The Internal Elixir

Before we really deep dive into what will be a modernization of Taoist practices, I feel it is essential to touch on the basics of what makes it specific to the style. I won’t go into detail about how “wuji” divides from a primordial chaos into yin and yang. Sifu, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming has a few lectures available and I’ll credit much of what I have practiced to be based upon his own learning. Still, I am a very different practitioner.

First of all, I am not Asian. I am the offspring of what could readily be called “scallywags” who settled in the USA at a time where they proved beneficial to the overarching goal of being free of rule under the crown. I can’t say that it’s something I’m really “proud” of, but we are who we are. I do not know how far genetics reach into shaping exactly who we become, but I can say that I have come to a place of appreciating that my own path (“Tao” (道)…a word that has significant multiple uses) is not as simple as one might hope. Dr. Yang referred to me as “Hillbilly” and I will gladly accept that definition, perhaps from a place of humor. None of this is important, excluding that I want each reader to understand that you are -you- and there’s nothing better that you could be. We’re all explorers here.

The principle of the internal elixir (nei dan, 內丹術) is that of working on the inner self. This relates to the western principles of alchemical mercury (the “spirit/pneuma” πνεῦμα). The breath itself is life, and that life needs to be explored. All things are breath. Trees breathe, we breathe, animals breathe. It’s the rhythm of the universe, and by understanding how these simple mechanisms work, we find ever deepening layers of life itself.

So, when we come to explore Taoist methods, the breath takes on a change. It is a very complex subject, but to simplify it to the bare essentials: when you breathe in, draw the abdomen inwards. As you breathe out, allow the stomach to relax. In: tighten. Out; relax. From the classic (The Great Taoist Song of the Spirit’s Origin”), “The originals are transported peacefully so that you can become real; if you depend on the externals only, you will miss the goal.”

As we do this, we should focus on the dan tien. It’s a spot inside ourselves that is located slightly below the naval, a few inches back.

Note the 1 yang (solid line), 5 yin (broken line) point. That’s the target of our focus. By drawing it in when we breathe in, and allowing it relax as we breathe out, we begin to “blow the bellows.”

This is so important. When one practices yin yoga, it should be in the mind as a point of focus. Yin yoga is based upon Taoist principles, and without these principles, it would be difficult to really comprehend how much is actually happening within the body.

Essentially, we are priming the body to allow it room for exploration. This incredible simple technique will drop us ever farther into our own practices. It allows us to begin to feel the simple meridian channels of our nerves. Is this ch’i? How does it help us to improve ourselves?

…only practice and effort in the direction of knowledge will answer us.

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