This traditional Taoist knowledge can also be found in the post with Grandmaster Zhong Yunlong where he is explaining the stages in internal practice and about following the way of Tao.
“Human beings follow the pattern of Earth; Earth follows the pattern of Heaven; Heaven is patterned by the Tao; Tao follows Nature”
Survival is the most primitive need of human beings. The question of how to improve quality of life, improve health and pro-long life has been of central interest to us through-out time. Achieving good health has been a central part of the culture of Taoism. With its long history and development, the way for improving health has been developed and modified through the centuries by the ancestors. This is due to their continued research and practice, in particular, the training in inner alchemy and spiritual awareness. Such training includes stillness and movement. No matter whether it is in the active or the still (calm) mode, both are of high value.
“Tao gives rise to one; one generates two; two generates three; three generates everything”, “Everything is originated from three; three combining to two; two combining to one; one becomes nothing”.
Doing it correctly would achieve good results; any deviation could result in disaster. Benefit can only be achieved through practice with proper guidance and understanding. Otherwise, not only no benefit would be gained, it might cause harm.
Below is a summary of the introduction to training in inner alchemy (or Neidan).
Turn “essence” into “Qi”; Turn “Qi” into “Shen (spirit of vitality)”; Turn “Shen” into “emptiness”; Turn “emptiness” into “Taoism”. Concentrate in the basic. Develop and improve the 3 vital elements of the body. This would in turn lead to good mental conditions and wisdom. Those who reach such a stage would achieve abilities beyond the scope of others. In Taoism, training in inner alchemy is to manage the three natural vital elements: “Qi”, “Jing” and “Shen”. Such training leads to good health and long life. The training can be classified into four stages: (1) Fundamental (2) Turn “jing” into “Qi”(3) Turn “Qi” into “Shen (spirit of vitality)”(4) Turn “Shen” into “emptiness”.
To start, choose a time and place that suit your daily life (it does not have to be an isolated place in a mountain). Adjust your sitting posture, with eyes half closed sight horizontally, hold the hands to form Tai Ji, follow the breathing pattern and sink your “Qi” to “lower Dan Tian”. When you are in a relaxed state with sufficient “Qi” in “ Dan Tian ”, the routing part can begin.
To route “Qi” through the three points in the back of the body, “Qi” should start rising from the first point “Hui Yin ” up the back and get to almost the level of the heart which is called “ Jia Ji ”. This part is relatively easy. When “Qi” rises through the back of the neck to the back of the head about the level of the mouth, the point called “ Yu Zhen ”, the passage becomes rather difficult to get through. One should take time to establish the route. If pressing too hard and too fast, “Qi” might pass into wrong route. The path from the “Hui Yin” to the “ Bai Hui” is called “Governing vessel meridian( Du Mai) ”. From “ Bai Hui” down the front to “ Dan Tian” is called “Conception vessel meridian(Ren Mai) ”. A cycle is completed if these two meridians are connected. If “essence” is routed through this cycle, it is “small heavenly cycle(Xiao Zhou Tian) ”. The completion of the cycle is entirely dependent upon the mind. Governing and conception vessel meridians are the two primary meridians and the most important ones amongst the eight meridians of the body. Routing through and connecting with the other six meridians would follow when these two are connected. When all eight meridians are connected with “Qi” flowing through, it is called “large heavenly cycle(Da zhou Tian)”. There would not be any obstacle in the meridians. At the fundamental stage, the process should be done through mind control. This training improves the blood circulation and breathing. It would also strengthen the body and aid in healing minor ailments. The time period required to get through this stage varies amongst individuals.
Turn “Essence” into “Qi”
In training of internal power, this is the elementary stage. The routing is the same as that in the Fundamental stage. At this stage, the emphasis is to build on the basis of the Fundamental stage and to improve the training in “Jing”, “Qi” and “Shen”. Combine “Jing”, “Qi” and “Shen” to form the “medicine”. With the circulation of the “medicine” in the Governing and Conception Vessel Meridians, the “medicine” is purified. The purpose of circulating in the Governing and Conception Vessel Meridians is to refine the “medicine” through the circulation. Practitioners believe that the kidneys are the root of life. The essence of the kidneys is of “yin (negative)” which has the tendency to sink. The heart is the home of the “Shen”. It governs everything and life is dependent upon it. “Shen” is of “yang (positive)” and would naturally rise. Losing “yin” and “yang” shortens life. Therefore, in the internal training, practitioners would try to raise “essence” and lower “Shen”. When these two meet and combined, they accompany each other. Circulation of this pair would generate “big medicine”. This completes the training of “three combining to two”. To achieve this stage requires patience and continual training with the correct technique. In the old days, the training method was not documented. Teaching has traditionally been through oral instruction. The key is finding a good mentor and follows his instructions. <The method of training is not described here. >
Turn “Qi” into “Shen (spirit of vitality)”
This stage is to further combine the “big medicine” with “Shen” to form “embryo”
<This is a terminology in Taoism. It is similar to mating between male and female in fertilization. >
This is the “two combining to one” stage and is also called intermediate stage. Training in this stage , the emphasis is in breathing naturally without mind control. One should concentrate and reach a calm and relaxed state. The mind is at the “middle Dan Tian”. The circulation should be following the “large heavenly cycle” i.e. connecting all 8 meridians. <Method is not mentioned here. > The student must master the technique for this stage before training for turning “Shen” into “emptiness”. In “large heavenly cycle”, the “middle Dan Tian” is the vessel and “lower Dan Tian” is the furnace. The circulating cycle is much shorter than “small heavenly cycle”. The circulation is between the two “ Dan Tian”. In the “small heavenly cycle”, the motion is based upon internal breathing to achieve reverse flow. In “large heavenly cycle”, the natural ingredient of the “medicine” generates the motion. Continual training day after day would achieve result. One should see white light with a golden spot between the eyebrows. The light would gradually cover the whole body.
Turn “Shen” into “Emptiness”
This is the ultimate stage of the internal training. It is also known as “9 years stage”. In ancient Chinese, 9 is the highest positive number. It implies it would take a long long time to achieve this stage of “one becomes nothing”. Becomes nothing is the same as back to Taoism. To achieve this, one must relocate “Shen” to “upper Dan Tian”. “Upper Dan Tian” is the home where “Shen” is to be trained. “Middle Dan Tian” and “lower Dan Tian” are the home for “medicine” and “essence”. Shifting “Shen” to “upper Dan Tian” is to shift the embryo (resulting from the previous stage) to “upper Dan Tian”. The emphasis is on emptiness. One’s character is trained under this relaxed, peaceful and empty mind. The feeling is like the body has combined with Earth and Heaven, lasting forever. It is known as “body and heaven combine into one”. The final result is the body and “Shen” form a pair which can greatly enhance our life.