By Elizabeth Reninger, About.com
Inner Alchemy (Neidan) – a term often used synonymously with Qigong – is the Taoist art and science of gathering, storing and circulating the energies of the human body. In Inner Alchemy, our human body becomes a laboratory in which the Three Treaures of Jing, Qi, and Shen are cultivated, for the purpose of improving physical, emotional and mental health; and, ultimately, merging with the Tao, i.e. becoming an Immortal.
Each of the Three Treasures used in the practice of Inner Alchemy is associated with a particular physical/energetic location: (1) Jing, or reproductive energy, has its home in the lower dantian (and Snow Mountain area); (2) Qi, or life energy, has its home in the middle dantian; and (3) Shen, or spiritual energy, has its home in the upper dantian. Taoist practitioners learn to transmute Jing into Qi into Shen, and the reverse, i.e. learn to modulate consciousness along its full spectrum of vibratory frequencies, in much the same way that we are able to tune into different radio stations. The dantians can be thought of as similar to the “chakras” of Hindu yogic systems – locations within the subtle bodyfor the storing and transmutation of qi/prana. Of particular importance for Inner Alchemy practice is the lower dantian, referred to also as the “stove,” and the home, ultimately, of the Immortal Fetus.
Internal Alchemy understands the human body to be a precious and necessary resource for our spiritual journey, rather than as something to be ignored or transcended. Along with the dantians, the practitioner of Inner Alchemy learns to perceive and work with the meridian system, in particular the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. As we open, cleanse and balance the meridians, our Awareness flows in/as the present moment. What emerges, then – quite naturally – is good health, clarified perception and a direct experience of our connection to and embodiment of Tao.
Inner Alchemical processes are represented visually in theNei Jing Tu, a diagram whose various components are described here by Master Mantak Chia. These processes are represented also by the Lamp, candles and other items found on the altarsused in Ceremonial Taoism, and by the practice of Baibai – offering incense to the altar. Taoist ceremonies are ritual enactments not only of Taoist Cosmological principles, but also of the transformations of Inner Alchemy.
An excellent place to begin your practice of Inner Alchemy is with the “Inner Smile” practice. As you move deeper into this wonderful terrain, it will be important for you to receive the guidance of one or more qualified teachers. If you don’t have access to flesh-and-blood guides, Tai-Chi-and-Meditation-Direct offers an excellent program of online instruction. Tonic Gold is a supplement (created by the hermetic alchemist Petri Murien) that I’ve found to be a powerful support for Inner Alchemy practice. (Enter the discount code “vitality” to receive a practitioner’s discount.) Dr. Zhi Gang Sha is a contemporary Master of qigong/Inner Alchemy, who offers free weekly teleconferences, and powerful transmissions that you can register for. Finally, each of the books listed below offers valuable insights, information, practices and clues to the magic and mystery, art and science of Internal Alchemy practice. Enjoy!
Golden Elixir Chi Kung, by Mantak Chia offers instructions on turning our saliva into a potent form of Inner Alchemical “medicine.” Highly recommended!
Cultivating The Energy Of Life, by Eva Wong is a translation of the Hui-Ming Ching (“Treatise on Cultivating Life”), one of the most important and straightforward of classical Inner Alchemy texts. Wonderful!
Taoist Yoga & Sexual Energy, by Eric Yudelove offers a veritable feast of Inner Alchemy practices, to cultivate Jing, Qi and Shen. Excellent for beginners as well as more advanced practitioners.
Taoist Yoga: Alchemy & Immortality, Lu Kuan Yu and Charles Luk is an Inner Alchemical manual of considerable detail – excellent for the serious practitioner.
Understanding Reality: A Taoist Alchemical Classic, by Chang Po-tuan (translated by Thomas Cleary) is – as the title implies – one of the foundational texts of Taoist Inner Alchemy (in particular the Kan-Li practices). The language of this text is richly symbolic – a poetic description of Inner Alchemical processes – and as such can be simultaneously inspiring and elusive.
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