Climbing the Steps to Qingcheng Mountain - A Practical Guide to the Path of Daoist Meditation and Qigong
A first-hand story of mentorship and commitment to traditions of the past and the ability to use them in the present, this translation of a Daoist memoir offers a means of persevering in the deep cultivation of body and mind.
Written in an authentic tone, the author weaves tales of his youth with practical exercises for health and healing.
Climbing the Steps to Qingcheng Mountain: A Practical Guide to the Path of Daoist Meditation and Qigong by Wang Yun is not a book that I would typically read, yet when I started reading this book, I found it difficult to stop. My reading tends to be focused primarily on Chinese medicine and early philosophical texts. However, I was amazed at the ability of Wang Yun to eloquently weave a story that elucidates the concept of yin and yang and relates it to both function and disease in the human body. I have found this book useful in three aspects of my life: as a practitioner, as a teacher and finally as a person - I will discuss each of them below. As a practitioner, I found this book helpful in terms of my own needling and in explaining needling to my students. The book repeatedly states the importance of single-minded (or single state) focus. I find parallels of this idea in the opening line of the Zhenjiu Jiayi Jing (Systematic Classic of Acupuncture) by Huangfu Mi, which states ‘all needling must firstly be rooted in the spirit.’ Teacher Wang reinforces throughout the text the importance of having a single focus by utilising stories from his life. When I teach students, I paraphrase the Yizong Jinjian: ‘You must grasp the needle like the tail of the tiger.’ With one’s mind at the end of the needle, one’s understanding of the best direction to obtain qi and guide it is clarified and the effectiveness of needling is enhanced. I believe that this book will help both students and practitioners alike cultivate the sense of singlemindedness that allows them to focus their minds during needling. The second aspect helpful to practitioners is that this book is an excellent resource to recommend to patients who might benefit from meditation but have no clue how or where to start. Teacher Wang discusses many stories of people who have sought his help, or that of his teachers. The stories often begin by describing the person and their illness, then Teacher Wang or his teachers give the ill person advice or a meditative practice to aid in rectifying their illness. These practices are outlined in the book for the reader to benefit from themselves. My favourite story was about a person who had difficulty sleeping who was given some simple breathing exercises - exercises that any patient might follow – and his insomnia greatly improved. These stories bring the book to life, and allow the reader to understand in which situations to implement these meditative practices to benefit their patients, if not themselves. I mentioned above how this book has benefited my teaching. The tales of Teacher Wang and how he learned from his teachers (but also how Teacher Wang’s students learned from him) gives the reader authentic insight into the transmission of knowledge from teacher to the student. One of my favourite chapters discusses ‘oral tips 訣竅’, which the footnote describes as ‘pertinent clues given to practitioners at the right time to forward their practice.’ This is an excellent way to articulate how a teacher should advance their student, and how a student should be ready to accept these tips or critical statements. Finally, this book has greatly influenced me as a person. I have tended towards the scholarly side of the medicine, as I enjoy reading and translating. This book opens the door to a specific approach to meditative practice. Teacher Wang expresses the ideal way to do something, but also frequently offers a simpler way; by relaxing the strictness of the exercise or practice the student is not discouraged if they cannot follow the requirements exactly. Teacher Wang appears to believe that doing something imperfectly is better than doing nothing. He weaves the exercises into wonderful stories of teachers that he has met, and each story is only a few pages long, so it is never necessary to labour through a chapter. As the initial reading will not be enough, I would suggest careful rereading of any exercises that readers decided to practise. In addition, at the end of the book there is a guide to exercises and a concise question and answer section. A small criticism of the work is that many acupuncture points are mentioned, but often using just the Chinese name and its English translation. I hope that future editions will include the point numbers in brackets or footnotes to assist readers who are practitioners. Overall, this is a wonderful book for anyone wishing to learn about meditative practices from an experienced teacher. Teacher Wang should be commended for breathing life into the topic of meditation through his eloquently crafted stories, and the Modern Wisdom Translation Group applauded for their fine translation of this work. Chinese medicine practitioners will most certainly find something in this book that will aid them or their patients. By Michael Brown
|10 Aug 2018
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