One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light
One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light
is the first section in Robert Peng's book,
The Master Key
The Mysterious Mr. Tan
I eagerly returned the following day. Watching the fire with Mr. Tan was more fun than watching ants alone. But I had to time my visit carefully. My mom returned from the dining hall to feed me during her lunch break, so I waited until she left and then went out the back way unseen. I brought two sweet buns from lunch as a gift for my new friend.
“These are for you,” I said, giving them both to him.
“These buns are delicious with spicy pickles.” He appeared genuinely delighted. “Would you like to share one with me?”
“Yes, please.” I loved spicy pickles.
Mr. Tan stood and walked over to a small cupboard. He opened the lid to a ceramic jar he used to ferment radishes and scooped some onto each bun. We chewed them heartily.
The next time I saw Mr. Tan, he said, “Today I have a surprise for you.”
He pulled out two sweet potatoes from his shirt pocket. “Wow—they’re my favorite!” I responded.
“Shall we roast them in the boiler?”
Mr. Tan washed the potatoes and placed them under the raging heat emitted by the furnace.
While they were roasting, he asked, “Do you like to hear stories about the Monkey King?”
“I love stories about the Monkey King!” I exclaimed.
“Well then, do you know how the Monkey King was born?” Mr. Tan’s eyes widened.
“The Monkey didn’t have a father and mother like you do.”
“Oh, no. There was an ancient stone resting on the slopes of a faraway mountain that was covered with flowers and fruits. This stone stuck out and was huge—bigger than all of Xiangtan.” Mr. Tan widened his arms to demonstrate.
“One day the stone exploded—BOOM!” He startled me, then calmly added, “When the dust settled, there was the Monkey King. But this was no ordinary monkey. He had special powers. Do you want to hear about them?”
“Yes,” I said, chewing a hot mouthful of sweet potato.
“The Monkey King was very, very strong, and he could lift heavy objects like cars and buses as if they were empty cardboard boxes. He could leap from one place to another and travel across all of China in the blink of an eye.”
Mr. Tan hopped around the boiler room like a leaping monkey as I chuckled.
“But his greatest power was this—the Monkey King could become anything he wanted to. He could become a teensy-weensy ant.” Mr. Tan knelt down on the ground and imitated the insect. I giggled at his pantomiming. “He could become a tree.” Mr. Tan stood up straight and held his arms out at weird angles so they looked like branches. “And he could even become a chicken.” Mr. Tan puffed his chest out, puckered his lips, folded his arms into wings, and bobbed his head.” This time I laughed heartily. He was a very animated storyteller. As the days passed, I spent as much time with Mr. Tan as I could, and each time I visited he amused me with the Monkey King’s adventures.
About a month after we first met, Mr. Tan asked a curious question as we watched the fire and ate our potatoes together. “Do you want to learn the martial arts, Jihui?” he asked.
“Oh yes! I dream about it,” I answered. “I can teach you.”
I stopped chewing.
“You know martial arts?”
“I do. And I’ll teach you, but only if you agree to these two conditions. First, you must get here every morning by five o’clock and practice for two hours. Second, you have to promise to keep your training a secret. Do you agree?”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Good. We’ll begin tomorrow morning.”
I left the boiler room brimming with excitement. I ran back home imagining myself fighting and defeating everyone I passed. I was so thrilled that I failed to notice that my chest pain was completely gone.
That night I had trouble falling asleep; I wanted morning to come. Finally I dozed off, and when I awoke it was five minutes to five. I dressed quickly and quietly crept out of the house. I flew across the street, leaped over the fence, and made it right on time.
Mr. Tan was waiting for me and led me to a small wooded area behind the boiler room. “Your first lesson is Horse Stance,” he said, then demonstrated the posture. His feet were two shoulder widths apart, his knees were bent at a ninety-degree angle, and his spine was straight. He made it look easy.
“Now you do it,” he instructed.
I assumed the posture. Instantly my legs tensed, and after only a
short while my thighs began to burn.
“One minute has passed,” he said. “Today you’ll hold the position for ten minutes.”
I began sweating. My legs started shaking.
“Focus on your Lower Dantian,” he said, pointing to the area located below my navel. I did. The pain eased a bit.
My legs were ablaze.
My backside sagged and he kicked it, saying, “Don’t cheat.” My whole body was shaking.
My teeth started to clatter.
“Three . . . two . . . one. Stop!”
I collapsed to the ground. My lungs felt as though they were about to explode. It took me a while to recover. “Are you all right?” he asked.
“Martial arts training is a long, hard journey. If you want, you can
stop right now.”
“No,” I protested.
“Today we practiced Horse Stance for ten minutes. Tomorrow I will increase the time. Are you sure you want to continue?”
“Yes, Shifu Tan.” To emphasize my determination, I called him by the traditional title used to address a master.
“Good.” he seemed pleased. “Horse Stance training is the foundation of the martial arts. Whether you punch or kick, you need a solid base. A strong root gives you power and mobility. And now I will teach you the first three moves of Tiger Fist Form, an exercise that will develop your grip strength.”
I spent the rest of the morning passionately practicing those three moves.
To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...
Robert Peng is a world-renowned Qigong Master, healer, and author of the book, The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom.
Click here for a free download of the audiobook, 100 Days of Darkness and Light, which is the first section in Robert's book, The Master Key.
Robert's companion resources include:
The Master Key Video Series (4 DVDs of Qigong practices)
The Master Key Audio Series (5 CDs of Qigong practices)
Qigong Ecstasy (45-minute Qigong practice video)
AM/PM Qigong (Two 30-minute Qigong routines video)
Robert was born and raised in Hunan, China. At age eight, he began an intensive apprenticeship under the close guidance of the legendary monk Xiao Yao, an enlightened master known for his profound healing ability and martial arts skill. At age 15, Robert performed a 100-day water fast in a small dark room at a secluded monastery in the remote mountains of Hunan province. He underwent a radical spiritual transformation and awakened amazing healing powers. Master Xiao Yao encouraged Robert to develop his healing skills by studying with other Chinese masters.
After pursuing his training quietly while attending university in Changsha, where he majored in English Literature, at 29 years old he began to teach publicly, and within five years had trained over 150,000 students all over China, Australia, and the U.S.
With his deep understanding and practice of Qigong, and with extensive life and teaching experience in the western world, Robert has developed a unique way to teach Qigong that people from different cultures can easily understand and follow while enjoying the real essence of this ancient Chinese healing art of wisdom, love, and vitality.
Robert has been a regular presenter at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Esalen Institute, Integrative Health Symposium, and many other organizations and schools.
Together with Bishop Desmond and Pema Chodron, he was honored as one of "Top Ten Heroes of 2013" for his contribution to transform "the ancient Chinese healing art of Qigong into today's fast-growing holistic practices — in addition to use as a spiritual practice for inner balance and peace, Qigong movement is gaining acceptance as a gentle movement for chronic illness and pain."
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 23: Visionaries Global Summit