The “Three Mindful Alignments” refers to paying conscious attention to the “three treasures” of body, breath, and mind and aligning each of the treasures together in the Tao.
Picture a tea carafe to represent the body. Add some hot water to represent our breath. Some tea leaves to represent our mind.
Put them together and you’ve aligned the Three Treasures. Body containing the breath and the mind. Consciousness diffusing throughout.
When I say in practice that we initiate the three mindful alignments and then carry them together as one through the practice this analogy of the tea in the carafe illustrates what I’m talking about. We hold body, breath, and mind together with mindful intent. The tea being diffused through the water represents all the Qi being absorbed in us and activating “the healer within”. It’s a way to get the most benefit from our practice.
Let’s go through the three alignments themselves. The three mindful alignments, aligning of the three treasures the body, breath, and mind are something we do before each of our practices whether we’re doing a Qigong form or a Tai Chi form. Remember that this is something you can do independently of a form as well. You can do it at home throughout the day. You can do it sitting, lying down. or standing. It’s something that you can use to recenter yourself and to turn on, even for brief moments, the healer within.
Body, the first treasure.
Mindfully aligning the body is about adjusting posture and connecting with the energies around us, the energy of the earth, of the sky, and of the living realm around us. To align the body we begin paying attention to the earth underneath our feet. Put your mental awareness on the soles of your feet and feel your contact with the earth.
At the other end of the spectrum is the sky. We gently lift the crown of our head, not so much of a stretch but more of an attitude adjustment to bring our our skeletal system into structural alignment.
We say that feet are standing on earth and head is touching sky. In between those two points we strive to relax the muscles and allow gravity to pull them downward. The joints soften. Allow your knees to be springy like shock absorbers. Looseness and relaxation in an upright skeletal system is key to aligning the body.
Breath, the second treasure.
The second mindful alignment is the breath. We start just by becoming aware of the breath. Where do you feel it? Do you feel it on your nostrils? Do you feel it at the back of your throat? Can you feel it being drawn deep into the body?
With a typical Qigong breath you should feel some expansion in your lower abdomen as you breathe in. With the inhale you’ll feel the abdomen moving outward. That comes from us using the diaphragm to breathe with. When you exhale everything’s going to move back into center. You want to allow the breath to be deep. By deep I mean feeling it in the lower abdomen. Feel it deep as opposed to full breath. A full breath is when we bring the maximum amount of air into our lungs. So these are deep breaths. They tend to be slow and quiet.
Mind, the third treasure.
The third mindful alignment is the mind itself and in a way we’ve already engaged the mind by regulating and aligning the body and the breath but now we use our ability to focus on the mind itself to take that to a deeper level. So just like we allow the breath to settle and our muscles to relax we look at where our thoughts are. Allow stray thoughts to dissipate. One technique is to simply pay attention to what your body is experiencing, what your senses are telling you, what your biofeedback connection of the body and mind are saying. While you’re doing that just naturally go through the other two alignments again of the body and the breath. Remember we want these work together. Using the mind we’re engaging both the Yin aspect and the Yang aspect of the mind. The Yin aspect is that part of our mind, our consciousness, that is receptive. It’s receiving information from our senses.
The Yang aspect of the mind is directing our thoughts and our consciousness through the body. To the earth. To the sky. To our senses. The Yang aspect is that aspect of our mind that directs Qi through the body to affect our movements. The body is moving because I’m intending the movement with my mind.
Remember this all works best and awakens the healer within when we can keep the three treasures aligned throughout the practice. Or we strive to do it. We may not always hit the 100% mark but just like any other form of exercise or practice, it’s the doing it and the striving for maximum effectiveness that increases its ability.