When you talk of health exercises, most of the time you will only consider movements. However, if you follow the principle of yin and yang then stillness should also be good for your health, i. e. meditation. It is not easy to find masters of meditation who can prove how beneficial it is but when you do find them, you will be amazed…
Two years ago, I went to Foshan, China, with my Wing Chun Sifu Yip Chun. He is originally from Foshan, and since China has be come more open many people are able to go back to their home villages to visit their families and friends, and renew their childhood memories.
For me personally, it was good to go with my Sifu to find out more about the source of Wing Chun and its culture.
During the trip we went to see many of his friends. Then on one occasion Yip Chun asked one of them about an old colleague of his named Zeng Chao Sheng.
The first thing he said was “Why did Zeng Chao Sheng die?”. His friend was very surprised and so was I. You never asked why someone had died unless you really hated them.
However, the friend replied, “What? Why do you say that? Zeng Chao Sheng isn’t dead!”. Now it was my Sifu, Yip Chun, who was surprised. All of us were now confused, so Yip Chun explained.
About forty years ago Zeng Chao Sheng was a colleague of his when he was working at secondary school in Foshan. Zeng was the principal of the school and Yip Chun was a form teacher and taught Chinese, mathematics and science.
They were good friends. However, a terrible thing happened to Zeng Chao Sheng. He was suffering from a lung disease which slowly became more serious, probably because of all the hard work and responsibility at the school. He coughed a lot and eventually whenever you spoke or got close to him you could smell a very bad smell.
Finally, no one could stand being too close to him.
This was because he only had two thirds of his lungs remaining and this was very badly rotten. When he went to the doctors the doctor told him, “I’m very sorry, it is too late. You probably only have six to nine months left. You’d better prepare everything, we can’t help you.”
Zeng Chao Sheng was very depressed. He did not know what to do, no one could help him. His family was also very upset. He went back to school but his superior told him to go home, have a rest and be with his family.
All of a sudden Zeng Chao Sheng’s life completely changed. He did not have to worry about his school, but his illness became more and more serious. He coughed and coughed all the time.
At the time he left the school, Yip Chun also left to go to Hong Kong to continue his Wing Chun Kuen journey.
Now his friend had suddenly told him Zeng Chao Sheng was still alive and this surprised everyone. Yip Chun was surprised he was still alive and his friend was surprised as he had never known about this problem. I wanted to know how he had kept his life going. What kind of medicine he had taken, or what method he used or if a special ‘immortal’ had helped him.
After we got his address we went to visit him. He lived in a very old house that was built in the Man Kwok period.
It had a high ceiling and big heavy doors. On the top floor was a very quiet, clean and comfortable old style penthouse. Zeng lived in the penthouse on his own. He was now over seventy, very slim and dressed in casual summer clothes (it was August, the hottest pan of the summer in Foshan), his eyes were strong and full of spirit and his hands were very warm.
He was very friendly and happy to see Yip Chun and together they began to chat about the past. After a while, Yip Chun, who was of course curious about his health said “To be honest, I never thought I would see you again as forty years ago you were very ill.”
Zeng Chao Sheng said, “Yes, I was, I didn’t think I would survive this long.”
Then the story became more clear. When Zeng knew he had no other solution he started to feel differently. He was more peaceful and did not panic and worry about his illness. He never stayed in bed to wait for the last day. He woke up quite early (probably a habit from working at the school) and went for a walk around the streets of Foshan.
On his walks he saw many people, particularly old people, exercising in the parks. He watched them and saw how healthy and happy they were. He started to think it must be because the body needs to work to develop the Qi (every Chinese person knows about Qi and energy, even the children) but he did not know any exercise.
He also thought that it might not be good to learn the exercises as it would take a long time and he thought “I might not have the time”. Also he was coughing a lot and it was not good to move too much in his condition.
Then suddenly Zeng Chao Sheng remembered one thing he had learnt when he was at primary school. His primary school had been a Buddhist school. All the children had to do something early every morning before their lessons started, he had to meditate, the same as children who go to Catholic school have to pray before classes.
All the children had to meditate to clear their minds, train their hearts and minds to be kind and the body to be healthy as well. Zeng thought he had plenty of time now. He could still remember the meditation method so he did not need to start learning from the beginning and he did not need to move at all. So he started to try.
Everyday he woke up and started to do his Buddhist meditation, a method of calmness to try and change his breathing. First he sat on the floor, crossed his legs, sat upright and looked ahead. He imagined there was a candle three to four metres in front of him.
He closed his eyes and imagined bringing the candle light down his nose to his abdomen, to his Dantien. So he relaxed and gently concentrated on his Dantien.
In the first few weeks it was very difficult. He felt numb, he still coughed a lot and -his back hurt. However, after each meditation his breathing felt easier and he coughed less. Zeng knew it was good for him.
Beginning from a few minutes, going on to half an hour, then becoming one hour and then one and a half hours, he meditated. Every time he practiced he improved his posture, from crossing his legs to a half lotus (one leg on the other), to a full lotus (both legs crossing over). And from a bent back to a straight back.
His coughing grew less and sometimes stopped. From being distracted, he became more relaxed and concentration on his Dantien became less until there were no thoughts at all, his mind became empty. He forget everything, the time, the place and even himself, he became empty and free.
Today Zeng Chao Sheng is completely recovered, no coughing, no pain and no smell. However, part of his lungs are lost and will not come back but his lungs function normally and are strong and healthy.
Zeng still practises his meditation, but his level is now very high. He starts at 5 am in the morning and finishes at 9am, everyday. It is the time he enjoys most in his daily life.
Of course his Qi has become very strong and the illness has been cured by it.
I really believe, no matter what the illness, sometimes a simple meditation or exercise, as long as you carry on doing it, will let you fight back and recover.
by Michael Tse