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sillybearhappyhoneyeater

two illnesses in meditation (and how to fix them)

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Meditation has two big problems associated with it.

The first is that the mind wanders.

When we meditate, regardless of tradition, the number one thing we don't want is to become distracted.  Becoming distracted during meditation is not better than just thinking with your eyes closed.   In order to stop the mind from being distracted, it is a good idea to find something to draw it away from thinking.

There are several very easy methods by which to do this,

the easiest one by far is simply to count the breaths from 1 to 10 and then repeat.

This is a way to focus the mind on something other than random thought, but of course, has the problem of still creating some vocalization in the mind.  

Another way is to observe the breath coming and going from the body.

This way is very good for cultivating the basic feeling of qi, and can help us relax.

One step further than this is keeping the mind set on the lower abdomen while observing the breath.

These are three ways to stop the mind from thinking too much.

 

The other problem of meditation is to become tired and fall asleep.

If we feel like we are going to fall asleep in meditation, usually there are two reasons:

1) we are tired.

2) we lose focus.

 

Because we want to cultivate clarity and emptiness, but not lose consciousness (Huang yuanji calls thing "forget the movement of the mind, but don't forget the illuminate the mind), we can set our mind to illuminating the centre of the body.

Some traditions use the image of the sun inside the body, but for those of us who understand Daoist theory a bit more closely, it is actually better to use a somewhat more pale and less clear visualization.  Rather than imagining the sun, it is better just to set the mind in the lower abdomen and observe the mind there.  This will naturally begin to create a feeling of pale illumination which is referred to in the book "da cheng jie yao," as "true yang is born in the centre of the moon."   Just as the moon lights up an otherwise dark and empty sky, the mind illuminates the dantian which shines light on an otherwise dark and empty internal feeling of the body.

Keeping the mind focused softly on the dantian is how to both become relaxed enough that qi begins to nourish the lower dantian, and also how to stop ourselves from going to sleep.

If you find yourself becoming tired, you can increase the level of power which you use to illuminate the area, although it should always feel natural and never intense or forced.

 

staying like this for a long time can have great benefits on the body and is much better than purposefully cycling the mind through the body.  when the qi is full enough, it will move by itself.

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Thanks for sharing this, sillybear.

 

You mentioned the practice of visualizing the sun, and I have an interesting story about that.

 

One time I was meditating on the sun, and trying to know my oneness with it. All the sudden I felt a shock, as if overcome or jolted by a very powerful energy. Apparently my meditation was successful, only I learned that the sun is far too powerful of an energy or consciousness for me to safely experience oneness with.

 

Maybe the moon or earth would be a better choice for me next time.

 

Peace.

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typically, instead of using the moon or sun, it is better to just illuminate the mind in the lower abdomen.  this will cause a natural brightness which is somewhat like the light of the pale moon.  Visualization is another type of practice, and typically is both less beneficial than nei dan and also more dangerous.


I'm not surprised you have a hard experience using the visualization of the sun.  Way too much to visualize in the minds eye, and can easily tire your nervous system.

 

meditating and focusing the mind in a very relaxed and natural way will actually eventually cause a feeling of big illumination all over the body.  Great Yin changes to real Yang energy and creates a very wonderful effect, but we need to be patient with it and not try to force it.

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Some good information Sillybearhappyhoneyeater. Thanks

 

Here is some detailed information on Daoist meditation I've found helpful for the distinction it makes between methods for men and women.....

 

 

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‚ÄĒparticularly the exercises of placing the attention in the abdomen or on the breath‚ÄĒover 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‚ÄĒyin and yang‚ÄĒback 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‚ÄĒheaven and earth, full of living energy, suddenly revolve. Therein is a bit of fine scenery‚ÄĒhow 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 Yueya
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thats neat Yueya...lots of good stuff there, for men too

Edited by Songtsan
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You mentioned the practice of visualizing the sun, and I have an interesting story about that.

 

One time I was meditating on the sun, and trying to know my oneness with it. All the sudden I felt a shock, as if overcome or jolted by a very powerful energy. Apparently my meditation was successful, only I learned that the sun is far too powerful of an energy or consciousness for me to safely experience oneness with.

Years ago I had a practice of doing zhan zhang standing in the afternoon, facing the sun as it lowered.  After a month and a half I got a jolt.  Hot energy moving very fast up and down.  It felt a little like frying my heart.  I stopped the practice and went back to just sitting for a long time.  

 

Nowadays I'll still face the sun sometimes, but not as regularly or as long, waiting til its a bit lower and less intense.  

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Just a note:

In some of the discussion "mind" is used and yet often in the original translations Awareness would more closely resemble the intent.

 

Also:

In general falling asleep should rarely be a problem in meditation. If it is a problem - check posture, remember to breath and see that you are not going into trance.

 

If you do find yourself going unconscious and really fighting this aspect - it is not sleep you are fending off - you are hitting the energies that arise as your energetic system begins to vibrate a threshold level of minor blocks. This will not last long and you should breath through it and hang in there. Typically this will hit women around 15-20 minutes in and hit men around 30-40 minutes in. Times will vary on this. Try never to end a meditation session at these intervals. Either end them before this happens or go the extra 5 minutes and break through. You will have broken through when it is once again no effort to maintain awareness.

 

If your mind is racing try counting from 0-100 and 100-0 simultaneously - you will be unable to think while doing this and eventually you will see these counts in your minds eye.

 

Attention on the lower dan Tien, mid dantien or resting in the upper dan tien ((center of head) are all perfectly acceptable. Basically awareness is resting inside the body.

 

Meditation within 1 hour of a heavy meal is often difficult and nearly impossible if your diet includes refined foods or lots of starchy beige/white foods.

 

If you are attempting to learn to meditate in a prone position - very few derive significant results from such practice - it can be entertaining for other practices such as leaving the body but typically it is difficult to meditate in a prone position.

 

In the initial stages of learning to meditate - and often as good practice for many many decades - remember to breath regularly and deeply in order to maintain a clear awareness. Certainly there will be ample times in which breathing slows and just as amply there will be times one is reminded that it is time to breath and perhaps do some significant breathing.

 

"No breath" and "very shallow slow breath" and the like should not be goals - being with your awareness in your body and breathing through this in all its ebbs and flows is meditation.

 

If you are in NEED of sleep - do not meditate - sleep. Perhaps wake up in an hour and then meditate. If you find yourself constantly slumping - pull up and out of your meditation and go to sleep. With a proper approach to meditation you should only fall asleep a handful of times during an entire life of meditation - and the longer the meditation the less likely falling asleep should be. Typically it will hit you before the first hour is up. 5-10 or more hours into meditation and falling asleep will probably never happen to you.

 

Sometimes you will hit a core energetic block/compression and these can put you out but it is not the same thing as falling asleep - you have typically been thrown/popped out of your body as a result of the pain/life forces breaking up as your vibration began to crack up and unleash the onion layers and core pictures within it. You may wonder what just happened - resume breathing and enjoy.

 

Smaller sensations of this are often popping in the neck below the back of the head.

 

Move your legs often and do not allow "blue leg" - I am not advocating fidgeting - but some of the stoic dogma from Japan has no utility other than creating strokes in young otherwise heathy people and big ego in others. Legs cramp less and less and fall asleep less and less as your meditation progresses. Never let it become a distraction. If one leg goes cold - simply straighten it and let the blood flow back in - all the while still meditating - you can even shock fellow meditators (God forbid) if you do this during some formal gathering.

 

Full lotus is fine, half lotus is fine, sitting in a chair is fine - main thing is a good posture, awareness out of trance and in the body.

Edited by Spotless
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Some good information Sillybearhappyhoneyeater. Thanks

 

Here is some detailed information on Daoist meditation I've found helpful for the distinction it makes between methods for men and women.....

 

 

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‚ÄĒparticularly the exercises of placing the attention in the abdomen or on the breath‚ÄĒover 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‚ÄĒyin and yang‚ÄĒback 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‚ÄĒheaven and earth, full of living energy, suddenly revolve. Therein is a bit of fine scenery‚ÄĒhow 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)

 

any chance you can point me toward the Chinese language original?

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any chance you can point me toward the Chinese language original?

 

Unfortunately Thomas Cleary gives no source information for his translation of Spiritual Alchemy for Women.  All I could find is that it is an anonymous 1899 text on Taoist yoga and meditation dedicated to (and probably written by a disciple of) the outstanding woman Taoist master Cao Zhenjie. You could try contacting Cleary but I’ve heard he’s a reluctant correspondent. (The introduction was written by Cleary himself if that’s not already clear.)

 

A better bet would be Louis Komjathy. He is a Daoist priest and scholar with much interest in authenticating Daoist translations. He’s written extensively on the subject. A paper of his entitled DAOIST TEXTS IN TRANSLATION is available as a pdf file for download here. The paper lists the Chinese language source documents for many of Cleary’s translations but unfortunately not this one.  I’d try contacting him through The Center for Daoist Studies. He is the co-director there.

 

( Beware: He’s not interested in engaging with people he calls popular Taoists. See the Guidelines for Correspondence on his website. )

 

Active members here who might be able to help are Dawei and Taoist Texts. 

Edited by Yueya

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Unfortunately Thomas Cleary gives no source information for his translation of Spiritual Alchemy for Women.  All I could find is that it is an anonymous 1899 text on Taoist yoga and meditation dedicated to (and probably written by a disciple of) the outstanding woman Taoist master Cao Zhenjie.  

 

Active members here who might be able to help are Dawei and Taoist Texts. 

Hey Yueya;)

 

I copied the text to here 

 

http://www.thedaobums.com/topic/40780-female-alchemy-from-chen-ying-ning/

 

Also thanks for Komjathy's  guidelines, have not seen them before, quite  chuckle-worthy;)

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Hey Yueya ;)

 

I copied the text to here 

 

http://www.thedaobums.com/topic/40780-female-alchemy-from-chen-ying-ning/

 

Also thanks for Komjathy's  guidelines, have not seen them before, quite  chuckle-worthy;)

 

Thanks, I was wondering if it was Chen's writing.   He focused on female practices quite a lot in Xian Xue and also showed ways they could be of value to men.   I really respect Chen, he left many good things behind him.

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