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.
Life Exists Between Yin and Yang
Webinar One – Meridians and Energy Centres
The Willow Dance
Daoist Nei Qiang Breathwork
Starting with Your False Dan Tian
Meridians of the Microcosmic Orbit – Xiao Zhou Tian
Traffic Jams and Observing Flow
Learning about Meridians, Qi circulation, and how directly we are all connected to Nature, the Universe, and each other, can be a reality-shifting process. As an experienced Qi Gong practitioner, you are already aware of the benefits to every aspect of your circulation, and the subtle shifts in your State of Being. As you journey deeper inward with your practice and within every fibre of your Body and Being, you will inevitably find places and ‘spaces’ that are overly constrained or collapsed.
The First Grotto of Nei Gong is an invitation to meet where the Yin, Yang, and Qi of your Life may be stuck or exhausted and respond skillfully and patiently. It is also an invitation to connect with your Dan Tian – from the outside in.
Your Inner Landscape
Webinar Two – The Nei Jing Tu – Your Inner Landscape, Celestial Boundaries, and Universal Circulation
San Bao – Three Treasures
San Dao – Three Selves and Three Paths
Three Dan Tian Breathwork
Ting Jin – Feeling in, Listening, and Becoming Sensation
Embodied Instinctual Distress
Shaolin Chan/Zen Meditation
Seeing the World, Embracing Eternity
Working with subtle energies and qualities of Aliveness needs to be tangible and needs to be familiar. It can be easy to do your practice ‘in your head,’ so Daoist practice ensures that almost every stage and technique involves your Body, Breath, and sensation, and finds meaning in Nature and in normal life.
An example of this is the Inner Landscape practice. Imagine that the inside of your body is a valley system. Your spine is the bottom, where the water flows. Depending on your practice, your body may be a steep valley, or made of rolling hills and plains. Or anything you can imagine – even other worlds. Now imagine the Aliveness, the animals and other beings that share your Landscape.
What would generate the most balance and longevity?
The Second Grotto also invites you to experience your existence as a combination of three unique selves or perspectives and needs.
Unity, after all, begins with separation.
The skill of Listening (Ting Jin) can only develop by listening in many ways, to many things, from each of your selves (San Dao).
Stillness can only be felt because of motion.
The skill of Zuo Chan – Sitting in Sacred Tranquility asks, ‘Who is the one listening?’
Many Minds, Many Bodies, and Many Ways of Coming into Being
Three Dan Tian Become Six
Embodied Visceral Distress
The Six Innate Minds
The Six Pain Bodies
Walking with Alignment (C’an and Zhen)
49 Days of Nei Gong and Chan
Receiving the Gifts of Your Ancestors
The Third Grotto takes you deeper into the Nature of Exixtance by attending to several innate structures of embodied awareness, cognition, and consciousness. These innate structures have evolved over a very long time. As you peel back the layers of your conditioned experience, you will regain the wisdom of your Ancestors while healing both your and their wounds.
There is an old Daoist adage about trying to cross the Ocean on a raft with one paddle. At first, we stab and pull against the ocean (Truth/Unity) with fear and anger. Get to the Land!
After coming to the realization that you can only serve the waves, you throw away your paddle and just enjoy the ride, sitting on the edge of your raft, with your feet in the Ocean.
After releasing all of the instinctual, and visceral distress of your Life, you will no longer need a raft, and then dive off and become both the Ocean and the Land.
This is a natural process. It is similar to death – and yet it is the gateway to a conscious Life.
A Return to the Sacred Mystery.
Contemporary Nei Gong Inductions
Webinar Four – The Physiology of Nei Gong and Breathwork
Embodied Existential Distress
Outer Tripods and Inner Tripods
Daoist Bellows Breathing
Opening Ren and Du – The Lions Roar
Effortlessly Dissolving Form
Inner Reflection and Feeling the Source
Becoming Universal Entropy
Believe it or not, Daoist practice can be considered a science – a system of cause and effect, experiment and advancement.
In Daoist ‘science,’ there are many kinds or manifestations of Qi. For example, there is Qi (氣) – often translated as Life Energy or Qualities of Aliveness, and there is Universal Qi (炁) – which is the Qi of the process of Creation and Entropy.
In Nei Gong, there are practices for interacting with both kinds of Qi. Over time, one’s practice naturally returns to interacting with the Source of both Creation and Entropy – Dao.
This Path of releasing contrivance, opportunism, and conditioning – Returning to your Original Nature – begins in your Meridians and the Microcosmic Orbit.
The Fourth Grotto takes you deeper into Nei Gong practice through consciously embodied preparations and extended periods of Stillness and Tranquility.
At this point, Nei Gong requires regular 3-hour sessions of seated Meditation practice. The first 45 minutes is an induction from peripheral alertness to internal reorientation and the remaining time is a sustained and sincere complete Mind, Body, and Breath interaction.
Narrow Passes and Inner Openings
The Classic San Guan (Narrow Passes on the front and back of each Dan Tian)
Nei Guan – Inner Reflection and Inner Dialoguing
Seated Willow Dance and the Da Zhou Tian (Macrocosmic Orbit)
Your Naval and the North Star
Rejuvenating Your Jing with Five Element Qi Gong
Dreams, Nightmares, and Pandora’s Box
Meditation could be compared to watching an iceberg melt while you tread water in the Ocean. There will be times of reverie and dreamlike states, the causal mind will get creative with ‘if and then,’ and sometimes the spontaneous visions are disorienting.
If you are not a hermit or a monk, you will eventually need to find a conscious and meaningful balance between your social life and your Qi Gong, Nei Gong, and Meditation practice.
The rules change when your practice becomes Sacred.
Being a Self in an Ocean of Selves will always be a good teacher. Right Relationship, as a practice, can save you a lot of energy and probably extend your life span and health span by 5 years. The lessons you learn, finding balance in your relationships, will guide you through the journey of finding balance within the stories in your Mind and the Existential truths and lies they tell.
This Grotto invites you to prepare for the long term by being clear on where your vitality is wasted and where it is restored, as well as including some Nei Yang Gong (Self Healing) in your practice.
If you feel that you have integrated everything so far, then you can begin to explore and learn from the classic obstacles to practice in the Human Body and Mind.
Coming Home – Huan Yuan
Webinar Four – Daoist Immortality
Yang Sheng Fa – Nourishing Life for Longevity
Yi Nian – Perception, Attention, Interaction, and Intention
Cultivating a Life-Long Qi Gong and Nei Gong Practice
The Howling Silence of Now
Some truths can be experienced, but they cannot be spoken.
Some experiences and memories are dependent on your State of Being. The deeper the stillness, the deeper the release, and the deeper your metabolism goes into a kind of hibernation.
It is not easy to transcend your ego or instincts.
The wisdom, skillfulness, beneficial biochemistry, and humour that arises from within this induced hibernation can slow how you age while training your Mind like a Monk or a Shaman in a cave.
As Awakened Consciousness, you are an Immortal, or beyond the conditioned response to Life and Death. As a Human Being aspiring to longevity and continued Nei Gong practice and reunion, you will also be guided through the ancient and modern approaches to life extension or quality of life extension.
This Grotto prepares you to begin the Zhu Ji (Foundation Building) stage of formal Daoist Inner Alchemy.
Live Introductory Lecture
Saturday, October 1<?> (9 AM)
Qi Gong Classes Begin
Tuesday, October 17th, 2023 (6 PM) – Tuesday, March 19, 2024 (6 PM)
Live Talks and demonstrations on Saturday mornings – 9 AM – PST
Live and Prerecorded Qi Gong classes on Tuesday evenings – 6 PM – PST
Recordings of the Live classes are usually available for streaming or download within 24 hours.
Nei Gong and Nei Dan
After going through the initial Six stages, or Grottos, most practitioners take some time to integrate and allow their inner existence to settle and become familiar again.
If you feel ready to begin training for traditional Nei Dan (Daoist Inner Alchemy), This process is called Zhu Ji – or Laying the Foundation. That will be taught in Level Nine – Becoming a Healing Vessel and Hollow Bone.