Perception and Energy:
The Internal elixir school believes that perceptual consciousness causes energy to leak from our bodies through the gates of the body. These gates include the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the nose, the tongue, and also the flesh and our intention. Because these gates are prone to leaking spirit through our interaction with things outside of our bodies, proponents of the Nei Dan school believe it is very important to spend significant time learning to break our engagement with the world of perception. This is done by casting the attention inward, deep within ourselves, and by emphasizing silence, emptiness, and non doing. This dark and vast internal silence is what Laozi referred to as “Mystery” and is synonymous with the darkest moment of night before the first rays of sun emerge. The reason why blocking out of perceptual senses is considered as such is that the resulting manifestation within the body is to create an energetic illumination which moves deeply within us, causing our mind to become clear and our spirit to be revealed.
Closing off the senses is not done with the intention of becoming deaf and blind, dull and dead to the world, but rather to serve the very specific process of developing internal energy which can be stored and built into the elixir medicine which Daoists believe can heal us and help us attain longevity.
Practising “Breaking the six roots”
The six gates are:
– The eyes,
– the ears,
– the nose,
– the mouth,
– the corporeal body,
– the intention.
These six roots are gates of stimulation and the roots of harmful desire. They lead to our desire both to engage in corporeally pleasurable activity as well as our aversion to activities which bring us discomfort.
Both Buddhists and Daoists seek to break our reliance on these six gates through the practice of meditation. Meditation can help us to become gradually aware of the deep internal environment which is often neglected by our outer senses. This environment contains within it many of the most important functions of our bodies, from our internal organs, to nervous system, blood, and complex networks which service all of this. Breaking the gates serves the function of allowing us to rest within and not have our minds and bodies pulled and bent by the experiences of the outside world.
Here is a basic method to begin the work of breaking the six roots.
– find a silent place, preferably a dark room.
– sit down, either on a chair with your back comfortably upright, or on the floor with your legs crossed.
– lightly close your eyes and observe within.
– close your lips and align your teeth so that the top rest on the bottom teeth.
– lightly place your tongue on the roof of the mouth, behind the ribbed area at the end of the gums.
– place your hands at your waist with your left hand on the bottom and right hand on top. the tips of the thumbs lightly touching (if this is uncomfortable, you can place your hands flat on your thighs so the palm is facing down).
– breathe smoothly and naturally through your nose, listening to your breath. If the breathing makes a sound, make it softer until you can no longer hear it.
– stop the body from moving at all. Don’t flinch, don’t move around, don’t dart the tongue in the mouth or roll the eyes in the head. Make sure that no part of you is moving at all.
– remain unmoving for as long as possible. If you move, just return yourself to a state of total stillness.
– return your mind to stillness within your body. Don’t think at all. If any thoughts come up, just ignore them and don’t allow the thoughts to become narrative or tangential.
– listen to the soft humming within your ear drums and look at the darkness within your head.
– maintain this non moving, non intentional, state of natural listening for as long as you can.
– Stay this way until you relax and become comfortable.
– Don’t forget to breath.
Once you can calm down and become quiet in this unmoving state, then you will begin to develop some of the most important basic attributes of internal elixir practice. Internal elixir when mastered can be practice even while walking and doing day to day tasks, but at the beginning, the practice is better done while in total silence and stillness. Learning to ignore the sensory stimulation of your body is the most essential first practice of Nei Dan and is the key to “refining the essence and transforming it to Qi.”