Chanwuyi as A Way to Improve Psychological and Physical Health

Part of the essence in Chanwuyi is to get control of ones’ thoughts. Many psychological problems are caused by negative thoughts or illogical thinking. For instance, stress and anxiety may have resulted from unnecessary worry on daily living, negative thoughts, and unrealistic beliefs. If one can learn to control the way of thinking, many psychological problems might be reduced. Thus, Chanwuyi can potentially be an effective psychological intervention for people who wish to improve their psychological wellness.

“Mind-wandering” is a new concept in recent scientific study, referring to the experience of people’ mind not concentrating on a single topic, but thinking about something other than what they are doing for a long period of time. Interestingly, research studies showed people who spend less time on wandering his/her mind is happier than those who are always “day-dreaming”. Yet, mind-wandering is an unconscious and automatic process that almost every individual lives with a wandering mind. From the brain-science perspective, mind-wandering may lead to a waste of mental energy. Because individuals spend a lot of energy thinking about something unproductive, there is not much energy left for them to complete what they are supposed to do. This might be one of the causes of why we are less productive at work sometimes. Thus, practising Nei Gong, can be a training of the mind, to improve the productivity of the individuals.

According to the Chinese medical concept, there are some elements inside our body that have not been able to be measured or made visible with a medical machine, which are the Qi and Blood. The term “Blood” does not have the same meaning that is commonly understood in western medicine, but it is rather a dense form of body fluids that acts upon and is energized by the Qi. The Qi and Blood can be considered as a circulation system inside the organs, bones, muscles, skins and neural system of human body. A smooth and effective circulation of the Qi and Blood is the key to psychological and physical health. Practice of Nei Gong is to improve the circulation of the Qi and blood, thus an effective internal circulation system can be maintained in our body. In Western terms, that is to improve the functioning of our immune system.


Dejian Mind-body Intervention

To apply the traditional Chinese culture into modern society, we have developed a practical and easy-to-follow method, and termed it the Dejian Mind-Body Intervention (DMBI). This Chinese Chan-based mind-body Intervention is developed based upon the Chanwuyi, and is originated from the Shaolin Temple. The DMBI is named after the Grand Master of Chanwuyi – Shi Dejian (who is originated from Shaolin Temple and now the abbot of Songshan Monastery). Recent empirical studies on this intervention have shown that it has positive effects in improving physical health, mood and cognitive functions in children with autism, adults with brain damage and depression, and community-dwelling adults with memory difficulties.

The principle of the DMBI is to alleviate psychological distress by understanding the root of problems in accordance with Buddhism philosophy, also enhance psychological and physical health by refining dietary habits, practicing some Nei Gong exercises (i.e., mind-body exercises), and clearing bodily orifices (i.e., openings of the body). The DMBI also emphasizes an integrative intervening approach for the mind and the body through a thought changing process. It consists of four interconnected elements including: (1) diet modification, (2) awareness of the truth of self and the world (3) practice of Nei Gong, and (4) clearing of the bodily orifices. Although the four components of DMBI are interconnected to bring maximum treatment effects, each component or a combination of different components can be tailor-made flexibly for specific clinical cases.



According to the traditional Chinese Chan healing practice (i.e., Chanyi), some foods, if taken, will generate excessive internal heat, which in turn adversely affects our cognitive ability, emotional management and physical health. These foods include ginger, garlic, green onion, spicy foods, eggs, meat, and fish. Thus, avoiding these foods will have a positive effect on our psychological and physical health.


Nei Gong

Nei Gong is somewhat like Tai Chi, involve exercises that emphasize smooth, gentle, and calm movements. The benefits of practicing Nei Gong is twofold. On the one hand, Nei Gong helps reduce stress, increase flexibility of the limbs, enhance strength of the legs, and improve overall physical health and the circulation of the Qi and blood. On the other hand, Nei Gong helps foster self-awareness and self-control of one’s mental state, thus a calm and relaxed state of mind can be restored.


Thought Changing

Based on the Chinese Chan and the concepts of Buddhism, the thought-changing process aims to increase the awareness of how unrealistic desires (e.g., greed), anger and obsession (e.g., craving for something or somebody) affect one’s mental and physical health. For example, think about what are your emotional and physical reactions when you get into conflict with others, and when you crave for something that is beyond reality? How does the negative thought and emotion resulting affect your psychological and physical health and the quality of life? Based on the assumption that the mind and the body are interconnected, diet modification, mind-body exercises and clearing of bodily orifices can facilitate this thought-changing process.