The first and perhaps only thing you need to know about Mantak Chia’s book Wisdom Chi Kung is that it is not an introduction to the ancient practices. In fact, it begins with a stern warning: “Readers should not undertake the practice without receiving personal transmission and training from a certified instructor of the Universal Tao, since certain of these practices, if done improperly may cause injury or result in health problems.” I carefully observed the advice and refrained from any activity beyond reading and admiring the cute illustrations. While I’ve missed out on the benefits promised here, at least I’ve learned something about an intriguing method for improving cognitive ability and improving health.
Mantak Chia is the founder of Universal Healing Tao Systems as well as the director of Tao Garden Integrative Medicine Health Spa and Resort. He has authored several books on Taoist healing methods and enjoys a devoted following of students. In this particular offering, he presents an overview of recent scientific research into the physiological changes produced by meditation in its many forms. As you’d expect, the physical results achieved by, say, Empty Mind meditation are quite different from Centering Prayer meditation or Loving Kindness meditation. In Wisdom Chi Kung, Chia focuses on Taoist meditation practices that redirect and increase energy. The foundation for this practice involves a technique that Chia calls Smiling to the Tan Tien.
Without that personal instructor, I have to make an assumption based on the illustrations in Wisdom Chi Kung. The Tan Tien appears to be an area of the body somewhere below the navel and above the pubic bone. Chia makes many references to the ‘gut brain,’ which seems to reinforce my assumption.
The gut brain and the head brain have entirely different functions and talents, according to Chia; one is better at processing logical information, the other at processing emotional information. Putting the gut brain in charge of balancing your checkbook would produce a result as troubling and inappropriate as putting your head brain in charge of intuition. Most of us tend to be in a constant state of imbalance, using only one of those brains most of the time and inadvertently allowing the other –usually the gut brain—to atrophy.
The practices laid out in Wisdom Chi Kung are meant to help practitioners develop a healthy balance and to channel energy from the Tan Tien to the head brain in a freer flow. It’s believed that managing chi can “revitalize the brain” by recharging the head brain with the redirected energy from the gut brain. Wisdom Chi Kung, while not particularly helpful to the absolute novice, appears to be an excellent resource for those who already possess solid knowledge of and training in Taoist meditation practices.