The Formless (Wuji) in Qigong and Tai Chi
During a recent Tai Chi class I was introducing Standing Qigong practice and the concept of Wuji – the realm of the formless. While trying to explain the various meanings of the Chinese word and its manifestations in the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong, I remembered an outstanding article that I came across years ago by Gunther Weill, Ph.D, in which he clearly expressed the underlying essence of Qigong:
“…to simply rest awareness in the body, initially in the lower Dantian, and allow the process of cultivation to proceed naturally and effortlessly.”
Weill also delineates the philosophical background of Wuji as, “…the nameless, formless Void and source of the Tao, as the source of the dual forms of Yin and Yang in all of their countless permutations. This play of opposites in turn gives rise to the Five Elements or Five Energetic Phases, and these, in turn, lead to the forms of life in all of its infinite manifestations. And yet, at the end of the day, so to speak, all phenomena naturally and easily return to the source, the un-manifested Wuji. Return to Wuji is essentially the model for all Taoist cultivation methods.” That is, the quiet resting of awareness in the body.
And finally, Weill’s description of Standing Qigong gives a sense of the connection between that kind of practice and the formless:
“Some practitioners and teachers of Qigong…suggest that the “highest” or most refined form of Qigong is embodied by standing postures. In this teaching, known as “Zhan Zhuang” (“standing like a tree”) one’s practice is to simply stand, relaxed with as empty a mind as possible, and allow the internal energies to rise or descend and do their work of unraveling tension, knots or stagnation in the body’s muscular – skeletal and energetic systems. Nothing more is required. Zhan Zhuang represents “effortless effort,” utilizing a minimum of form or technique, embodying principles of Wu Wei and Wuji in a very direct way.”
Gunther Weill Ph.d is an organizational consultant, psychologist and long time practitioner of Qigong and Tai Chi, and has studied within the spiritual traditions of Gurdjieff, Daoism, Buddhism, and Advaita. He was the founding chairman of the National Qigong Association (USA). He has also been approved by Eckhart Tolle to teach his method of the Practice of Presence. With that background, he was able to show in this article the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of Qigong practice in a way that is accessible and ties together traditional spiritual approaches and modern day spiritual teachings. I highly recommend you read the whole article by Weill, Qigong as a Portal to Presence: Cultivating the Inner Energy Body.