How can we live by Taoist Principles in modern Life, in a society that can seem disconnected? Practical Tips for Taoist Practice, Exercises, and a meditation on how to be the best you can be: the Beginning of Clarity, Control and Charisma! ALL WELCOME! Come on by the Mantak Chia Taoist Training Centre Wednesday 7th November 7pm to 8.30pm. Click here for directions.
TAOIST TEACHING, TAOIST PRACTICE, TAOIST LIFE
A personal view by Kris Deva North adapted from his article in Qi Magazine
Most people starting out on the Way try to copy someone else, usually their teacher or facilitator. They seek guidance until understanding how to make their own way, and that too much help can weaken them. In the early stages it is kind – and productive – for facilitators to to help students along, with their Frequently Asked Questions representing a quest for reassurance.
Many FAQs are to do with daily practice, how much time to spend in meditation and exercise, how to integrate the practices into daily life, especially the sexual practices, and how to introduce these to partners ranging from sceptical to inhibited to plain jealous. How wonderful if we could just say a word or two to help the asker towards realisation, but of course that would not be their realisation but just something we are handing them.
Let me share some aspects of my practice with you. If you are an early seeker, you may find bits and pieces that are of use. If a seasoned traveller you may have a little fun at my expense and think how much better your own practice is, or how superior your own teacher. You will learn something, even if only that you have nothing to learn. It doesn’t matter really – we are dancing the same spiral with different steps.
Start the day with a Smile. In 1972 – just after leaving the army and before my first meditation weekend – I went on a sales course, where they said the same, these hard-nosed business chaps who taught the mindfulness of skilful manipulation. We were advised to smile at ourselves in the mirror, to set ourselves up for the day. Two decades later the Taoist Master Mantak Chia was telling me to smile at my internal organs, the Inner Smile in the tradition of four millenia. Must be something in it! People who live beyond 100 are generally of a cheery nature, according to Deepak Chopra, who knows these things.
So now, when I wake up, I smile. Nothing formal, not sitting up, let alone in seiza or lotus, just lying in bed watching the light slip by the curtains. An Inner Smile, to myself, my being, my energy field. A smile to my mum, long gone, and my dads – I had two, one who started me off before leaving this world, and his brother who took over for the hard part. A smile for my kids and theirs. My ancestors and descendants, teachers and students. No lists, no enumeration, just a big grin of gratitude to the whole energy field around me.
Time past and present condenses into the now, individuals blend in the moment of a heartfelt smile, and I am everyone I have known and all that has happened to me. I thank the universe for the many gifts and blessings – records of my ancestors, knowledge of past lives, totems of insight and grace, leadership and love.
Thus the day begins with Gratitude, awesome in its power and effect, and flowing naturally into the sexual practices, the essence of the Tao, honouring the Way which gave me my ancestors and descendants, opening the gateway through pleasure to bliss. If alone I will work with arousal energy, opening the small heavenly cycle and recycling the chi. If with my partner and plenty of time, we might practise dual cultivation, or solo cultivation together. Sexual practice in the morning has a wonderful clarity and spontaneity.
Throughout the day opportunities arise for moving and still meditation: Chi Kung – imperceptibly adopting the ready position waiting for a bus or train, Taoist reverse breathing sitting at the computer, “Tai Chi walking” up a flight of steps. A patch of green grass offers a place for Bone Marrow breathing, or the powerful earth-connection of the Tai Chi Chi Kung form, or the “Hands of Light”. Parks and avenues become arenas for “embracing the tree” and the yin-yang breath exchange.
Interacting with people, with other energy-fields, opportunities arise to recycle the emotions of the Five Energy-Phases or Elements, seeking to transform impatience into love, worry into serenity, depression to courage, fear to gentleness, even anger into kindness, thinking of Mantak Chia’s encouragement “every day we get many chances to forgive”. I use the Healing Sounds individually for each occasion as it happens – a discreet hiss can dissipate some minor annoyance, or a loud HHHAAA! dispel impatience….when done with the right intention.
Iron Shirt grounding, rooting and centering taught me how to take a push, physically in the first instance but, as I progressed through my training, extending my ability to take an emotional push or withstand financial pressure. I might practise the postures while waiting to start a teaching-session. One great attraction of making my living from this work is the limitless landscape of practice. It is my job to do what I love. Can’t get better than that! Teaching helps keep me keep up my practice. I realised that my original nature/conditioning (hard to tell the difference when you’ve been doing this stuff for a few years) swung me between activity and inertia. This helps towards harmony.
Beyond the physicality of the Iron Shirt pushing-rooting, the psychic self-defence of Fusion of the Five Elements develops a kind of energy-armour. In the higher meditations of Kan & Li, armour becomes redundant as all pressures are allowed to pass through the being without harm, as we develop and transform into the light body. What effect can pressure have when there is nothing to press? No buttons to push! These esoteric practices are available to everyone, and if applied consistently they work well for everyone. But the work must be done by the practitioner: use it or lose it.
Travelling around to appointments for teaching or healing, I use the time on bus, tube and train to read, study and research. On these journeys of the earth I take the journeys of heaven, discovering connections between the heritages from the cradle of the earth. The evidence is there if you care to look. Taoists share purification by sweat and worship by smoke with Native Americans; dream-time with Native Australians; animal (symbolic) sacrifice, ecstatic flight and shamanic dissolution with the Siberians; tutelary animals with the South Americans; the protective circle of fire with Wiccans; the tantric circle with Indo-Tibetans.
The Tao is my personal journey. I prefer to travel on foot or by public transport, to resist the temptation of a car with its ease and convenience of getting about. Better for me to do things the hard way, to push myself into discomfort, to try to understand myself better. What muscle ever got stronger by ease and comfort? So with my own energy-field. And I am, after all, living the life of my choice – little shocks of discomfort help keep me awake. Ouspensky would understand.
The bath is my think-tank, wallowing in the womb of water, the ocean of creativity, the palace of death and conception, inspiration. Archimedes knew it. Stuck on an article, a business situation, an emotional conflict, I lie in the bath and wait for possibilities. Few choices need to be made, the right way seems to unfold. Its not always what my rational mind would have chosen.
Teaching the Tao gives satisfaction; teaching the practices gives me the opportunity to practice. I offer overviews for those thinking of stepping out on the Way or just checking it out, courses of meditational experiences from basic initiation into small heavenly cycle, Inner Smile, Healing Sounds and Iron Shirt, through the heart-opening practices of Healing Love or Taoist Tantra, the challenging self-healing of Fusion, Tai Chi the Dance of Life, or shamanic journeying, meditation on death, and ecstatic flight. Group work helps me with the transmission to others.
Teaching Shiatsu also gives the chance to incorporate the body of taoist mysticism as a background or even a bedrock. Chi Nei Tsang, the taoist massage that releases the winds of stagnation and helps free the bodymind from emotional trauma, QiGong Healing Therapy, a derivative of pre-taoist shamanic practice calls on the energies of the cosmos, to heal energy-fields. All these use the Healing sounds, to recycle the energies to find harmony within the being.
Mealtimes are occasions for practice too, eating what I choose mindfully and letting go the strictures and restrictions of any formal dietary system, following the way as it manifests. If there is a time in the day when I catch myself not practising, I give myself a pat on the back for awareness.
I prefer the time either side of midnight for the more structured sexual meditations with their tremendous sense of universal power as the life-force rises and circulates in the small heavenly cycle. Alone or with my partner, I take time working with the cool unaroused sexual energy, practising sexual breathing, moving into the arousal energy, staying with it, taking it with me through some Iron Shirt practices, some Tai Chi, some still meditations, then on into the orgasmic energy field,bathing in the fountains of Fusion, using pleasure as the gateway to bliss. On into the subtle clear light of Kan& Li, an altered state, with ecstatic flight or astral travel, awareness of the possibility of existence beyond sensory perception, of consciousness of the energy-stream beyond this incarnation.
And very last thing to end, the Healing Sounds. I have used them throughout the day for harmonising situations or recycling emotions and now, as I lay me down to sleep, the Triple Heater sound sings sweetly in the three burners, a restful completion to a day of walking in the Tao.
Kris Deva North founded the Mantak Chia Taoist Training Center, London Healing Tao, Chi Nei Tsang Institute, Zen School of Shiatsu, Zen Shiatsu Society. Click for Kris’s Blog