Nei Gong – Cultivating Inner Awareness
Level Seven of the Soma Dao Qi Gong Teacher Training
The journey of Nei Gong begins with learning about your meridians, subtle aspects of circulation, your Energy Centers (Dan Tian), your Energy Gates (Qiao), and several Breathwork practices. I also like to add some clinical evidence on what is happening on the levels of physiology, hormone and neurotransmitter balance, as well as the tone and resilience of your nervous system.
With regular Nei Gong practice, you are beginning a journey to discovering your Aliveness Potential (Ming) and your Experiential Nature (Xing) of your Energy Systems, Organs and Meridians, Energy Centers (Dan Tian and Innate Minds), and Energy Gates (all of the above -plus certain Acupuncture points, trees, rocks, waterfalls, or other places in Nature that feel just right.
This training begins with the Daoist Willow Dance, one of the most fun ways to learn the Chinese Medicine Meridian system – inside your body. (see below).
The Chinese Characters for your Meridians, in general, are Jing Luo 经络, which describes the tension and integrity of the warp and weft of a cloth, or perhaps the collagen matrix of your structures and membranes.
Each of your Meridians expresses a core instinct, and is connected with instinctual gestures based on ancient animal reflexes, human body language, as well as the behaviour, expressions, and experiences of your Ancestors. These subtle, sensual, emotional, and instinctual, qualities of your Meridians also affect your posture, some physical characteristics, the health of the tissue of your meridians, and the free movement of Qi throughout all your body’s physiological and conscious activities. Finally, your Meridians express the vitality and functional challenges of your internal organs.
I often use the metaphor of wire and electricity to describe the importance of an abundance of Jin – contractile tissue and Jing – Inner Adaptive Capacity or Mojo in tissue aspects of your Meridians. Physically, and clinically, a Meridian’s health includes the nutritional status, inflammatory status, circulatory capacity, vascular health, muscle tone, flexibility, fascial membrane integrity (on some very deep levels), and of course the cellular collagen matrix of every cell of every part of your body.
At this level of interaction, the more ancient Dao Yin (Trauma Release, State Shift, Down-Regulation, Fascial Tensegrity) practices become essential. If you find that you need to go deeper into Qi Gong Healing practices, you can review and apply many of the skills from Level Five – Therapeutic Qi Gong.
To be successful in your Nei Gong practice, you will also need to open your joints, connect tangibly with Qi, practice some traditional forms until they feel like home, and restore your Jing and Jin, all while opening and restoring all of your Meridians.
Daoist and Shaolin Inner Cultivation (Nei Gong)
Every embodied, meditative, contemplative, and energetic system of self-cultivation in the world agrees on the existence and importance of Energy Centers, Dan Tian 丹田, or Chakras.
The Chinese character Dan means alchemic substance or practice; Tian means field of cultivation. The term Chakra means a spinning disk or sphere. There are many names, locations, and ‘properties’ to all of the various Energy Centers, but the way I was taught, the relationship is what matters.
Although each Dan Tian can be experienced as a location, it is important to experience the Aliveness (Ming) and Nature (Xing) of each Dan Tian every day.
The exact location and sensation may be subtly or surprisingly different in every practice. Keep the relationship alive and become a student of the language of Jing, Qi and Shen.
Each Dan Tian is also a certain feeling tone of interaction with your physical body, your somatic memories, Ancestral traumas and gifts, a very unique and powerful ally on your meridian journey, as well as a ‘structure’ made of the warp and weft of the fabric of Space-Time or Dao.
Each of your Dan Tian is the Universe coming together into a kernel of energy and consciousness that you can learn to resonate with; reawakening an entire internal world of wisdom, healing, and potential self-cultivation.
It just takes some time to become Space-Time or dissolve into a reunion with Dao.
If you commit to an occasional ‘Rite of Passage’ with some advanced Dao Yin and Nei Gong practices, you can complete your journey of restoring all of your organs, Meridians, and Energy Centers to their optimal state of Being, Existence, Resourcefulness, Aliveness, and Function.
Over the six months of this training, you will reconnect to your Inner Landscape (Nei Jing) through a committed practice of the following aspects of Qi Gong and Nei Gong practice.
- Reviewing all your Joint Opening, traditional forms, Inner Refinement and healing practices – with an awareness of your meridians will deepen your practice in many ways. This process is profoundly transformative and restorative. This experience is especially valuable if you intend to become or are a Healer of any kind. The best way to become sensitive to Qi and to another person’s Meridians is to completely open your own. This is meant to be a lifelong process. Review the Level Four practices on Somato-Emotional Release first if you feel that you hold any Trauma in your nervous system, fascia, or Meridians.
- The Willow Dance – a Meridian Activating and Harmonizing Qi Gong – this practice explores a series of postures and movements that help you explore and open each of your Meridians (Jing Luo) and your instinctual and emotional connective tissue reflexes (Jing Jin). This very intuitive approach to interacting with each Meridian as a moment, a need, as a posture and gesture, and a quality of letting go, are all benefits of this easy-to-learn ‘wave-like’ dance.
- Nei Gong and Your Microcosmic Orbit (Xiao Zhou Tian) – with a deeper awareness of your Dan Tian and Meridians, you can safely complete your training with the Microcosmic Orbit. This form of seated meditation can sometimes take a few months of patient learning and perceiving some new dimensions of Aliveness, Innate Nature, subtle aspects of circulation, and absorbing Qi from the Sky and the Land. All while sitting still to completely engage in the experience of Wu Wei – Non-Doing.
- Begin Opening Your Narrow Passes (Guan – 關) – each Qi Gong and Nei Gong practice is learned and taught sequentially in Passes or sequential stages (Guan). The term Guan means a narrow pass through challenging, perhaps even dangerous terrain. As your meridians open and your Inner Orbits begin to turn on their own, you may find it necessary to open some ‘stuck’ places. In traditional Nei Gong, there are usually between three and nine challenging Passes in the body.
- Daoist and Shaolin Breathwork – learn several ancient monastic skills that are designed to shift your state towards both Yin and Yang, as well as the feeling into the most immediate and tangible experience of Now.
- Interacting with and as your Three Dan Tian and your Six Innate or Unborn Minds (Yuan Shen). Although this aspect of Daoist practice is ‘Esoteric’ in nature, these experiences are also an invitation to feel where your Innate or Inborn ways of being may be out of sync with your environment or other aspects of living life. These sources of contention with life can create instinctual, visceral, mental, emotional, egoic, and existential Qi wounds. All of which combine to exist as embodied restlessness and pain.
- Nei Gong Induction practices are often employed at the beginning of a longer meditation session. The way I was taught, it is the most effective to begin a four-hour practice with 45 minutes of practice that assist in reorienting your posture and many internal alignments.
- Inner Reflection and Inner Dialoguing (Nei Guan 內觀) – is a form of daily practice, self-acceptance, self-reflection, and meditation. At a certain point, it becomes clear that some parts of your Spiritual journey are just beginning, and that the next ten years very well may be as profound as all the old stories about wandering hermits and shamans. Transcending the mundane and coming home to your Authentic Self has always been the Path. Inner Dialoguing is a partner practice involving a careful form of inquiry into the voices in your head, where they come from, and how to ‘employ’ them more skillfully in your life, and in your Mind.
- Qi Gong and Nei Gong for Women – at this level of Qi Gong practice, the distinctions between Male/Yang energy systems and Female/Yin energy systems become much more important. Throughout life, we all go through puberty, midlife, and menopause or andropause (menopause for men). If you want to teach Qi Gong and Nei Gong and ensure you are not creating imbalances, this relatively small amount of study could prevent many Spiritual accidents. Male and Female bodies have a different balance of Blood and Qi, Yin and Yang, as well as slightly different locations of focus during Inner Cultivation and Dan Tian practices. Qi Gong also has many specific circulation and activation practices to relieve painful menstruation periods, cyclic emotional overwhelm, and the symptoms (warning signs) of menopause. Qi Gong, fertility, and sexual vitality have a long history of working together and finding balance.
- Avoiding Qi Derangements and Deviations – regular committed Qi Gong and Meditation practice can be VERY powerful. Rarely, some practitioners, often because of pre-existing imbalances, experience changes in their mood, sleep, focus, subjective reality, and ability to self-regulate. As you learn all of these powerful skills and practices, it is wise to learn how to avoid any ‘accidents.’
Six Initial Grottos of Nei Gong
A Grotto, in Daoist practice, is a metaphoric cave of safety, beauty, and silence; or a crypt to place the aspects of oneself that have died away in meditation. A Grotto can also mean an inner chamber of evolution – you only go in if you are committed to coming out transformed. I describe each stage of this part of the Nei Gong process as a Grotto because of the implication of change, the completion of a step on the journey of creative evolution, and the awareness that when you are ready, you can enter the next Grotto. And so it continues forever.
For this course, you will be guided through the six following stages or ‘Grottos.’
If you can commit the time and effort to attain this level of Qi Gong practice, knowledge, and experience, you would have developed something like having a Black Belt.
Getting to this level of Qi Gong practice and experience usually takes a few years of dedicated and professionally guided practice. This course will give you the tools and guidance to begin and personalize this life-changing and life-extending practice.
This is as far as most people go on the path of learning Qi Gong. Honestly, unless you are planning to become a Medical Qi Gong Therapist (or are one), or are a monastic, an ascetic, or a professional martial artist seeking even deeper resources, you do not really have to learn the advanced forms and skills taught in the final Phase of the Soma Dao Program.