One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light
is the first section in Robert Peng's book,
The Master Key
The Mysterious Mr. Tan
My Adventures with Shifu Tan
The fruit trees at Yi Suo were ripe, and the flower gardens were in full bloom. I had been practicing daily for three months now.
“Today I will test your internal strength,” Shifu Tan announced.
I stood in Horse Stance. He grabbed a sledgehammer and swung it hard, aiming for my Lower Dantian. My belly bounced it off like a rubber tire.
“Your guardian Qi is strong,” he said, swinging again. “Normal punches won’t hurt you anymore.”
Summer break ended and the fall term began. I returned to school eager to see my classmates. Shifu Tan demanded that I give my schoolwork the same level of commitment I gave my martial arts practice. He inspired me to excel, and I surprised my parents with high grades. None of my friends were aware of my training. I led a double life; I woke up before dawn, scurried over to the boiler room with my schoolbag, and practiced martial arts until I heard the ring of the first school bell. I then had five minutes before the second bell rang and class began. The school was a three-minute run from Yi Suo, so I sprinted there with my schoolbag bouncing behind me and sat down at my desk with a minute to spare. When the school day ended, I reversed my steps, and within five minutes I was back in the garden behind the boiler room practicing martial arts.
Over time my training intensified. I completed Tiger Fist and learned more advanced fighting sets. I sparred with Shifu Tan regularly and he was content with my progress. My arms and legs became more resilient and much stronger. I experienced explosive power flowing through my body whenever I practiced. Each time I mastered one exercise, Shifu Tan taught me another that was more challenging. I became proficient at three-, two-, and one-finger push- ups and did sets of fifty without tiring.
Shifu Tan could do all the drills he taught me with graceful ease. When he demonstrated handstand pushups, he rooted his hands to the ground and his inverted body bobbed up and down effortlessly. He explained the proper breathing method as he performed a dozen
repetitions without straining. I fumbled at first. But my master’s pres- ence motivated me to train hard, and eventually I mastered it.
Three years passed in this fashion.
“Let your parents know you’ll be sleeping over in the boiler room tonight,” Shifu Tan informed me one morning after practice.
That evening my master and I ate an unusually early dinner. When I was finished Shifu Tan said, “Time for bed.”
I was surprised. I had anticipated some exciting late-night activity.
“Where shall I sleep?” I asked.
“Over there,” he answered, pointing at a rope. One end was tied to a window bar and the other end was tied to a pipe halfway across the room.
“That rope is my bed?” I said in disbelief.
“Jihui, you’ve mastered basic rooting and balancing skills while standing up and awake. Tonight you’ll learn to develop those skills while lying down and asleep.”
“But Shifu, I can’t even lie down on a rope when I’m awake. How will I sleep on it?”
“I will show you how.” Shifu Tan climbed on the rope as if it were a mattress and folded his arms behind his head. One of his feet balanced on the rope and the other was crossed over his knee.
“Swing the rope,” he instructed.
I pushed the rope back and forth like a hammock. He looked very comfortable swinging, and half a minute later he sprung off.
“It’s your turn. Focus on your Lower Dantian and relax,” he said.
I sat on the rope, leaned back, lifted my legs in the air, and instantly plopped to the floor.
“Try again,” Shifu Tan insisted.
I concentrated harder, but had the same results.
An hour later I still hadn’t made any headway. I was frustrated and exhausted. I looked helplessly at Shifu Tan.
“Now that you’ve tried a hundred times, I’ll teach you the secret. Simply visualize your center of gravity dropping halfway between the rope and the floor. See yourself balancing in the air.”
I positioned myself carefully on the rope.
“Bring your attention to the Lower Dantian and sink your Qi
there. Feel your weight slide under your body.”
I lifted my legs in the air slowly and envisioned my body weight
dropping. I managed to hang on for a few seconds before falling off the rope again.
“That’s much better,” he encouraged. “Let me try again,” I said optimistically.
I climbed back on the rope. My second attempt lasted longer, and within ten minutes I was lying on the rope swinging back and forth, hands behind my head with one leg crossed over the other.
“Shifu, I made it!” I exclaimed triumphantly.
“Good,” he acknowledged, then gave me a spoon. “Hold on to this and go to sleep.”
By now I was tired, so it didn’t take me long to fall asleep. But the spoon slid from my fingers and when it clanked to the ground I woke up—still balancing on the rope!
Shifu Tan picked up the spoon and handed it back to me.
“This time chant song jing zi ran as you fall asleep. Open up to peace, tranquility, and acceptance and you will remain aware and balanced even in restful sleep.”
I woke up the next morning still holding the spoon. I continued to practice rope sleeping regularly until it become as easy as sleeping on a bed. When Shifu Tan was confident that I had mastered the skill, we slept on tree branches. At first I slept on thick boughs only a few feet off the ground. But gradually we climbed higher and slept on slimmer limbs. We spent many warm summer nights twenty feet above the ground slumbering under the stars.
One night we set out for the countryside.
“Tonight we won’t be sleeping in a tree,” Shifu Tan said.
“Where will we sleep, then?” I asked.
“We’ll be spending the night in a graveyard.”
“Every human being has a spiritual essence,” my master explained, “and that energy hovers around a body that has recently died.” I knotted up. “You mean their ghost?”
“In the transition between life and death, powerful energies are released. We are going to meditate on that energy. The spirits of the dead are no different from the spirits of the living, and there is nothing to fear,” he answered calmly.
We entered the graveyard. The silence was unnerving.
Shifu Tan sat cross-legged over a freshly dug grave. I sat beside him. The ground felt soft and warm, like a cushion.
“I have chosen to bring you here in the springtime when the Earth’s energy rises most strongly,” he explained. “Earth Qi mixed with the spiritual essence of the recently dead creates a powerful elixir. The energy around us is potent. Tonight’s meditation will be memorable. Jihui, when you close your eyes, focus on the Lower Dantian until you see a light glowing there. Then allow that light to float through the core of your body straight up to your third eye. When it arrives there, you will feel your midbrow light up like a screen. Keep looking at it and you may see some friendly spirits.”
I closed my eyes and brought my attention to my Lower Dantian as instructed.
Shifu Tan continued, “You might feel the sensation of a hand touching you. If that happens, don’t be alarmed. That’s a sign that a spirit is communicating with you. Breathe deeply into your Lower Dantian and allow the spirit’s energy to flow there. No matter what happens, don’t open your eyes. If you panic chant song jing zi ran and shine the light of your heart on the darkness in your mind.”
After meditating in inner darkness for a while, I saw a light glowing in my Lower Dantian and it floated up to my third eye. My forehead expanded energetically and then it brightened. I could “feel” someone looking at me. The sensation startled me, and my heart was racing. A face came into clear view. It was an old woman. We just looked at each other. She didn’t say anything, and after a few moments she vanished. Then more faces appeared, some younger and some older, but each of them seemed friendly enough, so I relaxed until suddenly a ghoulish, negative presence disturbed my pleasant, peaceful meditation. The negative energy latched on to my lower back and began to crawl up my spine like a slimy reptile.
“Song jing zi ran, song jing zi ran, song jing zi ran,” I chanted. “Keep chanting,” Shifu Tan whispered. “Don’t be afraid. Keep chanting.”
I focused the light of my heart on that dark energy and it melted away. We meditated until dawn without any further unpleasant incidents.
To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...
Robert’s brand-new online Qigong class, YI JIN JING: Classic of Changes, offers 14 weeks of mind-body transformation.
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."