the dog that attacked its own tail.

July 20, 2017

The Dog that Attacked its own Tail:
the problem with money in Daoism.

The monastic structure of Daoism has often been noted to have certain rules which preclude religious leaders from demanding payment from new disciples of the temple who wish to join the clergy.
Recently, a post about this by a prominent and very respected scholar made me have pause to think about how economics and religion have a problematic and difficult relationship.
Before getting to the main feature of this article, I want to state outright that I believe economics and large scale religion are inseparable and that it is a fantastical error to assume that it is possible to divorce religious orders from money in society. I also must iterate the point that Daoism as a cultural phenomenon is much bigger than the component parts of the Daoist religion. Daoist ideas comprise a very large field of Chinese cultural study which has touched virtually every part of classical Chinese culture, the monastic system, and every area of Chinese aesthetics and life, so in many ways I am in disagreement with the purist scholars who wish to make the Daoist religion the only point of consideration in Daoist issues.

Now for the dog who bites its own tail…

Have you ever seen a dog attack its own hind quarters?
Surely it is a very comical sight and can remind us that often in attempting to pursue the things we are interested in, we can also hinder ourselves.
This reminds a great deal of an epistemological problem that scholars of religion face when dealing with the complex problem of religious economics.
Just like any other organization, religious groups require the support of their communities to continue to exist and provide the service they offer.
As such, religious leaders are always torn between the concept of sanctity of practice and economic pragmatism. How can the doctrine be spread without accepting some form of payment?
From the perspective of the ancient Daoists, this problem could be simplified in various ways. While it is true that many temples either accepted patronage or even engaged in the sale of items such as tea in order to maintain themselves, there were also self sustaining hermits and communities therein who could subsist on their own via small scale agriculture or the acceptance of alms.
Beyond this, Chinese culture has a long and historied culture of students providing for the economic well being of their teachers, whether it be through donations of money on various important days of the year or by inviting a teacher into the home and providing for their welfare as such.
In any event, tradition allows for the master teacher to be supported in various ways by his or her followers, this is not only logically consistent, it is an obvious solution to the self imposed poverty of religious leaders. We could refer to this type of behaviour as the social negotiation of the terms of self imposed poverty.

This type of social negotation also allows for the clergy to keep its hands clean when dealing with new disciples who are being indoctrinated into the order. The new disciple also engages in the same set of agreements as the already existing clergy and as such is not required to make any form of monetary donation to the order (although Daoist history fans will be aware that the original heavenly teachers sect required a donation of grains in order for the members of their cult to be protected under the banner their theocratic state). This of course is also compounded by the unsmall number of fraudulent “half immortal” pseudo Daoists who have historically practiced various forms of incantation and other forms of magic in order to appease clients wishing to receive various types of blessing or divine intervention on the part of the Gods. Even today Daoism has no shortage of frauds who sit outside of temples charging money for fortune tellings and other types of bogus magic.

Thus, we feel vindicated in making the point that the ecclesiastical tradition does not accept money for ordination and we have a point of common agreement.
The problem is that in many senses, the argument of economics in Daoism goes beyond the problem of ecclesiastical culture and street corner imposters.
One of the first major problems we must contend with is that of modernity and the expedience of free market economies in the development of religion.
The biggest problem that comes to mind here is that in a modern market, the survival of a church comes not only from the ability of its patrons to build and maintain buildings, as well as feed to clergy, it also comes from the ability of the church to remain relevant in a competitive market.
Surely this was also a historical problem, and the ongoing relationship between clergy and government shows us just how competitive religion was in Chinese history, but today, the situation is exasperated by the need to reach a larger audience via new media and to attract ever greater numbers of travellers to enable to existing religious infrastructure to maintain relevance in the eyes of rent collecting entities within government and private corporations who may feel the need to encroach on areas of economic significance.
In this way, we can begin to become more clear as to why the leaders of Wudang and Shaolin have felt it so important to incorporate martial arts into their public offerings. While there is virtually no veracity behind the idea that either place was very important to modern empty hand civil martial arts, there is great expediency in the promotion of these arts to people who might otherwise be completely uninterested in what the religious offerings of these temples.
Thus, it is possible for a lay practitioner to become a disciple of Wudang without ever spending the time required to learn the fundamentals of the Daoist teachings they are most famous for.

This sense of expediency should not be scoffed at either, because it is required for religion to change with the times and only the most staunch of traditionalists would say that the nature of religion must remain pristinely as it was one thousand years ago.
Changing with the times may require ideological modification in order that the order not be made irrelevant in light of social change.
If a historical comparison is needed to illustate this point, we could compare the martial arts of Wudang to the ancient Buddhist and Daoist tea industry, which also served as a means by which temples could ensure their survival as tourist areas. In this light, we see more potential continuity than discord and might be drawn to making the conclusion that very little has changed.

So if martial arts are off the table, what about things like Qi Gong and meditation?
I think it is fair to say that since the advent of modern Qi Gong is largely secular, then Qi Gong as taught by temples should fall under a similar category to martial arts and we cannot judge payment for Qi Gong as anathema to the ongoing zeitgeist of religious economics. Meditation may be a more thorny issue, but seeing as Daoism does not have the final say on meditation, since methods similar to those employed by the Daoists have been used by Confucians, Buddhists, folk religious groups, and secular practitioners throughout history, then it is not fair to assume that meditation methods should fall solely under the domain of monastic culture and thus, no individual or organization may lay claim to them. At this point, the argument becomes more related to the morality of individuals and organizations and although certainly criticism is a required part of any reasonable discussion, the issue still remains a matter of personal values.

Now, the most problematic issue, that of whether initiates should not be charged money.
As we can see, this issue is far from settled and while the the criticism of money for entry into a religious order is well placed, it is also foundationally difficult to say with a clear conscience that monetary payment is somehow different than any of the other major routes of entry into the graces of the church, especially in light of how many payed services the church offers to its lay patrons.

This brings me around to a thorny and often overlooked issue (especially among academics whose livings require them to report on religious society), what to say about the colleges in which religion is studied for academic dissemination?
Surely prominent religious scholars must see the precarious position they are place themselves in when they abandon objectivity and “go native.” Because in so doing, they create an internal ideological conflict which in turn requires them to respect the rules of the religion while at the same time making their living from its dissemination.
This is one of the major reasons why anthropologists generally view themselves as observers rather than participants and it is a key conflict in the dissemination of religious information at a secular academic level (not to mention the conflict of Christian scholars who enter religious colleges with hopes of making a living as a representative of the faith).
Should the casual observer not be excused for feeling a certain confusion at the sight of a scholar who both claims membership in a non corporatized ecclesiastical community and at the same time makes her entire living as its written representative?
And yet somehow, this conflict of interest never enters the mainstream debate surrounding corporate spirituality, and still tenure at an acclaimed university must surely be seen as one of the better stations that such a promoter of the religious message might hope to attain for themselves.

Thus, we are left with the image of the dog who attacked its own tail.
In its excitement at uncovering the subject of its aggression, the dog spins about in a fury of biting and barking, not recognizing that the very thing it is attacking is its own back side.

In the words of Laozi:
“if not going forth to meet its front, it cannot be followed to meet its back.”

Two quotes of xing and Ming.

July 13, 2017

The two below quotes do a great deal to explain this conceptualization of xing and Ming in daoism. Huang yuanji believed that xing (our true nature) is the same as the open sky and that Ming, our life energy is borrowed from the sky as the oxygenated breath we bring into our bodies during respiration.

The huangdi yinfu jing is the first classic to clearly lay down self cultivation as the practice of mastering the movement of the heavens through observation.
Below I will provide quotes from both sources to build my argument that the true xing and Ming practice of daoism is mainly based around observation of emptiness and the breath and that they are not separate, nor do they require special minor practices outside of meditation to achieve their value.

Dao de jing chan Wei:

天地之生人也,賦之氣以立命,即賦之理以成性。理氣原來合一,性命兩不相離。
Heaven and earth give birth to humanity,
Stealing the air and establishing life,
Stealing the great principle and establishing nature.
The principle and air are originally mixed together as one. Nature and life do not part from one another.

Huang di yinfi jing:

观天之道,执天之行,尽。
Observe the Dao of the heavens,
Grasp the movement of the heavens,
Your work will be complete.

How to focus in meditation

June 27, 2017

An ongoing debate in the internal alchemy school has been in regard to how to attain an unwavering and unbroken attention and what part of the body to set ones focus on.
This debate has occurred both in ancient meditation texts and in the modern discourse.
Points of debate often focus on whether to direct the attention to the lower abdomen, or between the eyebrows, or whether to direct the attention to the breath and ignore physical sensations altogether.
In fact, each of these ideas exist in classical internal alchemy literature, but in practice it is relatively immaterial as to which one is used, as the most important thing is receiving the instruction of a true teacher. A true teacher is someone who has attained the effects of internal alchemy and can guide you through the stages of practice.
Usually it is best if you find a master level teacher, but an experienced student or disciple who has achieved the foundations of internal alchemy can also assist in your practice.
Internal alchemy is very technically oriented and requires supervision at first, so having a teacher is very important.

The fact of the matter is that achieving genuine focus in meditation practice is not based on using one or other physical location to direct your intent, or even on one specific breathing method. These methods only serve as anchors in your practice and help you slow down the thoughts and bring more pure oxygen into your body.
This is why many of the best internal alchemy masters said that focusing on specific practices such as directing the mind to the abdomen, or monitoring the breath are “Side doors” to the Dao and not the big gate which can reveal the true nature of our spiritual potential.

Some people on internet forums have taken this to mean that practising internal alchemy thus requires us to achieve a state of total nothingness and nothing else, or that we should only slightly focus on the breath. While these types of practice are permissible and can glean real effects if used correctly and in an ongoing fashion, the real basis of internal alchemy practice is simply in making the mind stable and there is more than one means by which to achieve this mental state.

The admonition that focusing on the physical aspects of practice are a side door are not meant to discourage the use of these “anchors,” but rather to encourage the practitioner not to become too caught up on the corporeal art, and instead focus on stilling the mind and body such that neither of them move around during the outset of practice.

If you can achieve stillness of body and mind and attune the breath such that it is comfortable and ongoing, you will already have the most important basis for meditation. Every other point at which the mind focuses at this time will be peripheral to the stopping of movement in body and mind.

Please note that this post only discusses the most basic aspects of internal alchemy meditation and does not go into advanced technical concepts like timing the fire or controlling qi energy.

If you would like to know more about these subjects, please read my book or take one of my courses on the subject of internal alchemy meditation.

Thanks for reading,

Robert.

Under appreciated Internal Alchemy of the Tang dynasty, part two: Taishang Laojun Ri yong Nei Ri Yong Miao Jing

May 23, 2017

In this second part of the series on under appreciated Internal Alchemy documents of the Tang dynasty we will look at the Tai Shang Daily Practice Internal Subtlety Classic. The text is attributed to Lao Dan, a legendary hermit of the Zhou dynasty period. This text is written in a Tang dynasty style and discusses early concepts in the concept of internal alchemy meditation. The genuine author of the article is unknown, but it has been included within the Daoist Canon and is used by many practitioners of internal alchemy and Quanzhen Daoism.
Below we present the entire document.

夫日用者,饮食则定。
The use of daily practice is in controlling the proclivity to eat and drink,
禁口独坐,莫起一念,万事俱忘,存神定意,口唇相粘,牙齿相著,眼不视物,耳不听声,一心内守,调息绵绵,微微轻出,似有如无,莫教 间断,自然心火下降,肾水上升,口内泔津自生,灵真付体,自知长生之路。十二时辰,常要清静。灵台无物为之清,一念不起为之静。
Close the mouth and sit alone, don’t allow one thought to arise, all events are completely forgotten. Contain the spirit and stabilize your intention, close the lips and align them together, allow the teeth to line up and come into contact with each other. The eyes don’t look at anything, the ears don’t listen to any sound, one mind is contained within. Gradually adjust the breath. Subtle and light, let it go, it is like everything is nothing, there is no teaching and space is broken. Naturally allow the mind to descend, the kidney water will fly up. The mouth will naturally produce sweet saliva, the spirit will naturally animate the body and you will know the road of longevity. For all twelve times of the day and night, you must always maintain clarity and quiet, the spiritual platform has the clarity of no nature, one thought does not arise in the silence.
身是炁之宅,心是神之舍。
The body is the home of Qi, the mind is the residence of consciousness.
意行则神行,神行则炁散;意住则神住,神住则气聚。
The intention moves and the spirit moves, the spirit moves and the Qi is scattered. The intention rests and the spirit rests, the spirit rests and the Qi is full.
五行真气,结成刀圭,自然身中有声,行处坐卧,常觉身体如风之行,腹内如雷之鸣。
The true Qi of the five elements comes together and cuts the pill, naturally there is a sound in the centre of the body. Walking, resting, seated or lying down, it forever seems as though the body moves like the wind, the inside of the stomach is like the howl of thunder.
冲和气透,醍醐灌顶, 自饮刀圭,耳听仙音。
Rushing through, the Qi harmoniously passes, the refined substance floods the peak. Drink your jade pill, and hear the music of the immortals.
无弦之曲,不抚而自声,不鼓而自鸣。
The music with no strings, with no stroke it sounds by itself, with no drum it howls.
神炁相结,如男子怀孕,得观内境,神自言语,是虚无之宅,与圣同居,炼就九转,结成大丹。
The spirit and qi collect in each other, as if a man is pregnant with a child, achieving the act of looking at your internal environment, the spirit speaks its own language, it is the home of void emptiness, and comes together with the resting place of the sages, cultivating the nine turnings, collecting and transforming the great elixir.
神自出 入,与天地齐年,日月同明,脱离生灭矣。
The spirit comes and goes by itself, and meets with heaven and earth, being equal with their years. The sun and moon come together in clarity, and you can leave behind life and death.
每日休教有损失,十二时辰常要清静,炁是神之母,神是炁之子,如鸡抱卵,切要存神养炁,能无离乎妙哉。
If you don’t study every day you will begin to lose it. For all twelve times of the day and night you should remain in clarity and quiet. The qi is the mother of the spirit, the spirit is the child of the qi. It is like the chicken holding her egg, and the real secret is the contain the spirit and cultivate the qi, then you will not leave its subtlety.
玄之又玄。 人身中有七宝,事为富国安民,精炁盈满也。精是水银,血是黄金,炁是美玉,髓是水晶,脑是灵砂,肾是砗磲,心是珊瑚。此是七宝,归身不散,炼就大药,万神 尽登仙矣
the mystery contains mystery. People’s bodies have seven treasures that can be used to make a rich nation and peaceful people, their Jing and Qi robust and full.
Jing is the silver needle in water, blood is yellow gold, qi is the beautiful jade, marrow is the water crystal, the brain is the spirit sand, the kidneys are the ocean clam, the mind is the choral reef. These are the seven treasures, they return to the body and are not scattered, cultivating them can build the great medicine, the myriad spirits exhausted and rise to immortality.

Under appreciated Tang dynasty masters of internal elixir, part one: Zhang Guo

May 20, 2017

This ongoing series of short pieces is meant to highlight writers and documents in the internal alchemy meditation genre who have not had much exposure in the English language discussion of Daoism. Many of this masters left behind ideas about practice which were seminal in the construction of what would become the internal elixir school’s of the Southern and Northern lineages, which together are seen to be the genuine origin from which all Nei Dan takes its root from. Although early writings about internal alchemy are often terse and less perfectly organized than later instantiations of the school, it is important to recognize that the key precepts of the practice have roots that trace back to the earliest schools of Daoism, and that in order to understand classical nei dan, we should look at more primitive forms of the art to serve as a means to understand how the theory was established.
The most popular Tang dynasty writer in the school was Lu Dongbin, but other authors, some well known, and some who remained anonymous also contributed hugely to the development of Daoist meditation practices.

In this post we will look at Zhang Guo, who was a Tang dynasty priest whose dates are unknown. Aside from making a highly detailed commentary on the Jade Emperor Hidden Talisman Classic, he also wrote his own document called Tai Shang Discusses Nine Points of The Subtle Heart Inscription. This document sets out to categorize what Zhang felt were the nine major points which must be mastered in order to achieve internal alchemy and become immortal.
Below is a selection from the document, featuring the entire first point, which is based on the theory of “Real oneness.”

夫真一者,纯而无杂谓之真,浩劫长存谓之一。
On the topic of the real one:
full and without contamination is what is called real,
vast and long lasting is called one.
太上曰:天得一,以日月星辰长清;地得一,以珠玉珍长宁;人得一,以神气精长存。
Thus spake Taishang: the heaven’s grasping oneness makes the sun, moon, and stars, and constellations, forever clear. The earth grasped as one makes the pearls, jade, and treasures forever quiet. People grasped as one means the spirit, breath and essence are forever stored.
一者,本也,本乃道之体,道 本无体,强名曰体。
One is the root, the root is the body of the Dao, the Dao’s root has no body, so the strongest name available is spoken as body.
有体之体,乃非真体,无体之体,日用不亏矣!
The body of that which has a body is not the real body, the body without a body is that which may be used daily with no deficit,
真体者,真一是也,真乃人之神,一者人之气。
The real body is the real one, real thus relates to people’s spirits, one is people’s breath.
长以神抱于气,气抱于神,神气相抱,固于气 海,造化神龟,乃人之命也。
Maintaining the spirit holding the breath and the breath holding the spirit, the spirit and breath holding one another, the core will be in the ocean of energy (lower Dantian area), natural change will be born of the spiritual turtle, which is thus called the life of humanity.
神乃人之性也,性者南方赤蛇,命乃北方黑龟,其龟蛇相缠,二气相吞,贯通一气,流行上下,无所不通,真抱元守一之道也。
The spirit is thus the nature of humanity, nature is the red snake of the south, life is thus the black turtle of the north, the turtle and the snake wind around one another, and the two energies are swallowed into one another, they rise and penetrate as one Qi, travelling around from top to bottom, without anywhere that is not connected. The real holds the original, that is protected as the one Dao.

For those familiar with Zhang ziyang’s Song dynasty book “Understanding Reality” you will see that this document sets out many of the key precepts of meditation that is discussed there. Just as religious and philosophical documents such as the Clarity and Quiet classic and Numinous Treasure Classic are essential to understanding Daoism, so are early documents such as this one by Zhang Guo. It is my hope that this and upcoming posts on this topic will be of use to those making a study of internal alchemy and Daoist meditation.

Some text from Tai Shang nine points heart inscription classic.

以身为国,以气为民,以心为帝王,
The body is the nation,
The breath is the people,
The mind is the emperor.
帝王爱民而民自安。
When the emperor loves the people, the people will be at peace.
帝正者,心不乱也,心不乱则气自调,
If the emperor is upright, the mind will not be wild, the mind not being wild means the breath will adjust itself.
气调则神和,神和则精悦,精悦则身安泰,此乃富国安民鍊气之法也
The breath adjusting itself means the spirit will be harmonious, the spirit being harmonious means the essence will be delighted. The essence being delighted means the body will be quiet and stable. This is how to make the nation rich and people calm through the practice of refining the breath.

The author’s voice

May 13, 2017

muzhafieldwalk

It has been several weeks since my last post on this blog and I want to update everyone who reads it as to where I’ve been, and why I haven’t posted anything for a while.

This past month or so I’ve been in China, specifically in Kaifeng city, Henan province. I’m out here doing sourcing for my tea company, as well as researching and continuing to put together material for a new book on the topic of Qi gong. I’ve also, of course, been meditating frequently and practicing Qi Gong, as well as drinking copious amounts of tea.

The reason why I haven’t written anything recently isn’t because I don’t wish to share, but rather because I have encountered a very unusual stage of writer’s block in regard to sharing on this blog.

The manner in which I have chosen to present this blog is essentially as a medium through which classical ideas about internal alchemy meditation can be transmitted to an audience of people who are interested in this genre of consciousness work.
This of course does not preclude me from writing about other topics, which I have sometimes, but it does mean that the bulk, if not the entirety of my writing here is not undertaken in my own creative voice, but rather is predicated on interpretation of the voices of the people who came before me in this genre of meditation, who I rely upon to share correct information about Daoist practices.

In a field as well developed and complex as Daoism, it would be unbecoming of me to use my own experience and my own voice to discuss practice beyond the experienced phenomena central to my own understanding of practice.
Because the phenomena associated with meditation are already clearly recorded and understood in classical Internal Alchemy literature, I can’t help but think any discussion about my own experiences would simply serve as a means by which I could use this media to affirm my own egocentric affirmation of practice, which isn’t something that has any value to either you are me.

Having said that, I have been working very hard to come to terms with certain topics pertaining to various ontological and epistemological problems which are found at the cross roads of eastern and western philosophy and religion.
I have specifically been dealing with the problem of the logos (as understood in western thought as the potential through which language may be communicated as truth) in relation to the Daoist concept that language is not sufficient to come to an accurate understanding of reality.

I feel that there is tremendous value in both topics and that it must be the case that they can be treated as complimentary rather than mutually exclusive.
This has required me to do considerable thinking, reading, and writing (much of which ends in failure) in order to attempt to work through the problem and find some resolution.

As of present, I have come to some potential understandings of how these concepts are interrelated, but have also faced an equal if not larger number of internal contradictions which make the project difficult to go ahead with.
In any event, I am trying to take a cue from Terrance McKenna, who frequently discussed the idea of leaving open space for the potential confluence of seemingly contradictory ideas.

So this should give you some idea of where I have been, what I’ve been doing, and why I haven’t made any posts recently.

As soon as I am able to get some resolution about my philosophical problem, I will be back to writing posts on this blog, hopefully not only contributing translation work, comments on texts, and meditation instructions, but also more information surrounding axiomatic concepts related to both Daoism and western thought.

Best wishes and see you soon,

Robert

An article on perception and energy in meditation.

April 16, 2017

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.”

Practical Meditation Tips: There is nothing special about the spirit.

April 7, 2017

人知其神而神,不知不神而所以神也。
“People know that the spirit is mysterious,
but don’t know that what is not mysterious is really spiritual.” – Yellow Emperor Yin Fu Jing.

People who study Daoism are often exposed to Chinese concepts of mystery. The story of Daoism has many deities, ghosts, demons, people who have ascended to immortality, and other mysterious conceptualizations of paranormal phenomenon. These various stories and concepts are all worth studying and understanding, but when it comes to cultivating yourself and becoming more enlightened, the best thing we can do is to view mysterious spiritual phenomenon as unimportant and instead focus on developing the spirit within ourselves. This spirit is represented by the mind and is made up of both natural consciousness and feeling. It is the consciousness that leads to our perceptual faculties, but it is also the consciousness that can be refined in silence and transformed into spiritual energy.
One of the biggest issues in achieving success in meditation is to not be carried away by mysterious results which occur during meditation practice. Sometimes during meditation, t is possible to have experiences such as seeing bright lights, hearing thunder crashing, seeing images in the mind’s eye, and much more, but these experiences are only manifestations of practice and they really don’t have any meaning in terms of the broader goals of meditation practices. The broader goals of meditation are first to become physically and emotionally healthy, and then to develop a strong internal energy to protect the stability you have already achieved, and later to begin to realize the true nature of self and the universe. All of these goals are simple, healthy and plain, they do not require you to do anything special or mysterious other than simply being present during the process of meditation and understand how to properly meditate.
It is important to recognize that meditation is based on changing silence into movement and non action into action, so the most important aspect of meditation is to attain a quiet mind and then return to quiet. Become calm and then return to calm. Being grounded in this way means that if you do encounter unusual spiritual experiences, you will not be moved by them and they will have no special meaning other than the mere fact that they occurred.
Daoists are trying to achieve a state of pure positive energy and non interference, so even though there are many types of spiritual and mysterious ideas and practices in Daoism, it is generally agreed that it is better to spend your time cultivating the foundations of quiet and clarity, so that when you begin to build real spiritual energy, your mind will be ready and you will progress more smoothly.

Quote of the day.

April 6, 2017

从今后不坐则已,
From today forward, don’t stop meditating.
一坐必要将真神元气收得十分完足,
Once sitting, you must direct your original spirit and original energy and hold them together with absolute certainty and completeness.
自然真机在抱,
The real mechanism will naturally hold itself together.
不须守而自存,
You don’t need to protect it and it maintains itself.
不费力而自在。
You don’t use strength and it is still present.
– Huang yuanji, le yu tang yu lu.