Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tao of Love and Sex: Practicing The Taoist Sexual Method

Apart from its ability to nourish the kidneys and preserve the three treasures, the Taoist sexual method offers other benefits: The harmonizing of yin and yang energies during sexual intercourse will improve relations between the two partners on many levels and establish a better equilibrium between them. The restoration of sexual energies nourishes first the kidneys, and then, according to the Taoist theory of the marrows, the brain. The pituitary gland is also stimulated, along with the immune system. The restoration of sexual energy will finally make new strength available for health and intellectual creativity.

A person wishing to preserve kidney energy therefore need not, indeed should not, abstain completely from sexual relations. That course of action is appropriate only for those who take the monastic path. Sexuality needs to be able to express itself both without frustrations and without overpowering passions. Westerners easily accept the first part of this proposition and are more than willing to forgo frustration; only reluctantly, however, do they acknowledge the second part, and, caught in the web of desires, they do not realize that passions can be just as destructive as inhibitions. The Taoist sexual method requires a serene heart, and sexual fantasy is not Taoism's royal road. For any individual, male or female, who is endowed with normal energy, abstaining from sexual relations and indulging in sexual excesses are harmful to vital energy.

The concept of yin-yang has generally been misunderstood in the West. The two terms are often surrounded with mystical meanings or relative value judgments (for example, that yang is better than yin) that they have never had in the East. Yin-yang is a concept, a double adjective that simply denotes changes in the cycles of life in.its..every possible aspect. Yin-yang also represents a way of thinking that takes into account the two poles of one and the same thing or situation.
Yin-yang theory is perfectly illustrated by the symbol below, representing the profound interaction of yin and yang, which engender each other, stand in opposition to each other, contain part of each other as their own opposites, and follow cyclically one upon the other.

The Chinese character for yang refers to the sunny slope of a hill and has been associated with the qualities of heat, activity, and luminosity. The physical manifestations associated with yang are fever, feelings of heat in the body; organic hyperactivity of various kinds (hypertension, for example); and inflammations and pains of all sorts in the tissues and nerves.

The Chinese character for yin refers to the slope of the hill that remains in the shade year round and is associated with the qualities of cold, passivity, darkness, and interi-ority and with the following physical manifestations: feelings of cold in various parts of the body; hypoactivity of the organs (organic fatigue); and all ptoses or collapses of the body's tissues (anal ptoses, for example).

There is nothing absolute about this classification of yin and yang, and when these terms are used it is important to specify how they are being used. For example, water is more yin than steam (it is less hot), but it is yang in relation to ice, which is more yin. Moreover, there is always a little yin quality in yang and a little yang quality in yin; one speaks of the yang in yin and the yin in yang, a cycle perfectly described in the I Ching (The book of changes) and in the cycle of the four seasons:

Winter is the yin of yin:
Spring is the enclosing of yang within yin:
Summer is the ripening of yang:
Autumn is the first appearance of yin in the heat of summer yang:

The notion of yin-yang involves an intuitive (that is, non-analytic) understanding of subtle Chinese concepts. Consider, for example, the following paradox posited by the philosopher Chouang: "No one lives as long as a child who has died in his earliest years. The centenarian Peng Tseu died before his time.. . ."

Yin and yang create each other; thus in traditional medicine, one says that energy (qi) is born of the blood (yin) and that the blood is driven in its circulatory pathways by energy (yang). If one of the terms is in excess, the other will be stifled and possibly destroyed: for example, in long, serious, chronic diseases, yin—one's essential and hereditary reserves—diminishes considerably, while yang appears strong, manifesting itself in regular, intermittent fevers, dry mouth, intense nervousness, and so on.

For Taoists, the concepts of fire and water are closely connected with the functioning of the kidneys and with sexuality. The right kidney represents fire, while the left kidney is water. Fire governs erection, and water commands ejaculation. Thus, a proper equilibrium between water and fire, between the kidneys' yin and yang, is essential if a harmonious and complete sex life is to be attained. Ancient Chinese texts on sexology frequently compare the sex act to an exchange of energy between the natural elements of fire and water, as we see in the following excerpt:

The Yellow Emperor said to the Woman of Purity, "I feel tired and anxious. What should I do?" The Woman of Purity answered, "When a woman dominates the man sexually, it is as though a bucket of water was thrown on a candle! The sex life of man and woman can be symbolized by a master cook who must use the right amount of heat and the right amount of water, no more than is necessary."

The water-fire metaphor has yet another, more graphic meaning: the erect penis is yang-like in its resemblance to a rising flame; the vagina with its secretions is yin-like, filled with fluids. Water and fire also manifest themselves in the physiology of the sex act: the penis swells with heat and retracts in response to cold. When the man is deficient in mingmen fire (see above), impotence occurs. When internal secretions are insufficient (deficiency of yin), ejaculation cannot take place. If the woman's uterus is invaded by cold, she becomes frigid. If her internal fluids dry up, her vagina loses its lubrication and inflammations appear.

The task of Taoist alchemy is the preservation of the balance between yin and yang energies, between water and fire; therefore the penis must penetrate the vagina slowly and remain there for some time so that fire can boil water. To this end, Taoists propose different methods for a fruitful sex life; these methods are intended for both men and women and can be classified roughly as follows:
  • General advice
  • Energy training (qigong and neigong)
  • The use of specific foods or toning formulas » Massage and moxibustion
  • The art of sexual positions
  • Work on the heart and the spirit (meditation)
The Taoist master Chen Po Tuan summarized the alchemical work of water and fire in this way: "Jing and shen, intrinsic vitality and consciousness, are like the joyous embrace of husband and wife."

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