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:
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:
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,
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.
The use of daily practice is in controlling the proclivity to eat and drink,
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.
The body is the home of Qi, the mind is the residence of consciousness.
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.
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.
Rushing through, the Qi harmoniously passes, the refined substance floods the peak. Drink your jade pill, and hear the music of the immortals.
The music with no strings, with no stroke it sounds by itself, with no drum it howls.
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.
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.
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.”
On the topic of the real one:
full and without contamination is what is called real,
vast and long lasting is called one.
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.
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.
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,
The real body is the real one, real thus relates to people’s spirits, one is people’s breath.
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.
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.
The body is the nation,
The breath is the people,
The mind is the emperor.
When the emperor loves the people, the people will be at peace.
If the emperor is upright, the mind will not be wild, the mind not being wild means the breath will adjust itself.
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
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,
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
“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
From today forward, don’t stop meditating.
Once sitting, you must direct your original spirit and original energy and hold them together with absolute certainty and completeness.
The real mechanism will naturally hold itself together.
You don’t need to protect it and it maintains itself.
You don’t use strength and it is still present.
– Huang yuanji, le yu tang yu lu.
Practical Meditation Tips: What Should I do if I suddenly feel like falling asleep?
March 24, 2017
Welcome to practical meditation tips, an ongoing feature on this blog in which we discuss meditation practice and how to improve the results of your meditation.
This week we are going to deal with the specific problem of what to do when you suddenly become sleepy during practice.
Before gong further, we need to differentiate that there are two types of sleepiness in meditation practice. The first comes from actually being tired, which may be due to lack of sleep, or time of day, circadian rhythm and so on. Regarding this type of sleepiness, usually it is something that you will have brought in to the practice with you and usually it means that you ought to go to bed as soon as you have the chance.
The second type of sleepiness is the one I would like to deal with and it is a sudden unexpected tiredness that usually occurs within the first 15 to 45 minutes of a meditation session.
Generally, this feeling manifests as a desire to immediately lie down and go to sleep. If you lie down at this time, it will be very easy to sleep, but this is not the preferred mode of practice. Why is this?
In order to understand this problem, we need to know a bit about the effects of meditation on the body.
It is very common when meditating for the mind and nervous system to calm down to the point that the body is tricked into believing it is time for bed. Because of this, we can experience feelings of tiredness even when we are wide awake. This feeling is similar to the feeling that we might experience when we awake from bed a couple hours before normal wake up time. For instance, if you wake up to use the washroom and then go back to bed, you may find that it is very easy to doze back off to sleep, and much less trouble than setting your head down to rest at your normal bed time.
In meditation, what this usually indicates is that the body and mind are about to enter the invisible gate between regular consciousness and what Daoists call the “Pre Heaven” state. The pre heaven state is the time when the mind seems to disappear for an indefinite amount of time and then upon reappearing, usually creates a strong sensation of Qi energy in the body. This state is very important in meditation practice and represents the time when we cease to control the functioning of our bodies, but rather give over functioning to our subconscious mind and body. This is a time when the body and mind are at rest and when a great deal of healing occurs. It is also the time when we experience genuine nothingness and are thus able to undergo spiritual metamorphosis. This metamorphosis allows us to reemerge into the “Post Heaven” state with an intrinsic energetic connection from head to toe and all throughout the body. This feeling of energy is different from the Qi energy normally created during intentional Qi Gong and meditation practice and instead of being directed by our minds, simply directs itself. Although it is difficult to say what creates the energy sensation, it is possible that deep meditation elicits the release of certain types of hormones which make us feel comfortable and have a healing effect on body and psyche.
Because the sudden sleepy feeling is a precursor to this type of energetic catharsis, it is very important to practice through it to get the most benefit. The best way to do this is that as soon as you feel suddenly tired, recognize that this is a symptom of correct meditation and do not comply with your urge to lie down. instead, maintain your attention on meditation, relax your breathing, and empty you mind, staying like this for as long as possible. With enough perseverance, when the time is right, you will be able to use this method to great benefit and learn how to transverse the boundaries between conscious and unconscious/post heaven and pre heaven.
Thanks for reading this post,
if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.