Archive for the ‘Nei Gong’ Category

Taoist Meditation Lesson #5 (Practice Part 2)   2 comments

The Cat's Eye Nebula

First no form. Then form. Then no form…….

In the first three articles on basics and the first article on practice, I laid out the foundation for our actual cultivation procedures. Please read these previous articles until the concept of “dissolving the mind into the body” makes sense to you.  Keeping in mind, we are on an inward journey when we do Taoist meditation.

We pass from an external-centric universe to an internal one.  Along the way, we go through different layers of ourselves.  From a completely external world, through the body and mind, revealing our emotions and ultimately our spiritual center. From that perspective, we continue back through the layers and return to the external.

Always remember we are working with energy and when we do so we need to adhere to basic energetic principles. Also, know as we move inward we encounter different energies at each layer each combining and adding to the previous energies.  I am talking about quantum physics here. As we move inward and the energy level increases, it requires more training to control it.

The first step in the actual process of the “Transformational Tao of spiritual alchemy” is a basic understanding of what we are going to do… so up until now we have been looking at a kind of map of our journey.  On the path, so far you could say we have “opened the door” now it is time to step through it.

First, we need to align and relax our physical bodies. Next, we train an awareness of our energy allowing it to permeate the entire body. We start externally and as we become more aware, we move internally, melting away the boundaries between the layers as we progress.

When this is completed, we achieve a freedom from our bodies.  By utilizing our minds to become aware of the energy within us, we meld the two together essentially dissolving the mind into the body.  After we acquire this skill, we are able to get freedom from our thoughts as well.

Before starting, I suggest you Tune your Breath

Stand or sit in proper wuji, focus initially on your alignments.

After you are aligned and relaxed, close you eyes and let your arms hang down at your sides. Bring your awareness to your hands.  Just notice that you actually have hands….become aware of each finger or pairs of fingers one at a time. Just do this for a couple of minutes. Let them fill with blood and energy and feel them tingle.

In your mind’s eye, have an image of yourself standing or sitting there.  An image of you aligned to perfection, symmetrical and relaxed.

The only imagery we use in the Taoist method is that of reality.
Your “energy you” is a projection of your energy, that is what we see here. Now out of the corner of your mind’s eye notice your hands. As though you can actually see them, and as you do feel the tingling sensation therein.

This tingling sensation of energy is a manifestation of the only thing of any real importance that you have. Work on getting in touch with the pureness of your energy. Repeat this process until you can restrict your thoughts and body movements to the method outlined above.

This is the first step to dissolving your mind and body together, a skill known as sublimation.  Just work on this for now… do not think of “stuff”, do not allow imagery to invade your mind’s eye.

Eventually we will even dissolve away the image of yourself as separate from the energy that creates you…anything but pure energy is just an illusion….

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Taoist Meditation Lesson #4 (Practice Part 1)   2 comments

Find your Way to the top

First, combine lead and mercury
Second, form the gold pill
Third, refine the gold into the elixir…
.

In the first three articles, Taoist Meditation Basics, I laid out the foundation for a skill known as “Spiritual Alchemy”. It is a profound and yet simple path and in a way even fun. Don’t let the next few paragraphs throw you off, I’m just writing them for “full disclosure” on the topic.

The Taoist alchemical texts such as “The Book of Balance and Harmony”  uses metaphorical language that seems at times to contradict itself. I will try to simplify the jargon from the arcane and purposely cryptic text.

For example, try to comprehend the following typical (paraphrased) instructions:

Combine lead and mercury into the crucible. Then fire them in the furnace to form the gold pill.  Refine and rarify the gold pill and the elixir will form. Then you may enter the mysterious pass.

Let’s look at the symbolic language. Lead, represents essence, sort of like your physical energy, body and common sense. Mercury (quicksilver) represents mental/emotional energy, thinking etc. The crucible, is the body‘s energy channels and dantien at your center. The furnace, represents the mind, used to cook lead and mercury with the fire of discipline, concentration and insight.

The gold pill, is an understanding of energy, a nugget of primordial energy released, an awakening within, a “spiritual embryo” if you will. Refine and rarify refer to practicing cultivation arts like qigong and meditation.

The elixir is a reborn energy system, a full understanding of the principles and practice, being one with primordial energy. The mysterious pass is (a mystery) between Heaven and Earth, the gate into Tao … immortality in Taoist code.

This meditation practice is designed to bring about enlightenment.  For Taoists that term is more like “let go of your burden” (mental excess) if you “lighten your load” you are “enlightened.” Also let’s redefine “immortality” to mean “longevity” not necessarily “for all time.” Because you cannot create or destroy energy, the fully realized Taoists, quantum physicists that they are, know that true immortality does indeed exist in some  form; to be content with that knowledge is a sagely thing.

To start the practice of spiritual alchemy, remember what the famous sage told the king.

“My mind is merged with my body; my body is merged with my energy, my energy is merged with my spirit, and my spirit is merged with Tao.”

The first step is to merge your mind with your body.
1.     Open up your energy channels with some qigong
2.     Focus your mental energy into your body
3.     Use your mind to dissolve all thoughts and emotions

The second step is to merge your body with your energy.
4.     Embrace the pure unadulterated dissolved energy
5.     Become one with this energy, refining out imperfections
6.     Learn the truth about your true make up

The third step is to merge your energy with your spirit.
7.     Repeat the process until you meditate unceasingly
8.     Know that you are reborn continually in Tao
9.     Live confidently, contentedly, with no fears, forever.

Then your spirit will merge with Tao.

First, combine lead and mercury
Second form the gold pill
Third refine the gold into the elixir….

In the following articles, I will explain how we do these steps and I will give you some tools for performing the work of “Combining Lead and Mercury,“ yielding a “Spiritual Embryo” that you will cherish and nurture until it gives birth to a new you!

Until then learn the essential skill of Tuning your Breath

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Taoist Meditation Lesson #3 (Basics Part 3)   2 comments

Most people attempting to learn meditation have had years of conditioning that have programmed them to fail at that attempt.

Ponder this definition:  Meditate, noun, 2.) Continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.

Now this is not a failing of the language; because the word’s origin means: literally “to think.” Perhaps the Taoist method is not “meditation”.  By this I mean that, conscious thought is contrary to the prime objective of Taoist meditation, or rather just a basic starting point.  As to “thinking” the general premise is;  To ponder a concept of a “thing” in order to make a rational decision towards a situation etc. I am paraphrasing here because there are over twenty definitions of the word “think”.

Therefore, for our purposes we need to redefine meditation, in the Taoist perspective; meaning more or less the opposite of the classical definition. For even if we are contemplating energy it is preferred that there is no conscious “contemplating” going on and that for our purpose “energy“ is both “thing” and “non-thing.“

Seems to me that we do too much thinking already. Isn’t “thinking” one of the greatest sources of suffering in the human condition today?  Wouldn’t you love to be able to “not think” for just a moment?  Wouldn’t it be nice if that endless loop of thoughts would just “go away”?

To begin our practice we must form a new paradigm; most likely, almost everything you thought you understood about “meditating” is, in a word, wrong.  First, we need to learn a little about “Qigong” or energy cultivation as the Taoists of old called the practice. This art needs to be learned from a qualified teacher and that is beyond the scope of this article. I assume, if you are reading this, that you have a basic understanding of qigong.

These practices could be:
Moving or still
Internal (nei gong) or external (wei gong)
Sitting or standing
Physical or mental/emotional
Whatever the case may be, they are all manifestations of Yin/Yang.

The first step in learning the Taoist meditation methods that I have learned, is to open the body’s channels through some basic qigong movements.  It is possible to begin without first warming up this way but I would recommend doing so. Meditation practice can be standing or sitting but either way the basics are the same.

By opening up the energy pathways and dissolving our mind and body into one, the energy will spontaneously transmute into spirit.  After melting away the layers of body, mind and emotion, there is really only one place left for the energy to go into, the spirit. Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Keep in mind what Taoists call the “spirit” may be different that what you are thinking.

An ancient king once asked a famous Taoist sage, “What is your secret to longevity?”

The Sage replied, “My mind is merged with my body; my body is merged with my energy, my energy is merged with my spirit, and my spirit is merged with Tao.”

These concepts in Taoist Meditation Basics  Parts 1-3 lay the foundation for the practice of “Spiritual Alchemy.”  In the next 3 articles, on  “Taoist Meditation Practices”,  I will describe the actual process that is involved in performing the once closely guarded secret of “Spiritual Alchemy.”

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Taoist Meditation Lesson #2 (Basics Part 2)   1 comment

Finding the Way

In part one, I laid out the premise for “energy based” meditation techniques that are the basis of Taoist praxis.

While training with my Sifu, Master Dong, I would notice a certain smile upon his face while doing Qigong.  I can only describe the smile as the curious look of someone that has a secret; kind of a “I know something you don’t” grin. The reality is, that his smile is a truthful expression of just that, he does know something most people will never know.

Energy is the treasure we all can obtain, wealth beyond comprehension is always available to you. To the Taoist sages the definition of a rich man is “One who knows when he has enough.” Conversely it might be true to say that a poor man is “One that needs (or simply wants) more.”

Basic human needs not withstanding, the “Realized man” of antiquity was often a hermit living off the land, happy to live in a cave and forage for food, living close to nature.  In this light, we can see, that beyond food and shelter, “wealth”  is a relative thing. Taoists have no problems with having physical wealth, the defining thing is they don’t need any to be content.

A wise person makes themselves rich with the currency of Heaven and Earth. Gathering that treasure that flows from the Tao; accumulating virtues along the Way is the Taoist Way. Lao Tzu says, “Tao gives and gives and yet it is never depleted.”  When you have the Way you, you too will find “The more you give, the more you have.”

Our goal in learning Taoist meditation is to connect directly to energy.  Like a pile of gold coins we can sit with our energy or we can “spend” it. Every thought, image, fantasy, illusion, emotion and movement we make takes energy.  To the Taoists, purifying this energy was like refining gold. They even called the practice “Spiritual Alchemy.”  In meditation then, finding this energy and aligning with it, was and is a divine enterprise.

To the untrained, would be meditator, most attempts end in failure.  Even with advanced students it is a difficult skill to master without following certain guidelines.  For the beginner, sitting still and attempting to “align with your energy” will guarantee that you cannot. This is akin to a light bulb, that when turned on shines out incoherent light, millions of photons shooting out all willy-nilly, colliding with each other and heading off in random directions dissipating quickly into the surrounding darkness.

You need to train your energy system to focus the energy so it can flow on it’s own.  A laser beam is a wave of coherent light that has all the photons aligned with each other, all flowing in the same direction remaining focused and able to travel an almost infinite number of miles without dissipating.

In Part 3  I will describe in detail how we can train our energy to be focused like a laser beam instead of wasting most of it with “incoherent emissions” of Qi.

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Taoist Meditation Lesson #1 (Basics Part 1)   1 comment

Taoist Sage Sitting With His Treasure

The Taoist methods of meditation differ significantly from other “styles”.  To Taoists, the main focus of all the practices, is to understand reality, be content with that understanding, and to change what needs to change to find contentment within the truth of that reality.

This “Taoist” approach revolves around the concept of “energy”.
For example: Understand that everything is made from energy, align yourself with that energy, and the truth will set you free.

This approach is at odds with most other meditation techniques I have encountered. At least one style I know of uses the following type of format.
For example;  Imagine you are (fill in the blank), “pretend” you are happy there, “feel good” escaping from reality.

Without attempting to disrespect other methods, I will describe why the Taoist methods are more effective in this article.

The first thing is, Taoists don’t deal with “Illusions“.
Secondly, “feeling happy” can kill you and “feeling un-happy” may save your life.
Thirdly, if you do not “embrace reality” you never have lasting change.

While this all may seem obvious to many it is often subverted by many “meditation” methods in an attempt to “feel good”. The fact is the attempt to feel good is one the paths that have often lead to evil in the world. To be sure making no attempt to “feel” is a Taoist method that is highly effective. By relaxing our practice, we are  following the principle of “Wu Wei” or “non-striving” which allows for the spontaneous flow of energy, and this is a basic Taoist tenant.

The end result of “feeling good” comes not from any contrived means but spontaneously after one is aligned with Tao. Therefore, one only needs to align in order to find the truth and be set free from the endless loop of thoughts that plague the human mind.

As simple as that is, most people never find the peace from which they came from, the treasure beyond all treasures that is always within them.

Ineffective mediation techniques often lead to the following:
Stopping extraneous physicality often sends a person’s energy into the mental/emotional  realm where an untrained mind will start on a feed back loop, often enhanced by seemingly random images that get projected onto the dark screen of the “Minds Eye”.

Dealing with illusions leads to delusions that take one further away from reality. Evoking thought and emotions waste the energy that could otherwise heal you.

Thinking, feeling, visualizing, triggers emotions that send energy back into the loop of a thinking, feeling, reactive cycle that leads to distraction and rumination and frustration.  Often the overwhelmed student gives up leading to resentment that fuels more thinking feeling reacting ad nauseam. The end result is far worse than not “meditating” at all!

In the Part 2,  I will explain how we can avoid this type of pitfall, and what makes the Taoist method superior to methods that involve “thinking” or “feeling”.

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Qigong Lesson #1 “Wuji” A Philisophical Perspective   1 comment

Wuji

“The journey of a thousand miles, starts under your feet.”

For all people on the Way, there are many paths with side excursions and a few distractions and even some “deviations”.

Any well thought out journey starts somewhere; indeed today even scientists think they can explain the origin of the universe. As fantastic as “the big bang theory” is….would you believe  that well over 2500 years ago the planet’s original “scientists” the Taoists, had a similar theory?

According to the Taoist cosmology, before anything “existed” there was something they called “Wuji”.  This (literally) means “the Void” or “without form” or “the beginning.” From this  “Void”,”Tao”  emerged, Tao being translated as “the Way” or “path”.  An interesting side note corresponds to religious texts….”God created the Heaven and Earth”. For the Taoists you might look at it this way…’From the void, Tao emerged and created the heavens and Earth’.

Is it not sort of enlightening that Taoist thought can merge science and religion and validate both simultaneously? I tread lightly here  so as to not evoke sensibilities, but let’s assume that the science of things is always open to scrutiny, and admit that religious texts were written thousands of years ago and are famous for using metaphorical language. Anyway, I’m only attempting to give some perspective to Wuji.

If you are still following me (and wondering what this has to do with Qigong) consider this, finding a “place” without form gives us a connection to divine origins. Notice my choice of words, crafted somewhere between the scientific and religious terminology. It is here where we see one way that “all things are connected”.

Along the Way we often find that science and religion merge into philosophy. By extrapolation it is easy to see that our physical self’s are connected to an understanding of the merger of the two (science and religion) into a philosophy. In the Taoist arts this philosophy is applied to the physical realm so that practitioners can assimilate cosmic energy directly into themselves.

One can see that practicing Qigong is an endeavor using a philosophy combined with science and spirituality, to nurture the physical self that contains our “Self” self.

Now don’t ever get put off by the talk of spirituality or the word “cosmic” as Taoists define these words in a general sense, for instance, tonight I am “inspired” to write this page,  and so these words are coming from my “spirit” and as I post this message it is sent (via satellite) into the cosmos.

This stuff is not rocket science, nor is it some intangible “cosmic” thing; the fact is, this concept is so simple it is woefully misunderstood.  My approach to Qigong (energy cultivation) is equally pragmatic, I’m not asking anyone to make any leap of faith; only to see the truth. With this understanding, we can now “start” the journey, also know, that by reading this, you already have…..

Copyright Cory Williams 2009

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