Taoist Health: Steps Toward An Inner Odyssey


Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Taoism is an ancient Chinese tradition that has shamanistic roots. Its philosophical underpinnings are illustrated in the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching, presumably written by Lao Tse (Master Lao). This book has teachings regarding the attitude and philosophy one should engage in when doing meditation and movement practices to effect healing. It also has insights into the results of disciplined meditation and energy work, now known as qigong.

One can look at the Taoist tradition from ancient China in a philosophical, religious or a practical way.  Most people see it as a philosophy and some followers in Chinese communities have made it into a religion. Many in the West think of it in a way similar to other ancient philosophies. However, the best way to know Taoism is to combine philosophical and practical aspects, because its practices are meant to engage the whole person, not just one’s mental activity.

These Taoist internal practices include various types of meditation and qigong – and the more recent practices of T’ai Chi and Ba Gua. The philosophy of Taoism sprang out of the early practices. To different degrees, each of these arts/sciences can enable participants to reach an internal awareness of their internal energy that can ward off disease.  To go even further inward, these methods can bring about spiritual realization.

What follows are essential aspects for a disciplined practice that will further you in your progress towards health and inner spiritual realization:

Being Present. Meditation methods that use the breath as a focusing device help train you to be present. And this is a necessary beginner’s goal, being in the present moment to themselves. Nothing is more essential and indicative of our present state of being than our breath. Attaining consciousness of the breath provides a gateway for access to what we are normally unconscious of within: our emotions, amount of muscular tension and other less definable sensations that are held in the body. Without presence, awareness of these different internal aspects of our being is unattainable. Presence allows you to see things as they are, getting past your illusions and habits. It thus opens the door to the possibility of change.

DaoDeJingWangBiHumility. Humility helps keep our illusions and habits in check. It permits progress and it allows emptiness to happen.  It makes letting go easier.  Lao Tse said:

“The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things” (ch. 15)

Progression from the Crown of the Head to the Feet.  This progression helps move the excess, stagnant energy downward through the body and into the ground.  Usually a scan of the body is done first, with a more detailed meditation of blocked places done during the second progression downward.  It is also important to view the progression as a circle going down a cylinder, with all 360 degrees of its circumference being within your awareness.

YouTube video by TaiChiGreg that discusses the use of progression.

Recognition.  By fulfilling the first two conditions you prepare yourself to encounter energetic blockages that exist in many different forms, blockages that lead to imbalances and eventual health problems.  Recognition of a blockage is an art, because they take many forms. As stated before, they can be initially manifest as tension, areas of strength or even areas where you may feel numb.  Other manifestations are possible and many times it is difficult to put a label on what you encounter.  We all carry tensions that are locked into our bodies, some of which we carry from birth and early childhood, thus labels are insufficient to describe what happened to us when we lacked verbal consciousness.

Breathing into the blockage.  Once your awareness is fixed on the blockage, breathe in and out of it. Allow the movement of the breath to change the state of the blockage, loosening it up and releasing.  Some Taoist masters call this the dissolving stage of meditation.  The ultimate goal is to allow space to be created where blockages are encountered.  Dissolving is the first step in the meditation.

Pursuit.  Dissolving is something like peeling the layers of an onion.  The blockage can have an energy behind it, so after dissolving, can you pursue that courageously to open it up?  Emotional aspects of physical blockages are often hidden behind.

Reiteration.  Sometimes blockages have to be revisited.  As noted above, the cycling up to down of the body is essential, and sometimes the depth of attention needed to overcome a blockage requires more time than is allowed in a meditation session.  So, we revisit tough spots, like water running through a river, the rocks are eventually worn away.  It is faith in the process and daily persistence that helps propel us forward.

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Taoist Practice: Becoming What You Practice


13.Qigong.MeridianHill.WDC.26June2011 (Photo credit: Elvert Barnes)

We become what we practice. This is said in many different spiritual traditions. If you are a dabbler, your practice can be more of a ego journey (I can do this!) than a way of internal transformation. Putting in the time makes “becoming” attainable, with an attendant diminishing of the ego.  True discovery with internal changes occurs.

Becoming is a process of transformation.  It enhances and allows you to drop things you don’t need, that which holds you back from being what is possible. Leaving behind things allows calmness and interior space to take hold.  Holding that quiet interior allows more spatial, creative doing and your thinking is less constrictive and judgmental.

When practicing continuous, deep breathing we also benefit our physiology and psychological state of being. Practicing consciousness of the breath, we are left gifted with a sense of rootedness when things outside are anything but rooted. Deep breathing also massages the organs and improves blood circulation around and within them. When exhaling, release of stagnant energy occurs.  Physically, you become less constricted and less dense.

Practicing of qigong exercises also increases flexibility and facilitates improved energy flow in the body.  In the process we encounter and hold intent on our restrictions.  As water wears away rock, these restrictions dissolve.  Dissolving meditation during movements and standing meditation can also lead to psychic releases that allow opening up of one’s consciousness. 

Allowing and continuity of practice wears away our restrictions that make us less than we can be.  Become what you can be. 

Practice. Be open to the spiritual gifts, but don’t become attached to them.


In humility and peace,


Randy M.



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Tai Chi Chuan Classes in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

English: Outdoor practice in Beijing's Temple ...

English: Outdoor practice in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. Polski: Ćwiczenia taijiquan w Pekinie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a short blurb for anyone who is interested in taking Tai Chi Chuan classes in Guanacaste. Classes have been offered in Filadelfia and there are plans for offering another set of classes in Liberia and possible Santa Cruz. The teacher for these classes would be Ligia Chavarria, who teaches the long forms, Tai chi ruler and Tai chi sword classes. Here mobile cell number is 8372-6407.

And, if you forgot, Tai chi is a choreographed form of qigong that can be used for healing as well as for self-defense. Doña Ligia teaches it for improving your health.

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Qigong Exercise Tongue Position Recommendation

Place the tongue on the upper palate, behind the front teeth to connect the Du (Governing) and Ren (Conception) vessels. This provides for optimal energy flow through what is called the microcosmic orbit.

For most qigong exercises, there are a number of details that make the practice more effective. The tongue position in the mouth is one of these details.  The microcosmic orbit is an energy circuit that encircles the torso from front to back.  This circuit consists of the Du Meridian, which starts at the perineum, goes up the back, over the head and to the upper palate of the mouth.  The Ren Meridian goes from the tongue, down the throat, chest and abdomen to the perineum.  Thus, placement of the tongue on the upper palate in the position indicated connects these two important extraordinary vessels when one is doing qigong exercises or meditation practices.

So, if you want to get the most out of your exercise as regards optimal energy flow, which is what qigong is all about, pay heed to this important detail.

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Cool Qigong Photos from SOCL

SOCL selected search results for qigong.

I am trying out the new Microsoft social network called socl and am enjoying the feature where you can accumulate photos from various sites. This is a screen shot of what I came up with that shows the range of things that qigong encompasses – its different spellings, different forms from ba duan jin to standing and sitting forms, the Chinese character, and some important people in the qigong world, including Drs. Yang Jwing Ming and Pang Ming, founder Zhineng Qigong. It is a diverse and thriving world! If you want to joing me on SOCL here is the link: http://www.so.cl/#/@Qigong-Healing

Hope to see you there as well.  (I still have a significant presence on Facebook too, including the Qigong Discussion Forum where I am inviting various people to join in.)

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Qigong, Meditation and Chinese Herbs Heal Lymphoma Cancer

Herbal prescriptions of TCM plus qigong, tai chi and meditation are a powerful combination for combating cancer.

This is an inspiring story of the healing power of qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is the story of Chinese immigrants in Canada who met the challenge of a cancer diagnosis and use these traditional techniques to help overcome disease.

Helen Liang is an accomplished wushu practitioner who learned this martial art from her father, who is now a professor in Canada teaching. A few years ago, Helen was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and was given a prognosis of living only another 3 weeks.

They called a TCM doctor in Seattle, Dr. Xue-Zhi Wang, for herbal prescriptions to help eliminate the cancer and also used another Western alternative medicine doctor to presrcribe something to rebuild her immune system. All during the 3-week period, she took the medicines and practiced qigong, tai chi and meditation. This is all she did. And the 3-week mark passed, another week and another. She met additional challenges six months later, and finally regained her strength after about a year.

The whole ordeal was obviously not a silver bullet cure. Many things had to come together to effect healing to overcome the cancer. And there was a devotion to the process of healing on the part of Helen, her family and friends and the two doctors. Having such support can be rare in places where these methods are not well known and are not a part the culture.

An article was written about her experience in Kungfu/Qigong Magazine in 2003, which was published seven years after her diagnosis. She currently works at a bank and teaches wushu with her father.

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Sabiduria de Qigong y Su Relación con Kung Fu

Un punto de vista de qigong y su relación con el arte de Kung Fu. Maestro Shi Dejian, de un monasterios Shaolin, nos mostra algunos cosas fundamental y extremo del arte del Qigong.

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Qigong for the Aging Population: Qigong para Personas Mayores

It is not necessary to remind anyone that the baby boomers are going to put more stress on the medical system as they age.  This burden in the West can minimized if more people were to practice qigong or tai chi.  The government of China used it successfully in the 1950′s and 1960′s as a mandatory part to reduce the demand on their medical care system after Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  For more detail, see Bruce Frantzis‘ article on Qigong for Seniors.

I won’t repeat what he had to say, but it would be wise for health care systems all over the world to adopt and/or promote wellness programs that help people who use outpatient care and have non-emergency medical conditions.  The list of maladies that are helped by the practice of qigong and tai chi is huge, so I won’t reproduce it here.

In order to send this message people who don’t read English, I have summarized below what Frantzis’ says in Spanish.  (Note that this is not a Google Translate, which failed miserably.)

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day event in Winston-Sa...

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)are not bilingual, this will help get the message across:

Qigong para Personas Mayores:  Un Ejemplo en China

China se enfrentó a una crisis después de la “revolución cultural” en 1949 ya que debido a las secuelas, perdieron la mitad de los médicos, enfermeras y otro personal médico. Debido a la duplicación de la población durante el régimen de Mao, la crisis empeoró, obligando al gobierno a tomar medidas para reducir la demanda de atención médica de la gente mediante la implementación de programas de ejercicio como el tai chi y el qigong. Este programa estabilizó el sistema de salud hasta que se entrenó más personal médico.

Lo que hizo que el programa fuera un éxito es que (1) fue dirigido por el gobierno, (2) los programas de ejercicios fueron diseñados por reconocidos maestros de tai chi y el qigong y (3) todas las personas que no estaban en estado crítico fueron obligados a participar. La participación fue supervisada por el gobierno mediante la emisión de tarjetas de identificación de cada persona que los instructores sellaban después de cada sesión de práctica.

Durante 1950-1960, se ha estimado que más de 100 millones de personas practican estas artes taoístas todos los días. Actualmente en las ciudades y áreas urbanas de China, el qigong es más popular que el tai chi. En primer lugar, se requiere menos espacio. En segundo lugar, muchas de las formas son menos complicados para aprender.

Ahora, casi todos los países tienen un gran número de personas que se acercan a la edad de jubilación. Esta burbuja va a crear una carga onerosa a todos los gobiernos que apoyan la atención médica de los ancianos. Teniendo en cuenta el éxito del programa de China en el cuidado de la salud preventiva y de restauración con el tai chi y el qigong, el personal médico y funcionarios del gobierno deben fomentar estas prácticas para reducir la demanda y mantener a sus ciudadanos sanos. Invertir y animar a la gente a participar en estos programas para crear salud es la solución.


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Yin and Yang for Qigong Healing

Understanding the nature of yin and yang energies is important for those who use qigong for healing. While yin and yang energies can be discussed as static entities, they are always moving and changing with the passage of time. Watching the waves go in and outward along the shoreline of a beach is an excellent example of the circularity of the inter-meshing of these ever-moving energies.

There are general characteristics of each type of energy. Yang energy expands and flows outward, while yin contracts and flows inward. Yin qi, in a healthy body ascends and nurtures, while yang descends.

Time of practice. To heal using qigong, yin, or nurturing, energy is important. That is why practice in the morning is always recommended. Yin energy peaks during the hour of 6 am, so it is best to practice your qigong exercises around that time. Authorities of Chinese medical qigong say that the 12-hour cycle goes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for yang energy and from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. for yin.

Location of practice. If you practice outdoors after sunrise, face away from the sun. The back of the body is yang and the front is yin. The yang energy of the sun will complement the yang energy rising up the back. You can also understand from this advice how to orient your body in relation to a fireplace or other heat source.

Breathing. In breathing, the exhalation is yang. You exhale heat and wastes, or excesses from the body. When you inhale, you are bringing in yin energy, replenishing the oxygen in the blood and nurturing the body. When practicing breathing, think about the exhale and just let the inhale occur in the empty space.

Exercises. Outward movements are yang, while inward movements are yin. For instance, with the commencement move of T’ai Chi, the arms first go out and then they come inward towards the torso. This is a complete cycle of yin and yang. Yin and yang cycles are what T’ai Chi is, and also what qigong is.

To reflect the continuity of the cycles of yin and yang, movements should be continuous. That is to say, fluid and non-broken. Strive to maintain correct and continuous movement during movement exercises. Qigong and T’ai chi is not robotic as you can see in many aerobics classes. Imagine you are the shoreline of a beach, experiencing the un-breaking movement of incoming and outgoing waves.

Seasons. The seasons that are yang are spring and summer and the yin seasons are autumn and winter. Changing one’s practice more towards meditation in the winter and more towards movement in the yang months is in keeping with the seasons. There are also specific qigong practices that can be either yin or yang in nature. For instance, the Bear movements of the Five Animal Frolics (五禽戲, Wu Qin Xi) are yin, while the Crane Frolics are yang.  Each of the five elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with a season as well, as is each movement set with the Animal Frolics.

Yin and yang energy distribution on the left and right side of the body in males, respectively.

Your body has many different aspects of yin/yang duality. As mentioned before the front is yin and the back is yang. In males the left side of the body is yang and the right is yin. This is why during closing, the left hand is placed over the right over the dantien to collect the energy. Women are advised to place the right hand over the left because the right hand is yang and the left is yin.

Other dualities that exist in the body are top vs. bottom. The upper torso is yang (so is cerebral activity) and the lower half is yin. The outer surface of the body is yang, while the inner portion has an overall yin energy, however, there are yin organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, spleen, heart) and yang organs (gall bladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine, and triple burner).

Concluding remarks.  Being in tune with the Tao is riding the wave between yin and yang.  If we allow ourselves to become frozen in either side of the dualities of life, we risk our health and well being.  Pay attention, be aware and be flexible to ride the wave of Tao.  Life is change.  Develop inner awareness.  If we practice qigong movements and meditation regularly, we are more likely to have the inner strength to adapt to external changes.  Blessings on your journey!

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Taoist Letting Go Meditation

Meditation Sticker

Meditation Sticker (Photo credit: Sanne Schijn)

The stresses of daily living can cause anyone to accumulate tensions if they can’t or won’t let go. These tensions ultimately become locked in one’s body as well as in the mind. The result is that, over time, you can lose consciousness of the continued presence of this tension in both body and mind. Because of this phenomena, most people are not familiar enough with their bodies to recognize when they are really relaxed; however, they may occasionally have that illusion.

It is only in retrospect, after one has practiced a “letting go” meditation that it is noticed that the tension has been unconsciously present all the time. Some teachers also point out that we have certain tensions that we are borne with, and letting go of these is fundamental to our conscious evolution.

Learning Letting Go

meditationLetting go is an essential life skill that can be learned. It can also be an integral part of regaining one’s life, living consciously, compassionately and happily in a world that is largely unconscious. This skill is practiced as a part of Taoist meditations like sitting and standing. Learning how to let go in this manner primarily requires one’s willingness and patience.

This meditation will help you find where tension is locked in the body and let it go. This  body-based method  trains your ability to become aware of and sense where blockages are located.
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