Rara

Question For Taoist Meditation Practitioners (only)

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I have been practicing mindfulness and "living in my belly" more seriously recently and I am benefiting greatly.

 

This morning for example, I "Kung Ku'd" my washing up, breakfast, washing and putting out of clothes and cleaning of the whole house. I then did my kung fu forms nice and slowly and finished with some footwork and punching drills. I use the term "kung fu'd" a) because it's funny (my instructor used this phrase the other day and it just resonated with me) and b ) to best describe a state of relaxation, focus and deep natural breathing.

 

While my untrained self would have been a scatty mess (and therefore, all of the above probably would have taken me a day to complete) I have got this all done efficiently in four and a half hours!

 

Now the only thing that didn't quite go as well was my rounding it all off with a seated meditation. I sat and gathered my posture and began breathing. I was thinking I would last 20-30 minutes but I only lasted 10! Why? Because suddenly my nose started itching. I managed to deter myself from sneezing but as I continued to focus on the breath, I then noticed my nose filling up with mucus.

 

"Snort, snort" and keep on going....nope. Now the nose was starting to run and to trickle down on to my lip.

 

"Ok that's enough now" I thought, and I opened my half-shut eyes, reached for the tissue in my pocket and then dealt with my nose.

 

So my question to you...as a Taoist in seated-meditation, what do you do if you need to sneeze? Perhaps I should have allowed it to happen and used that experience as a part of my seated-meditation. I guess I was trying to be "too Zen" by ignoring it and trusting it would go away. Would a Taoist be less strict and accept the sneeze?

 

Thoughts please. Much love x

Edited by Rara
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This morning for example, I "Kung Ku'd" my washing up, breakfast, washing and putting out of clothes and cleaning of the whole house. I then did my kung fu forms nice and slowly and finished with some footwork and punching drills. I use the term "kung fu'd" a) because it's funny (my instructor used this phrase the other day and it just resonated with me) and b ) to best describe a state of relaxation, focus and deep natural breathing.

 

Nowadays 功夫 gongfu kungfu, in both English and Chinese, refers to Chinese martial arts

 

but originally the Chinese means "skill/craftsmanship gained through intense effort". Literally "a person's skill/merit".

 

So, using it in the sense of mindful, intense action makes perfect sense ^_^  more people should kung fu things

 

 

So my question to you...as a Taoist in seated-meditation, what do you do if you need to sneeze? Perhaps I should have allowed it to happen and used that experience as a part of my seated-meditation. I guess I was trying to be "too Zen" by ignoring it and trusting it would go away. Would a Taoist be less strict and accept the sneeze?

 

Well..I'd just sneeze. Let that shit go. Your body (you) wants to blow something out...so blow it out.

 

I don't think any meditation is about ignoring and subverting one's natural processes, is it?

 

But I don't really know what I'm talking about, so...

Edited by dustybeijing
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...

Well..I'd just sneeze. Let that shit go. Your body (you) wants to blow something out...so blow it out.

 

I don't think any meditation is about ignoring and subverting one's natural processes, is it?

...

Amen.

 

Also, I would forget the mental breath control and just breathe naturally. Put gentle awareness on Dan Tian and just be.

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I don't think any meditation is about ignoring and subverting one's natural processes

Apparently Zen Masters hit their students with sticks if they go to scratch an itch during meditation...

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Amen.

 

Also, I would forget the mental breath control and just breathe naturally. Put gentle awareness on Dan Tian and just be.

Please can you elaborate? I mean, to me, I was doing natural breath...natural in a relaxed state, rather than a panic state.

 

But I do know about "breathe into your dan tien"...now is that what you mean by breathing normally and being aware of the dan tien? If so, then I think we are saying the same thing :)

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Apparently Zen Masters hit their students with sticks if they go to scratch an itch during meditation...

 

Oh.. I thought that was just to make sure they weren't falling asleep. But like I said, I don't really know what I'm talking about!

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So my question to you...as a Taoist in seated-meditation, what do you do if you need to sneeze? Perhaps I should have allowed it to happen and used that experience as a part of my seated-meditation. I guess I was trying to be "too Zen" by ignoring it and trusting it would go away. Would a Taoist be less strict and accept the sneeze?

 

Thoughts please. Much love x

 

Meditation practices - so many different views. Based on my own experience...........

 

I like sitting meditation and because I like it I don't persist with anything I find too uncomfortable. For me Daoism is about cultivation in tune with nature, not forcing or repressing. I like to sit just before dawn and into the morning gloaming. That's when the stillness of the natural world feels most supportive. I almost never sit during the day; when the sun shines I like to be outside - it feels forced to sit still.

 

Many teachers consider no movement a goal - I do not. From a Daoist perspective, I like harmonious qi flow in the body - so if I feel any numbness starting I always move sufficiently to counter it. Also I don't go along with teachings that specify breath awareness confined to any one part of the body. Sure, Daoists identify three dantians; lower dantian (just below the naval), middle dantian (at the level of the heart), and upper dantian (at the forehead between the eyebrows or third eye), and these are significant centres but persistent breath awareness in any one can be detrimental. Once again no forcing. For me wu wei and ziran are important principles in mediation as well as life in general. I say experiment and find your own approach that you feel brings results. But, of course, I'm saying this after many years living in Buddhist centres, and trying many different approaches. In other words I've had much education in technique and theory, and hope I always stay open to wise counsel.

 

As far as the stick hitting of Rinzai goes, to me that's just a Japanese military-like affectation. 

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Here is some detailed information on Daoist meditation I've found helpful - obviously not directed at you Rara, but the introduction explains dantians and my reference to Rinzai as a Japanese military-like affectation.

 

Taoist Meditation for Women - Introduction

 

This short treatise on Taoist meditation for women was written for one Cao Zhenjie, a married woman described as "more learned and knowledgeable than men," in the year 1899.

 

The distinction made between men and women in ordinary Taoist practice is part of the science of life and has to do with the physiological difference between the sexes. As seen in the work of Sun Bu-er, the feminine Tao of life includes the practice of deliberate and harmonious menopause as part of mastery over the physical body.

 

In the present treatise, it will be seen that the primary distinction made is in the location of the attention when generating psychosomatic energy to circulate through the body. Men ordinarily use the lower abdomen, but this is proscribed for women, who are to use the sternum instead.

 

The inner circulation of psychosomatic energy is commonly used for health and well-being, but misapplication of the collection procedure is universally held to be harmful.

 

Those familiar with present-day Zen cults of Japanese origin will immediately notice in the following text the distinction made between Taoist practice for females and males in terms of the location of the attention in beginning sitting meditation.

 

One of the unfortunate results of the uncritical importation of deteriorated forms of Japanese Zen Buddhism into Western countries, where a relatively large number of women attempt to practice Zen, is that many women have been taught to sit with the attention in the lower abdomen, a method Taoists claim is harmful to females.

 

It is in fact nearly impossible to find any indication of this practice in authentic traditional Chan or Zen texts of China or Japan. It was popularized by the famous eighteenth-century Zen teacher Hakuin, but as part of a therapeutic regimen, as it had been in the comprehensive Chinese school of Tiantai Buddhism from which Chan partly derived.

 

There is no evidence, furthermore, of Hakuin having taught any of his many female students to keep their attention in the abdomen as a regular practice, but many later Zen teachers seem to have made it a standard procedure for everyone regardless of other conditions.

 

Perhaps this distortion was fostered by the popularity of Zen among males of the samurai caste, and later by association of Zen with martial arts, in which the focus of attention in the lower abdomen has a special function.

 

In martial arts, of course, the motion of the practitioner has the effect of rapidly redistributing the accumulation of energy and thus offsetting the attendant dangers of this technique. According to the Taoist science of life, focus of attention on any part of the body involves potential danger and should not be done too long or too intensely. Specific dangers accompany attention on the lower abdomen in females, and attention on points in the head in both females and males.

 

In Japan, the deterioration of the original system of which concentration on certain physical locations forms a part is evidenced in the use of the term tanden ("elixir field") exclusively for the lower abdomen. The original Taoist system defines three elixir fields, not just one; the lower abdomen is but one of these, called in Taoism the lower elixir field. Again, it might be theorized that the fragmentation and oversimplification of this system in Japan might have been due to centuries of dominance of male military associations with Zen.

 

The present treatise on spiritual alchemy for women also makes it clear that this type of exercise is done only in the beginning of practice, until a certain effect is realized. Here again Zen cults of Japanese derivation that have people repeat the same exercise—particularly the exercises of placing the attention in the abdomen or on the breath—over and over again for years on end present clear evidence of stultifying deterioration.

 

The etiology and specific symptoms of the deleterious effects of such practices among modern devotees of Zen or Taoist sitting and similar disciplines are not necessarily self-evident to either prescribers or practitioners, because of the very limitations of the systems that prescribe these practices indiscriminately. In view of this, and in consideration of the benefits of less obsessive and more technically well-informed procedures, this text on feminine Taoist practice may be considered of special importance for the many women of today who are attempting to use interior meditation methods to enhance consciousness and life.

 

SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY FOR WOMEN

 

In the science of essence and life, men and women are the same - there is no discrimination. In sum, what is important is perfect sincerity and profound singlemindedness. An ancient document says, "Only perfect sincerity in the world is capable of ruling." A classic says, "The perfection of singlemindedness is that whereby one may heed the order of life."

 

In general, what is most essential at the beginning of this study is self-refinement. Self-refinement is a matter of mind and breathing resting on each other. This means that the mind rests on the breathing and the breathing rests on the mind.

What is most important in this is harmony. Harmony is in balance, balance is in harmony. Are they one or two? The union of balance and harmony is called the go-between.

 

With the harmonious attunement of the go-between, there is natural mutual love between mind and breathing; there is mutual attraction, mutual inspiration, mutual expiration. Continuing uninterrupted, do not forget, yet do not force.

Lao-tzu said, "The singleminded energy is most supple, able to be like an infant." This is the perfection of true harmony.

The Master of the Jade Moon, a spiritual alchemist, said, "When husband and wife meet in old age, their feelings are naturally affectionate."

 

A classic says, "Tie them into one whole, mix them in one place, make them into one piece, force them in one furnace."

The same classic also says, "Cow and bull go along with each other, sun and moon are in the same place; positive and negative charges merge, metal and fire commingle."

 

The reality behind all of these sayings is spirit and energy being together, which means mind and breathing being together.

Spirit is essence, energy is life. This is what is meant by the classic saying, "The root of essence is rooted in mind; the stem of life stems from breathing."

 

It is necessary to know that creative evolution only takes place when spirit and energy are joined into one. The joining of the two into one is the reversion of the two modes—yin and yang—back into one totality.

 

This is called the twin cultivation of essence and life.

 

The twin cultivation of essence and life is a matter of keeping the mind and breathing together, not letting them separate even for a moment.

 

Therefore an ancient alchemist said that "firing the medicine to produce the elixir" means driving energy by spirit, thereby attaining the Tao.

 

In daily practice it is essential to embrace the breathing steadily with the mind and embrace the mind steadily with the breathing. When you have done this for a time, once you reach even balance you naturally become very stable and concentrated. You plunge into a profound trance where there is no sky and no earth, where you forget about everything, including your own body.

 

This stage is the experience referred to by the classic saying, "Knowing the white, keep the black, and illumination of spirit will come of itself." You seem to feel body and mind revitalized and supple, with unusual buoyancy and wellbeing.

One alchemist said that in this state you are like someone without the power of speech eating honey, unable to tell of its sweetness.

 

Another alchemist said, "Almost imperceptible, the first transformation of yin and yang—heaven and earth, full of living energy, suddenly revolve. Therein is a bit of fine scenery—how can this work be put into words?"

This time is what is known as "the one primordial energy coming from the void of space."

 

As one alchemist said, "The winter solstice is midnight, where you find the celestial mind has no change, where creative energy first stirs, before myriad things are born."

 

This is what is referred to in alchemical texts as Living Midnight.

 

One alchemist said of this, "Gather energy quickly when winter comes."

 

Another said, "Gathering means gathering without trying to gather, which means splitting open the primordial indefinite."

 

This "splitting open the primordial indefinite" refers to the time of ultimate emptiness and perfect quietude. To empty oneself to the ultimate extent and preserve quietude to perfection is known as returning to Earth, the spiritually receptive mode.

 

Earth the receptive is associated with the southwest: It is known as "the region where the medicine is produced," "the land of primordial nondifferentiation," and "the opening of the Mysterious Female. "

 

An alchemist called Seeker of the Fundamental said, "If you want to look for the primordial seed of realization, you must seek out undifferentiated wholeness to set up the foundation."

 

Understanding Reality, the classic of spiritual alchemy, says, "If you want to attain the immortality of the open spirit, you must set the foundation on the Mysterious Female. Once the foundation is set up, the open spirit does not die. Then how can the person die?"

 

The aforementioned self-refinement, setting up the foundation, and gathering the great primal medicine, are all the same for men and women. Therefore it is said, "The great Way does not make a distinction between men and women; yin and yang, in their various combinations, are all the same." After this I'll talk more about temporal difference.

 

In his Secret of Feminine Alchemy, Liu I-ming says, "There is a true secret about starting practice. The operation is as different for men and women as sky from sea. The principle for men is refinement of energy, the expedient for women is refinement of the body. "

 

Men begin practice with the attention in the lower abdomen, just below the navel. Women start work with the attention between the breasts.

 

Immortal Sister Zhang, one of the great Taoist women, was initiated long ago by Lu Yan, one of the ancestors of spiritual alchemy. Lu told her, "After midnight and before noon, settle the breathing and sit. As the energy passes through the midspine and on through the brain, gaining the power of energy, contemplate the self."

 

Lu also said, "You must find the ancestor of your own house. Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain. Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth. Grab the golden essence of vitality and lock it up tightly. Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger."

 

In general, it is necessary to refine oneself thoroughly before one will have autonomy. Also one must take the positive energy of heaven and earth day after day, and concentrate to clear the mind hour after hour, before the effects of the practice will be experienced. It may take one or two months, or perhaps three or four months. The length of time depends only on the depth of one's work.

 

While carrying out the work it may happen that women feel there is energy in the opening between the breasts that thrusts out, divides and goes into the breasts, right through to the nipples, which then erect. This is what alchemical classics call the living midnight when the medicine is produced.

 

One alchemist said, "Suddenly at midnight there is a peal of thunder, and ten thousand doors, a thousand gates, open one after another. If you perceive that there is form within nothingness, I will admit you have seen the original human being in person."

 

When the work reaches this point, the hundred energy channels in the body are in harmony, while their critical apertures, the passes where energy can accumulate, are all opened. In truth, each pulse fills the chest, all is spring.

 

Now to explain Lu Yan's initiatory statements to Immortal Sister Zhang. "After midnight and before noon" refers to the fact that the midnight hour is best for finding reality. People who practice quiet sitting usually do it late at night or early in the morning.

 

To "settle the breathing" means to tune the breath so that it is even. In "sitting," two people sit with unified attention placed between them. With mutual concentration, pure attention is embraced. With pure attention in the center, a unified energy flows, thus pressing tightly on the midspine, and going on through the brain.

 

This is what is referred to as the reversal of the Yellow River, meaning the opening of the spinal energy channel.

"Gaining energy, contemplate the self." The "self" here is a metaphor for pure positive energy, and the self has been refined into an incorruptible immortal of absolute unity. This is what alchemical classics refer to as absolute unity containing true energy.

 

"Find the ancestor of your own house" means seeking out the very beginning of the living body receiving energy, finding the primordial point of original generative energy.

 

"Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain." This is the same as the saying, "The white clouds pay court to the palace on high, ambrosia pours on the polar mountain."

 

"Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth." Waiting means waiting for the right time, washing means washing the mind and refining oneself. This is what is meant by the alchemical term "perfumed steaming." As for "yellow sprouts," yellow is the color of earth, sprouts are the life potential. Emerging from earth means that the experience is like when myriad things grow in spring, and the whole earth is renewed.

 

At this time the positive energy goes all the way to heaven, in the form of a fiercely blazing fire, resembling flaming wind. Quickly gather it up and send it into the central chamber, in the center of the torso. This is why Lu Yan said, "Grab the golden essence and lock it up tightly."

 

Another alchemist said, "Hold the golden essence fast, draw it carefully on, send it into the field of elixir."

As for "Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger," this refers to the perfection of the sense and essence of consciousness, the first sprouting of the Tao.

 

To sum up, it is just a matter of having people draw their attention to the inner sense of the real mind, carrying the work through the natural cycle. The dragon and tiger mean the ascent and descent of bipolar energy.

 

If you work diligently, as one alchemist said, "When that one point of energy returns of itself and sinks into the body, it turns into year-round spring. A bit of white cloud brings a waft of fragrance; each time the rain passes, all is refreshed.

 

Unconscious like a drunkard all day long, free and at ease, just keep 'the spring within the hollow.' When the essence of negativity throughout the body has been stripped away, it turns into a mass of pure positive gold."

 

The work after this is the same for women as for men. Overall, in the secrets of the spiritual alchemy for women, these words alone should be the quickest route, Lu Yan did not hoard his celestial treasure, but divulged it all at once. It is a pity that people do not recognize it.

 

Yet it should be realized that expressions such as "below the navel" and "between the breasts" are both representational. Do not look for them as having physical form.

 

A classic says, "Clinging to this body is not the Way. Shunning this body is also wrong."

 

It is also said, "The whole body, inside and out, is all dark." It is also said, "Looking right before your eyes, you don't recognize the real, much less what is important therein."

 

The developmental process is subtle and necessitates personal transmission and mental reception from a true teacher. Only when you have understood it do you have a place to start.

 

An alchemist said, "How can the personal transmission be explained on paper? Do not mislead yourself by blind guesswork."

 

(From Immortal Sisters by Thomas Cleary pp 91-99)

Edited by Darkstar
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Rara, you sound like me when I started to meditate. Seriously, it takes practice, and lots of practice to stop the twitching, itches, sneezes and wandering mind, just keep doing and stick with it as long as you can. Within a short time you will be able to go deeper and longer.

 

All in all you have done extremely well in a short space of time, pat yourself on the back :)

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Please can you elaborate? I mean, to me, I was doing natural breath...natural in a relaxed state, rather than a panic state.

 

But I do know about "breathe into your dan tien"...now is that what you mean by breathing normally and being aware of the dan tien? If so, then I think we are saying the same thing :)

Breathing into something is not what I would call natural breath. Natural breath is not thinking about breath. I am speaking of letting go of the mental and put simple awareness in Dan Tian, relax, and think of nothing. Awareness is NOT thought, but its own thing that can go beyond the finite aspect of time & space. Forget about breathing into anything. Mental awareness will always reduce qi flow to measurable states due to brain waves are measurable therefore finite - the qi flow is tied to the mental awareness of the breath. Dampen the brain waves to approaching zero and allow awareness to expand. Taoism is based on the infinite - not the finite. 

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Here is some detailed information on Daoist meditation I've found helpful - obviously not directed at you Rara, but the introduction explains dantians and my reference to Rinzai as a Japanese military-like affectation.

 

Taoist Meditation for Women - Introduction

 

This short treatise on Taoist meditation for women was written for one Cao Zhenjie, a married woman described as "more learned and knowledgeable than men," in the year 1899.

 

The distinction made between men and women in ordinary Taoist practice is part of the science of life and has to do with the physiological difference between the sexes. As seen in the work of Sun Bu-er, the feminine Tao of life includes the practice of deliberate and harmonious menopause as part of mastery over the physical body.

 

In the present treatise, it will be seen that the primary distinction made is in the location of the attention when generating psychosomatic energy to circulate through the body. Men ordinarily use the lower abdomen, but this is proscribed for women, who are to use the sternum instead.

 

The inner circulation of psychosomatic energy is commonly used for health and well-being, but misapplication of the collection procedure is universally held to be harmful.

 

Those familiar with present-day Zen cults of Japanese origin will immediately notice in the following text the distinction made between Taoist practice for females and males in terms of the location of the attention in beginning sitting meditation.

 

One of the unfortunate results of the uncritical importation of deteriorated forms of Japanese Zen Buddhism into Western countries, where a relatively large number of women attempt to practice Zen, is that many women have been taught to sit with the attention in the lower abdomen, a method Taoists claim is harmful to females.

 

It is in fact nearly impossible to find any indication of this practice in authentic traditional Chan or Zen texts of China or Japan. It was popularized by the famous eighteenth-century Zen teacher Hakuin, but as part of a therapeutic regimen, as it had been in the comprehensive Chinese school of Tiantai Buddhism from which Chan partly derived.

 

There is no evidence, furthermore, of Hakuin having taught any of his many female students to keep their attention in the abdomen as a regular practice, but many later Zen teachers seem to have made it a standard procedure for everyone regardless of other conditions.

 

Perhaps this distortion was fostered by the popularity of Zen among males of the samurai caste, and later by association of Zen with martial arts, in which the focus of attention in the lower abdomen has a special function.

 

In martial arts, of course, the motion of the practitioner has the effect of rapidly redistributing the accumulation of energy and thus offsetting the attendant dangers of this technique. According to the Taoist science of life, focus of attention on any part of the body involves potential danger and should not be done too long or too intensely. Specific dangers accompany attention on the lower abdomen in females, and attention on points in the head in both females and males.

 

In Japan, the deterioration of the original system of which concentration on certain physical locations forms a part is evidenced in the use of the term tanden ("elixir field") exclusively for the lower abdomen. The original Taoist system defines three elixir fields, not just one; the lower abdomen is but one of these, called in Taoism the lower elixir field. Again, it might be theorized that the fragmentation and oversimplification of this system in Japan might have been due to centuries of dominance of male military associations with Zen.

 

The present treatise on spiritual alchemy for women also makes it clear that this type of exercise is done only in the beginning of practice, until a certain effect is realized. Here again Zen cults of Japanese derivation that have people repeat the same exercise—particularly the exercises of placing the attention in the abdomen or on the breath—over and over again for years on end present clear evidence of stultifying deterioration.

 

The etiology and specific symptoms of the deleterious effects of such practices among modern devotees of Zen or Taoist sitting and similar disciplines are not necessarily self-evident to either prescribers or practitioners, because of the very limitations of the systems that prescribe these practices indiscriminately. In view of this, and in consideration of the benefits of less obsessive and more technically well-informed procedures, this text on feminine Taoist practice may be considered of special importance for the many women of today who are attempting to use interior meditation methods to enhance consciousness and life.

 

SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY FOR WOMEN

 

In the science of essence and life, men and women are the same - there is no discrimination. In sum, what is important is perfect sincerity and profound singlemindedness. An ancient document says, "Only perfect sincerity in the world is capable of ruling." A classic says, "The perfection of singlemindedness is that whereby one may heed the order of life."

 

In general, what is most essential at the beginning of this study is self-refinement. Self-refinement is a matter of mind and breathing resting on each other. This means that the mind rests on the breathing and the breathing rests on the mind.

What is most important in this is harmony. Harmony is in balance, balance is in harmony. Are they one or two? The union of balance and harmony is called the go-between.

 

With the harmonious attunement of the go-between, there is natural mutual love between mind and breathing; there is mutual attraction, mutual inspiration, mutual expiration. Continuing uninterrupted, do not forget, yet do not force.

Lao-tzu said, "The singleminded energy is most supple, able to be like an infant." This is the perfection of true harmony.

The Master of the Jade Moon, a spiritual alchemist, said, "When husband and wife meet in old age, their feelings are naturally affectionate."

 

A classic says, "Tie them into one whole, mix them in one place, make them into one piece, force them in one furnace."

The same classic also says, "Cow and bull go along with each other, sun and moon are in the same place; positive and negative charges merge, metal and fire commingle."

 

The reality behind all of these sayings is spirit and energy being together, which means mind and breathing being together.

Spirit is essence, energy is life. This is what is meant by the classic saying, "The root of essence is rooted in mind; the stem of life stems from breathing."

 

It is necessary to know that creative evolution only takes place when spirit and energy are joined into one. The joining of the two into one is the reversion of the two modes—yin and yang—back into one totality.

 

This is called the twin cultivation of essence and life.

 

The twin cultivation of essence and life is a matter of keeping the mind and breathing together, not letting them separate even for a moment.

 

Therefore an ancient alchemist said that "firing the medicine to produce the elixir" means driving energy by spirit, thereby attaining the Tao.

 

In daily practice it is essential to embrace the breathing steadily with the mind and embrace the mind steadily with the breathing. When you have done this for a time, once you reach even balance you naturally become very stable and concentrated. You plunge into a profound trance where there is no sky and no earth, where you forget about everything, including your own body.

 

This stage is the experience referred to by the classic saying, "Knowing the white, keep the black, and illumination of spirit will come of itself." You seem to feel body and mind revitalized and supple, with unusual buoyancy and wellbeing.

One alchemist said that in this state you are like someone without the power of speech eating honey, unable to tell of its sweetness.

 

Another alchemist said, "Almost imperceptible, the first transformation of yin and yang—heaven and earth, full of living energy, suddenly revolve. Therein is a bit of fine scenery—how can this work be put into words?"

This time is what is known as "the one primordial energy coming from the void of space."

 

As one alchemist said, "The winter solstice is midnight, where you find the celestial mind has no change, where creative energy first stirs, before myriad things are born."

 

This is what is referred to in alchemical texts as Living Midnight.

 

One alchemist said of this, "Gather energy quickly when winter comes."

 

Another said, "Gathering means gathering without trying to gather, which means splitting open the primordial indefinite."

 

This "splitting open the primordial indefinite" refers to the time of ultimate emptiness and perfect quietude. To empty oneself to the ultimate extent and preserve quietude to perfection is known as returning to Earth, the spiritually receptive mode.

 

Earth the receptive is associated with the southwest: It is known as "the region where the medicine is produced," "the land of primordial nondifferentiation," and "the opening of the Mysterious Female. "

 

An alchemist called Seeker of the Fundamental said, "If you want to look for the primordial seed of realization, you must seek out undifferentiated wholeness to set up the foundation."

 

Understanding Reality, the classic of spiritual alchemy, says, "If you want to attain the immortality of the open spirit, you must set the foundation on the Mysterious Female. Once the foundation is set up, the open spirit does not die. Then how can the person die?"

 

The aforementioned self-refinement, setting up the foundation, and gathering the great primal medicine, are all the same for men and women. Therefore it is said, "The great Way does not make a distinction between men and women; yin and yang, in their various combinations, are all the same." After this I'll talk more about temporal difference.

 

In his Secret of Feminine Alchemy, Liu I-ming says, "There is a true secret about starting practice. The operation is as different for men and women as sky from sea. The principle for men is refinement of energy, the expedient for women is refinement of the body. "

 

Men begin practice with the attention in the lower abdomen, just below the navel. Women start work with the attention between the breasts.

 

Immortal Sister Zhang, one of the great Taoist women, was initiated long ago by Lu Yan, one of the ancestors of spiritual alchemy. Lu told her, "After midnight and before noon, settle the breathing and sit. As the energy passes through the midspine and on through the brain, gaining the power of energy, contemplate the self."

 

Lu also said, "You must find the ancestor of your own house. Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain. Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth. Grab the golden essence of vitality and lock it up tightly. Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger."

 

In general, it is necessary to refine oneself thoroughly before one will have autonomy. Also one must take the positive energy of heaven and earth day after day, and concentrate to clear the mind hour after hour, before the effects of the practice will be experienced. It may take one or two months, or perhaps three or four months. The length of time depends only on the depth of one's work.

 

While carrying out the work it may happen that women feel there is energy in the opening between the breasts that thrusts out, divides and goes into the breasts, right through to the nipples, which then erect. This is what alchemical classics call the living midnight when the medicine is produced.

 

One alchemist said, "Suddenly at midnight there is a peal of thunder, and ten thousand doors, a thousand gates, open one after another. If you perceive that there is form within nothingness, I will admit you have seen the original human being in person."

 

When the work reaches this point, the hundred energy channels in the body are in harmony, while their critical apertures, the passes where energy can accumulate, are all opened. In truth, each pulse fills the chest, all is spring.

 

Now to explain Lu Yan's initiatory statements to Immortal Sister Zhang. "After midnight and before noon" refers to the fact that the midnight hour is best for finding reality. People who practice quiet sitting usually do it late at night or early in the morning.

 

To "settle the breathing" means to tune the breath so that it is even. In "sitting," two people sit with unified attention placed between them. With mutual concentration, pure attention is embraced. With pure attention in the center, a unified energy flows, thus pressing tightly on the midspine, and going on through the brain.

 

This is what is referred to as the reversal of the Yellow River, meaning the opening of the spinal energy channel.

"Gaining energy, contemplate the self." The "self" here is a metaphor for pure positive energy, and the self has been refined into an incorruptible immortal of absolute unity. This is what alchemical classics refer to as absolute unity containing true energy.

 

"Find the ancestor of your own house" means seeking out the very beginning of the living body receiving energy, finding the primordial point of original generative energy.

 

"Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain." This is the same as the saying, "The white clouds pay court to the palace on high, ambrosia pours on the polar mountain."

 

"Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth." Waiting means waiting for the right time, washing means washing the mind and refining oneself. This is what is meant by the alchemical term "perfumed steaming." As for "yellow sprouts," yellow is the color of earth, sprouts are the life potential. Emerging from earth means that the experience is like when myriad things grow in spring, and the whole earth is renewed.

 

At this time the positive energy goes all the way to heaven, in the form of a fiercely blazing fire, resembling flaming wind. Quickly gather it up and send it into the central chamber, in the center of the torso. This is why Lu Yan said, "Grab the golden essence and lock it up tightly."

 

Another alchemist said, "Hold the golden essence fast, draw it carefully on, send it into the field of elixir."

As for "Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger," this refers to the perfection of the sense and essence of consciousness, the first sprouting of the Tao.

 

To sum up, it is just a matter of having people draw their attention to the inner sense of the real mind, carrying the work through the natural cycle. The dragon and tiger mean the ascent and descent of bipolar energy.

 

If you work diligently, as one alchemist said, "When that one point of energy returns of itself and sinks into the body, it turns into year-round spring. A bit of white cloud brings a waft of fragrance; each time the rain passes, all is refreshed.

 

Unconscious like a drunkard all day long, free and at ease, just keep 'the spring within the hollow.' When the essence of negativity throughout the body has been stripped away, it turns into a mass of pure positive gold."

 

The work after this is the same for women as for men. Overall, in the secrets of the spiritual alchemy for women, these words alone should be the quickest route, Lu Yan did not hoard his celestial treasure, but divulged it all at once. It is a pity that people do not recognize it.

 

Yet it should be realized that expressions such as "below the navel" and "between the breasts" are both representational. Do not look for them as having physical form.

 

A classic says, "Clinging to this body is not the Way. Shunning this body is also wrong."

 

It is also said, "The whole body, inside and out, is all dark." It is also said, "Looking right before your eyes, you don't recognize the real, much less what is important therein."

 

The developmental process is subtle and necessitates personal transmission and mental reception from a true teacher. Only when you have understood it do you have a place to start.

 

An alchemist said, "How can the personal transmission be explained on paper? Do not mislead yourself by blind guesswork."

 

(From Immortal Sisters by Thomas Cleary pp 91-99)

Thanks, I will read in detail a bit later :)

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Breathing into something is not what I would call natural breath. Natural breath is not thinking about breath. I am speaking of letting go of the mental and put simple awareness in Dan Tian, relax, and think of nothing. Awareness is NOT thought, but its own thing that can go beyond the finite aspect of time & space. Forget about breathing into anything. Mental awareness will always reduce qi flow to measurable states due to brain waves are measurable therefore finite - the qi flow is tied to the mental awareness of the breath. Dampen the brain waves to approaching zero and allow awareness to expand. Taoism is based on the infinite - not the finite.

I see, for intense focus uses alpha waves, restricts and confines (thus creating limitation. I will learn from your posts :)

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Rara, you can also learn to calm your thinking processes by practicing your kata, be it kung fu or tai chi or karate. The repetition of the poses and the moves, done over and over for an hour or so each day, helps induce this alpha state Ya Mu is taking about.

 

The forms of tai chi for instance, done daily for months and months helps train the mind to slow and sometimes stop. Your brain shifts from beta production, which is basically thinking, to fast alpha or Sensory Motor Rhythm (SMR, 12-15 Hz) which is a calm but alert state. With practice you then go into a deeper alpha around 8-12 Hz which is basically autopilot, no thoughts, not much happening in your head, just flow. This is the magic space you go into when you practice over time.

 

Alpha is actually not that hard to shift into, by looking into the distance and above the horizontal, you will go into alpha a bit easier. When you are staring out the window at home and someone calls you and you don't hear them, and when they ask what you were thinking, you don't know, thats alpha.

 

Alpha is the state elite athletes enter at the moment of their elite performance. Through years of practice they can switch off the language centre of the brain, this stops internal dialogue. Next they switch off the limbic system, which stops emotions and fear of failure. Then they synchronise alpha across both hemispheres.

 

At this moment, just before they pull the trigger, the olympic pistol shooter basically has just their premotor cortex awake and working, thus most of their brain resources is available to make that perfect shot.

 

How do they do it? How do people become an elite athlete or kung fu practitioner?

 

Its just one word, practice.

 

Practice both sides, static meditation, lying down I find is easiest, plus dynamic meditation, kung fu or tai chi.

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Here is some detailed information on Daoist meditation I've found helpful - obviously not directed at you Rara, but the introduction explains dantians and my reference to Rinzai as a Japanese military-like affectation.

 

Taoist Meditation for Women - Introduction

 

This short treatise on Taoist meditation for women was written for one Cao Zhenjie, a married woman described as "more learned and knowledgeable than men," in the year 1899.

 

The distinction made between men and women in ordinary Taoist practice is part of the science of life and has to do with the physiological difference between the sexes. As seen in the work of Sun Bu-er, the feminine Tao of life includes the practice of deliberate and harmonious menopause as part of mastery over the physical body.

 

In the present treatise, it will be seen that the primary distinction made is in the location of the attention when generating psychosomatic energy to circulate through the body. Men ordinarily use the lower abdomen, but this is proscribed for women, who are to use the sternum instead.

 

The inner circulation of psychosomatic energy is commonly used for health and well-being, but misapplication of the collection procedure is universally held to be harmful.

 

Those familiar with present-day Zen cults of Japanese origin will immediately notice in the following text the distinction made between Taoist practice for females and males in terms of the location of the attention in beginning sitting meditation.

 

One of the unfortunate results of the uncritical importation of deteriorated forms of Japanese Zen Buddhism into Western countries, where a relatively large number of women attempt to practice Zen, is that many women have been taught to sit with the attention in the lower abdomen, a method Taoists claim is harmful to females.

 

It is in fact nearly impossible to find any indication of this practice in authentic traditional Chan or Zen texts of China or Japan. It was popularized by the famous eighteenth-century Zen teacher Hakuin, but as part of a therapeutic regimen, as it had been in the comprehensive Chinese school of Tiantai Buddhism from which Chan partly derived.

 

There is no evidence, furthermore, of Hakuin having taught any of his many female students to keep their attention in the abdomen as a regular practice, but many later Zen teachers seem to have made it a standard procedure for everyone regardless of other conditions.

 

Perhaps this distortion was fostered by the popularity of Zen among males of the samurai caste, and later by association of Zen with martial arts, in which the focus of attention in the lower abdomen has a special function.

 

In martial arts, of course, the motion of the practitioner has the effect of rapidly redistributing the accumulation of energy and thus offsetting the attendant dangers of this technique. According to the Taoist science of life, focus of attention on any part of the body involves potential danger and should not be done too long or too intensely. Specific dangers accompany attention on the lower abdomen in females, and attention on points in the head in both females and males.

 

In Japan, the deterioration of the original system of which concentration on certain physical locations forms a part is evidenced in the use of the term tanden ("elixir field") exclusively for the lower abdomen. The original Taoist system defines three elixir fields, not just one; the lower abdomen is but one of these, called in Taoism the lower elixir field. Again, it might be theorized that the fragmentation and oversimplification of this system in Japan might have been due to centuries of dominance of male military associations with Zen.

 

The present treatise on spiritual alchemy for women also makes it clear that this type of exercise is done only in the beginning of practice, until a certain effect is realized. Here again Zen cults of Japanese derivation that have people repeat the same exercise—particularly the exercises of placing the attention in the abdomen or on the breath—over and over again for years on end present clear evidence of stultifying deterioration.

 

The etiology and specific symptoms of the deleterious effects of such practices among modern devotees of Zen or Taoist sitting and similar disciplines are not necessarily self-evident to either prescribers or practitioners, because of the very limitations of the systems that prescribe these practices indiscriminately. In view of this, and in consideration of the benefits of less obsessive and more technically well-informed procedures, this text on feminine Taoist practice may be considered of special importance for the many women of today who are attempting to use interior meditation methods to enhance consciousness and life.

 

SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY FOR WOMEN

 

In the science of essence and life, men and women are the same - there is no discrimination. In sum, what is important is perfect sincerity and profound singlemindedness. An ancient document says, "Only perfect sincerity in the world is capable of ruling." A classic says, "The perfection of singlemindedness is that whereby one may heed the order of life."

 

In general, what is most essential at the beginning of this study is self-refinement. Self-refinement is a matter of mind and breathing resting on each other. This means that the mind rests on the breathing and the breathing rests on the mind.

What is most important in this is harmony. Harmony is in balance, balance is in harmony. Are they one or two? The union of balance and harmony is called the go-between.

 

With the harmonious attunement of the go-between, there is natural mutual love between mind and breathing; there is mutual attraction, mutual inspiration, mutual expiration. Continuing uninterrupted, do not forget, yet do not force.

Lao-tzu said, "The singleminded energy is most supple, able to be like an infant." This is the perfection of true harmony.

The Master of the Jade Moon, a spiritual alchemist, said, "When husband and wife meet in old age, their feelings are naturally affectionate."

 

A classic says, "Tie them into one whole, mix them in one place, make them into one piece, force them in one furnace."

The same classic also says, "Cow and bull go along with each other, sun and moon are in the same place; positive and negative charges merge, metal and fire commingle."

 

The reality behind all of these sayings is spirit and energy being together, which means mind and breathing being together.

Spirit is essence, energy is life. This is what is meant by the classic saying, "The root of essence is rooted in mind; the stem of life stems from breathing."

 

It is necessary to know that creative evolution only takes place when spirit and energy are joined into one. The joining of the two into one is the reversion of the two modes—yin and yang—back into one totality.

 

This is called the twin cultivation of essence and life.

 

The twin cultivation of essence and life is a matter of keeping the mind and breathing together, not letting them separate even for a moment.

 

Therefore an ancient alchemist said that "firing the medicine to produce the elixir" means driving energy by spirit, thereby attaining the Tao.

 

In daily practice it is essential to embrace the breathing steadily with the mind and embrace the mind steadily with the breathing. When you have done this for a time, once you reach even balance you naturally become very stable and concentrated. You plunge into a profound trance where there is no sky and no earth, where you forget about everything, including your own body.

 

This stage is the experience referred to by the classic saying, "Knowing the white, keep the black, and illumination of spirit will come of itself." You seem to feel body and mind revitalized and supple, with unusual buoyancy and wellbeing.

One alchemist said that in this state you are like someone without the power of speech eating honey, unable to tell of its sweetness.

 

Another alchemist said, "Almost imperceptible, the first transformation of yin and yang—heaven and earth, full of living energy, suddenly revolve. Therein is a bit of fine scenery—how can this work be put into words?"

This time is what is known as "the one primordial energy coming from the void of space."

 

As one alchemist said, "The winter solstice is midnight, where you find the celestial mind has no change, where creative energy first stirs, before myriad things are born."

 

This is what is referred to in alchemical texts as Living Midnight.

 

One alchemist said of this, "Gather energy quickly when winter comes."

 

Another said, "Gathering means gathering without trying to gather, which means splitting open the primordial indefinite."

 

This "splitting open the primordial indefinite" refers to the time of ultimate emptiness and perfect quietude. To empty oneself to the ultimate extent and preserve quietude to perfection is known as returning to Earth, the spiritually receptive mode.

 

Earth the receptive is associated with the southwest: It is known as "the region where the medicine is produced," "the land of primordial nondifferentiation," and "the opening of the Mysterious Female. "

 

An alchemist called Seeker of the Fundamental said, "If you want to look for the primordial seed of realization, you must seek out undifferentiated wholeness to set up the foundation."

 

Understanding Reality, the classic of spiritual alchemy, says, "If you want to attain the immortality of the open spirit, you must set the foundation on the Mysterious Female. Once the foundation is set up, the open spirit does not die. Then how can the person die?"

 

The aforementioned self-refinement, setting up the foundation, and gathering the great primal medicine, are all the same for men and women. Therefore it is said, "The great Way does not make a distinction between men and women; yin and yang, in their various combinations, are all the same." After this I'll talk more about temporal difference.

 

In his Secret of Feminine Alchemy, Liu I-ming says, "There is a true secret about starting practice. The operation is as different for men and women as sky from sea. The principle for men is refinement of energy, the expedient for women is refinement of the body. "

 

Men begin practice with the attention in the lower abdomen, just below the navel. Women start work with the attention between the breasts.

 

Immortal Sister Zhang, one of the great Taoist women, was initiated long ago by Lu Yan, one of the ancestors of spiritual alchemy. Lu told her, "After midnight and before noon, settle the breathing and sit. As the energy passes through the midspine and on through the brain, gaining the power of energy, contemplate the self."

 

Lu also said, "You must find the ancestor of your own house. Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain. Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth. Grab the golden essence of vitality and lock it up tightly. Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger."

 

In general, it is necessary to refine oneself thoroughly before one will have autonomy. Also one must take the positive energy of heaven and earth day after day, and concentrate to clear the mind hour after hour, before the effects of the practice will be experienced. It may take one or two months, or perhaps three or four months. The length of time depends only on the depth of one's work.

 

While carrying out the work it may happen that women feel there is energy in the opening between the breasts that thrusts out, divides and goes into the breasts, right through to the nipples, which then erect. This is what alchemical classics call the living midnight when the medicine is produced.

 

One alchemist said, "Suddenly at midnight there is a peal of thunder, and ten thousand doors, a thousand gates, open one after another. If you perceive that there is form within nothingness, I will admit you have seen the original human being in person."

 

When the work reaches this point, the hundred energy channels in the body are in harmony, while their critical apertures, the passes where energy can accumulate, are all opened. In truth, each pulse fills the chest, all is spring.

 

Now to explain Lu Yan's initiatory statements to Immortal Sister Zhang. "After midnight and before noon" refers to the fact that the midnight hour is best for finding reality. People who practice quiet sitting usually do it late at night or early in the morning.

 

To "settle the breathing" means to tune the breath so that it is even. In "sitting," two people sit with unified attention placed between them. With mutual concentration, pure attention is embraced. With pure attention in the center, a unified energy flows, thus pressing tightly on the midspine, and going on through the brain.

 

This is what is referred to as the reversal of the Yellow River, meaning the opening of the spinal energy channel.

"Gaining energy, contemplate the self." The "self" here is a metaphor for pure positive energy, and the self has been refined into an incorruptible immortal of absolute unity. This is what alchemical classics refer to as absolute unity containing true energy.

 

"Find the ancestor of your own house" means seeking out the very beginning of the living body receiving energy, finding the primordial point of original generative energy.

 

"Thunder in the earth rumbles, setting in motion rain on the mountain." This is the same as the saying, "The white clouds pay court to the palace on high, ambrosia pours on the polar mountain."

 

"Wait until washing, and the yellow sprouts emerge from earth." Waiting means waiting for the right time, washing means washing the mind and refining oneself. This is what is meant by the alchemical term "perfumed steaming." As for "yellow sprouts," yellow is the color of earth, sprouts are the life potential. Emerging from earth means that the experience is like when myriad things grow in spring, and the whole earth is renewed.

 

At this time the positive energy goes all the way to heaven, in the form of a fiercely blazing fire, resembling flaming wind. Quickly gather it up and send it into the central chamber, in the center of the torso. This is why Lu Yan said, "Grab the golden essence and lock it up tightly."

 

Another alchemist said, "Hold the golden essence fast, draw it carefully on, send it into the field of elixir."

As for "Fire metal and wood to produce the dragon and tiger," this refers to the perfection of the sense and essence of consciousness, the first sprouting of the Tao.

 

To sum up, it is just a matter of having people draw their attention to the inner sense of the real mind, carrying the work through the natural cycle. The dragon and tiger mean the ascent and descent of bipolar energy.

 

If you work diligently, as one alchemist said, "When that one point of energy returns of itself and sinks into the body, it turns into year-round spring. A bit of white cloud brings a waft of fragrance; each time the rain passes, all is refreshed.

 

Unconscious like a drunkard all day long, free and at ease, just keep 'the spring within the hollow.' When the essence of negativity throughout the body has been stripped away, it turns into a mass of pure positive gold."

 

The work after this is the same for women as for men. Overall, in the secrets of the spiritual alchemy for women, these words alone should be the quickest route, Lu Yan did not hoard his celestial treasure, but divulged it all at once. It is a pity that people do not recognize it.

 

Yet it should be realized that expressions such as "below the navel" and "between the breasts" are both representational. Do not look for them as having physical form.

 

A classic says, "Clinging to this body is not the Way. Shunning this body is also wrong."

 

It is also said, "The whole body, inside and out, is all dark." It is also said, "Looking right before your eyes, you don't recognize the real, much less what is important therein."

 

The developmental process is subtle and necessitates personal transmission and mental reception from a true teacher. Only when you have understood it do you have a place to start.

 

An alchemist said, "How can the personal transmission be explained on paper? Do not mislead yourself by blind guesswork."

 

(From Immortal Sisters by Thomas Cleary pp 91-99)

Ok, I have read this. Very interesting! From this, I have some thoughts that I will post below.

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So far then:

 

-Do not concentrate too intensely. The mind and breath should be equal in gentle attention to each other

 

Question...in mindfulness, I have been "letting thoughts pass". Sometimes, I think I get this wrong and struggle in an attempt to ignore them. Perhaps I should chill with them and accept they are there?

 

Other thoughts:

 

Do we think that we should then be very careful what teachers we go to? e.g Many Taoist teachers DO say that even women should breathe into the dan tien. I was watching a wudang meditation video but I also found that there was so much too it...seemed like I had to concentrate too hard to imagine a purple ball of qi in my lower dan tien :/

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Rara, you can also learn to calm your thinking processes by practicing your kata, be it kung fu or tai chi or karate. The repetition of the poses and the moves, done over and over for an hour or so each day, helps induce this alpha state Ya Mu is taking about.

 

The forms of tai chi for instance, done daily for months and months helps train the mind to slow and sometimes stop. Your brain shifts from beta production, which is basically thinking, to fast alpha or Sensory Motor Rhythm (SMR, 12-15 Hz) which is a calm but alert state. With practice you then go into a deeper alpha around 8-12 Hz which is basically autopilot, no thoughts, not much happening in your head, just flow. This is the magic space you go into when you practice over time.

 

Alpha is actually not that hard to shift into, by looking into the distance and above the horizontal, you will go into alpha a bit easier. When you are staring out the window at home and someone calls you and you don't hear them, and when they ask what you were thinking, you don't know, thats alpha.

 

Alpha is the state elite athletes enter at the moment of their elite performance. Through years of practice they can switch off the language centre of the brain, this stops internal dialogue. Next they switch off the limbic system, which stops emotions and fear of failure. Then they synchronise alpha across both hemispheres.

 

At this moment, just before they pull the trigger, the olympic pistol shooter basically has just their premotor cortex awake and working, thus most of their brain resources is available to make that perfect shot.

 

How do they do it? How do people become an elite athlete or kung fu practitioner?

 

Its just one word, practice.

 

Practice both sides, static meditation, lying down I find is easiest, plus dynamic meditation, kung fu or tai chi.

I thought alpha was the mad intense waves and beta were calmer. Or am I muddled? Or perhaps I read misleading info?

 

That said, I believe surely beta must be calmer...just going on the basis of lingutstic patterns like "Alpha Male" for example...the predator with more ego in the mind...

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Rara, you can also learn to calm your thinking processes by practicing your kata, be it kung fu or tai chi or karate. The repetition of the poses and the moves, done over and over for an hour or so each day, helps induce this alpha state Ya Mu is taking about.

 

The forms of tai chi for instance, done daily for months and months helps train the mind to slow and sometimes stop. Your brain shifts from beta production, which is basically thinking, to fast alpha or Sensory Motor Rhythm (SMR, 12-15 Hz) which is a calm but alert state. With practice you then go into a deeper alpha around 8-12 Hz which is basically autopilot, no thoughts, not much happening in your head, just flow. This is the magic space you go into when you practice over time.

 

Alpha is actually not that hard to shift into, by looking into the distance and above the horizontal, you will go into alpha a bit easier. When you are staring out the window at home and someone calls you and you don't hear them, and when they ask what you were thinking, you don't know, thats alpha.

 

Alpha is the state elite athletes enter at the moment of their elite performance. Through years of practice they can switch off the language centre of the brain, this stops internal dialogue. Next they switch off the limbic system, which stops emotions and fear of failure. Then they synchronise alpha across both hemispheres.

 

At this moment, just before they pull the trigger, the olympic pistol shooter basically has just their premotor cortex awake and working, thus most of their brain resources is available to make that perfect shot.

 

How do they do it? How do people become an elite athlete or kung fu practitioner?

 

Its just one word, practice.

 

Practice both sides, static meditation, lying down I find is easiest, plus dynamic meditation, kung fu or tai chi.

I thought alpha was the mad intense waves and beta were calmer. Or am I muddled? Or perhaps I read misleading info?

 

That said, I believe surely beta must be calmer...just going on the basis of lingutstic patterns like "Alpha Male" for example...the predator with more ego in the mind...

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I thought alpha was the mad intense waves and beta were calmer. Or am I muddled? Or perhaps I read misleading info?

 

That said, I believe surely beta must be calmer...just going on the basis of lingutstic patterns like "Alpha Male" for example...the predator with more ego in the mind...

 

Rara, I work with people training brainwaves for a multitude of neurological, personality and behavioral problems, its called neurofeedback.

 

Deep sleep is delta = 0-4 Hz very slow

Dreaming and the unconscious is theta = 4-8 Hz

Calm googfing off no thoughts is alpha = 8-12 Hz (also called the 'resting state of the brain')

Calm alert SMR low beta = 12-15 Hz (think cat watching out the window resting)

alert and thinking is standard beta = 15-20 Hz (what you are in now)

fast beta frustration, active processing and stress = 20-35 Hz (nasty stuff in the right brain particularly)

 

I train a lot of stressed people and many who suffer panic attacks. At the right orbito frontal cortex we reward 2-5 Hz which is in low theta and delta to calm the mind and panic, it works incredibly well. At the same time we inhibit beta 12-35 Hz to stop the rumination, worry and suicidal thoughts.

 

Google 'neurofeedback' and you will know some more about this incredible technology.

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Rara, I work with people training brainwaves for a multitude of neurological, personality and behavioral problems, its called neurofeedback.

 

Deep sleep is delta = 0-4 Hz very slow

Dreaming and the unconscious is theta = 4-8 Hz

Calm googfing off no thoughts is alpha = 8-12 Hz (also called the 'resting state of the brain')

Calm alert SMR low beta = 12-15 Hz (think cat watching out the window resting)

alert and thinking is standard beta = 15-20 Hz (what you are in now)

fast beta frustration, active processing and stress = 20-35 Hz (nasty stuff in the right brain particularly)

 

I train a lot of stressed people and many who suffer panic attacks. At the right orbito frontal cortex we reward 2-5 Hz which is in low theta and delta to calm the mind and panic, it works incredibly well. At the same time we inhibit beta 12-35 Hz to stop the rumination, worry and suicidal thoughts.

 

Google 'neurofeedback' and you will know some more about this incredible technology.

Thanks for posting this - I was thinking of doing so but hadn't gotten a "round tuitt".

 

Rara: Don't be so overly concerned. In our Taoist meditative system if we itch we scratch, if we need to stretch out our legs we stretch out our legs, if we need to cough we cough. Holding things back just makes one think more about them. I also wouldn't worry about which of the above states you are in. With practice one goes deeper. I haven't measured in quite a number of years but I used to be able to go to theta - delta state while standing up doing neigong and think I still can - but certainly don't concern myself with it. The important thing is to just do the practice.

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So far then:

 

-Do not concentrate too intensely. The mind and breath should be equal in gentle attention to each other

 

Question...in mindfulness, I have been "letting thoughts pass". Sometimes, I think I get this wrong and struggle in an attempt to ignore them. Perhaps I should chill with them and accept they are there?

 

Other thoughts:

 

Do we think that we should then be very careful what teachers we go to? e.g Many Taoist teachers DO say that even women should breathe into the dan tien. I was watching a wudang meditation video but I also found that there was so much too it...seemed like I had to concentrate too hard to imagine a purple ball of qi in my lower dan tien :/

 

Although that introductory section by Thomas Cleary from Immortal Sisters raises significant issues, I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Just keep it in mind as one perspective, albeit a perspective from a learned researcher. I've lived in Zen centres and I know what he is referring to, but his warnings are more for long-term intensive practitioners and devotees. For beginners and even experienced people, Zen groups are an excellent places to experience meditation and mix with other meditators.

 

Also I don't think breath awareness directed to any part of the body will be harmful for beginners because their focus and qi is too scattered to build any real power. Personally, I suggest just quiet sitting with focus on the natural breath wherever you feel it. I good traditional way to keep focus is to count backwards from 99 and when you catch yourself drifting off into other thoughts just come back to counting breaths from 99 down again. Keep it light and easy I say. Don't clutter yourself up with do’s and don’ts. Find your own way and trust your own judgement as to what works best for you.

 

There’s other advice here like from Ya Mu (above) saying much the same thing about keeping it simple and just regularly practice.  Also teachers like Astraic obviously have good experience to share based on brain wave theory – theory I know nothing about.  I’m more a traditionalist and like the words of the classic Daoist texts. But that’s just me. He is obviously getting good results.

 

Here is some basic background information on traditional meditation that I imagine you already know, but may like it as a concise overview.  (I've only included detail on apophatic meditation because to my mind that’s where everyone should start.)  

 

Meditation   (from The Daoist Tradition by Louis Komjathy)

 

Generally speaking, "meditation" involves seated postures aimed at developing some capacity, clarifying meaning and purpose, and/or deepening one's connection to the sacred. Although meditation is often associated with seated postures and assumed to be synonymous with Buddhist meditation, there are types of meditation practice that utilize standing, walking, and supine postures. Considered from a comparative perspective, "meditation" is an umbrella category that includes various types of associated practices, including alchemy, concentration, devotion, intentional respiration (breath-centered), mindfulness, relaxation, visualization, and so forth. The goals of meditation are also diverse, and they are usually tradition-specific. These may include the attainment of higher levels of consciousness or numinous abilities; the development of attentiveness, wisdom, compassion, or some other capacity or quality; divinization (making oneself into a god) or rarification (making oneself more refined); and so forth.

 

Daoist Meditation

 

Daoist meditation, most generally referred to in Chinese as dazuo (lit., "to engage in sitting"), is among the most diverse in terms of technique and orientation. Five major Types of Daoist meditation may be identified: apophatic or quietistic meditation, which relates to a variety of Daoist technical terms; visualization (cunxiang); ingestion (fuqi); inner observation (neiguan); and internal alchemy (neidan). Daoists also developed a specific type of practice for women, known as "female alchemy" (nudan), which was first systematized during the late imperial period.

 

Apophatic meditation

 

Daoist apophatic or quietistic meditation is first attested to in classical Daoist texts, where it receives various technical names. These include "embracing the One" (baoyi) "guarding the One" (shouyi), "fasting of the heart-mind" (xinzhai), "sitting-in-forgetfulness", (zuowang), and so forth. In contemporary Daoism, where the practice usually incorporates internal alchemy dimensions, it is usually called "quiet sitting" (jingzuo), also translated as "tranquil sitting,” "stillness meditation,” or "sitting-in-stillness." Apophatic  meditation emphasizes emptiness and stillness; it is contentless, non-conceptual, and non-dualistic. One simply empties the heart-mind of all emotional and intellectual content.

 

Classical descriptions of Daoist apophatic meditation appear in many Daoist texts. These works provide instructions and guidelines for the practice. According to the Daodejing: "Empty the heart-mind and fill the belly. Weaken the will and strengthen the bones" (Chapter 3; also Chapter 12). See also chapters 10, 16 and 20.

 

Similarly, the fourth-century BCE " Neiye" (Inward Training) chapter of the Guanzi (Book of Master Guan) explains: "The Dao is without a set place, but the calmness of an adept heart-mind makes a place. When the heart-mind is still and qi is patterned, the Dao may then come to rest ... Cultivate the heart-mind and still your thinking; the Dao may then be realized" (Chapter 5; also Chapters 14, 17, 19, and 25). This text also provides more specific guidelines.

 

If you can be aligned and still,

Only then can you become stable.

With a stabilized heart-mind at the Center,

With the ears and eyes acute and bright,

And with the four limbs firm and fixed,

You can make a lodging-place for vital essence.

("Neiye,” ch. 8)

 

Expand your heart-mind and release it.

Relax your qi and allow it to extend.

When your body is calm and unmoving,

Guard the One and discard myriad disturbances.

You will see profit and not be enticed by it.

You will see harm and not be frightened by it.

Relaxed and unwound, and yet free from selfishness,

In solitude you will find joy in your own being.

This is what we call "circulating qi.”

Your awareness and practice appear celestial.

(ibid., Chapter 24)

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There are a million ways to disect this stuff. This is my basic philosophy: Thoughts aren't the problem. Thoughts (shen) are a zero-sum, objective, neutral reality. The problem is the emotional reaction (qi) to the thoughts. It's perfectly reasonable to scratch an itch without allowing it to break your calmness. But it's even more reasonable to observe the itch without immediately attaching emotions to it. Cheerful indifference in action :-)

 

Snot running out of your nose into your mouth, or a sneeze welling up, are a different scenario and one where you really benefit more from taking action to get them behind you. But do it without feeling guilty about it.

 

A super simple (and the simpler the better) technique to calm the qi monkey is to think "yes" every time a thought arises. That's it. The thoughts begin to arise in increasingly long intervals, right up to the point where you find yourself waiting for a thought to show itself, but none do.

 

The bottom book on this list reminded me of this old tactic:

 

http://www.sergeaugier.com/les-livres-en/

 

I think you might get a lot out of that book, Rara, especially the sections on shen-gong. (But know in advance that a good amount of the book is describing the techniques of the school, without detailed instruction in the techniques).

 

Serge Augier does attach a positive spin to the "yes", which I disagree with. I feel it's better to view and apply the yes as an objective aknowledgement of the situation, with no color.

 

Blocking thoughts is a dead-end, or maybe a trapdoor you really don't want to fall into.

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