TAOISM IN THE UNITED STATES is known primarily through an understanding of certain of its pragmatic arts. The art of Taiji (Tai Chi) is fairly well known. The taoist martial arts are getting more exposure. As time goes on Qigong is becoming of interest. To a certain extent even Feng Shui (geomancy) is getting familiar. Chinese medicine which is a taoist (daoist) art is being used more. But the actual subject of taoist meditation is less well known because it has not taught that openly. The Taoist Canon consisting of close to 1,600 books that include the subject of taoist meditation has not been translated into English. The rest of the world has not seen it yet. This limits access to the complete view of the whole picture.
Many people are under the impression that a great number of Chinese are taoists. This is not true. It is less than half of one percent of the population. The majority of what the tao is in China is mixed with Buddhism. It has reached a point nowadays where most Chinese do not make a distinction between Buddhism and Taoism. There is however a pure taoist tradition. It is a very distinct one.
Taoists have never really pushed to gain adherents. As a matter of fact, in Chinese history more often than not, they have gone underground. The last period in time when the taoists were really open, public and had patronage in China was during the Tang dynasty (A.D.618-907). This was basically the last period in which China made tremendous cultural advances.
During my earlier years in Taiwan and Hong Kong, I trained in Taoism for about 7-1/2 years. This is when I did much of the energy work, and a majority of sexual meditation work. I was fortunate to have been trained as a taoist priest (Taoshr) during those years. I don’t talk about this very often, but I was a fully empowered taoist priest. I did all the things that you do with those types of practices and some of the subsidiary things. I learned arts like exorcism, sending people off when they die, empowerments, charging spaces, providing helpful events for people and things of that nature. This was my preparation for studying with my main teacher Liu Hung Chieh in Beijing. This is when I learned the real tradition. His tradition is that of Lao Tse, the water Tradition.
In China there are traditionally the water and fire methods of the tao. They have the water tradition, the fire tradition, and the water and the fire mixing, what they sometimes call kan and li. The taoist meditation Liu taught me is primarily the classical water method of Lao Tse. The method that we seek does not really use fire, instead we end up finding the light inside of water.
Taoist meditation can basically be divided into two levels of attainment. The first level contains the preliminaries of what is normally called taoist meditation. The second level is the final completion or what is called intemal alchemy.
Liu Hung Chieh was very famous for being a martial artist, but he also happened to be a patriarch of a northern sect of Taoism. He was a lineage holder. He was the man as the expression goes. His job was not to teach. He was responsible for duties in the lineage other than teaching. In China he was what is called one of the Three Guardians of the Empire.
I was very lucky to have studied with him. This was not through any good offices of my own, frankly speaking, but because he had a dream about me before I came. I happened to have been one of only two students that he taught in depth since the 1949 communist ascension. In fact, all that I know is that he dreamed about me coming and that is the only reason that he taught me.
Almost a year before he died, he began to constantly encourage me to teach about Taoism when I returned to the West. At first I felt uncomfortable with the prospect of teaching. I did not feel that I knew enough, or even if I did know enough I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. During the last year he was alive he said, “If you are willing – do it, if not – don’t bother.” It has only been since 1992 that I started teaching Taoism publicly at all.
There are confusions that arise around Taoism. They are very natural confusions because here in America it is a very mixed bag, including taijiquan and taoist meditation, it is all considered to be Taoism. Specifically now, we are discussing the taoist alchemical tradition, the actual meditation tradition in Taoism. We are not talking about any other arts. The taoists put everything they did into their art. Their primary art of meditation is something different from their martial arts. It is something different from their medical arts.
There are two main strains of Chinese Taoism. The original school of Taoism, flourished during Lao Tse’s time around 2,500 years ago. In China it is known as the water method. In contradistinction to the neo-taoists, the original taoists had no great drive for physical immortality. Which, if you know much about neo-Taoism, is one of the big focuses. The water method is known for not forcing things. It is known for literally letting things occur in their own time, yet it is far from passive. One does every preparation possible so that when circumstances are ripe, one is fully open and available to the moment.
The taoist water meditation tradition had been going on for probably 1,000 years before Lao Tse appeared. Lao Tse did not originate these taoist principles, but he was the first one to write them down. He wrote the Tao Teh Ching on his journey out of the country. He was trying to get away from worldly life. One of his students was a boarder guard who wouldn’t let him go until he left behind some principles in writing. The water method stands as the classic practical way to let the whole mind/body release its blocks and fully transform. From the most peripheral of the eight energy bodies of the I Ching right down to bone marrow, one experiences conscious harmony with the tao. Then one naturally acts according to the principals of the Tao Te Ching.
By contrast the taoists have another tradition, which is where both a lot confusion and where a tremendous amount of the taoist meditation practices find their origin. This is the neo-taoist tradition which primarily uses fire techniques. They also are very strongly influenced by Buddhism. They appeared around the year 1000. During that time Buddhism was coming to China. Especially Tibetan Buddhism.
There are no maybes about the fact that they were very heavily influenced by the Buddhist tantricism of Tibet in terms of methodology and point of view. This Tibetan influence is not as unusual as it sounds. Most people here probably do not have a very good geographic sense of China, but the equivalent is that the Szechwan province of China is to Tibet, as New York is to Maine. It’s not somewhere across the world. It is just the province next door.
The neo-taoist methods are known for their tremendous emphasis on force. To go until you get to where you want to go. I believe the phrase that most accurately describes it in the West is “pushing forward”. This is clearly a point of view. To a certain degree it shows Buddhist influence. Their basic point of view is that it doesn’t matter what you do to yourself, because if you become enlightened anything you did was fine. Whatever got you there was fine. Not in terms of doing inappropriate or evil things, but in terms of effort, in terms of spiritual philosophy. They are true believers in the end justifies the means.
So this continuous aspect of force, this continuous aspect of pushing the mind and body as far as it can go, this tremendous emphasis on finding ways that can really soup the human system up, really rev it up, is a major thrust in the neo-taoist practices.
You can see this in the Buddhist traditions where for example Zen monks will sit indefinitely. Many of them will die sitting. Many of the people who become enlightened in Zen are clinging on to a very tiny thread in terms of their body. They often ruin their bodies with their practices. They tenaciously hold to the idea that you just keep doing it until you come out on the other side of that light. The classical example is of the Buddha during his years of asceticism. He was virtually skin and bones. He did all sorts of mortifications of himself at that time. After his enlightenment the Buddha preached against extreme practices. His example of youthful extremism exerts a strong influence on many throughout history as well as today.
Fire melts metal, the metal of ego. Every fire tradition in the world is driven by the idea of conquest. “If there is an enemy – we will overcome it, if there is a wall – it will be gone through, if there is the mountai – it must be climbed over, knocked down, picked up and dragged away.” With practitioners of this method one has a constant sense that they must press forward and emerge the victor.
The neo-taoist school also tends to be very heavily influenced by the magical tradition of what they call in China chi chi guai guai (qi qi guai guai) or “making strange things happen.” Magic. Lets just say they manipulate the matter/energy matrix for whatever reasons they have at heart.
The water practices come from a very different philosophical perspective that pragmatically makes a huge difference in how you live and practice. Whatever you do must feel comfortable. You must have full effort without strained force. In order to do that one must refine a very fine edge in the mind. To use all of your effort and yet not use force, yet not contravene the actual limitations of the body, the mind, and the spirit. This is the tradition of Lao Tse.
The taoist water method is more gentle than the fire methods. The fire methods tend to be very cathartic, heavily visualization based, and quite rough on the central nervous system. They are transformative methods in the manner of throwing something into a fire.
Whether they are exoteric or esoteric, most religions when given the opportunity will try to build as large an empire as possible. They want to have as many people as possible under their sway as a unit. This is true of the major religions throughout the world: Christians, Moslems, Buddhists…the big ones. The taoists in China are very genuinely different in both the fire and the water groups. They never had any particular desires in terms of meditation to build a corporation.
The taoist tradition has always been essentially what you would call mystical. It has only been concerned with the essential nature of human beings and their relationship to the universe. Taoists consider almost everything that happens in this world to be what is called red dust, it comes and it goes. It comes, it’s around for a while and it’s gone again. Through meditation a taoist finds that which never changes and is always present. Their main work, the I Ching, goes about understanding change and changelessness from many different viewpoints. It teaches through a rich variety of systematically presented real life examples that everything in the world is changing constantly.
When you practice the water method, and you practice the fire method, your approach is quite different. My teacher Liu Hung Chieh was a water method person. That is all I practice. That is all I do. Having done the fire method for many years, and in my younger years having practiced both the tantric tradition and the kundalini tradition in India, I reached a point where personally the fire tradition no longer cut it. I was not particularly looking for the water tradition. It found me. There was no intent on my part. I was originally in Taiwan and Hong Kong where it is very hard to find the water tradition. Most taoist are just very independent and prone to being who and where you might least expect them.
The water method of Taoism begins from a very simple premise. It is that a human being has a mind. That for whatever reason, you have a certain degree of control over your destiny. I didn’t say all of it. But you have some things that you can do.
The basic core of all taoist practices in Chinese is expressed Jing-Qi-Shen-Wu-Tao. The evolution of taoist practice as represented by this progression is:
1. Jing or Body/Sperm begets Qi
2. Qi or Energy which begets
3. Shen or Spirit, Spirit begets
4. Wu or Emptiness, which begets
5. Tao or The Essential, Unchanging Root of the Universe.
The energy of the body and everything the taoists work with is Qi. Everything is perceived in terms of energy. The energy of the physical body is converted to Qi. When this Qi becomes stable and is no longer random and confused, the Qi will begin to produce Spirit.
When one begins to experience spirit, one moves into the depths of one’s awareness and essence. One begins to realize at the depths of ones core that which is not bound by time and space. At the level of spirit one begins to become spiritually alive and connected with oneself, others, and the environment in profound, non-separated ways. Now the genuine spiritual process has begun.
There is light inside water as well as inside fire. One is cold light that will not burn and one is hot. After one is accustomed to working with one’s spirit for a reasonable time, one’s body energy will move through the Qi. Then it will move through the spirit. One starts experiencing everything as not having any content. Ordinarily we experience in the world as having shape, size and some kind of content. It is something.
But, as emptiness starts, your spirit starts transforming the energies more and more. Even though a person’s body, the house, the tree, airplane, the building is still there, it has no substance. It literally is nothing. As you start noticing almost everything as nothing, it becomes everything. There is no difference between everything being nothing and being everything. One’s ongoing awareness spans the tremendous spiritual dichotomy between emptiness and fullness. One keeps playing it back and forth. It usually takes a while to get to this point. Every once in a while one just gets a glimpse of what can not be expressed. There just are not words to describe what one becomes aware of. It is just what it is.
The meditation practices in Taoism begin with the Alchemical principle of shifting energy from one Level to the other. Your mind, brain, your total intelligence, or whatever you are, is completely involved. You must place your attention fully on what usually are the sensations of energy and start playing with it. In the practical sense this is the beginning of practice.
All energy inside a human being if it is free, easy and unblocked is like a flowing river. There is absolutely no reason why you should do anything to it. It is as it should be. There would never be any reason to do anything with it if we remained in this exceedingly natural state that is ours at birth. Because of a myriad of conditions and circumstances we do not remain this way.
When one starts looking deeply inside of oneself, one starts finding that often one’s energy has become frozen in some shape. In some way it has congealed. Instead of water flowing through, the water is gathering in front of the dike. In the qigong tradition of China, initially almost everything is done to get whatever energy is blocked in the body to dissolve and move outside of the body, so that the energy blockage is freed. Condensation of energy assumes an actual form or shape that is recognizable.
As you go inside yourself, you can feel this energy. If it is not flowing, not opening, not genuinely just there, one can discern some sort of sensation, feeling, and shape. Then one learns to use one’s mind to break these shapes until the energy becomes neutral.
This is a contrast to many fire methods, Dakini methods or many Cathartic methods (all Catharsis is fire method – all of it), where there is always a tendency to keep letting out all of these things that are inside oneself. This can make one very irritated. The taoists say that once you have energy, the more it is blocked, in some ways it is better left alone. The more dense the anger and dysfunction the heavier the condensation in the blockages and the repercussions of their acting out.
One takes whatever shape is blocked and begins to literally open up that area with ones mind. The phrase they have used in China for thousands of years both in meditation and qigong is “ice to water, water to gas,” “solid to liquid, liquid to gas.” In qigong physical health and strength is the primary concern, the dissolving practice releases trapped energy away from the body to “outer space.” In taoist meditation the initial practices are about going into “inner space” imploding the dissolved energy to the core of one’s being.
That shape that was totally immovable then becomes relaxed and flowing. Then that which is flowing has to become so amorphous that it has no shape whatsoever. After that, the previously blocked energy usually does whatever its natural function is, and you are fine.
At this point there is now something tangible to work with in one’s field. Attention is placed on this energy that is inside of you until it goes ice to water, water to gas. Instead of exploding outward which is done in qigong, the challenge now in meditation is to explode in. They will drive it deeper inside their energy field. They will keep on going through layer after layer, after layer, after layer, until they trace the block to the source. Eventually it will just go poof, the blockages are gone and one is freed from one’s energetic prison.
A taoist is not concerned about whether a person is bothered or upset by something that is usually temporary and limited in duration. They are concerned about whether or not their consciousness is free. The process of ice to water, water to gas is really effective. The taoists, if they are anything, are immensely practical people.
To give you an idea of the religious, cultural and historical context of Taoism in China there needs to be an understanding of their three main religions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. In some ways if you understand these three philosophies and what point of view they are coming from, you can understand how all the taoist Arts came about and the context within which they are taught: the Martial Arts, the medical Arts, the Building Arts, whatever Arts they are.
A Confucian is concerned about correctness. He wants the form and shape of something to be just so. Face is of great importance. External appearance is of paramount importance. Things being exactly where they should be. How well you behaved and in what fashion. Total correctness of relationship. External correctness is central in all they do. Confucians have over 3,300 rules of etiquette governing specific social relationships and interactions. That is quite a number to abide by.
There are all sorts of jokes about political correctness today that would essentially define a Confucian. The outer form has to be really together, even if there is nothing behind it. Everything is in its place, everything is where it should be, and everyone knows what they are supposed to do. That is it.
When a Confucian comes into a room his clothes must be just so. His bearing must be just so. The way you treat him must be just so. I have no doubt that you will find people who are taoists who will be this way. All you will know then is they have not broken free of their Confucian ties. That is the only thing you can say.
We then move to the Buddhists. Even though there are some Buddhist sects that do not fit into this, in many ways Buddhism is not terribly different from Islam or Christianity in the sense that they actively and with great energy seek converts. I studied in China for a little over 10 years. From morning to night this is what I was surrounded by. My understanding is not from having read textbooks. Like Christians, Buddhists are religious zealots. It is comparable to an old time Jew wailing at the wall, or a Christian flagellating himself on a holy day, or a confessional for a catholic. There is this tremendous zeal to find God (or become enlightened) and be whatever it means to be within this presence. There is a tremendous focus on this direction. If taken the wrong way this very commonly leads to religious fanaticism, which was not the original intention.
Historically the taoists were a very strange group. A big portion of the taoists in China, beyond a shadow of a doubt, were some of the most educated, talented and powerful people in China. There are numerous taoists who are about as prestigious as you can get. Lao Tse who was the head librarian of the imperial archives in a nation during a time when nobody could read. He was the one who was responsible for maintaining all the knowledge in China at the time.
Chang San Feng, the taoist immortal who some believe was the founder of taijiquan before becoming a taoist, was a major magistrate. Lu Tsu, also known as Lu Tung Pin, is a major taoist immortal whose followers comprise the greatest block of fully realized taoist sage/immortals, was also a magistrate. This would be something like a governor in the United States, except in a feudal society there was no democracy and his power over peoples lives, including life and death rested purely on his whims or moods.
These are people who had gone into life. They went into it and they were successful. Whatever life had to bring, they went and did it. Finally at a certain point they said to themselves “I don’t know, all these rules and all these things just don’t cut it, this is not essentially what the universe is about.” Basically they got fed-up with the world. This was not because they had something against it. It was not so much that these people left the world. It was more like the world left them. When these people had a tendency to leave the world, they also didn’t particularly care what people thought about them or whether they agreed with their ways.
They really couldn’t care less about what normal society considered to be important. They didn’t care if they upset people, and didn’t give a damn what people thought of them. They didn’t particularly care what they looked like. The full focus was directed towards understanding the essence of their being? Eventually it came to the question of: what is all of that out there? They were not casual, nor were they flippant. They were very serious about the subject of the essential nature of themselves and the universe. They were concerned with the nature of reality and not appearances that had been the focus of their previous life.
The taoists really want to understand the energy of something. There are so many different energies that manifest in the Universe. Part of getting rid of the sense of confusion is to be able to simply accept that Qi is what it is. It does not have to be something different from what it is. It can just be whatever it is and through this process one gains a tremendous acceptance and love of life.
One of the things that always amazed me about a number of taoists in China is that whenever they would involve themselves in a particular subject or activity they would manifest the actual energy of what they are doing. For example, in the martial arts you would see a person who, when meditating and doing the things involved in meditation would be smooth to watch, but who at the next second could turn into something that would make Ghengis Khan seem like a friendly fellow. The energy of fighting is a thing, or the energy of healing is a thing, or the energy of the mind going to a certain place is a thing. It is just what it is. If one manifests the energy of a specific phenomena it does not mean the individual is “that kind of person” it simply means they have manifested one specific energy that exists, they are not it, it is not them. It is much the same way that if you change a shirt “you are not the shirt,” it is only a “something” you use.
After continuous practice over a long time, the ability to create energy allowed them to simply accept that whatever an energy was, that was what it was, and that was fine. Most human beings spend their whole lives fighting whatever energies are around them…wanting Qi to be different from what it is. Wanting to force it to be something that it is not. It does not mean that something can not be changed, but the capacity to let what is, just be, is one of the greatest challenges. Most people find that very difficult.
Within the whole taoist structure you have the right and left wing crowd (i.e, conservative and liberal). The right wing crowd tended to go away and live off in the mountains, or put four or five people together inside a cave and not come out for 50 years. Then there are the left wing people who tend to make the hippies look like right wing republicans or the daughters of the American revolution. There is nothing they would not do. They had absolutely no concern for anything that society had to say to them. You have to put this in some sort of context.
Taoists in general are extremely open minded. In most cases, they are open about their practice. If they have had a tendency to hide and not really let people know who they are or what they are doing it was to avoid persecution. This secretiveness is because more liberal minded folks throughout history have usually been persecuted. This is certainly the case in China.
In taoist meditation the object is to develop as much energy initially as possible, but not from the point of view of obtaining power. That is usually what traps people in the early stages. They become energy junkies. My teacher Liu put it very well. He said you would be better off with a heroin or opium habit. Because you only need the opium. As soon as one life is over, the drug addiction is finished. But, if you get addicted to psychic energy, the desire for psychic energy will endure for countless rebirths. It will not be something that you drop with the life that has initiated this habit. It goes with you.
In taoist practices a tremendous amount of energy has to be developed inside of the body in order for it to be converted to spirit. As one’s spirit starts filling, it is very important that one begin to know the facts about the directions life can take. Because as one’s spirit increases, one naturally begins to have what is known in the West as “personal power.”
One gains tremendous power which is often not obvious. People often tend to pursue things that are very trivial at this point. If one stays focused on this power, then one’s spirit will never convert to emptiness. It is considered “the big trap.” As a matter of fact virtually every esoteric tradition in the world holds the view that “the big trap” is to be hungry for power. The character of the practitioner must be developed so he or she is beyond these traps.
Upon reaching 50, 60, 70, 80 years old, most human beings are still living out the neurosis of their childhood for all practical purposes. They are still living things which occurred to them when they were small children or young people. They never go beyond the basic condition of what is inside them from youth.
In the first level of taoist meditation one spends a long time learning to become a mature human being. My teacher Liu and I spent a long time on this. This is absolutely necessary before going further. Without this level of maturity, as one starts moving into the world of spirit, one can either only become a power tripper, or one must throw away whatever one gathers in order to be free.
If without maturity one starts moving towards some sort of spiritual power, you will find the situation of awareness gone egotistical. This leads to the cycle of getting so much spiritual awareness that you can not productively channel it. A person will do things to blow it off, to get rid of it, to destroy it. It is a cycle consisting of putting yourself in again, falling down, again coming back, again falling down. It is a safety valve of sorts. It is a predictable and unfortunate cycle to fall in to. You must develop past this.
All the basic practices of Taoism are geared toward your becoming a mature human being. With that you become physically healthy by having the basic energy channels in the body open and moving. This early stage is critical to master. When the spirit starts opening up and you start converting Qi into spirit it can burn out an unprepared nervous system. Very commonly people’s bodies can not handle what occurs in the spiritualization process. The body’s circuits get to a certain level and shut down or shred. To avoid this kind of disintegration one needs to master the basic exercises.
These initial practices in Taoism have a number of basic exercises. These consist of qigong, and basic standing and Seated meditation. Here we are not yet talking about taoist standing meditation but about Seated meditation. Everything that is done sitting down can be applied when making the mind internally balanced in the midst of what ever situations in life we find ourselves. The core of these taoist practices were all sitting.
The first step is simply to cleanse the physical body of whatever energy is clogged inside of it. This is so that the mind gets to a point where it can communicate with the physical energy of the body. As an example, one learns to put one’s mind inside the liver to make it start secreting. Before you can accomplish this you must learn to put your mind in your liver, to at least have an awareness of what is happening there. These are basic awareness exercises. It is analogous to wanting to see God but not even knowing how to feel your head or hand. One learns to walk before learning to run.
The initial stage of taoist alchemy begins with bringing to conscious awareness all the essential energy flows in the body. This is not, as many people think, only acupuncture meridian lines, although you may also make those conscious.
There are numerous energy lines in the body that are directly connected to the consciousness of a person. These have a major effect on the way in which they think, the way in which their body functions, the way in which their spirit works, and in the way in which their Psychic capacities come out.
In terms of the system I teach, the basics of taoist meditation are taught using a 5-step Nei Gung system. Those basics of taoist meditation all have to be learned first, because when you sit, it is fundamentally important in that you have the whole of the body internally connected, functioning as one completely integrated internal unit. Your whole body literally breathes and moves as one cell. Everything, for example your muscles, ligaments, internal organs, glands, the brain centers, the fluid around the spinal cord inside your spine, must literally be controlled and moved by the conscious ability of the meditator.
It is important that you have the capacity to start moving with the natural pulsations of the energy of the earth and the different energies that are within the earth, 5 elements and the different energies that exist outside in terms of the stars, sun, planets and the moon; all of which exert major influences on the human body.
Involvement in the first stage practice usually is not even taught in terms of Sitting meditation. It is aimed at getting control of both the physical body and the body of Qi that makes a human being function, thereby forming the necessary infrastructure from which to start sitting. This is commonly taught through taoist arts like taiji, qigong, certain basic sitting or standing postures, or through taoist yoga which is something like a more simplified Hatha yoga where the focus is on what is happening internally below the skin rather than external stretching movements.
Standing meditation to a certain degree is a misnomer. Qigong is really not meditation. To call it meditation is a bit dicey, although you can work meditation in to it. Standing meditation is better for your body and general health. It is the easiest to learn and forms an excellent preparation for the demands of sitting. Its purpose is to open up the channels and make you strong as a horse. When your body is strong the effects of gravity do not distract you as you sit. You need to have no distraction what so ever, which is exactly what gravity exerts on you if you stand or move. Sitting meditation is better for everything we are discussing here. In Taoism you need good sitting practices. Ultimately it is your sitting practice through which the goals of internal alchemy and meditation are realized. Taoist yoga can also help form this foundation.
In taoist yoga the external movement of the body is created when postures are entered into by specifically moving energy in the body. By moving the body in this fashion literally your organs, your glands and your spine are also included rather than purely going for a large stretch. As a matter of fact most of the stretches in taoist yoga tend not to be anywhere as extreme as Hatha yoga which uses a different methodology.
Besides using the methods of seated meditation and taoist yoga you also have the use of the sexual meditation techniques where two people practice. The object here is that through doubling of the Qi each of you, both partners, have more energy to awaken your consciousness. Under normal circumstances each individual has their volume of personal and individual Qi energy; but when you actually engage in sexual practice you may be able to build energy up in effect as if you were four people.
Because you are able to increase this energy (this again is during the first stages of taoist meditation) you start to make the energy within the body very fully conscious. Your consciousness grows so that nothing escapes you. An illustration of what I mean is your relationship to the inside of your liver. Under normal circumstances you might be able to visualize your liver but not feel it. In sexual qigong you would gain the capacity to feel your liver in time right down to the cellular level.
The sexual techniques are somewhat easy since human life was brought forth from sexuality. Sexuality is what is responsible for the body. The energy that is created when people have sex makes it so much easier to get into contact with what the actual Qi flows of the body are. This is very important.
With regard to sexual meditation, some schools do it and some schools don’t. There are schools in Taoism that very clearly are celibate monk schools and which believe that one should completely abstain from sex. It is not that they have a belief that one should or ought not to; instead it is usually practiced by people who: A) have never had an interest in sex to begin with or; B) people who are not so inclined towards sexual desire due to the composition of their body/qi systems within the 5 elements.
My teacher Liu Hung Chieh explained that every human being is composed essentially of 5 elements or 5 phases of energy. Some of those phases of energy are conducive towards people having extremely sexual personalities, to a point where not only just sex, but food and carnal things are somewhat necessaly to fulfill their basic nature. Without this input their natural energies would be destructively suppressed.
Other people have different balances of the 5 elements which will make them predisposed essentially towards intellectual pursuits and physical things, but not toward the carnal pleasures of the world. Some people are extremely prone towards literally wanting to deal with the psychic nature of things, while some people are not. You have to go with what your particular body energy type is.
Master Liu for example only had sex in his life to have children. Because he was a Confucian, he was obligated to produce offspring for his family. After he had fulfilled his obligation, he never had sex again in the rest of his life. It is not that he disliked it, he just found the idea of it absolutely uninteresting. But, as he had such a powerful metal energy that he was born with (he was an intellectual of the arch degree) he could sit, read, and devour libraries; gaining the same enjoyment a carnal type of person would obtain from sex or food.
There are distinctly different types of personalities within the five elements. One very important consideration when one studies taoist meditation in depth is the discovery of what one’s physical body and ones Qi body are. It is vital that practitioners become completely clear what essential energies are important to them. Those will be the energies they tend to focus on internally. For example, a person with a preponderance of the earth element would initially concentrate on sexuality and making the body very strong, whereas a metal person would want initially to focus on Qi practices to develop mental clarity, flexibility and making their body very flexible and strong.
One starts working with all that has to do with Qi of the physical body. These energy lines run the body in terms of your physical ability to have bodily functions- your ability to speak, to see, to hear. You start working with the energies that are responsible for what we know as physicality.
After one gets past this first stage, and has the Qi of the physical body on line, one starts doing several different meditation practices. These begin with the dissolving practices which literally release any bound energy that’s inside you.
After the dissolving practices there are transforming practices. If you so choose you can change one energy into another. For example, you can turn anger into joy, or pain into pleasure. These essential practices are really quite similar in effect to the tantric methods of India and Tibet, but are not used the same way and employ a different methodology.
These initial stages in taoist meditation are concerned with the capacity to feel. It is believed that since you are on the Earth and not a discorporal being, and since you are in a physical body, you need to deal completely with the fact of your physicality. This is your ability to feel and to be fully conscious of whatever is inside your body.
Once you are able to become fully conscious of what is inside your body, then you go for what is fully conscious inside your Qi. You use the dissolving process to release any knots, bindings or condensations of energy in the physical body or in the Qi. You move through all the different channels and related areas.
The next stage that one moves to in taoist meditation is the one that is of great interest to everyone in the Western world. This is the subject of emotion. The Western world tends to be dominated by emotional issues. This is especially a factor in the United States. The United States is a relatively emotionally immature nation. The modern media of the United States for many years has tried to induce this behavior. For example, if you watch European films, some will have sad endings. Things don’t have to work out, the hero does not always get the girl, they do not have to win. Where as in America, if you wish to make a successful film it must have a happy ending. It must incorporate a tear jerker, the soundtrack must be able to raise and manipulate emotions to an extent that has nothing to do with normal daily life. It does not remotely parallel normal life. There is an extreme tendency to pry emotions in that sense.
At this next stage of the emotions one has developed some understanding of both the physical and the Qi body. Now one starts to find where the blockages are inside both the Qi body and in the physical body and the corresponding emotions related to these blocks. During this process one begins to go through what the Cinese call dealing with your ghosts. These are all the memories and everything that is not present at the moment that has a tremendous impact on you.
As an example a man may have had a tremendously horrible marriage and divorce, and his wife was a flaming redhead. The fact of the matter is that he may, at any time he is around a redhead, want to start the 3rd World War. He will simply repeat his pattern. These patterns affect people in many ways other than just what they are consciously remembering. People can have emotions that are formed in childhood, or even formed in the womb.
The birth trauma is something which for example in Buddhism, is one of the four causes of suffering. They talk about birth, old age, sickness, and death. The fact is that the birth trauma can be immensely destabilizing for people. People actually have things from addictions to depression that are locked in from birth.
A person may come out to be a fighter because of the actual struggle that they had when they went through 10 or 20 hours of labor. If they had to fight their whole way through the womb it can pattern them for life. Another person may have literally given up in the womb and had to be sucked out. They may have depression for the rest of their life. Many and hundreds of different things can happen. These experiences can be dealt with effectively through dissolving practices previously described. Behavior patterns resulting from trauma are kept in place by energy blocks. By dissolving these blocks the behavior patterns may disappear forever. However this happens only if the dissolving process is 100% completed.
The emotional body techniques for the water method of Taoism usually involve the dissolving practice. It is important in the school I belong to. The water method of Taoism is initially strong on the dissolving, or the breaking up of energy in the same way that water wears away a rock. If you throw sugar inside of water, after a while it breaks the sugar down. The water completely emulsifies it.
Frequently I am asked if this method of taoist meditation can replace the need for psychotherapy. Generally speaking, no. In modern life, you have to make a living and interact with other people. You can’t withdraw to a monastery or ashram where all your needs are taken care of while you work through your problems. I can give you a quote from my forthcoming book on bagazhang (Ba Gua Chang) which deals with this question:
“Psychotherapy is more appropriate for dealing with the dysfunctionalities of a level of emotional development where taking full responsibility for one’s emotions is not yet within an individual’s capacity.”
“In taoist meditation a worthy student was one whose emotional suppressions were such that the individual could feel that what was emotionally arising within themselves was essentially their own responsibility and not being caused by something outside themselves. The meditator would then be able to use their emotional meditation methods responsibly to resolve their inner conflicts without blaming or attacking others for being the cause of their misery or self-inflicting pain or death to get back at them.”
When one starts going through all the different ways of dissolving or working out the emotions, one does it to purge or to open up all the lower level emotions. The lower level emotions are basic hate, jealousy, depression, anger, viciousness, greed, vindictiveness, wanting to get back at people, wanting only to be happy, wanting only to covet, all the gross attachments.
All of these basic lower emotions are dealt with by first ferreting them out of where their energy is embedded in the actual tissue of the body; secondly by actually going into the energy channels of the body where they are located; and finally dissolving them all the way inside the system. Then you start to literally transform these emotions as they extend outside of your physical body. Your own personal field has the ability literally extend to the end of the Universe.
If you do not clear out your own energy fields beyond the body, then all energies coming in from an external environment activate the unresolved energies in your own personal Qi. This causes you to be somewhat manipulated like a puppet by the energy emanating from the huge Qi fields of the stars. This creates a pattern that comes back in. That is what astrology is based on. At the level of clearing out the emotions, the emotional factors involved with astrology should be able to be overridden.
In the next stage of the game there are, for example, methods through which these transformations are done in taijiquan, baguazhang, qigong or taoist yoga methods. In August 1994 I will be teaching a one week retreat devoted to the taoist meditation practices of taijiquan. We will address how to integrate the benefits of meditation into one’s taiji practice.
When you start reaching into the emotions it is important you start tapping directly into the glandular system, as well as into your internal organs. There are so many techniques it depends upon which ones are appropriate for a particular type of person or a certain situation. I am not going to get down and just talk about this technique or that technique. That is like a cook book approach and the fact is that human beings don’t quite work that way.
The celibates practice primarily by moving meditation and seated meditation. The methods for example of standing meditation are usually appropriate for working out the physical body and the Qi body. Their effect on the emotions is not necessarily massive. Sitting has the tendency to have the greatest effect and the moving techniques are in the middle.
Regarding the emotional residue (for the people who are not celibates), the taoist sexual meditation techniques now make a fundamental shift at the level of working with the physical body and working with the Qi. When you are working with sexual qigong techniques you are concerned with essentially making the body function optimally. How do you make every nerve in your body really come alive? How can one have an orgasm at any point in the body? How do you have an internal orgasm? This is at the physical and Qi level.
At the Qi level you start learning how to move energy specifically when making love. Practicing how to move energy through your channels and for what purposes. Purposes such as healing your physical body or setting the stage for being able to extract and transform your emotions later on.
When you start reaching the emotional resolution stage in making love via sexual meditation, the process becomes much more interesting. The ability to dissolve energy becomes very powerful. The issue of the right, left and central channels of the body starts becoming very important. The dissolving techniques also start reaching further at this point. The field that you start generating can go anywhere outward of 15-20 feet from your body. At this time you start having a very accurate sense of your emotions going outside your body. This then starts tying in with Seated meditation methods where you are beginning to work with emotional energies that go outside your body. The focus is on how to improve your awareness of internal emotional energy as it relates to inner space, and resolving and/or transforming your emotional blockages.
One is practicing sitting meditation at this stage of involvement with the sexual meditation techniques for emotional clearing. Because you simultaneously practice these two methods, you get double your awareness, double your practice, i.e., dual cultivation. You double your internal awareness if you practice sexual meditation. At this stage of seated meditation in Taoism there is concern with techniques for not only dissolving the energy blockages of your own personal garbage, but starting to work with and extending this to other people who are near by resolving their blocked energies.
Sexually each partner not only works on their own blocks, but is concerned with relieving the other partner of what ever bound emotional energies they have inside their system. At this particular moment in time your own awareness has increased. It is a favorable time, if one wants to do certain practices while seated or during sex, to start working on dissolving the emotions of other people. This is an effective and beneficial practice.
As a matter of fact, internally, one observation made by both the taoists and the tantrics is that if one is able to emotionally do whatever one wants-without harming others–if you share this wealth, doing what you want for yourself with as many people or situations as possible, you find that you personally will do a lot better. You will create a much finer world in which to live. Finer not only for yourself but for everybody who is there with you. This becomes a pretty important issue whose implications reach far past surface meaning.
Bruce Kumar Frantzis, author of the book “OpeningThe Energy Gates Of The Body” has over 30 years experience in meditation, oriental healing, and martial arts, including 10 years full time study in China, 3 years in Japan, and 2 years in India. He is a lineage holder in Taiji, Qigong, Xing-yi, and Baguazhang. He is currently finishing a Bagua book, and intends a future book on Taoist Meditation Practice expanding on the information contained in this article. For more information about his videos, books, and seminars in New York, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay area, as well as London and in Germany.
An Interview by Sara Barchus
Part l – QI THE JOURNAL OF TRADTIONAL EASTERN HEALTH & FITNESS
Vol. 4, No. 2. SUMMER 1994