only then is it the fire of spirit.
To set up the Foundation requires a hundred days.”
– The Secret of the Golden Flower, Translated by Thomas Cleary, p. 17, 49
Most people will enjoy and benefit greatly from doing the Eight Section Brocade in a relaxed manner. The use of intense muscular contractions, excessive stretching, or aggressive movements are counterproductive. Relax, breathe naturally and fully, move slowly, sink into the earth, become like freely moving water, be soft, be gentle. Don’t be attached to your ordinary mind of free associations, worries, and concerns – observe them and then release them into nothingness. Free your mind of mundane concerns and cultivate calmness, inner peace, and not thinking. Allow yourself to feel your body and take pleasure from it during the movements.
Be fully aware of your surroundings through all of your senses. Listen to your body. Relax and enjoy yourself. Cultivate a detached, open, and tranquil consciousness. Unburden your body-mind of anxieties and tensions and fully relax. All of these aims can be summarized by the term “Sung”. Sung denotes relaxation, alertness, looseness, openness, sensitivity, awareness, calmness, and a tranquil mind.