March 7, 2010

What Bigu Means to Me

by Eve Adesso

HUANG T'ING CHING (The Yellow Court Canon) states: "The grains of hundreds of cereals are the spirits of the earth. Though the five flavours are beautiful on the outside, they (actually) are an evil foul-smelling demon. The foul smell corrupts the soul and the Embryonic breath is annililated. How can you attain the return of infancy? Why not eat breath which is the supreme harmonious essence, so as to be able not to die and enter the HUANG NING (The Yellow Repose). (1)

I had always thought of breatharianism as something esoteric and attainable only by mountain dwelling hermits, and most certainly highly unlikely for a New York City resident like myself. I was wrong!
It's been over three months now that I've been in the bigu, loosely translated as the breatharian state. Michael Winn asked me to share my experience with you through the newsletter. I want to emphasize that this is about my personal journey, yours may be very different.


In 1996, despite my active Tao practice, my immune system crashed and I became so tired I could barely walk up the stairs to my loft. This put me on a path of learning about nutrition, and I began exploring many new things. I went to the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico to teach and participate in their program. I arrived in an open minded yet skeptical state about the "Living Foods Lifestyle" that they teach there. The only thing I was sure of was that 2 weeks in the Carribean in the winter would do me a lot of good. Little did I know that this would lead to my first bigu-like experience. I was teaching qigong in the morning on the beach and the Healing Tao in the evening and following their program of eating 100% Living Foods (raw fruits and vegetables, prepared in special ways to make them more easily digestable) while participating in their classes about relaxation, meal preparation, the digestive system, colon care, etc. I learned that cooking food kills it's enzymes, that are equivalent to the chi or life force of the food. The first few days of the diet I experienced detoxification. I felt generally sleepy, with aching joints, then hyper in other moments. As the detoxing subsided I began to feel a light, indescribable state of consciousness that I had never achieved while eating cooked foods. At times I felt blissful and caught glimpses of eternal vision. I had not yet felt this level of clarity and harmony so, in spite of the fact that Chinese medicine often discourages the eating of raw foods, upon my return home I made a concerted effort to change my eating habits. I grew sprouts and greens in my loft, soaked nuts and seeds and prepared these new foods. I was by no means a living foods poster child but I did my best and my health improved.


By Sun Bu-er
Once you can feed on the living energy,

Your lungs will be in an extroardinary state of clear coolness.
Forget the spirit, and there are no appearances to cling to;
Merge with the ultimate, and the existent emptiness is gone.
For breakfast look for wild taro roots;
When hungry at night, pick wetland mushrooms.
If you mix in smoke and fire,
Your body will not walk on the jewel pond.

This poem by Taoist Immortal Sun Bu-er, one of the most beloved figures of Chinese folklore, speaks of the practice of abstention from cooked food. It is possible to do this because the living energy, the spiritual breath fills our bodies, so that we naturally do not think of eating. It does not mean starving oneself or enduring hunger. "If you mix in smoke and fire, your body will not walk on the Jewel Pond." The immortal body should be pure clear spirit. If you do not abstain from cooked food, then ordinary murky energy will mix into the body, so you cannot hope to transend it. The Jewel Pond is the abode of the female Immortals. Legends of the Immortals say that the palace of the Immortal Queen Mother of the West has a jewel pond on it's left. (2)


Years passed and I regained my health and vitality. Even so, in recent years I began to feel like my qigong practice was stalled and I didn't know why. It seemed like I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I study astrology and was very intrigued at the prospective of the dramatic Aug 11th total eclipse of the sun that was to be coupled with a powerful grand cross astrological lineup. Many astrologers were predicting that August 11, 1999 would be a crucial turning point where the material would lose importance and the spiritual would come to the forefront. I was searching for a place where I could be receptive to the shifting energy with a good group of people.

The Greatest Kan and Li Retreat in Big Indian taught by Michael Winn seemed like the best choice. In retrospect I see that, for me, it was ideal. I feel that his teaching and being open to the energy around the eclipse were instrumental in strengthening my chi field and nudging me into bigu. Big Indian is located in a protected park area of upstate New York where nature is still wild and powerful. The grounds and buildings are filled with statues and art from India and China. The marriage of nature, sacred art and meditation create a beautiful and highly charged environment that nourishes deep transformation.
Michael Winn taught the internal alchemical practice of Greatest Kan and Li in a clear way and I was able to get it. I felt myself making a deep alchemical connection between the incandescent sun and lush, fertile earth. I was able to internalize the essence of each and hold them within my energy body. Hang-ups and blockages that had stymied me, some since childhood, were being cremated from within and dissolving into blissful, chi-filled insights as they transformed.


I had no clue as to what was about to happen. I had been back from Big Indian for about two weeks. One Friday night, after a relaxing day of saunas at the local Russian baths, I went with my significant other and a friend out to eat at a Ukrainian restaurant that featured dancing and live music. Carried away by the moment, I ate a much heavier meal than I was used to. The next day I felt awful and decided that my system was due for a cleanse and I would begin a two week regime of eating strictly Living Foods.

I went out and bought a large supply of sprouts, organic fresh fruits and vegetables, bagged wheatgrass, etc. The next day I began my familiar routine of preparing the mainstay of Ann Wigmore's approach to Living Foods; "Energy Soup", made of sprouts, greens, seaweed and avocado. Later I ate fruit or salad. On the second day, I knew from past experience that I would experience symptoms of detoxification such as fatigue, achy joints, and sluggishness and sure enough, I felt tired.

On the third day, though, to my surprise I felt fine and I was beginning to notice that I wasn't hungry. What I was feeling was very different from past cleansing diets and fasts. Usually the detox symptoms would last for days and I would be plagued by hunger, dizziness and weakness. I was puzzled because none of this was happening. This is when the thought, "Could I be in bigu?" first crossed my mind. The forth day was when the truth started to reveal itself.

I was finishing up work on my CD and had a recording session scheduled for the afternoon. In the morning I was busy vocalizing and preparing and didn't have time to eat. It was a beautiful September afternoon when I emerged from the subway and began my eight block walk across Manhattan to the recording studio. As I walked through the busy streets and into the Gramercy Park area my attention was drawn by the scattered trees and autumn leaves. I was feeling a calm centeredness that bordered on ecstatic. Even so, I felt grounded and was experiencing no hunger, dizziness, or any of the things I normally would have felt if I hadn't eaten all day.
Feeling this level of blissful serenity, in the midst of the frenetic energy of Manhattan was a new experience for me. At this point I realized that something was up since I felt significantly better after NOT eating. Right then a sign advertizing fresh papaya juice caught my eye, I went into the cafe and ordered one. It tasted great, but after drinking it I noticed that my energy and blissful state went down a few notches. This was the beginning. I realized I might be in bigu and declared that, from that point on, that my eating or not eating would be an experiment.

Subsequently I noticed that the less I ate, the better I felt. So, I stopped eating.

The first week was disorienting to say the least. The lifelong habit of eating is a strange thing to revolutionize. Anxiety about being different would alternate with the feeling that something miraculous was happening. I recieved insight after insight on the priorities of my life. I couldn't treat myself like a "feed me and I work" machine anymore. I figured out how to cut back on working and still have what I need. My qigong practice became my daily bread, my food, my life. I took the subway to the beach a couple of times a week and did a long practice session, drinking in the sea air. Eventually I began doing a long practice session starting at midnight. The chi at this time of night feels tremendously nourishing. The Tao Canon and many masters recommend practicing at this hour.

In addition to practicing I began buying many books on qigong and reading something every day. I've been finding the translations from the Tao Canon, the ancient texts to be especially helpful and inspiring. A lot of the metaphorical language is becoming clearer to me. I also have become very sensitive, feeling my own and other peoples emotions more clearly and powerfully than ever.

When fears would arise I would meditate and consult my inner guidance on whether to continue. During the first few weeks at times I felt tired and weak, but in my quiet state I realized that it was due to detoxing. As time passes and more and more toxins are eliminated I feel stronger and stronger and and at the same time more vunerable, due to the heightened sensitivity. I do a weight lifting workout 2-3 times a week and have maintained a normal work schedule.

I have decided that, if my hunger reasserts itself or I notice any decline in health or eccessive weight loss I will return to eating, but so far the opposite is taking place. In the first month and a half I lost 18 pounds. Now my weight has stabilized and I am at my ideal weight. I visited a doctor that has knowledge of qigong to monitor my physical condition. I continue to take blue green algae and tonic herb teas such as reishi mushroom and ginseng.

What is Bigu?

The term bigu denotes an advanced qigong state during which the practitioner is able to maintain his or her normal activities without eating or drinking (and sometimes sleeping) for long periods, in some cases for several months and years at a time. A characteristic of the bigu state is that one's overall condition improves rather than weakens, contrary to ordinary techniques of prolonged fasting. In addition , bigu encompasses other elements which exceed or transcend the beneficial effects of therapeutic fasting. These extraordinary aspects of the bigu state have been occasionally observed by medical and scientific practitioners; for example, archeological evidence includes an oracle -bone scripture found in a 1000 year old tomb in Hunan, China, which contains a detailed written account with pictures denoting the bigu phenomenon.
Yan Xin stresses that bigu should be seen as a "signpost" or an adjunct to one's practice, but not as an ultimate goal. He once said "The bigu state should not be advocated or overemphasized." The potential of qi gong far surpasses these phenomena. (3)

My first real exposure to the bigu concept was while studying with Dr. Yan Xin and his organization. In some of his books (see footnotes), bigu is mentioned and scientific studies done in China are cited. In one of his speeches he talks about a Chinese woman in bigu, living in the US that gave birth to a healthy baby subsisting on just water.

What I am doing would be called "non-standard bigu" i.e. drinking liquids and occasionally eating small amounts of fruit or vegetables as opposed to "standard bigu" which involves no eating or drinking, except for water. It's hard for me to know for sure what is happening physiologically. It feels as though most of my nourishment is being absorbed directly from the surrounding chi through the breath with more intense absorption taking place during practice.

Scientific research studies in China have shown that practicing qigong can improve absorption of nutrients from food. I believe that the small amount of food and liquids I am ingesting is being utilized to the maximum. I have no doubt that the mystery of bigu is something that will eventually be understood through scientific research and monitoring.


This is a good place to emphasize some things I've learned from my friends at Yan Xin Qigong. Bigu is an effect or gift of advanced and/or prolonged qi gong practice. IF YOU'RE HUNGRY YOU'RE NOT IN BIGU. As we all know, if you're not in bigu, going without food can be hazardous to your health.

If you want to become breatharian I believe that it's essential to develop a very close rapport with your body and be able to distinguish between physical hunger and mental cravings. Eating disorders are rampant in our culture. Be careful. If you're hungry, eat, in a healthy and balanced way. Keep practicing. Do good deeds. This will bring you closer.

My understanding of bigu is that it is not "not eating". It is practicing to a level where all your meridians merge and you and feel the chi continuously buoying you up. Your hunger dissapears. You feel full, bright and mildly ecstatic.


Lu T'ung, a Tang poet, wrote of tea: "The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrails but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The forth cup raises a slight perspiration,-all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals. The seventh cup, - ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? (mythical islands in the Eastern sea, commonly associated with immortality). Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither." (4)

The Zen idea of stopping everthing to be in the moment while drinking tea has helped me. It gives me something to focus on when everyone else is eating. If I feel comfortable enough with the people I'm with I sometimes sit at or away from the table and practice while they are eating......we are all taking in nourishment, just in different ways.

Initially, when my partner would make his dinner I would feel afraid that the connection we had around food would dissapear and put distance between us. Sometimes I make tea, or we make a soup, then we sit down at the table together and I drink tea or some of the broth of the soup.We may have lost some of our food connection but we practice together much more often. He's much more interested in qigong now and I've come home several times to find him re-reading Mantak Chia's and other books about the Tao. He's been in the martial arts since he was a teenager and has been hearing stories about of breatharians for a long time. He's excited for me and has been quite encouraging. At times he has felt a transference of energy and his appetite has lessened or dissappeared and he has become extremely sensitive.


In addition to broadening my knowledge on the subject of bigu, I feel I have benefited from Dr. Yan Xin's emphasis on having a big goal towards the benefit of humanity. Big contributions are sustained on a foundation of smaller contributions and having "put one's house in order".

"We should extend our view of life as ordinary work and contribution to include great contributions. Body and soul should be directed towards making great contributions to the entire human race, society and the universe. We should always view our life as part of the the whole-part of the life of the entire universe." (5)

Dr Yan Xin

Dr Yan Xin often says that cultivation; i.e. aligning yourself with and accumulating virtue in your everyday life should constitute 70%, and is by far the most important element in qigong while physical and meditation practices should constitute 30%. Virtue can be seen as the predominant benevolent force that is omnipresent in the universe.

This aspect cannot be underestimated. Food and eating are powerful, hypnotic, gratifying and satisfying. Meals are social, ritualistic and imbued with love and creativity. What can take their place? What can feed us more than physical food? A breatharian goes straight to the source, cuts out the middleman, so to speak and absorbs the nutrient of all nutrients, the supreme substance complete with everything nessessary to sustain life, directly.

Technically that energy may be accessed through the breath and the saliva but spiritually it rides on virtue. In my case, it felt as though my excitement and commitment to my music and working on the book I am writing "launched" me into bigu. And, although my art benefits me, personally, my overriding drive and enthusiasm are with the impact I believe it can have towards freeing the human race.

Bigu often feels like a precious gift. It's great to finally have enough time in my life for the things I consider most important. Eliminating cooking, eating and shopping frees up 2-5 hours per day. Much money is saved and can be reallocated. My mind feels clear and unclouded by the burdensome digestive process. At some point this may run it's course but I know that I will never go back to the excessive and unconscious eating that I used to consider normal. I am so grateful to have made the Healing Tao and qigong a part of my life. I feel I am deeply changed forever.

In respect for yin and yang, I want to mention some of the dark, fearful moments I've encountered in my "bigu beginning".

Over the past ten years I had, one by one, eliminated addictive behaviors and substances from my life. The only one left was food. At times I ate heavy foods to supress unpleasant feelings. It's much harder now to run from bad feelings whether induced by present day events or arising from within. I have to sit down and deal with things. I know that in the long run this is the best option, but in the short run...... it hurts!

In these painful moments sometimes I break down and eat something but mainly I deal with it by stopping to practice Fusion and explore and transform the cause of my anguish. I'm also working on slowing down my life and pulling myself further away from that version of modern day existence that is nothing more than a whirlwind of earning and spending, held in place by various addictions.

The practice of breatharianism is far from being known or accepted. Apart from my qigong and spiritually minded friends, I don't always tell people that I'm in bigu and not eating. If I'm around at meal times I often say that I've already eaten or that I'm fasting. If the subject of food comes up I talk as if I were eating. Otherwise it can sometimes become an exasperating conversation that results in incomprehension and possible condemnation (of me!).

Some can't fathom what I'm doing and have not been supportive. The world is crawling with experts who are certain of one thing: to live you must eat. Some of them have medical degrees. At times the feeling of being at odds with a large part of society has been formidable. Specters of starvation loomed and many fears arose;  In my meditation I asked for insight and was answered........... with a cosmic symphony of blooming harmonics. The sound entered every pore and massaged every cell, whispering, singing, shouting "You are loved, you are loved, you are loved". It took my hand and led me into the infinite void, into an emptyness that is so full, so vibrant and so teeming with life as to satisfy all hunger for eternity. There I bathed in a mystic dew charged with serene passion and sublime sexuality. O paradise! How can I do you justice? Your splendor eludes capture even by the otherworldly art of poetry.

I'd also like to mention another important issue; finding a way to maintain a bigu state and yet not be totally out of kilter with society. Many intimate and beneficial social moments are centered around eating with other people. Eating small amounts of food in these situations often feels balanced to me now. Not eating and getting into a converstion about me being in bigu can create disharmony. At parties I'm finding it enjoyable to sample vegetarian delicacies, dance and make merry with everyone else. After a joyful social event the food passes out my body easily, with no ill effects. The trick is not exceeding a certain amount of solid food. Tales of the 8 Taoist immortals emphazise the parties and good times that punctuate their lives lived in service of the poor and sick.

My experiment continues. I will keep you posted. I would also love to read about the experiences of others. Best wishes and abundant chi to all of you who are reading this and to all my fellow Healing Tao instructors, students and friends. Thank you for being a source of support and inspiration to me over the years.

In closing I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to Mantak and Maneewan Chia for their pioneering spirit and their teachings that enabled me to lay down a solid foundation.  Another pioneer that I'd like to thank is the late Ann Wigmore and everyone at the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico for their practical and valuble teachings on Living Foods.......... I'd also like to thank Dr. Yan Xin and his New York students for introducing me to Yan Xin Qigong and the idea of bigu. And many thanks to Michael Winn for his committment and clear alchemical teachings and for asking me to write this article.

If you'd like to order "Journey to Eden" a CD of Eve's original songs please call (718) 333-1116. Eve will be teaching at the Ann Wigmore Institute, call her for dates. 1) excerpted from

Original Books, Inc
PO Box 2948
Torrance, Ca. 90509

2)excerped from
 IMMORTAL SISTERS  Secret teachings of Taoist Women, Translated and edited by Thomas Cleary

3) excerpted from
Volume 9 Chapter 7, 

"Bigu - An Advanced Qigong State for Healing and Self Developement"
1997 International Yan Xin Qigong Association
order from:
Ms. Lihe Zhang
82 Cameo Dr.
Willimantic, CT. 06226
Tel & Fax: (860) 456-0732

The BOOK of TEA by Kakuzo Okakura

5) excerpted from
Chapter 6, Cultivation of Virtue.

Amber Leaf Press
2 Pennsylvania Ave.
Malvern, Pennsylvania 19355

Yan Xin Qigong website: