Archive for the Taoism Category

On Constant Purity and Tranquility

The Wonderful Scripture on the Constant Purity and Tranquility, Spoken by the Ultra Supreme Elder Lord

The Elder Lord said:

The Great Tao, being formless, creates heavens and earths;
The Great Tao, being emotionless, runs the sun and the moon;
The Great Tao, being nameless, eternally nurtures all beings.
I do not know its name, and artificially call it “Tao”.

For things belong to Tao, some are pure, some are turbid; some are dynamic, and some are static. Heavens are pure, and earths are turbid; heavens are dynamic, and earths are static; the male are pure, and the female are turbid; the male are dynamic, and the female are static. It falls from the source and flows to the branches, therefore all things are produced.

The pure is the origin of the turbid; the dynamic is the base of the static. If one can always be pure and tranquil, the whole universe will return (to its origin).

A person’s divinity likes to be pure, but his heart disturbs it; a person’s heart likes to be tranquil, but his desires draw it away. If one can constantly dispel his desires, his heart will of itself become tranquil; if he also can make his heart limpid, his divinity will of itself become pure, then naturally, the six desires will not be produced and the three poisons will be cleansed. If one cannot achieve that, it is because his heart is not yet limpid, and his desires are not yet dispelled.

For a person who can achieve that, when he observes inward onto his heart, there is no heart; when he observes outward onto his body, there is no body; and when he observes remote things, there is no thing.

Since these three kinds of things have been understood by his heart of true self, he sees only the emptiness. Observe the emptiness by using the emptiness, the emptiness is not emptied. Since that which can be emptied does not exist, the inexistence of inexistence does not exist either; since the inexistence of inexistence does not exist, there comes the pellucid, bright, and everlasting tranquility. When it is tranquil but there is nothing that is made tranquil, how can desires be produced? Since no desire can be produced, that is the true tranquility — the Reality.

The Reality always corresponds to, and reflects all things; the Reality always stays in its nature. Always reflect in such a way, yet remain tranquil constantly, then it is the Constant Purity and Tranquility.

By keeping such purity and tranquility, one will gradually enter into the true Tao. When the true Tao is entered, that is called the Achievement of Tao. Though it is called the Achievement of Tao, there is actually nothing to achieve, just in order to enlighten living beings, it is called the Achievement of Tao. To those who can understand this with the heart of their true self, the sacrosanct Tao can be imparted.

The Elder Lord said:

A superior person does not compete, an inferior person loves to compete; the superior virtue is free from virtue, and the inferior virtue clings to virtue. Those who cling to anything do not understand Tao and Virtue.

The reason why living beings do not achieve the true Tao is because their hearts are deluded; their hearts being deluded, their divinities are perturbed; their divinities being perturbed, they are attached to myriads of things; being attached to myriads of things, greed and desires are produced; greed and desires being produced, worrying and afflictions also come. Worrying, afflictions, and illusionary consciousnesses torture their bodies and their hearts, and make them profaned by defilements and turbidities, wander among births and deaths, immersed in the ocean of afflictions constantly, and forever lose the true Tao.

The true and eternal Tao can be achieved naturally by those who understand it with the heart of their true self; and those who understand Tao with the heart of their true self, can constantly be pure and tranquil.

The Immortal Elder Gok said:

I had achieved the true Tao. Formerly I had recited this scripture ten thousand times. This scripture was studied and practiced by heavenly gods, and was not taught to inferior persons. I received it from Eastern Glory Heavenly Emperor, Eastern Glory Heavenly Emperor received it from Golden Gate Heavenly Emperor, Golden Gate Heavenly Emperor received it from Western Royal Mother. As for the direct line of Western Royal Mother’s disciples, they imparted it only by word of mouth, and never wrote down the words. Now for the world, I have recorded it by writing it down. A superior person, who understands it with his heart of true self, will ascend high and become a heavenly Immortal; a middling person, who practices it, will get his position in Southern Heavenly Palace; an inferior person, who gets it, will live in the world for a long time, and then roam through the three realms, and ascend into the Golden Gate.

Tzaw-Profoundness Real Person said:

For a person who studies Tao, if he recites and holds this scripture, he will be guarded by virtuous gods of the ten heavens, and then his divinity will be protected by the Jade Seal, his body will be refined by the Golden Liquid, then both his body and his divinity (sublimed souls) will become miraculously beautiful, and he will dissolve in Tao as the Reality.

Midmost One Real Person said:

If a family has this scripture and they truly understand it, no misfortune or obstruction will interfere with them, hosts of sages will guard their door, and their divinities will ascend to the high realm to worship lofty Real Persons in the present of them. When their merits are sufficient and their virtues are completed, the Heavenly Emperor will respond them, and by reciting and holding this scripture without retrogression, they will fly upward riding the clouds of purple light.

Translated into English by Silfong Tsun

Secret records of understanding the Way

TRUE AND FALSE

The Old Man of Clear Serenity said:
There is nothing in the world that does not have both

true and false versions. Practice of the Way may also be true or false, so students should first distinguish the difference clearly.

True practice is total sincerity. It is not a matter of avoiding the world or leaving society. And neither does it depend entirely on deliberate sitting and reciting scriptures. The essential thing is to refine away the false within the true to filter out the true from the false. Only then do you attain the true reality of perfect sincerity.

If you only concern yourself with reciting scriptures in front of other people and do not concern yourself with inner cultivation and self-government, or if you sit quietly all day, immobile as a statue, looking good out wardly but inwardly agitated by roaming thoughts and miscellaneous ideas‐all of this is false.

The false is antagonistic to the true, so if it is not eliminated it will harm the true. But to get rid of it you have to find the appropriate way. If you do not find the way, it is like shutting the door to catch a robber; the false can not be eliminated and the true issure to get hurt.

People who are not of the highest wisdom are influenced and conditioned by false images every day, so they lose sight of natural realities. They are so used to untruth that it becomes truth for them.

Even if there are some who have a little higher consciousness and clearly know that worldly affairs are all artificial, when taught to cultivate the real they still find the artificial hard to relinquish. If they are to be resolute, they first have to refine themselves within the artificial until they feel they have no more interest in artificial things; if they set them aside to seek the real after that, then they will be able to find the real.

If you happen to have been born in a rural area and are basically uncomplicated and unaffected, and never having experienced the bedazzlement of prosperity you do n o t know there is such a thing asartificiality, then you do not know there is reality either. That is because the real is hidden within the artificial and the artificial is not outside the real. What is quintessential is to be able to find out the real in the midst of the artificial and discern the artificial in the midst of the real.

Therefore cultivation of the Way does not require leaving home. You must mix with society, harmonizing illumination, living in the material world without being infected by materialism.

The Old Man of Clear Serenity said:
In quiet sitting, whether or not there is a specific process, you should not cling to form. If you consciously and deliberately try to apply mental images, you are prone to develop all sorts of illnesses. That is called drawing a snake with legs on it; you will bring trouble on yourself.

When we look into the source of this problem, we find it can be attributed to one’s own fixation, inflexibility, and habituation to biased views. It also comes from conceit and rigidity and failure to clarify instructions from a teacher so as to understand them thoroughly.

The upshot of this failure to abide by the principles of the practice, taking in the elixir too rapidly, without the process’s being completed, sitting hastily and carelessly before yin and yang energies have found their respective places.

Some consciously focus their attention on the lower elixir field when they sit. Some roll their eyes up into their heads to gaze upward. They are doing mental gymnastics.

Some concentrate attention on the breathing, like pumping a bellows. Some focus their minds on counting breaths, trying to take energy in without letting it out.

There are a number of such patterns. They can cause dizziness, deafness, reddening of the eyes, distention of the abdomen, pain in the tendons and bones, mental fogginess, nocturnal emissions, and other symptoms.

People who lack the basic capacity tend to develop illnesses by what they do in their pretenses of practicing Taoism. What they do not realize is that practicing the Way is cultivating and nurturing the Way of nature, the natural course.

First it is essential to clear the mind and minimize desires. After that, you preserve and nurture the vital spirit. You may succeed in prolonging life, or even in permanent realization of wizardry or buddhahood; but the effective result is due to inconspicuous practice according to principle, clearing the mind and not making up anything‐it does not come from artificial contrivance.

Generally speaking, quiet sitting has three types of principles. First there are the principles on which higher alchemy is based. In the middle there are the principles of refining the alchemical elixir. Finally there are the principles of lower alchemy.

So every step has its process. The order must be understood, the principles must be observed. Even those who are sincere and genuine may be able to keep the principles of preparation and procedure, but most act carelessly when it comes to completion.

I am going to reverse the order and talk about lower alchemy. You cannot rush; you will be finished only when you have attained thorough resolution, so that your vital spirit is clear and fresh. Otherwise you will merely have one or two experiences, or the process will break down after starting.

If you are careless with lower alchemy, it is very easy to cause harm. I see so many people trying to practice without doing it correctly from the start. Before their minds are settled, and before they have perceived the right conditions, they immediately cross their legs, fold their hands, and deliberately sit. Their heads are not right to start with; their bodies are not upright,their gaze is not even. They try to operate the process before the fire is even burning in the furnace. Even though there remain a number of conditions that have to be present, they cannot wait‐ they thus shut eyes tight, so that purity and pollution are not distinguished and positive energy cannot rise. This way of practice is hardly effective.

In practice, the eyes and ears are the most difficult point. If you simply take the distention of the primary opening to be the process of the work, you may experience itching and ringing in the ears, blurriness in the eyes, and drooling from the mouth that must be consciously drawn in. These are all examples of inability to await the right opportunity, like eyesight and light unable to combine.

If the opening of the ears has not been shut to the outside, the breath in the nose has not become subtle, the true liquid has not been produced, or the fire in the furnace has not been ignited, no state is genuine.

It is altogether essential to reach the point where the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue merge, and vitality, energy, and spirit fuse; that is when the light of insight shines forth. If you do not wait for the medicine to be produced and the fire to ignite, how can the great elixir be refined? If the firing is insufficient, the negative polluted energy in the body cannot be cleared away. Then pure positive energy cannot rise.

I always tell people that the first essential of practice is to even the temper well. You should not practice sitting hastily; wait until positive energy rises and the medicine is produced – only then is the time right.

When it comes to contemplating emptiness, it is essential to attain reversal of attention inward, the state of turning the light around. Rolling the eyes up into the head is not reversal of attention, nor is it turning the light around when the eyes see darkness. You must reach the point where the eyes do not see, the ears do not hear, and the breathing in the nose is extremely subtle. Then you have no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind; you are aware only of the existence of the primary opening, nothing else.

When you arrive here, the light of your true nature emerges. This is called the celestial monarch of the four elements offering a bowl.

Afterward, work on not letting go of this little mystic pass; that will surely be a good way to produce an alchemical pill. But work individually, because the state of turning the light around may take more or less time, depending on the individual.

Above all, don’t be in a hurry. If you do n o t wait for a genuine state to occur but forcibly withdraw your vision and consider that to be turning the light around, sitting with your eyes closed, then positive energy cannot get in and negative energy cannot get out. You will only toil uselessly, without benefit.

There are some people who roll their eyes up into their heads and gaze upward with excessive force. If they do this for a long time, they will suffer either brain damage or possibly blindness, both irreversible. This is very harmful, so I have taken up the admonitions left by the masters over the ages to systematically encompass the practical requirements for realizing the Way.

I have revealed the mechanisms of mysticism without fear of celestial regulations, in hopes that each individual may find out what it is to be human, and return home, to permanent realization of the state of fulfillment of higher development.

If you have worked for a long time but have not perceived any truth, it is because your mind is still unstable. Sages taught people to know how to stop, after which there is stability, calm, and peaceful meditation. The function of stabilization is great indeed! If you practice correctly, your mind will be stable and your temper will be even‐how could you then be unable to perceive truth?

Sitting work is called quiet sitting because it is a matter of cleaning all the pollution from your mind. Once the pollution is gone and your mind is clear, truth naturally becomes evident. The reason people cannot see truth is simply because their minds are too noisy and they cannot see through things and events as they really are.

Whether or not they practice quiet sitting, practitioners of the Way must clean old impurities out of the mind, making it clear and pure. Renew this work daily, without haste or hurry, and eventually you will spontaneously see the benefit.

So when you begin, it is essential to make a real effort. Accumulating vitality is setting up the foundation. Stopping thoughts is principal. Unifying spirit and energy is obtaining the medicine. Keeping the spirit still and not letting it scatter is incubation. Refining the spirit back into cosmic space is obtaining the alchemical pill. After the pill is complete, is it not the highest universal truth?

There is a folk saying that if you want effort to deepen, wear an iron pestle down to an embroidery needle. The point is that practitioners of the Way must not be in a hurry to see results.

Whether or not there is any progress cannot be determined on the surface. You should know there is a time to rise up and a time to lie low, a time to go forward and a time to withdraw. It is like walking a mountain path, which has high and low places, even and uneven places‐how can it be viewed as all the same?

You just have to follow the right pathway and you won’t go wrong. As long asyou don’t stop walking, eventually you will reach the peak, so why hurry? If you hurry, your legs and feet will get numb, your head will get dizzy, your eyesight will get blurry, and you will gasp for breath. Then, instead of speeding on your way, you have created obstacles. Unable to go on, you will give up along the way. Isn’t that a waste of all your previous effort?

Strive to break through material form, empty your body and mind, and become lively and fluid. Don’t “draw a snake with legs on it” and you will naturally not be guilty of “drawing a tiger like a dog.” Develop your character in relation to the outside world as much as you can. When your practice is accomplished and its results are fulfilled, then real truth can be seen without looking, inherently containing endless subtleties.

Reference: Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body translated by Thomas Cleary p. 123 – 130

Sam Chin Philosophy of I Liq Chuan

Sam F.S. Chin talks about the Philosophy of his “I Liq Chuan” system

Reference: I Liq Chuan

Taoist Health Preservation Neck Exercise

Annotated Mysterious Pearly Mirror

The Dao is nonaction, yet nothing is left undone.
Purity of mind does not come from knowledge and wisdom.
What is knowledge? What is purity?
Knowlegde is to give up all wisdom. Purity is to be empty in going along.

Going along, not following: this is pervasion of mind.
Pervade the One and all affairs are done!
The One is the root, affairs are the gate.
When affairs return to the One, the One is always there.

From Annotated Mysterious Pearly Mirror of the Mind by Jiao Shaoxuan
Reference: Sitting in Oblivion by Liva Kohn 2010 p.66

Meeting Master Wu Yun Qing

Daoist Neidan Yangsheng Gong

Daoist Neidan Yangsheng Gong by Daoist Master Su Hua Ren

Wudang Longmen Pai Kungfu 武当龙门综合拳

Wang Xing Qing

A Female Story of Daoist Cultivation

Lindsey Wei

A young woman, Lindsey Wei, graduates from high school in America and sets out to find her roots in China, questing for who she is and where her life path belongs. She discovers in herself a skill for martial arts and seeks the hidden knowledge of meditation. After three years of study in various martial styles and unveiling false teachers, she is finally led to the ancient Wudang Mountains. Here she meets a Daoist recluse, Li Shi Fu, who has renounced the world of the ‘red dust’ and long since retired into an isolated temple to cast oracles and read the stars. The coming together of these two extraordinary characters, master and disciple, begins a spiritual relationship taking the young adept on an unforgettable journey through the light and dark sides of modern China and deep into herself. Battling between earthly desires and heavenly knowledge, she makes the transformation into a dynamic and complete woman.

A coming-of-age, personal account, the book describes the lived experiences of a profoundly sincere, bitter yet ultimately liberating female quest. It is written for anyone who ponders the true meaning of Chinese wisdom and the way of the Dao in the hope of discovering a deeper strength within themselves.

Reference: The Valley Spirit: A Female Story of Daoist Cultivation by Lindsey Wei

thevalleyspirit.wordpress.com

An Empty Valley Transmitting a Voice

When a person shouts in an empty valley, there is a reverberation of sound. In folklore this is called the spirit. Because it has a voice but no form, it is called the spirit of the valley.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of nurturing the spirit in emptiness.

If people can be empty within, this is the valley. Within emptiness there is a point of spiritual energy, hidden inside; this is the spirit.

This valley is tranquil and unperturbed, this spirit is sensitive and effective. Only the valley can be spiritual- without the valley there is no spirituality. The marvel of the spirit is only in the valley.

People of the world are full of personal desires that block up the spiritual opening, polluting it in a hundred ways – how can they have a valley? Since they do n o t have the valley, they are confused and troubled, like drunkards or dreamers; their spiritual energy wanes away, so how can they have the spirit? Once they have lost the spirit, even though alive they are as if dead.

If you can sweep away all entanglements and wash away accumulated obsessions, so as to be clean and naked, bare and free, with nothing at all, then in that empty valley there will naturally be something indefinable with essential vitality, a non psychological spirit that is responsive, effective, and wise. Let go, it fills the universe; wrapped up, it is stored in secrecy. Thereby one can be a peer of heaven above and earth below.

Reference: Awakening to the Tao Lui I-ming translated by Thomas Cleary

Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine

Precelestial breath, Postcelestial breath. Those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.

The precelestial Breath is the original and initial Ancestral Breath.1 This Ancestral Breath is in the real center of Heaven and Earth within the human body. [Placed between] the Secret Door and the Gate of Life, hanging in the middle, it is the Heart of Heaven.2 The self-cultivation of the divine Immortals only consists in collecting the precelestial One Breath and using it as the Mother of the Elixir.
The postcelestial Breath is the Breath that circulates internally: one exhalation, one inhalation, once coming, once going. “Exhaling touches onto the root of Heaven, inhaling touches onto the root of Earth. On exhaling, ‘the dragon howls and the clouds rise’; on inhaling, ‘the tiger roars and the wind blows.’”3
When [the postcelestial Breath] is “unceasing and continuous,”4 it returns to the Ancestral Breath. The internal and the external inchoately merge, and coalesce to form the Reverted Elixir (huandan). Then you become aware of a burning fire in the Cinnabar Field that spreads to the four limbs. You look like a fool or like drunk, but “its beauty lies within.”5 This is why it says, “those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.”
This is what the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) means when it says:

The Spirit of the Valley never dies:
it is called the Mysterious-Female. The gate of the Mysterious-Female
is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Unceasing and continuous,
its operation never wears out.6

And this is what the Book of Changes (Yijing) means when it says about the Kun ䷁ hexagram:
From the Yellow Center it spreads to the veining, as it places itself in the correct position. Its beauty lies within, and extends to the four limbs.7

Notes
1. “Precelestial” (xiantian) and “postcelestial” (houtian) refer to the states before and after the generation of the cosmos. The precelestial Breath (qi) is the One Breath of the Dao. Once the cosmos is generated, it is permeated by the postcelestial Breath, which manifests itself in the multiplicity of the directions of space, the cycles of time, and all the entities and phenomena that exist and occur within space and time. In the human being, in particular, the postcelestial Breath is the breath (qi) of ordinary breathing. In any of its forms, however, the postceles- tial Breath hides and preserves the precelestial Breath, or one “particle” of it. In the strict sense of the term, the purpose of Neidan is the recovery of the precelestial Breath—represented as the Elixir—and its reconjunction with the postcelestial Breath.

2. The first part of this sentence alludes to the description of the center of the human body in the Huangting jing (Scripture of the Yellow Court): “Above is the Hun Numen, below is the Origin of the Barrier; on the left is the Minor Yang, on the right is the Great Yin; behind is the Secret Door, in front is the Gate of Life” (“Inner” version, poem 2). The Secret Door (mihu) is the kidneys, or a point in their region. The Gate of Life (shengmen) is the lower Cinnabar Field, or a point in its region. — The Huangting jing, originally dating from the second or the third century, is one of the main texts on early Taoist meditation. It exists in two versions, usually referred to as “Outer” and “Inner.” The “Inner” version” is later and longer compared to the “Outer” version.

3. This passage is quoted, without attribution, in Xiao Tingzhi’s (fl. 1260–64) Jindan wenda (Questions and Answers on the Golden Elixir). It is also found in Li Daochun’s (fl. 1288–92) Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), ch. 4.

4. This expression derives from the passage of the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.

5. This expression derives from the passage of the Book of Changes quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.

6. Daode jing, sec. 6.

7. Book of Changes (Yijing), “Wenyan” (Explanation of the Sen- tences) on the hexagram Kun ䷁ (see Wilhelm, I Ching or Book of Changes, p. 395). The first sentence is also found in the Cantong qi (The Seal of the Unity of the Three), sec. 19: “From the Yellow Center it gradually spreads through the veining: moistening and impregnating, it reaches the flesh and the skin” (see Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three, p. 77). In the explication given by Wang Jie, these passages of the Daode jing and the Book of Changes refer to the precelestial Breath.

Reference: Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine (Ruyao jing zhujie) translated by Fabrizio Pregadio

Deep Forest Meditation Lesson 深山传道

Ten Daoist Steps

Essences Of Wudang -Ten Daoist Steps
Wudang Dragongate Kungfu Schools Headmaster introduces one of the most important essences for wudang daoist arts. The ten daoist steps which are shown here are only the yang part of the whole set which also includes the very advanced ten yin steps. The steps are movements which contain many different aspects of training like balance, qi development, qi control, breathing, coordination, flow, strength and internal cultivation.
The ten daoist steps include the cat step, taiji ball step, contemplating the dao step, yin yang harmony step, crane step, turtle step and more.

Reference: www.wudang-dragongate.com

The Natural Mechanism of Turning Attention Around to Gaze Within

Bai Yuzhan said, “The path of inner refinement is extremely simple and easy; just get the fire of the heart to descend into the elixir field. The elixir field is the chamber of water, while the heart is fire. When fire enters water, then water and fire mix and true yang is produced. Therefore people Call them heart and genitals,not water and fire.”

The realized man Zhengyang said, “Getting the fire of the heart to descend is the South Star shifting to the position of the North Star.”

Shi Xingling said, “Gather in your spirit back into your energy and the alchemical process will naturally take place.”

Liu Haizhan said, “I have realized the principle of long life – intense yang subdues intense yin.”

Xu Jingyang said, “I will disclose my family way to you – the sun shifts into the light of the moon.”

Master Wang Chongyang said, “When you begin to build the foundation, first take the spirit in the upper opening and sink it into the lower opening, in the cavern of energy. Mind and breath keeping together causes pure attention to be ever aware. Alternating exhalation and inhalation come and go in the furnace of creation; after a long time this becomes thoroughly familiar, and fire will naturally erupt from below the navel, a tiger will emerge from the water. Without even trying to return to central balance, you spontaneously revert to central balance.

“When you first watch over the opening, turning your attention around to gaze within, it is a black pearl, like the dark side of the moon. Steadily illumined by the fire of mind following the wind of respiration, the blackness spontane- ously produces white, fire erupts in water, and warm energy circulates in the cavern of energy. This is the initial movement of true yang, producing being from nonbeing.”

He also said, “The forging and refining of wind and fire must be applied to pure yang to activate the yang energy. This is all a matter of discovering and consciously nurturing the basic spirit, a point of empty nothingness, storing it down in the cavern of energy. This is called sending it back to the earth and it pot sealing tightly.”

“With the ethereal spiritual light of essence of the basic spirit within, be like a turtle hiding, like a snake hibernating; do not forget, do not force, as if present yet as if absent. Eventually exhalation and inhalation will join, spirit and energy will embrace, the mystic pass will naturally open, and the seed of realization will be produced.”

Reference: Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body translated by Thomas Cleary p. 115

A General Introduction to Jinggong

by Chen Yingming

There is currently no effective medicine for stress-related disorders. Phosphoric supplements’ claim to fortifying the brain is unsubstantiated. All other stimulants or sedatives have only temporary effect. After the effect wears out, the symptoms come back, maybe with a vengeance.

One must ensure complete tranquility of the mind and disperse all random thoughts from it. This is the most important principle of jinggong practice and is the most effective treatment for stress-related disorders. However, it is difficult to put a stop to all the thoughts that go habitually through your mind. Our forefathers devised a host of methods to attain this purpose, among which the best one is Zhuangzi’s “listen-to-breathing” method (Zhuangzi, c. 369 – 286 BC).

You begin this exercise by using only your ears, not your mind. The idea is not to replace one thought with another, but more to force yourself to stay vigilant about your nose or your lungs. Nor is it to listen to any nasal sound. As long as you are aware ofthe exhalations and the inhalations, you are doing it right.Do not try to control the speed and depth of the breathing. Just let them be. By and by, your breath will beat one with your qi.All distracting thoughts will vanish. You will even forget about your breathing and gradually drift off to sleep. This is the most opportune moment to restore vigor to your frayed nerves. Seize the moment and abandon your self to deep sleep. Be sure not to resist the temptation to sleep. After you wake up, repeat the exercise all over again, and you will be able to drop off to blissful sleep again. If you have already slept several times during the day and do not wish to sleep anymore,you may get up and do some light exercise in a woody place outside where the air is fresh and clean. You may stand there for a few minutes doing breathing exercises, or practice calisthenics or taichi. But do not go overboard. Do not tire yourself out. Once you return indoors, you may either sit or lie in bed, resume your “listening-to-breathing” exercise and, perhaps, to fall asleep again.

Most people with stress-related disorders are also plagued by insomnia. It is not advisable to take sleep pills on a regular basis. Only the “listening-to—breathing” method can tackle the problem at the root, without leaving any side effect. It is in keeping with the theory about yang entering yin in the Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing, China’s earliest work on of medicine completed between 770 BC – 25 AD).

Ancient books on medicine often make reference to the interdependence of the mind and the breath,but no specific instructions can be found.Su Dongpo’s way is to count your breathings and then let the mind follow the breath (Su Dongpo, 1037- 1101, a famous Chinese poet). ZhuXi’s way, as explained in his Advice on Breath Adjustment, is to “watch the tip of your nose,” according to The Surangama Sutra (Zhu Xi, 1130 – 1200, Confucian scholar and founder of the school of Neo—Confucianism). However, since you have to count, you are not free from all engagement of the mind. And, in the latter case, since you have to watch your nose, your eyes will get tired over time. Zhuangzi’s “listening-to-breathing” method is the only one that calls for absolutely no engagement of the mind and leads to no fatigue. What follows is a list of the three methods for you to practice.

1. Su Dongpo’s theory on health (Dongo Zhilin, Su Shi’a Record in His Daily Life, Vol.1):
Health conscious people must exercise moderation in their eating habits. Only when plagued with hunger can you start eating and you should stop before the feeling of fullness sets in. After each meal, take a stroll outdoors until the food has been digested. Then return indoors for exercises. You can freely decide whether to do the exercises in daytime or at night, seated or lying down. The only important thing is to keep your body from moving and stay immobile like a wooden statue. Then, in a combination of Buddhist and Daoist methods, gaze at the tip ofyour own nose while counting the number of exhalations and inhalations through your nose. The key is to empty your mind and not to force anything. When counting, count either all the exhalations or all the inhalations, not both.So each act of breathing, exhaling and inhaling, counts as one, not two. After you’ve counted hundreds of times, your mind will be a blank and your body motionless as a rock. Since you need not force anything on your mind and body, both will naturally enjoy tranquility.

After you’ve counted thousands of times, or if you have no more strength to go on counting, you can switch to another method, called “follow the breath.” When you exhale, let your mind follow the air out of the body. When you inhale, let your mind follow the air on its way in, not through the nostrils, but filling every pore like evaporation of cloud and fog. When you attain this level of accomplishment, all longstanding ailments and afflictions will gradually go away and you reach enlightenment, just like a blind man suddenly regaining sight. Able to see his way ahead now, he no longer needs guidance.

2. ZhuXi’s breath-adjustment method (The Complete Works Zhu Xi, Vol. 85):
Watching the tip of one’s own nose is the 14th of the 25 methods listed in The Surangama Sutra. Both Su Dongpo and Zhu Xi adopted the phrase, but each in a slightly different sense. In Zhu Xi’s words, this is a method applicable anywhere and at any time, provided you are relaxed and feel comfortable. Do not make yourself uncomfortable in any way. Stay calm and let things take their own course. Do not force anything. When tranquility reaches its height, the pendulum will naturally swing toward motion, like fish rising to the surface of the water in spring to breathe. When motion reaches its height, the pendulum swings naturally toward tranquility, like insects hibernating in winter to conserve energy. At this point, the qi in the body converges with the qi of heaven and earth, and the alterations of tranquility and motion unite with the movements of the universe. Words are inadequate to describe the wonders of this method. You may ask, who is behind all this? In fact, there is no one behind any of this. Everything is just a part of nature.

3. The Mind Tranquility method of Zhuangzi (Chapter IV, The Book of Zhuangzi):
Yan Hui asked Confucius, his teacher, about Zhuangzi’s Mind Tranquility method, and this was Confucius’ reply: Do not indulge in wild fancies. Gather all your thoughts to gether and then listen,not with your ears but with your mind. Then,listen not with your mind but with your qi.By this time, you should no longer be relying on your ears. Your mind and qi being at one, you should not be relying on your mind, either. Qi is something unsubstantial. It needs something to form a union with it. Only Dao can merge with the qi of the Great Void. If your mind attains the tranquility of the Great Void, you have made a success ofthe MindTranquility method.

There should be no division of stages to this method, but for the convenience of beginners, I’mgoing to divide the whole process into several steps and give some detailed instructions:

Step 1: “Gather all your thoughts together.” Before you begin the exercise, be sure to gather all your thoughts together and concentrate on the exercise. If any distracting thoughts remain, you will not b eable to do a good job of it.

Step2: “Listennotwithyourearsbutwithyourmind.”Once
you have completed Step 1, you are ready to begin to “listen,” but definitely not to listen with your ears to Conventional sounds. You may get skeptical and ask, since it involves lis- tening, what am I supposed to listento, ifnot to sounds? No clear answer to this question can be found in the annotations to all kinds of theories.So let me make this clear: You begin by listening for the sound of breathing through your nostrils. The breathing of those with normal, unimpeded respiratory systems should be noiseless, which is why you are not supposed to listen with your ears.Even though there is no sound, you are aware ofthe speed and the strength ofexhalations and inhala- tions through the nostrils, as are even the hearing-impaired. That’swhytheinstructionsareto “listenwithyourmind.”

Step 3: As for “listen not with your mind but with your qi,” this can again be problematic. You may be able to get away with saying “listen with your mind” because the mind, after all, is sentient, but qi is not. How can you listen with qi? If the mind listens to qi, what does qi listen to? So how should this be explained? My answer is: when you have become quite accomplished in jinggong, your mind and your qi will be at one and inseparable. Qi becomes something impossible for the mind to listen to, hence the phrase “You must not listen with your mind.” At this point, your mind and your qi, though at one, may not have reached the state of the Void and there fore may still have a slight awareness of your breathing. If you keep on, you will soon lose all awareness of your breathing. During the brief period of transition, rather than listen to qi with your mind and set mind and qi against each other, it makes more sense to listen to qi with qi and wipe out any rift between the two. That’s why the instructions say “listen with qi.”

Step 4: As for “You should no longer be relying on your ears,” and “You should not be relying on your mind, either,” a beginner should first try to gather his thoughts together before concentrating on “listening,” but carrying this on for too long would be overdoing it. So go on to the next step. Stop listening. By this time, you are moving into the stage of the Void, where your mind and qi are at one, you are no longer aware of your breathing.You may appear to be asleep on the outside, but on the inside, it’s another story.

Setp 5: As for “Qi is something unsubstantial. It needs something to form a union with it. Only Dao can merge with the qi of the Great Void. If your mind attains the tranquility of the Great Void, you have made a success of the Mind Tranquility method,” after you have gone from the simpler to the more sophisticated stages, you naturally reach the state of the Void without having to direct your mind to it. If you will it, you won’t be able to get there. The entire process is to go from what you have acquired to what you were given by nature. So the fifth should be be experienced in the state you were born, but I will not get in to that,because it exceeds the limits of therapy. For our purposes, it sufiices to reach the state where your mind and your qi merge.

A summary of the three methods cited above: Su Dongpo’s method is to begin by counting your breathing, then stop counting and let it be. Zhu Xi’s method is to begin by watch- ing your nose, then stop watching it and let everything take its own course. Zhuangzi’s method is to begin by listening to your breath, then stop listening and let everything take its own course. The three methods begin differently but end on the same path. Learners can feel free to apply them in combination.

Young patients with stress-related disorders can be 70% or 80% cured by practicing these exercises for three months. Middleaged patients can be 50 to 60% cured after three month’s practice. However, symptoms can vary in degree. I was referring to more severe cases. Those with less severe symptoms can achieve full recovery. After you leave the sanatorium and return to your workplace, it would be advisable to practice twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, and make it a habit. Only then will you be able to keep what you have gained and be fully accomplished in this healing art.

Quiet Sitting The Daoist Approach for a Healthy Mind and Body by Weiqiao, Jiang p. 67 – 75