Archive for the ‘Taoist Meditation’ Category

Taoist Meditation Lesson #7 Finding Heaven   Leave a comment

“The sage sees the universe without going out the door”


Small Heavenly Circle (Microcosmic Orbit) Meditation Part #1

Attaining Tao is to merge with the wonders of heaven. In the very first verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says, “The Tao that can be named is not the real Tao”. What he is saying is the greatest of all things is beyond words, and once we attempt to name it we have defined the indefinable, which obviously is not going to work.  So then, how do we merge with the undifferentiated source of all things? Simple, start by just letting go of your desire to be or do anything and focus your energy into heaven.

If you have read the six prior lessons on Taoist meditation basics and practices and if you have actually tried some of these techniques then it is time to expand your horizons. Be sure to read Tuning the Breath as well.

I hope by now you have had some success with staying “in the moment” and have learned to use some of these tools to dissolve your mind into your body. Learning to control your thoughts is the basic methodology to allow your energy to find a higher calling. In this article, I will give you a little piece of treasure, another tool for your meditation that will help you reach a higher state of consciousness.

Much has been written about the “Small Heavenly Circle” also known as the “Microcosmic Orbit” meditation; a simple Google search will give you over 5,000 results.  I will not attempt to re-invent the wheel here, (pun intended) but instead I will give you my method.  This method of meditation takes the practitioner on an inward journey along the superhighway of energy that predominates within the human body.  My method is a straightforward and simple way to start exploring the universe within.

On the inward journey, the first things we learned were to dissolve our thoughts and get in touch with our energy, something you are getting skilled at if you have been doing the lessons so far. Now I am going to explain how to circulate that energy within your body.

We start with a basic energy circuit that runs up and down the torso in a circular path just under the surface of the skin; this path is called the “Small Circle.”  The vessels and meridians in your body that carry the qi are usually along high conductivity tissue such as tendons  and sometimes muscles. The centerline of both the front and back of our torso is mostly tendons, and this is a good conductor for the qi to flow within.  Learning to follow this path is a major step to moving even deeper into your body, and will give you more insight into the universe within you. My method starts with identifying the two major pathways of energy (that connect into a circle) by defining 15 points along the way. Like planets in a galaxy, we will travel to each one, picking up provisions along the way.  As we get to know each “planet” we will gain an understanding of our inner workings, this is the “Sage seeing the universe with out going out the door”

The two main paths have many names and energy can be moved in a variety of ways. In this beginning technique, we are going to follow the natural flow of energy down the front and up the back. For now, just think of them as Yin and Yang.  The “Yang path” starts at the perineum and then the base of the spine, continues up and over the crown of the head, and ends at the pallet. The “Yin path” starts at the tip of the tongue and flows down the front of your body and ends at the perineum at the bottom of your torso. Technically the “Ren” channel ends at the ovarian palace but since the connecting “Tu” channel emerges at the perineum I start there. Again, there are many resources available online for your perusal. Here I want to give you my method of navigating this “orbit.”

First, let me name, locate, and describe each “planet” along the orbit. Since we have to start somewhere, I start from that place where you “see things” when you close your eyes, a place between the eyebrows that is sometimes called “the minds eye.”

There are many more than these 16 points (that are really bigger than “points” that is why I think of them as “planets“) but I like to keep things simple. Picking these 16 allows us to be clear about each one and later we will apply a breathing technique to help propel your “spaceship” to each “planet”.   As your awareness grows you will feel and communicate with many more places than I have put on this list.  For example, between numbers  8, 9 &10 there are 2 others, the anus for instance, which is actually 6  in itself, front, back, each side, the center and the outer muscle!

My list of 16 celestial destinations within:

Classic texts would have you start at the Dan Tian and “contemplate your navel” for “as long as it takes to feel the qi there“.  I will not refute this method but there are alternatives. While this skill is admirable, I think we get the point; moving on from there, I believe spending a few minutes at each point is a better way to learn this orbit. Of course take as long as you want to explore each world, again the “classics” say to spend as long as a couple of months on each point until you can send your awareness and feel your qi there.

Once you have “opened the channel”, you will notice the qi moves rather quickly around the orbit. I usually do not need to linger long at each place at this point in my training and because I am not writing a book here, think of this as a quick tour through the planets,

The Mind’s Eye (behind your forehead)
The Heavenly Pool (where the tongue touches the pallet)
The Throat, (thyroid gland)
Thymus gland
The Heart
The Solar Plexus
The Dan Tian (just one inch below the navel)
The Sperm (Ovarian) Palace (a hands width below the navel)
The Hui Yin (the perineum)
The Tip of the Tail Bone
The Gate of Life (on the spine opposite the Dan Tien)
The Kidneys and Adrenals (on the spine opposite the Solar Plexus)
The Shen Dao, Between the Shoulders (opposite the Heart)
The Da Zhui, at the C-7
The Jade Pillow (at the base of the skull)
The Bai Hui or Crown Point (at the top of the head)

My planetary journey starts where I already am…

Sit and tune the breath,

Bring your awareness to,

1.    The Minds Eye (behind your forehead); Starting where your mind is already is a good place to start. When you close your eyes, you will “see” or rather “observe” energy actively moving about. Then just let the awareness sink down trough the Yin Path….

2.    The Heavenly Pool (where the tongue touches the pallet); When I put my awareness here I feel saliva welling up from the bottom of my mouth and pooling around the base of my tongue encouraging me to swallow.

3.    The Throat; This spot sends the flow downward along the yin channel. Here lies the thyroid gland a tiny little gland that controls the rates of regeneration for your entire body.

4.   The Thymus gland is a very sensitive gland that is an emotional regulator, sensing the heart and breathing rates, etc.

5.     The Heart; When my mind travels here I feel my heart moving a little bit, not so much an increase in speed, but sort of a warm gentle thumping.

6.    The Solar Plexus; This is a major nerve gathering center in your chest, at this location I feel a lump that seems to radiate out in all directions.

7.    The (Lower) Dan Tian (one inch below the navel); This is the home planet for your Qi. When qi gets stuck in your head (Upper Dan tian) it can cause rampant thinking, when the qi is at your Thymus or Solar Plexus, (in the middle Dan tian), you might feel emotional, but when the qi is here it will feel at home. After my first few years of practice, I began to feel a rotational sensation here.

8.    The Sperm (Ovarian) Palace (a hands width below the navel); This space is connected to all of your glandular systems and placing my mind here, brings me a sense of being connected internally.

9.    The Hui Yin (the perineum); When here, I feel a pulsing feeling as though there is a warm current flowing through my perineum moving towards the back of my body. This is the bottom of the torso and it is full of muscles that support the pelvic floor. The Hui Yin is sort of the launching pad for the next part of the orbit, the Yang path.

To keep things simple just do this for now…

First Tune your Breath and then just work on putting your awareness on each spot until you notice it; just like when you were using your hands; remember, “listening” for the tingling sensation there? If not re-read the other lessons. The point is, if you can send the energy to your hands it is a logical step to move to these orbit spots here. Just do this a little bit and see if you can feel the flow of energy coming down from your head to your perineum.

In the next lesson, I will lead you through the rest of the orbit.

Soon you will see that Taoist meditation and internal qigong are similar. You are now starting to learn the fine art of “Nei Gong” or “internal qigong”

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Taoist Meditation Lesson #6 (Practice Part 3)   3 comments


Orion Nebula, the energy of the universe

“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

In this third article on this subject I suggest you re-read the other three to provide a segue into this one and so, if you have been following along with all the meditation lessons, this would be the sixth one so far.

Now if you will just close your eyes… right now just for a few seconds…

Tell me, what did you see? Try again and do it for a little longer.

Since you cannot tell me, let me guess, you see little flickers of light, sort of like when the TV is between stations, or swirling fluid like colors as in a gaseous star cloud in space. Am I right?  Well, what you are really seeing is your energy, the energy of the universe that has been embedded in you. If I were a religious man, I would say, “That’s God talking to you”.

Now try this experiment again, this time keep your eyes closed longer, say, for a minute. Now what did you see? I hope that you saw more of the same, but most likely, some image made itself manifest there in your mind’s eye, or you were caught up in a daydream. That was your mind talking to you.

In our practice up until now, we have been talking a lot about dissolving your mind into your body, so you can dissolve your body into energy and thus send the energy deeper into your center where it can strengthen your spirit. The methods I showed you in the last lesson were about moving in that direction, remember we started with the hands and I said you could also use an image of yourself, something called the “energy body” this is a tool to help you learn to stay in the “now moment”.

When you are using the mind in this way, learning to stay in the now, there is a short length of time spent moving your energy inward. Somewhere between a few seconds and ten minutes, you are switching modes of energy application.  Inevitably, thoughts will arise, this is expected and is very normal, but if you have read the prior lessons, you know that these are illusions. Just take a step back, mentally, and see that for what it is and go back to the most important thing there is …little flickers of light, sort of like when the TV is between stations, or swirling fluid like colors as in a gaseous star cloud in space…. Your energy.

Your goal, if you need one, is to just sit quietly and stay with your energy. Go back to the hands and the body if you need too, or look through the illusions as though they are like a digital image that you can zoom in on until they are pixilated and so dissolved back into the energy from which they came from.

Step back from “images” of any kind, as soon as your mind forms an “Image” you are being taken away from your energy. In time, and with discernment, you will see the truth about what your mind is trying to do to you, but you will conquer it and take control of your life. You may see some upsetting things about yourself, listen, learn, but don’t get caught up in them.  Just go back to the energy as if you found yourself watching an old movie that you decide not to watch and just change the channel back to your new favorite one…energy.

There is nothing that can compare to the blissful feeling of staying free from those thoughts and images. The energy itself is a compelling show to follow; there is no greater image or thought in the entire universe as unadulterated energy. By allowing your mind to escape from all the illusions that have been fooling you for so long, you will find the truth, the truth that You are Energy.

In time, the truth will set you free.

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Qigong & Taiji Sets for All Students   1 comment

"Tiger" from Dragon & Tiger Yiquan

“I don’t have time for Taiji!”

So many times, I have heard this, usually from “non believers”, but occasionally I myself am guilty of such thoughts.

Well now…… If you have been training with me, you have been exposed to a variety of Qigong and Taiji sets.  It is important to keep in mind that eventually, as you assimilate the principles into your life, everything will be Taiji. Yet in the beginning, we all need some ‘forms’ to direct us in the Way.

This page is just a list of some of the forms that I have shown to my classes and some for advanced students.  With so many options, it is easy to just pick one or more depending on your goals or time frame.  All of my beginner students have been doing the first four or five on this list, and I consider these a “core group” of practices. Over time, I will show everyone all of these sets.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to get bored, so add the others in occasionally as you want to.  There is always time to get in a quick “Soaring Crane” or some Zhan Zhuang practice anywhere any time.

Some of the Qigong and Taiji sets for beginner and advanced students

1.)    “Wuji” a standing qigong for overall health, perform for one minute to as long as you wish!
2.)    Dong Family “Warm up Qigong” strengthens the posture and opens the joints. Takes about 7 to 8 minutes to perform.
3.)   Wudang Daoist Abdominal Breathing Qigong, five simple exercises that form the foundational skills for all qigong, taiji  and meditation practice.

4.)  Dong Family “Basic Qigong Set” builds and distributes qi through the whole body. Takes about 7 to 8 minutes to perform.

5.) Taiji Walking

6.)    “Dong (Yang) Style Taijiquan” The first section of the long form of Taiji (Tai Chi). A total body and mind Qigong and martial art form. Takes about 6 minutes to perform.
7.)     The Dong Family “Hard Qigong” A zhan zhuang practice that builds structural integrity in your physique. These ten postures can be done in as little as 5 to 10 minutes or as long as you wish.
8.)    “Dong (Yang) Style Taijiquan” The second section of the long form of Taiji. Takes about 12 minutes to perform.
9.)    “Soaring Crane 1” is a medical qigong set to strengthen your overall health. Takes about 5 minutes to perform. See video here: Soaring Crane with Master Dong
10.)    “Tiger Mountain” AKA “Taiji Gong” an assemblage of some postures from Yang style Taiji set. Takes 5 to 10 minutes to perform. See video here: Tiger Mountain
11.)    “Zhan Zhuang” or “Standing like a post qigong” Strengthens your stances and internal energy; I suggest just picking any of the postures from the Taiji form and stand still as long as you can comfortably. Take at least 2 to 10 minutes or as long as you wits to perform. See photos of Yang’s Taiji postures here: Yang Cheng Fu
12.)      Yiquan Zhan Zhuang. Eight basic standing postures and a few other simple postures designed to open the hips and strengthen the legs and back and build structural integration into your physique Takes from 5 to 40 minutes to perform.
13.)    “Dong Sitting Qigong, Long Form” From Master Dong Zeng Chen. A total mind and body Qigong for meditation, thrusting vessel, small circle qi and upper body strengthening. Takes about 30 to 40+ minutes.
14.)    “Dong Sitting Qigong” From Master Dong Hu Ling. A simple sitting routine for the upper body qi, the mind and the eyes.

15.)  Five Elements Qigong, Wu Xing Qigong is a nine form set that is a medical qigong toning the internal organs and meridians. See video here: Ziranmen Five Elements Qigong.

16.)  Muscle and Tendon Changing Classics, Yi Jin Jing is one of the oldest known set of gigong, originally authored by the famous Da Mo.

17.)  The Eight Brocades, Ba Duan Jin is another old classic set.

18.)   Zi Fa Gong, spontaneous Qigong comes when you have figured out some of these basic sets  then you let your qi body lead you to move or not to move.

19.)  Wudang Daoist (Hun Yuan) Primordial Qigong, a new set I have been showing and will be writing out soon…

20.)   Wudang Five Animal Forms, another new set I will be showing in 2012

Over time I will expose everyone to parts or all of these forms, just keep coming to class and reading online and most importantly: PRACTICE

Do some Qigong everyday!  Keep it simple but……Do it!

Understanding Reality, Being a “Real Human”   1 comment

The Universe

“The sage sees the whole universe without going out the door”

If you only learned to meditate, it would be the most valuable experience of your life.  To gain understanding, a wordless gift of knowing that you’ve always had, but haven’t used is a profound thing indeed. I am paraphrasing Roy Masters work “Be still and Know” and yet there is so much more going on when we do qigong.

By combining physical exercise and meditation, we gain more than can be had by just “exercising” or “meditating”.  The synergy is further enhanced by the other attributes of qigong, like the way we exercise, opening up the joints, and skeletal system and the sequential opening and closing of the muscles and energy pathways within our bodies.  There is really no other “exercise” like qigong; in my opinion there is no better exercise, and yet it is so much more.

Dissolving your mind and body using qigong also has a calming and strengthening effect on our emotions as well.  To liberate your mind from the emotional prison that has kept the real you locked up without your knowledge is not an insignificant gain!

The understanding gained from proper practice gives insight to all things. The meaning of the quote from the “Tao Te Ching” written above is this: Within everyone, there are elements of all things; a celestial world, we are a microcosm of the universe. Every atom is like a minute solar system, all our cells are virtual galaxies, and our consciousness is like God, indeed, if you can truly know yourself, then you can understand the whole universe.

I often wonder what if we all could expand our understanding in this way.  Yet it was once the normal way for humans. Our convoluted lives have dulled our sense of reality; learning to get in touch with our true objective self is to understand a separate reality, a primordial knowledge that is the “Way” we were intended to be….. Freedom from contrivance, like an un-carved block of wood, becoming what Nature (God?) intended for us.

If you have a goal in life, make it to be a fully integrated human being by being balanced in each realm of human functioning. Don’t be a “spiritual person” or an “intellectual”, and do not be a slave to your emotions and don’t ignore or indulge them. Stop always seeking physical gratification or obsessing about your body.  To be a “Real Human” you need to be in control of all of these things.

Balancing all these separate things naturally into one universe is, for me…..The Way, Taiji the “Supreme Ultimate” and qigong is the path to the Way….. The Way to divinity, to freedom, to perfect health, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Qigong Lesson #3 Exploring Wuji   4 comments

One of over 8000 thousand life-size Terracotta Warriors standing strong for over two thousand years

Zhan Zhuang “Standing like a post” Standing Meditation

Standing builds structural integrity in your physique, calms the mind and emotions and it provides a foundation for internal qigong work known as “nei gong”.

As you are learning to connect with your internal energy, many new and intriguing adventures will open up to your awareness.  In fact, awareness is the primary connection that you make as the path unfolds before you.

You can reach your health goals whatever they may be, whether they are physical health, as in posture, flexibility, balance or general strengthening or mental goals such as, improved memory, freedom from excessive thoughts or disordered thinking, or perhaps emotional goals like curing frustration, mania, anger, fear, grief, worry, depression or whatever else.

The one common denominator in almost all ailments is unbalanced energy within you. Even the most devastating illnesses often have their roots in basic problems with your personal energy and many are therefore preventable. Balancing our energies is the goal of all traditional Chinese medicine and Qigong is a basic part of TCM.

In the first two Qigong “lessons” here on this blog, I outlined the first skill you should master, Wuji. As the name implies Wuji is a starting point and it is where we begin all qigong exercises and the Taiji forms, yet there is a whole genre of “Wuji training” that can be explored.

Standing is sometimes called zhan zhuang, which means “standing like a post”, or referred to as standing meditation; it is in fact an excellent qigong exercise all by itself. There are no real ”forms“ per se, instead individual postures are sustained for a length of time as necessary.

The main goal here is to balance out our internal energy by standing still, however stilling your body often encourages thinking to arise; sometimes the thinking can become overwhelming.  Redirect your thoughts into becoming aware of the 12 points outlined in the last lesson and only allow your thoughts to go through the “postural check list”.

Another technique to stop unnecessary thinking, is to simply count your breaths; paying attention to the air moving in and out as you do. When you find yourself caught up in a daydream, just start over with the alignment and then find your way back to your breathing; in this way you will learn to dissolve your  mind and body together.

After we still our bodies, and refocus our thinking, errant energy tends to go into the emotions.  This can be very annoying as thoughts and emotions are linked, often emotional thoughts like: “I feel dumb standing here”, “What are others thinking about me seeing me standing here?”, or “Am I wasting my time standing here?”  Any excuse we can dream up to release us from learning about our true selves seems like a good enough reason to stop our training. Just go back through the same routine and you will find these emotions subside.

While standing in a posture, there are many other techniques that you may apply, such as various breathing practices and a whole host of higher-level skills known as “nei gong“. These skills will be explained in future articles about that topic but the first step into that whole universe of qigong arts starts with zhan zhuang.

To perform zhan zhuang all you need to do is stand, correctly of course, in any one of numerous postures. To avoid an emotional reason to give up, commit before hand to doing zhan zhuang for a certain length of time, say 10 or 15 minutes. You may stand in Wuji, or pick some postures from the Taiji form.  In the beginning I recommend you attempt at least three minutes in each posture, that way you will not get bored so that during the 15 minutes you could manage five postures. Serious zhan zhuang practitioners may stand for up to an hour in one or two postures!

In coming lessons, I will show you some postures that can be used in addition to the ones you are learning as part of a Taiji class. Who knew that by just standing you could accomplish so much without knowing any forms?

Stand strong and you will develop good balance, strength, and energy.

Copyright Cory Williams 2010

More here: Qigong Lesson #4

Qigong Attitude   3 comments

First, gain an understanding of your energy system.
Align the body correctly to facilitate energy flow.
Relax the muscles to encourage energy flow.
Learn to dissolve your mind and body together.

Develop an emotional connection to the energy within.
Become intimate with your energy.
Practice until you know what is right in your heart.
Let go of your silly ego needs.

Gain freedom from your thoughts,
Become as open as Heaven,
Be as firm as the Earth,
Shine brightly like a star,
Be as flexible as water,
Gain inspiration from all things,
Know the truth that will set you free.

There are many paths to freedom yet only those who learn the truth will be truly free.  The real you is often hidden behind layers of physical and egocentric defenses.  Physical obstructions, thinking, and emotions, all inhibit your true self from shining through.

Spiritual qigong? Medical qigong? Martial qigong? Meditation? Internal, external, standing, sitting, moving, stillness, Taiji, whatever…. It makes very little difference; they are essentially the same thing. Don’t get confused by esoteric teachings. Do not be distracted from the truth by thinking too much about it.

Do not make your journey complicated; just follow the simple methods outlined in your training.  Adding too much just takes you farther away from the truth.  Practice “Wu Wei“; practice with diligence, yet keep it simple and you will gain profound awareness.

The truth is simple:
Love your energy as though it was the most valuable substance in the universe….in time you will discover the creator of all things.

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Wu Wei…Non-Striving   Leave a comment

There is no "try" only do, or not do (Master Yoda)

Recently someone said to me, “I need to learn to relax”, after apologizing for laughing at the remark, I poised the comment, “Realize that you can’t learn to relax, you need to un-learn being discontent.”

When things are going well, they just flow correctly. A pro athlete never forces anything; neither does a pro musician, or an artist.  If they did, you could tell it was not quite right. When things flow from your heart it is true and correct and it shows. When we are balanced within and we are in harmony with our surroundings there is no “effort”

Every time I “try real hard” in life, I usually mess things up. So will you if you don’t understand the principle of “Non Striving”

Among the basic Taoist principles that can improve our lives “Wu Wei” is the most important and pervasive concept of all.  Not forcing things seems like an obvious concept to most of us and yet our competitive nature often encourages us to do so.  It’s not that “force” is a bad thing but unnaturally forcing things usually is.  Make things right with the universe and effortlessness is an indication that you “get it”.
Any feeling of “forcing”, “striving” or “contrivance” tells you that you do not get “it”.

The “it” I am referring to is the understanding that you are (or not) coming from your heart.  Do not think this is easy however, I’m no Pollyanna; you might say “It’s simple, it’s just not easy”.  The Tao Te Ching is full of commentary on this subject in fact almost every one of the 81 verses contains a statement about Wu Wei.

“The sage does nothing and yet nothing remains undone”
“My way is simple, yet no one can follow it”
“An infant can follow the way. But can an eighty year old?”
“To manage a large country is like frying a small fish, the less you poke it the better.”
“The sage leads by following”
“Water is the softest thing in the universe yet it overcomes the hardest things”
“The greatest misfortune is discontentment.”
“The sage never contrives greatness that is why he is truly great”

The other day someone said to me, “I was told (by a qigong teacher) to force the qi downward during qigong”, holding back a laugh I smiled and went on to explain “Wu Wei” a guiding principle.

When we relax, the qi will flow effortlessly, using “force” causes muscle tension that uses up more qi then it allows to pass through, resulting in less movement of the qi.

Again I recommend getting your very own copy of the Tao Te Ching (see my reading list) the philosophy of Taoism provides a foundation for understanding reality.

First, learn all you can; then forget it all. Learning is prejudice and contrived and will limit you. Having expectations can lead one to disaster. Knowledge is only a starting point, when we apply the principle of “Wu Wei” we turn knowledge into something far more valuable…Understanding

Posted February 13, 2010 by The Maui Taoist in Qigong, Taiji Principles, Tao, Taoist Meditation

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