Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tao of Love And Sex: Nine Exercises of Sexual Tao (Part II)

OPENING THE ABDOMINAL DANTIAN
Sit in a comfortable position (on the floor in a cross-legged, semi-cross-legged, or lotus position, or else on a chair). Leave your daily cares behind you and focus your awareness on feeling your body's energies.

Place one hand over the other on the abdominal cavity, just below the navel, with both palms facing the belly. Do not press too hard against the skin.
Imagine a magnificent flower, such as the golden lotus, opening its petals right in the middle of your belly. As the flower opens and its petals unfold, its warmth and perfume waft out and gradually fill your whole body, nourishing the internal organs with a blissful energy. Remain in this state for several minutes. Try to relax without falling into a state of torpor. You will begin to have sensations of heat, fullness, and distension, particularly in the belly.

Imagine the flower closing as you exhale and opening as you inhale. Your body will then begin to sway slightly, taking on a wavelike motion. Let this movement happen freely, but don't become intoxicated with it or lose control. Remain a few moments in simple contemplation of this rediscovered quietude before you once again embark on the flood of your daily activities.
Practiced once daily anytime of the day, this exercise is an excellent foundation for all Taoist meditative practices.

It's a good idea to start practicing the opening of the dantian for a month before you proceed to the next exercises. That way you will lay a good foundation for your daily exercise routine.

Taoists refer to this internal work as "the cultivation of qi." Practicing this method helps develop a sensitivity to the energy that is constantly circulating through the body. The dantian, that Elixir Field in the middle of our bellies just below the navel, is where the subtle energy that Taoists call ancestral energy resides. This force constitutes the human being's physical, sexual, and mental foundation. According to Taoists, it also determines how long we live. By practicing these energy-cultivation exercises, you can strengthen the center of the abdomen and retard the ineluctable flight of vital energy.
The Tao is close, but everyone looks far away. Life is simple, but everyone seeks difficulty.
—Men Tseu

3. OPENING THE SMALL CIRCULATION
The exercise of the small circulation provides an essential way of developing sexual potency through psychophysiological exercises that combine Taoist meditation, abdominal breathing, and the power of mind (visualization and mental imagery). The three treasures—jing, qi, and shen— are directly worked on in this exercise. A jade tablet dating from the sixth century B.C. describes the path taken by the energy flow during the meditation of the small circulation:

When one breathes in, energy descends. When energy descends, one becomes calm and energy becomes strong, whereupon it begins to germinate and then to push backward and rise up the back toward the crown of the head, and from there, it once again begins its descent.

Legend ascribes the invention of this traditional exercise to Lao-tzu himself, the founder of philosophical Taoism and master of the sexual exercises of the Yellow Chamber. According to one story, a Taoist hermit who had practiced small-circulation meditation more than a hundred thousand times and used it during sexual intercourse was able to enter so completely into resonance with his partner that she found she could do the exercise herself with no effort at all and her own small circulation was activated as well.

This energy circuit also recalls other meditation practices, that of Indian tantric yoga in particular. Under the Tang dynasty, meditation was tied to sexual practices of yin-yang balance, and people spoke of a communication between the heart energies and the sexual organs. These methods, it was said, helped increase jing, that is, innate, or intrinsic, energy.

The Woman of Purity said:
If a man can practice the small circulation for three years, his dantian will be so powerful that he will achieve extraordinary physical strength; he will be able to keep an erection for a long time during sex.

THE BREATHING
Most of the errors that occur in the practice of small cir-' culation come from improper breathing. Breathing during this exercise can be done in various ways with different rhythms: it should be light or forced; it should have a rapid or slow rhythm; it should be shallow or deep. The Taoist text known as the Tao Tsang speaks of a particular way of breathing: "Inhalation is continuous, exhalation is thin and drawn out."

YOUR INTERNAL ATTITUDE
According to tradition, the following three things are required of your internal attitude: your heart (your affective
nature, your emotions) must be at peace; your determination must guide your qi; your qi must follow the movements of your breathing. For this, you will need to concentrate. The process is called Hu Xi Dao Yin, Guiding the Breath.

TH-E YIN CHANNEL AND THE YANG CHANNEL
These two channels form an energy circuit that begins at the perineum, passes up the back to the crown of the head, and then returns along the front of the body, passing through the dantian and the sexual organs. Taoists believe that anyone who wants to take the path of return toward original being must open these channels. Practicing the small circulation will usually produce heat sensations or pleasant vibrations throughout the abdomen and the genital organs and toward the sacrum, but these feelings should not be provoked consciously or sought out for their own sake. The practitioner should instead regard them with a certain objectivity and simply observe them as they occur.

THE METHOD FOR OPENING THE "SMALL CELESTIAL REVOLUTION"
The goal of this meditation is to make qi circulate toward the Du and Ren channels in order to create a lasting balance of yin and yang energies at every level of your being. Frequent circulation of an uninterrupted energy flow by means of this exercise will lead to better health, improved sexuality, and greater longevity. This meditation is practiced in a sitting position, either on a chair with your feet some distance apart or in a cross-legged or half-lotus position on the floor.

Begin the exercise in an attitude of calm and quietude. Cast aside all outside and chaotic thoughts and let your emotions be at peace. Then close your eyes gently, without forcing them shut, so that you allow a little light to pass beneath the lids; your jaws should be relaxed as you breathe lightly, gently, calmly, and continuously (in other words, at no time should there be any stoppage of the breath). Don't try to hold your breath, as is sometimes done in yoga. Your tongue should touch the roof of your mouth, thereby linking the Du and Ren channels at the yinjiao point, "the bridge of the feet."

You can hold your hands in one of two ways: the first and simplest way is to let them rest on your kneecaps; the second way is to place one hand on top of the other, with both palms facing upward. This is the preferred position in Chan (the precursor of Zen). The thumbs should be touching each other.

After being in this position for a few moments, you should begin to feel a warm energy current appearing in the lower cinnabar field (xia dantian); this is the first stage. In men, this energy is yang; in women, it is yin. Breathe through your nose (gently enough so that you "are not making noise as you breathe in and out) as you slightly contract your anus upward and mentally guide qi along a trajectory from the dantian through the perineum, the sacrum, the lumbar, dorsal, and cervical vertebrae, and finally to the Ba Hui point at the crown of the head.

du channel

This entire trajectory is accomplished in one inhalation and should follow the pace of your breathing. Then exhale through your nose—again, without making noise as you breath—while visualizing the descent of qi down the front of your body along the Ren channel as it makes its downward trajectory from the Ba Hui point through the lateral edges of each eye, the base of the tongue (the upper "bridge of the feet"), then, as though you were swallowing qi, down the throat and the front of the chest to the lower cinnabar field and then back down toward the perineum. Throughout your exhalation, your stomach should protrude slightly forward. In this way, an uninterrupted circuit is established:

Above and below, yin and yang rise and fall again and again; the fluid of life (jing) circulates ceaselessly in a circle; the purple palace and the limpid dragon (yin) communicate with the white tiger (yang); the mysterious palace (the pineal gland) and the axis of the earth (the dantian) join with the light of heaven (qi).
Throughout this exercise, your breathing should be slow and gentle (effortless), precise (with keen awareness), and tegular (your inhalations should last as long as your exhalations, and there should be no stoppage of breath be-tween these two phases, which should succeed one another naturally). In short, your breathing should be natural and unimpeded.

One of the greatest difficulties people encounter in per- forming this meditation consists of getting over what the ancients called "the three passes." These three stages are energy obstructions that result directly from the structure of the human anatomy: The first pass is located at the coc-cyx. The second is the mingmen point between the kidneys. The third is the "pillar of jade" at the occiput. These three passes are areas where it is difficult to feel qi as it flows past. Even if one does not believe that breath and air can travel throughout the body, there is no denying that qi travels in a very real sense along the imaginary trajectory, producing actual physiological and sensorial changes. This double nature of qi should make us reflect on the hypothesis that our body, as an energy field, has a profound relationship with our mind. Certain scientists today have no qualms about hypothesizing consciousness as the master of the physical universe. Might not the small circulation actually be an energy movement that imitates microcosmically the vast movements of the stars, thereby accelerating the process of human evolution?

Taoist theory speaks of the three precious pills of human life and sexual symbology: the celestial pill, which is the pure breaths that, in the process of normal abdominal or reverse breathing, reach down to the sexual centers; the terrestrial pill, comprising not only our earthly sustenance— what we eat and drink—but also the telluric energies; and the human pill, symbolizing one's sexual partner and his or her energies.

The small celestial circulation brings into play the three Taoist alchemical elements—wind, fire, and internal elixir: wind symbolizes breath and qi; fire symbolizes mental strength and concentration; and internal elixir symbolizes pure yang energy in a man and pure yin energy in a woman.

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