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Chi-Neng Qigong - 21st Century Health Practice

by Jeremy Lazarus(more info)

listed in chi energy martial arts, originally published in issue 92 - September 2003


Zhineng Qigong, popularly known as Chi-Neng™ in Europe and Chi-Lel™ in the US is a mind/body practice that, with sustained effort, can improve health, promote mental and emotional well-being, and promises to further our understanding of the human life sciences.

Qigong is a practice that stretches back over 5000 years. It is the art of using and controlling life energy.[1] By focussing the mind within and using visualization combined with physical movements, the practitioner optimizes the functioning of his or her own life processes. In so doing, energy is increased and blockages in the meridian system are cleared; the same meridian system is studied in Acupuncture. Qigong is, therefore, culturally related to Traditional Chinese Medicine and, likewise, originated in China.

The word Qigong is actually formed from two – ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’) and ‘gong’. Qi means life-energy – this use of ‘life’ is in its broadest sense, since the most basic form of qi, Huan Yun Qi, pervades all things in the universe. Gong means work or sustained effort. Therefore, Qigong roughly translates as life-energy work. Through working with the life-energy within our bodies and surrounding us in the universe, we can constructively raise the level of functioning of all aspects of our life; physical, emotional and mental.

Having been a practice that was traditionally passed down thorough families and taught only to a select few, many different styles of Qigong evolved over time. Naturally, these different styles reflect the lineage from which they originated. However, Qigong has been recently undergoing something of a revolution. By the late 1970s, Qigong had opened up to the general public, resulting in immense uptake of the most popular styles. This inevitably lead to a reform process as the relative merits of different Qigongs could be seen en-masse.

One of the main exponents of this reform was Dr Pang Ming, a T’ai Chi and Qigong Grandmaster who was trained in both Eastern and Western medicine. Dr Pang was highly instrumental in the reform of the traditional Qigongs during the 70s and 80s. A very popular style at the time was called Soaring Crane Qigong. Dr Pang developed this form into what is now known as Zhineng Qigong, which is considered to be one of the safest and most effective forms of Qigong.

Dr Pang founded the Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Centre near the east coast of China – a ‘medicineless’ hospital where thousands of people with a wide range of medical conditions, a large proportion life-threatening, arrived every month. Their recovery programme consisted not of rest and passive receipt of medical treatment, but of disciplined and sustained Qigong practice. In this respect, they were termed ‘students’ rather than patients, since they were responsible for their own recovery. A culture of love and compassion pervaded the centre, helping the students to persevere. Many of those who entered the centre were deemed incurable by the medical establishment; within a few months, however, the condition of most had improved significantly. With those who persevered, complete recovery was often the reward. The statistics collected at the centre are impressive.2 An overall effective healing rate of 94.96% was achieved. This represents:

•    15.20% cured: all symptoms gone; tests, x-rays, etc. normal.
•    37.68% very effective: symptoms almost gone, great improvement.
•    42.09% effective: noticeable improvements, eat and sleep well, feels good.
•    5.04% no effect, or worse.

This data was collected from a total of 7936 patients and was published at the centre in 1991.[2] Since then, Zhineng Qigong has been adopted by over 10 million people worldwide. Under the name of Chi-Lel™, Master Luke Chan has tirelessly taught and popularized the practice in the US. Luke Chan visited and trained at the centre in 1995, while interviewing many of the students there and recording them in the publication 101 Miracles.[3] Luke Chan now resides in China where he teaches and holds regular retreats, whilst his brother, Master Frank Chan, continues the work in the US. Patricia van Walstijn, a student of Luke Chan, has had tremendous success in establishing this practice in Holland and is now promoting and teaching this method in Europe, under the name of Chi-Neng™. She is the director of the Chi-Neng Institute and works closely with Master Luke Chan.

Differences to Other Qigongs

Zhineng Qigong differs from other Qigongs in a number of ways. Many other Qigongs use the mind to guide qi along specific meridians or channels in the body. Whilst effective, it has been said that there is a risk of the practitioner guiding the qi to the wrong place and thus causing problems. With the primary practice in first level of Zhineng Qigong, the practitioner simply alternates the visualization and awareness of the blue sky or universe with the visualization and awareness of the depth inside the body; thinking out into the universe, then thinking deep inside the body. These visualizations allow the qi to laterally permeate the whole body structure, linking qi internal to the body with that external to the body. It works because “where the mind goes, qi follows”. Simultaneously, physical movements are performed which serve to open the meridians and facilitate this exchange.

Another difference with other Qigongs is the importance stressed on the notion of the qi-field. This is a phenomenon that has influence both locally and non-locally. The qi-field is a fundamental component of Zhineng Qigong. When people practise together in large groups, the effect of any one person’s practice is enhanced, since the thoughts of all practitioners are synchronized together.

Personal Experience

My experiences with Zhineng Qigong came through its American name Chi-Lel™. At that time, I had suffered for a number of years from chronic digestive problems and hoped that complementary methods might help me where conventional medicine had not. I was eventually taught by Chi-Lel™ personally by Master Luke Chan (who at that time resided in the US), but my first exposure to this style of Qigong was through the Chi-Lel™ website. The forum on the website had an amazing number of compassionate and supportive messages from practitioners all over the world.

Not only were there an impressive number of testimonials, but also the messages were surprisingly free of dogma and ego. The advice was eminently practical too – usually about how to improve some aspects of the practice, but often reassurances that ‘qi’ would be ‘sent’ to those that needed it. This latter, non-local aspect is also a function of the ‘qi-field’. When practising alone, one visualizes millions of practitioners all around the world practising with you. Doing this you connect with the qi-field – the non-local group mind – enhancing your practice.

My first attempted Chi-Lel™ form was the wall-squat. These challenging movements act to re-align the central axis of the body, as well as to rejuvenate the spine. The action is to stand with your feet and nose close to a wall and squat down to a sitting position keeping your feet flat on the ground. The wall is there to keep your body aligned and to stop your knees going in front of your toes. Most people born in the western world cannot do this at first, since we are not accustomed to squatting in our daily life; we sit on chairs instead.

The closer your feet are to the wall, the more optimal the squat will become. I have managed to get closer and closer to the wall as my achilles tendons have lengthened and my lower spine has loosened and become more flexible. The challenge with wall-squats is to do 100 squats a day. It was difficult for me, but eventually I got there, after 100 days of consecutive practice. Completing 100 consecutive days like this is called doing a ‘gong’. If you miss a day’s practice, you have to start all over again! This builds perseverance and discipline. I’ve done a few gongs in the last few years, but it’s not necessary to get obsessive about it. That would only create a negative relationship with your Qigong practice (see Figure 1).

We use audio tapes or CDs to practise with.4 These are not music CDs but synchronized, multi-layered ‘talk-throughs’ of the forms. These recordings are multi-layered since the actual talk-through is simultaneously mixed with a cyclic alternation of two words, release and absorb. The practitioner is to synchronize the visualizations with this rhythm; ‘release’ with thinking out to the blue sky, and ‘absorb’ with thinking deep inside. An additional layer is provided in the form of healing affirmations, such as “I am healthy now”, “all illnesses disappear” and “all meridians open”. These affirmations go directly to your subconscious, because you are in the ‘qigong state’. This is much like the state of hypnosis – mind relaxed and tranquil, yet alert.

The use of this audio accompaniment means every time you practise a form you do it at the same speed. This allows your body to learn the rhythm of the form as well as the actual moves.

The main forms are called ‘Lift Chi Up and Pour Chi Down’ (Figure 2), which is a more complex form than the wall squats, yet not as physically challenging, and ‘Three Centres Merge’ (Figure 3), which is a standing meditation requiring inner focus. After only a few weeks, I began to have unusual experiences during practice time; tingling experiences in the hands, warmth in the abdomen, a feeling of weightlessness in the arms. Stranger still were the feelings of my body being taller than it usually felt. On other occasions, I might experience the sensation of light inside the body, or cool electric current flickering down my legs. None of these were unpleasant and they came and went. My experiences vary a little every time. After intensive practice, I usually feel very much connected to the physical world around me and ‘grounded’. Although such sensations occur for many practitioners, it is best not to dwell on them, lest you end up chasing experiences, rather than concentrating on the form and visualizations themselves.

After two years of practising alone, I went to my first workshop in 2001, given by Master Luke Chan and Patricia van Walstijn from the Chi-Neng Institute. It lasted six days and took place in Holland. Despite my previous practice, there were many aspects of my form, physical and mental, that needed correction. Even though benefits can be quickly obtained by practising from video and audio tapes alone, personal guidance is invaluable to help one’s progress.

At this particular workshop, I was greatly impressed with Master Luke and Patricia’s teaching and advice. It was on the strength of that experience that I decided to go to Hawaii the year after to consolidate my learning. The retreat was small in number – there were only 12 of us – and run by Master Luke Chan only. It lasted for a whole month and we were practising seven to eight hours a day! For me personally it was an amazing experience; the practice generated an awareness of my inner-self that has stayed with me since. Further improvements in my health also came.

On a social level it was great to be with other people equally open to this self-healing art. We had some great conversations and experiences together and I am still in regular contact with a number of people I met there.

Since returning from the retreat, I have continued to practise. Admittedly, it has been harder practising largely alone after such an intensive group experience, but I find connecting with the qi-field through visualization helps. My health has continued to improve and I consider my digestive problems 80% better than before I was introduced to Qigong. I have also begun teaching locally in Reading and London to build up awareness of this practice. This allows me to continue learning in the wider context of helping others, as well as in my personal practice time. In April 2003, I assisted a workshop given by Patricia van Walstijn in Putney, London. This was a great experience for me and the participants seemed to get a lot from it. We hope to do another one soon.

Case Study

Jan, a practitioner from the US who I met in Hawaii on a month long Chi-Lel™ retreat, was recovering from metastatic breast cancer when I met her. At that point, she had been practising Chi-Lel™ for over a year. In the months since then, she has regularly practised Chi-Lel™ for three hours a day in conjunction with conventional therapy and has steadily improved. In her latest report, she states that she has made a near full recovery.

She attributes her recovery primarily to Chi-Lel™ and her story shows how dramatic improvements can be obtained with hard work. Chi-Lel™ is a pleasant and uplifting practice to perform, but one should not underestimate the determination needed to practise for three hours a day or more over a long period. Jan’s full story can be seen at: jan.htm


Zhineng Qigong (Chi-Neng, Chi-Lel™) is a relatively new form of Qigong with excellent medical benefits to those who persevere in its practise. I can heartily recommend it to those people who do not wish to rely on conventional medical treatment alone, or feel that conventional treatment can take them no further. Zhineng Qigong can increase energy and balance you emotionally. With perseverance, it has been seen to reverse many chronic conditions and with more intense practice can be used to treat more serious diseases.


1.    Clark A. Secrets of Qigong. The Ivy Press Ltd. Dorling Kindersley. 2001.
2.    Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Centre. A Summary of Zhineng Qigong’s Healing Effects on Chronic Diseases. 1991.
3.     Chan L. 101 Miracles of Natural Healing. Benefactor Press. 1999.
4.     Chan HH. Chi-Lel™ Qigong: Body and Mind Method. Video tape, Audio CD and Book. Benefactor Press. 2002.

Further Information

Listings of Patricia van Walstijn’s forthcoming UK workshops:
Chi-Lel™ in the US and details of Master Luke Chan’s retreats in China:


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About Jeremy Lazarus

Jeremy Lazarus is a former finance director and management consultant, and now a certified trainer of NLP, Time Line Therapy(tm) and hypnosis. He is based in North London, and is a director of The Lazarus Consultancy Ltd and Artesian Group Ltd. These companies specialize in delivering approved NLP practitioner and master practitioner training, including Time Line Therapy(tm) and hypnosis training, as well as business training, executive and life coaching, and personal breakthrough sessions. Jeremy has spoken at the ANLP conference, and at regional NLP meetings on several occasions, and has appeared on television several times as a career coach. He can be contacted on Tel: 0044 208 349 2929; Fax: 0044 208 349 2928; Mobile: 0777 55 22239; or

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