Author Topic: Qigong Study Group: Week 5  (Read 4207 times)

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June 28, 2013, 02:52:50 PM
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Koujiryuu

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Week 5: San Bao and the Microcosmic Orbit
Welcome to week 5 of the Qigong study group.

This week we will be learning the Microcosmic Orbit meditation and our reading will be about the theory of San Bao (Three Treasures).

Out of all of the Three Treasures, the one we have yet to talk about is Shen.

From wikipedia, one of the many meanings of the word Shen is:

Quote
2. Spirit; mind, mental faculties; consciousness. Like: concentrated attention; tire the mind; concentrate one's energy and attention. (精神.如: 凝神; 劳神; 聚精会神.)

Also from Wikipedia:

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This Chinese name sanbao originally referred to the Taoist "Three Treasures" (from Tao Te Ching 67, tr. Waley 1958:225, "pity", "frugality", and "refusal to be 'foremost of all things under heaven'") and subsequently translated the Buddhist Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha).

In long-established Chinese traditions, the "Three Treasures" are the essential energies sustaining human life:

    Jing 精 "nutritive essence, essence; refined, perfected; extract; spirit, demon; sperm, seed"
    Qi 氣 "vitality, energy, force; air, vapor; breath; spirit, vigor; attitude"
    Shen 神 "spirit; soul, mind; god, deity; supernatural being"

This jing-qi-shen ordering is more commonly used than the variants qi-jing-shen and shen-qi-jing.

In Neidan "internal alchemy" practice (Despeux 2008:563), transmuting the Three Treasures is expressed through the phrases lianjing huaqi 鍊精化氣 "refining essence into breath", lianqi huashen 鍊氣化神 "refining breath into spirit", and lianshen huanxu 鍊神還虛 "refining spirit and reverting to Emptiness". Both Neidan and Neo-Confucianism (Despeux 2008:564-5) distinguish the three between xiantian 先天 "prior to heaven" and houtian 後天 "posterior to heaven", referring to Yuanjing 元精 "Original Essence", Yuanqi 元氣 "Original Breath", and yuanshen 元神 "Original Spirit".

The (2nd century BCE) Huainanzi refers to qi and shen with xing 形 "form; shape; body".

    The bodily form [xing] is the residence of life; the qi fills this life while shen controls it. If either of them loses their proper position, they will all come to harm. (1, tr. Englehart 2000:99)

The Taoist text Gaoshang yuhuang xinyin jing (高上玉皇心印經, "Mind-Seal Scripture of the Exalted Jade Sovereign", or Xinyin jing "Mind-Seal Scripture") is a valuable early source about the Three Treasures (tr. Olson 1993).

    Probably dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), this anonymous text presents a simple and concise discussion of internal alchemy (neidan 內丹). In particular, it emphasizes the so-called Three Treasures (sanbao 三寶), namely, vital essence (jing 精), subtle breath (qi 氣), and spirit (shen 神). (Komjathy 2004:29)

Frederic H. Balfour's (1880:380-381) brief essay about the Xinyin jing ("The Imprint of the Heart") contains the earliest known Western reference to the Three Treasures: "There are three degrees of Supreme Elixir the Spirit, the Breath, and the Essential Vigour".

The (late 16th century) Journey to the West novel provides a more recent example when an enlightened Taoist patriarch instructs Sun Wukong "Monkey" with a poem that begins:

    Know well this secret formula wondrous and true: Spare and nurse the vital forces, this and nothing else. All power resides in the semen [jing], the breath [qi], and the spirit [shen]; Guard these with care, securely, lest there be a leak. Lest there be a leak! Keep within the body! (tr. Yu 1977:88)

We already understand what Qi is, the breath of life, spiritual energy; and we already understand Jing is vital essence, or spiritual power. We also understand Yi as being a unified spiritual intention to accomplish something with Qi. What, then, is Shen?

Put simply, Shen is at once your spirit or soul, and your consciousness and mind. Shen is what gives rise to your thoughts, your emotions, your quirks, your personality, and your intellect. However, it is also your spiritual consciousness, your very soul. Developing Shen is developing your mind through learning; yet it is also developed through meditation and forgetting knowledge ("unlearning"). This paradox is succinct, as Shen is many things at once. With focused Shen producing pure Yi, mountains will move for you.

Shen leads Qi, and Qi leads Jing, and Jing leads your opponent.

However, it is thought that before we were born or conceived, we were at one with Dao. The Three Treasures come into accord when we are conceived, and our pure soul splits into three separate, distinct forms. The goal of Daoist Daoyin (Tao-in) alchemy is to bring Jing into Qi, Qi into Shen, and Shen into emptiness, or oneness with Dao. This is the secret of the so-called Immortality of the Daoists, and it is purely spiritual. The longevity practices you have been learning, and taking care of the body and keeping it from being polluted, will surely lead you to a long life. However, it is the spiritual immortality these exercises develop that is the true immortality.

One of the most fundamental exercises in reunifying Qi, Jing and Shen is the Microcosmic orbit, which we will look at now.

Exercise 8: Microcosmic Orbit



This method has been rewritten for 2013.

To start, make sure you can go to a meditation spot free of distractions. Use the bathroom beforehand if you need to, drink water or tea so you are not thirsty, and eat so you are not hungry. Additionally, if you are sleepy you should not practice this meditation.
Beginning the meditation, sit down crosslegged. Keep your back straight and your shoulders rounded. Place the hands on top of the knees. Practice deep belly breathing and Dantian meditation with your eyes closed for ten minutes, to be able to feel out your Qi.

Microcosmic Orbit (MCO) 1 repetition

a. Squeeze the anus shut with your muscles. This is to bridge the gap at the perineum between the Governor and Conception channels (Dumei and Renmei). Touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth, the upper palate. This bridges the gap between the Governor and Conception vessels in the head. Keep the eyes closed.

b. Focus on Baihui, the point at the top of your head at the very center. Inhale and take a slow, deep breath into the belly, and allow the Qi to move up the Governor vessel in the spine to the top of the head. Roll the eyes back in the head as the Qi reaches Baihui. DON'T guide it, force it or trace it's movement along the Governor vessel with your Yi; just focus on the top of the head and let the Qi rise up the spine naturally. DON'T VISUALISE.

c. Exhale, and focus on Huiyin (the perineum). Allow the Qi to fall down the front of the body from the head in the Conception vessel. Allow the eyes to roll and look down as the Qi sinks down the Conception vessel. DON'T guide it, force it or trace it's movement along the Conception vessel with your Yi; just focus on the perineum and let the Qi fall down the front of the body naturally. DON'T VISUALISE.

d. This concludes one cycle of the Microcosmic Orbit.

e. After five (5) cycles of the Microcosmic Orbit, there will be a good deal of saliva in your mouth. The Daoists call this the Jade Nectar. It is seen as a beneficial leftover from the internal alchemic firing process. Focus on the Dantian and swallow this saliva. Inhale, and guide the Jade Nectar from the mouth, down the Conception vessel, to the Dantian. It is appropriate here to visualize it as a golden-white light. Exhale, and allow the Qi to expand from the Dantian out into a bubble of golden-white light around you; that is, allow the Qi to flow into your aura, with the center of it being the Dantian.

When first beginning this meditation, practice no more than nine (9) repetitions of it in one sitting. Do it slowly and deliberately and take your time.
After one week of practicing 9 repetitions, move up to 18. After another week, move up to 27. 27 repetitions a day should be the maximum. This is a powerful exercise; practicing too much can lead to Qigong sickness, delusion, paranoia and mental instability.

Practice the microcosmic orbit for 30 minutes a day this week (or however long it takes you to do nine repetitions, swallowing the Jade Nectar twice). The other 30 minutes of practice can be Baduanjin or Dantian meditation, the choice is yours.

There is also recommended reading this week, assuming you have the time for it. It is the Secret of the Golden Flower, a Daoist treatise concerned solely with the microcosmic orbit practice. http://www.alchemylab.com/golden_flower.htm

This concludes week 5 of the Qigong study group.

Good Health and Training.
~Koujiryuu
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June 28, 2013, 03:44:02 PM
Reply #1

icefire

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Should we count in our head or what is the best way to keep track of the repetitions? This is going to be interesting. I have read Thomas Cleary's translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower before and it intrigued me, but I didn't know how to turn it into practice.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 03:49:58 PM by icefire »

June 28, 2013, 03:47:41 PM
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Koujiryuu

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Count in your head. Each full cycle of Qi up the Governor vessel and down the Conception vessel counts as one repetition.
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June 30, 2013, 02:06:23 AM
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jimdare

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I'm a bit confused. So it should take one inhalation to move qi upwards, and one exhalation to move qi downwards. My breath cycles are about twenty seconds each (10 sec inhale and 10 sec exhale). This means 9 repetitions should take 3 minutes... This seems way too fast? What am I doing wrong?

June 30, 2013, 12:21:05 PM
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Koujiryuu

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You're not doing anything wrong.

20 seconds should be about right for one full cycle.

Keep in mind that you're supposed to meditate to a void state of mind before beginning, and this takes time. For some people that alone will take 20 minutes. Also, to maintain this void state of mind, you may take additional breaths between repetitions, while not doing the orbit.

Stop worrying about how long it is or isn't supposed to take and worry instead about having quality practice, regardless of time. It doesn't matter if the practice is short if it's quality. Additionally, you can move up to more repetitions (27 total) if you find that 9 isn't enough or takes too little time. My advice is just a guideline, if you guys want to do more, nothing is stopping you. Trust your heart, if you think you can do more.
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July 01, 2013, 08:08:07 PM
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Shadow_Dragon

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This is really cool- What are the benefits to Martial Arts applications that this exercise will give you? What about just regular healthy living?
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. -Sun Tzu

When the Mind is clear and still, all things under Heaven fall into place. -Lao Tzu

Drink your cup alone, though it taste of blood and tears, and praise God for the gift of taste. -Almustafa

July 01, 2013, 08:56:42 PM
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Koujiryuu

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This is really cool- What are the benefits to Martial Arts applications that this exercise will give you? What about just regular healthy living?

There are numerous, valuable benefits of practicing the Microcosmic Orbit.

For martial arts, it will give you increased volume and clarity of Qi. After the group, when you learn my Fa Jing method, you can then manifest this energy that you have built up through cycling into striking power and Emitting Qi, all controlled through breath. Additionally, it causes a strengthening of the energy body and leads to increased volume of Qi which can be employed in Qi healing through laying on of hands or deep tissue massage. The effects of this will be much, much greater and people will notice your Qi right away. The Qi healing will be much more powerful, in fact many times more powerful, compared to if you had just done Qigong forms or meditation alone for a long time.

Taking from this week's recommended reading:

Quote from: The Secret of the Golden Flower
The Book of the Yellow Castle says: In the field of the square inch of the house of the square foot, life can be regulated. The house of the square foot is the face. The field of the square inch in the face: What could that be other than the Heavenly Heart? In the middle of the square inch dwells the splendor. In the purple hall of the city of jade dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life. The Confucians call it the center of emptiness; the Buddhists, the terrace of life; the Taoists, the ancestral land, or the yellow castle, or the dark pass, or the space of former Heaven. The Heavenly Heart is like the dwelling place, the Light is the master. Therefore when the Light circulates, the powers of the whole body arrange themselves before its throne, just as when a holy king has taken possession of the capital and has laid down the fundamental rules of order, all the states approach with tribute, or, just as when the master is quiet and calm, men-servants and maids obey his orders of their own accord, and each does his work.

The heavenly heart is the upper Dantian, the seat of Shen, and the original soul, as well as true emptiness (Tai Ji). When the light circulates through the body, through the Microcosmic Orbit, you are leading Jing and Qi from the lower body back to this original center. Further, through the Qigong methods in the group, you learn to sink and unify the Post-Natal Fire Qi in the heart down the conception vessel to the lower Dantian. There, it unifies with Yuan Qi or Neiqi, the original Qi from conception, as well as Yuan Jing or Neijing. When these combine, they produce a sticky, dense, and very strong Qi, which then cycles upward in the Microcosmic Orbit. This flow can eventually split and begin to rise up the Through-Going vessel, the spinal cord, to the brain, and hence Shen. In this way, the Microcosmic Orbit or "Circulation of the Light" not only lowers Post-Natal Qi to the lower Dantian but eventually can induce Kundalini awakening, known in Qigong as Brain/Marrow Washing or Xi Shui Jing, where the Qi and Jing in the Lower Dantian unifies with Shen in the brain by rising up the spinal cord. This can take many years to happen. For me, I practiced the Orbit for about 3 years before I experienced Kundalini awakening which I induced through the Yogic paradigm, and had difficulty reconciling with Qigong theory for some time afterward. Other people, it can take 10 years or more. This happened when I was 17 years old. I've been practicing the MCO for about 14 years total now.

Quote from: The Secret of the Golden Flower
Master Lu Tzu said: Therefore you only have to make the Light circulate: that is the deepest and most wonderful secret. The Light is easy to move, but difficult to fix. If it is allowed to go long enough in a circle, then it crystallizes itself: that is the natural spirit -body. This crystallized spirit is formed beyond the nine Heavens. It is the condition of which it is said in the Book of the Seal of the Heart: Silently in the morning thou fliest upward....

Master Lu Tzu said: Since when has the expression "circulation of the Light" been revealed? It was revealed by the "true men of the beginning of form". When the Light is allowed to move in a circle, all the powers of Heaven and earth, of the light and the dark, are crystallized. That is what is described as seed-like, or purification of the power, or purification of the concept. When one begins to apply this magic, it is as if, in the middle of one's being, there was a non-being. When in the course of time the work is finished, and beyond the body is another body, it is as if, in the middle of the non-being, there were a being. Only after a completed work of a hundred days will the Light be real, then only will it become spirit-fire. After a hundred days, there develops by itself in the middle of the Light, a point of the true Light-pole. Suddenly there develops a seed pearl. It is as if man and woman embraced and a conception took place. Then one must be quite still in order to await it. The circulation of the Light is the epoch of fire.

This refers to the idea that the Orbit causes an immortal crystal spirit body of Qi to be formed in the body and aura. Over time, with diligent practice of the Microcosmic Orbit, this really does happen. From what I understand, it is used in conjunction with the Immortal Fetus which is developed by 100 days of Dantian meditation without ejaculation. At some point, after the Fetus is brought into the head, it is merged with the crystal body and this allows for things like Out of Body Experiences and Astral Travel. I don't practice the Immortal Fetus methods though, so don't quote me on this. However, I've also heard that the crystal spirit body alone can be used much in the same way, for Astral travel, if you can shift your focus into it. I've tried and haven't been able to leave my body though, so it's speculation at this point. I think some of the Dao schools may teach a method of doing this. mystic would probably know more.

The second paragraph refers to what I stated above about Kundalini. "Only after a completed work of a hundred days will the Light be real, then only will it become spirit-fire." It also enforces what I just said about the crystal body.

Some other benefits of the Microcosmic Orbit, are that it balances Yin and Yang of the body, by taking the Yang in the back of the body and diluting it into the Yin in the front of the body. If you feel you have an imbalance of Yin or Yang this is a good practice to balance it out.

If there is one practice from this group you should continue after the group is done, this would be it. The Orbit strengthens the Yi greatly, clarifies, tonifies and strengthens the Qi, balances the Yin and Yang Qi, preserves the Original Qi and Jing, balances the Xin (emotional mind), stimulates the Golden Flower (Crown Chakra), removes the veil of delusions, and can lead to true spiritual awakening.

« Last Edit: July 01, 2013, 09:00:35 PM by Koujiryuu »
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July 02, 2013, 01:01:13 AM
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Akenu

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Hi Kouji,
If I remember correctly, this is the basic version of microcosmic orbit (not going through legs, etc).
Ki should complete the circuit and go through the 18 energy centers including the root lock (somewhere in the perineum).

Would you mind to shed some light into these 18 centers? What are their functions, applications, etc?

July 02, 2013, 01:32:50 AM
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Koujiryuu

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You are incorrect.

This method is the Microcosmic Orbit.

What you are thinking of is called the Macrocosmic Orbit, and there are many variations of it, but that's not being taught in this group.

As far as the 18 centers, I don't know what you're talking about. They might be acupoints in the body. However, all that is really necessary to know for most beginning and advanced Neidan is Laogong, Yongquan, Baihui, Huiyin, Shenque and Mingmen.

No need to overcomplicate things. Daoism is simple. Most Qigong is simple, as a result.

Also, if you intend to graduate the study group, perhaps you should instead work on catching up with the last four weeks of experience posts you're missing?

Regards
Kouji
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July 02, 2013, 01:44:35 AM
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Akenu

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I see :).
Laogong is in palms, right?
Yongquan top of the head, baihui is the crown, huiyin is the root lock, shenque is above qihai (lower dantian) and mingmen is behind lower dantian (on spine). Is that correct?

Could you please elaborate a bit more about these?

July 02, 2013, 11:04:24 AM
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Shadow_Dragon

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Thank you, Kouji. That was highly informative and I understand a lot more. One more question- My practice schedule right now is looking like the following, and I was wondering if I'm overdoing it, if it's fine the way it is, or if I should do more:
Morning:
30 minutes Dantian Meditation
9 reps Microcosmic Orbit

Evening:
Baduanjin 6 reps each, after my workout.

Thanks again. Sorry I haven't been too active on the forums recently, my work is calling for me to be much busier than I originally anticipated.
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. -Sun Tzu

When the Mind is clear and still, all things under Heaven fall into place. -Lao Tzu

Drink your cup alone, though it taste of blood and tears, and praise God for the gift of taste. -Almustafa

July 02, 2013, 12:44:10 PM
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Koujiryuu

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I see :).
Laogong is in palms, right?
Yongquan top of the head, baihui is the crown, huiyin is the root lock, shenque is above qihai (lower dantian) and mingmen is behind lower dantian (on spine). Is that correct?

Could you please elaborate a bit more about these?

You are correct. Laogong is the palms, Yongquan is on the feet, Baihui is the top of the head 2/3rds of the way back (where most people's hair starts), Huiyin is at the perineum, Shenque is on the Conception vessel above the lower Dantian (belly button), Mingmen is on the spine behind Shenque.

Laogong, Yongquan and Baihui are called the Five Gates. These are the five spots where Qi exits and enters the body. For this reason, they are used in a meditation called Five Gates Breathing.

Huiyin is used in the Macrocosmic Orbit, Microcosmic Orbit and Xi Shui Jing.

Shenque and Mingmen are used in the little Orbit, for building the cauldron, where you cycle Qi from Huiyin to Mingmen on inhale, and from Mingmen to Shenque and back to Huiyin on exhale, it is a miniature Microcosmic Orbit around the Lower Dantian.

Thank you, Kouji. That was highly informative and I understand a lot more. One more question- My practice schedule right now is looking like the following, and I was wondering if I'm overdoing it, if it's fine the way it is, or if I should do more:
Morning:
30 minutes Dantian Meditation
9 reps Microcosmic Orbit

Evening:
Baduanjin 6 reps each, after my workout.

Thanks again. Sorry I haven't been too active on the forums recently, my work is calling for me to be much busier than I originally anticipated.

This looks great!

I know you're busy, so don't worry about it, glad to see you still posting. Make sure you post your MCO experiences soon.
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July 03, 2013, 12:48:04 AM
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Shadow_Dragon

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Right!! Haha, I'm an awful procrastinator when it comes to posting experiences lol. I'll make sure I post them tonight, as well as an update on my Baduanjin, because I'm noticing more effects.
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. -Sun Tzu

When the Mind is clear and still, all things under Heaven fall into place. -Lao Tzu

Drink your cup alone, though it taste of blood and tears, and praise God for the gift of taste. -Almustafa

July 03, 2013, 07:40:47 PM
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Shinichi

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Quick questions.

Should the root lock be held the whole time, or relaxed when going down the conception vessel?

And.

Does the tongue stay connected to the roof of the mouth the whole time, or does it drop on the way down? Because, since childhood, I have retained the habit of holding my tongue to the roof of my mouth almost all the time, but I think I once read that the tongue should be connected going up and then dropped going down when doing a circulation like this. I don't remember where or why, but the memory popped up while doing the exercise.



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July 04, 2013, 09:44:17 PM
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Koujiryuu

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Hold them both for the entire circulation, but you can relax the lower body between breaths if you want.

It is important to keep the tongue on the roof of the mouth the ENTIRE time because this allows for build up of saliva, for the Jade Nectar.
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