Bone Breathing

Strengthening your Bones

One of the great legacies of the ancient Taoist masters of China has been the practices for regenerating the bone marrow through a series of simple breathing exercises. The practice of 'bone breathing' developed in the context of the yogic procedures for developing higher consciousness and opening the highest human potential.

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TAOIST SEXUAL PRACTICES

OVERVIEW OF TAOIST SEXUAL PRACTICES

In the Taoist tree of practices with branches such as acupuncture, herbology, massage, five element nutrition, qigong, taichi, feng shui, I Ching and meditation, the practices dealing with the sexual energy occupy a prominent place. In ancient China Taoist masters were well known for their specialized knowledge on sexual matters. Emperors and Empresses would consult in secret Taoist masters for learning the essentials of sexual practice. This would be done not only for enhancing sexual pleasure with the numerous concubines that filled the court, but more specifically for attaining the Chinese ideal of having a long and healthy life.

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The Yoga of Pilgrimage

Meeting the great Goddess on the road to Santiago de Compostella

In the vast repertoire of energy practices inherited from the ancient traditions there is one which stands above the rest by its all encompassing nature. The yoga of pilgrimage is the most misunderstood of the spiritual steps. It is often mistaken as simply traveling from a spiritual place to place.

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The Suicide

Interview with Juan Li by Pere Muñoz Avellaneda

Juan and I had agreed to talk about another interesting topic at the beginning of July. When I phoned Juan to make an appointment, he told me that it was not the right time to meet. A good American friend of his had committed suicide by shooting herself with her partner’s gun. I really didn’t know what to say. I think I muttered something like «umm» or «I am sorry».

Then, Juan proposed that we should let some days go by before we met, and that the next topic for discussion should be exactly that: suicide. Of course, one feels sadness and sorrow faced with the suicide of a good friend, and one wonders why this can happen. From my point of view, this was an interesting topic... and somehow strange.

When I hung up, a large number of past images came to mind: a relative who had wanted to jump out of the window – and once nearly did-....a friend who had slit her wrists several times and been taken to hospital.... the innumerable attempts of a woman to poison herself, and her ending up in a psychiatric unit...a teenager who - disappointed in love - hung himself in his own garage...and someone who jumped onto the subway tracks, shocking all of us who saw it.

Recalling all these memories left an unpleasant taste in the mouth and made me think that suicide is certainly sinister, but something that should not leave us indifferent. Especially because, in spite of its frequency, suicide is taboo in our otherwise sensationalist culture. And even so, we all know someone who has tried – or even succeeded - in leaving this world before their appointed time because they lacked a sense of meaning in their life.

There are even the fleeting and incomprehensible moments in which suicidal or self-destructive ideas have gone through our own minds. Reflecting on this made me feel a sort of contradiction:

I thought of the schools of behavior that, throughout history, exalted suicide not only as a brave act (like warriors who voluntarily sacrificed themselves, fundamentalist terrorists, or kamikaze pilots) but also as an aesthetic act (like artists and writers who committed suicide to exalt decadence, as a triumph of their own willpower over an incomprehensible and hostile world), or even as something necessary for certain creed or ideal (sects that perform mass suicides, renouncing worldliness and yearning to reach higher planes of existence as soon as possible).

So is suicide the most despicable or the most admirable act that a person can carry out? An inner voice was telling me that there was something wrong with all these thoughts, and I hoped that Juan would shed some light on the darkness of suicide.

At the beginning of July, and after a frugal lunch in the usual restaurant, we headed for a quiet square in the center of Barcelona and I asked him all the questions that came to my mind, and which ended up in the article below.

  • Juan, generally speaking, how do you see the phenomenon of suicide in our society? Is it an escape from a desperate life situation? Does it have any value? I am asking because there are many famous cases of suicide in Western history that make one think. From the Oriental point of view, how is suicide considered?

Suicide is a highly relevant topic nowadays because the news frequently shows young people blowing themselves up in a terrorist attack, or desperate people living in large cities who decide to end their lives. There is hardly any knowledge about what happens when someone commits suicide.

In the Western world, we even believe that suicide can provide relief from pain and suffering. However, different Eastern traditions have studied death in detail. For example, according to Shintoism, a human being is destined to live a given number of years. Thus, if someone shortens his or her life by committing suicide, the time that was still to be lived on Earth is spent in an intermediate state, a sort of limbo, full of confusion and discomfort.

From this point of view, any ceremony performed to help the suicide victim would have no effect until the complete lifetime that the person was destined to live is over. According to this tradition, suicide is a useless way to escape from pain, because it puts the person in an even more unpleasant situation... in a state between life and death, in which there is no possibility to change or to make progress, nor is there any way out. Consequently, the person who commits suicide to be released from intense suffering does not escape from anything; instead they extends a negative state that might last less time if they were still alive and sought ways to solve their problems.

  • That reminds me of the film “The Others”, in which two children and their mother are in that intermediate state, that limbo, without knowing that they have died. In the film, the mother (Nicole Kidman) suffocated her children and then shot herself so that the Nazis couldn’t capture them....

In this case, suicide would not only represent an act of ignorance but also a sort of self-damnation even worse than the situation she wanted to escape. Suicide, regardless of how it is done, also implies that the person denies responsibility.

The Taoist tradition states that before being born, every person chooses how and where he/she is to live and the goals they are to achieve in this lifetime. Every person is born with a purpose, and responsibility for this is taken through a pact with Heaven, the Universal Consciousness. This agreement is two-fold. On the one hand, Nature provides the ideal circumstances needed to accomplish the goal. On the other hand, the person is committed to work towards their goal, to find a profession or setting in which to develop their original purpose, which in the end is always related to consciousness-raising. Every human being is born with this responsibility, which must be fulfilled as part of the pact.

When a person denies this duty and commits suicide, they break the agreement with Heaven. In the Taoist system, to break the agreement is to set the conditions for suffering, and if we are alive, this is manifested in different degrees of disease, from anxiety and mental suffering to more physical illnesses.

The agreement with Heaven is located in the very center of heart, not in the physical organ but in the energetic center associated with the heart. So that means that we all come to this world with a purpose that we have to fulfill because is part of the “sacred contract” that we signed before birth. But how do we know that we are following the right path in life? Is there any sort of sign? An individual might not be aware of the contract you’re talking about, and just go through all sorts of difficulties in life until sooner or later, I suppose that, depending on the level of consciousness, they end up fulfilling what was established in the contract...

At the moment when a person turns significantly away from their original direction and insists on following the wrong path, the path they are not interested in, ignoring the signs that Heaven provides, like dreams showing the right direction, other symptoms begin to manifest themselves. These come in the form of small crises, nightmares, thefts, that gradually become more and more intense and may end up as a fatal disease. This would be a sign that there is no way to re-direct the individual from the wrong path, and that Heaven has decided to recycle their life. In other words, there are hopeless cases.

  • I was thinking about the consequences that this can have on the family structure. If you end up dying like you just mentioned or you commit suicide, or if you accumulate a number of unsuccessful suicide attempts or episodes of self-destruction, can these events predispose future generations to do the same?

We are born in a family structure that has been established throughout many generations. Everything we do in life either introduces new precedents or repeats those that our ancestors set in the past. A person is sometimes born into a family in which someone has committed suicide, and the time might come when that person will think about doing the same thing. But right at that moment, the person will have a precious chance to take a new decision. If no new decision is taken, then, as the I Ching says, “we will have to wait ten thousand years”. That means that the cycle will be repeated again.

It is extremely important that anyone wanting to make progress investigates whether there is a history of suicide in their family. The tendency to put an end to one’s life intentionally may come in different forms like the desire to die by injection, to poison oneself, to jump out of a window or to slit one’s wrists. This means that there is a wound in the family structure that must be healed, and that it is possible that we or our children, or any of the coming generations will manifest this tendency because the act is latent in our genes.

  • That’s curious. I now understand why in certain moments of my life, and for no apparent reason, I had sudden and repeated suicidal thoughts of varying intensity, like when I was driving my car, in front of a window or with a knife in my hand. Fortunately, those were only fleeting ideas and I didn’t pay much attention to them. Might they be caused by a case of suicide in my family? I am not aware of one, but if taking into account the voluntary degradation of our life in its multiple manifestations....

There are people who don’t know why they have suicidal ideas. If they investigate their family, they might find that they are predisposed to such ideas, and that perhaps, at that very moment, they are facing the chance of taking a new decision. Suicide does not only mean taking a pill or blowing one’s head off, but it can also be carried out slowly, by becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs while knowing that they might be fatal after some time.

Sometimes this appears as a hidden tendency towards progressive self-destruction, like intentionally eating harmful food or seeking painful relationships. Self-destruction denies the existence of love and self-esteem, and is disconnected from the heart, which is the place where our inner guide dwells, the place where our agreement with Heaven is written.

  • All right. But once we have identified a case of suicide in our family, what can we do?

We must be aware that suicide was the option taken in the past once or several times, and that there is a tendency in our family towards it. The person must be self-aware. As soon as they are conscious of this weakness in their genetic structure, it is recommended to go on a retreat that can last some days, and to meditate in a quiet place to take a new decision. The person should ask herself/himself many questions and examine the problem for some days. If they reach the conclusion that they want to live, the next step is to establish a purpose in life. The clearer the purpose, especially if it benefits others as well, the stronger the power to counteract any self-destructive tendencies. To want to be here and to have a purpose in life that is not only beneficial for oneself but also for others introduces an altruistic viewpoint. Suicide is a withdrawal into the most selfish state of the mind.

The antidotes are the altruistic viewpoint and the altruistic action. This would be a suggestion for someone who knows there is a tendency to suicide in their family. That’s useful for those of us conscious enough as to react and do something for ourselves and our family.

But I wonder how we can help self-destructive people, who are reluctant to understand that alcohol, drugs, or other damaging substances or behaviors will lead to a stupid death.... I know a rather close case and I would like to do something for him.

In severe cases of self-destruction, the person withdraws more and more into themselves, becoming increasingly self-centred. As consciousness is light, a function of the fire element (which is why it’s related to Heaven, the provider of light), as the consciousness gets narrower, clarity gives way to darkness. This can even reach the point where there is so much darkness that the only way to change the tendency is with someone else’s help. Sometimes, this external help does not achieve its goal by talking and suggesting, because the clarity necessary to grasp that information or advice is no longer present in a person with severe self-destructive behavior.

In this case, light may be provided for the consciousness of the suicidal person as follows:

  • the person who wants to help draws light into the central channel and irradiates that light through the aura, making it available to the friend or acquaintance.
  • If the person who wants to help does not know these practices, it is appropriate that every time we think about our friend or acquaintance, we visualize them surrounded by an aura of light, and this is done with affection, because it is precisely the energy of love that is urgently needed.

With these practices, we must be aware that everything we do with our intention, far from being a fantasy, works at a subtle level and is directed towards the consciousness of the individual we want to help. We don’t communicate with the mental aspect of the person (as there is neither light to grasp verbal information nor strength to do anything with the information) but with our friend’s inner guide, with that point of light at the level of the heart in which our agreement with Heaven is located.

This is a fairly simple way to give someone a lift without having to say anything. This practice can be applied to help any person that is lost and requires light, and it is our duty to do it with affection and energy of the heart so that we provide that which is lacking.

  • And what about if we are too late? If our relative or friend has already committed suicide, is there anything we can do? You previously mentioned limbo, and a waiting period, I don’t know whether it is useful to pray for them or send them some kind of energy...

If someone we know has already committed suicide, it is important that every time we think about that friend, we do it with light surrounding her/him, with love and affection. If we know the practices, we can make the light available to that person and encourage him/her to follow the light as soon as possible. We don’t really know whether or not they have to wait in the limbo, but what we certainly know is that if we make something available, it is available. Thus, the person we want to help will have an option that might possibly be used.

In summary, committing suicide is not a solution but an extremely selfish and destructive action, by which suffering is not released but intensified. I read somewhere that the Tibetans say that someone who dies is no longer in the physical dimension and that their consciousness is intensified ten times. Therefore, just to get an idea of what can happen, if a person is already desperate in this life, everything will be multiplied by ten in the state after death by suicide.

How different seem the hara-kiri of the brave samurai, the drug overdose of that wonderful poet or the bullet in the head of that famous singer... and the innumerable anonymous cases who decided to end their lives, hoping to ease the pain of a meaningless existence. Let’s forget “Goodbye, cruel world” and make room for “Hello, universe of infinite possibilities”. It’s worth trying, isn’t it?

Healing Mantras

Interview with Juan Li by Pere Muñoz Avellaneda

I have to admit that Juan caught me a bit unawares when he suggested we record and write up interviews about different topics that might be of interest for people attending his courses, or for people who find these things appealing. My mind went blank for a while and I didn’t know what to say. I looked around and continued eating. The dim light of the restaurant was an invitation to be calm and in peace.
The eye of Shiva observed us from the wall, and then the word OM came to my mind. We had been eating and talking about everything in a quiet Indian restaurant in Barcelona’s city center. Having asked Juan thousands of questions in his courses and having offered my help in transmitting his knowledge, I was there, eating with him and keen to collaborate with him. When he suggested we work on these interviews, I thought that regularly exchanging ideas and impressions with someone of his experience would be a privilege. Thus, after my initial hesitation, I had no problem accepting his proposal. For more than a decade, my endless curiosity and thirst for knowledge had led me (and still lead me) to search for books, magazines, programs, conferences, courses and places related to certain topics.
A large minority of people consider these practices sufficient important not only to deeply and thoroughly study them, but also to try to integrate them in their daily life. I guess that as years of practice go by one starts to develop certain abilities, like learning to separate wheat from hay, and studying with authentic teachers, in the sense that what they say and what they do is the same. In other words, teachers that are living examples of what they teach. We finally agreed to meet at the end of June for the first interview.

Juan had given me the freedom to think about different topics for discussion, and therefore, the theme for this first interview was still unknown. Knowing myself and my tendency towards what I call «creative mental diarrhea», I knew it was going to be difficult to choose one topic to start with. When we met for the interview, I briefly commented that I had found a course on mantras in the Internet.

The course was from an American Hindu called Thomas Ashley-Farrand, and seemed very complete with a lot of interesting information and abundant examples that could be widely applied. Not surprisingly, Juan knew the guy and had taken the same course. We talked about that for a while and as Juan saw my interest in mantras, he suggested we choose exactly that topic for the first interview.

Although I had already attended Juan’s course on mantras (the source of my growing interest in the topic), one of the things that I couldn’t really understand is why a practice of Hinduand Buddhist origin should be included in the Tao system. I had also wondered several times about the point of reciting certain sentences in a strange language, that I couldn’t understand and thought that, perhaps, the impact of these sounds in my unconscious mind was not the same as, for instance, someone in Bombay or Lhasa.

Juan, tell me, why it is worth practicing mantras today, in our modern age?

The energetic practices, the yogas, to which those of the Tao belong, enhance our energy and reciting mantras helps us to direct the practice to a higher level. They also allow us to restructure our consciousness by rapidly inducing inner space and silence, a break from our internal dialogue. Mantras work with sound and light, two key elements of creation, and are part of a group of vibratory practices to which belong, for instance, the energy of the plants, flower essences, essential oils and the laying on of hands.

According to Indian tradition, - which maintains the memory of millennia - these vibratory practices are precisely those that best suit this era of humanity. In ancient times, it was observed that in one precession cycle the earth goes through four different phases of consciousness, in which the terrestrial axis points to different parts of the universe.

Each phase lasts approximately six thousand years. In the first phase, the so called golden age, human beings developed spiritually through meditation, without intermediaries. That was an easy practice at that time, more spontaneous than today, and there was support for meditation everywhere. When that cycle ended, human beings lost interest in meditation, and other practices became increasingly appealing, practices in which giving and receiving were used as a bridge to connect different dimensions. Offerings, for instance of flowers, were dedicated to the gods with the aim of obtaining a response proportional to the nature of the offering. That was the second period.

The third period was characterized by the performance of ceremonies and rituals, in which the divine was contacted through intermediaries or priests. Finally, in the fourth cycle, which is the current era, everyone is distracted, lives fast and feels ill in one way or another. Nowadays, the conditions for transcendental practice are extremely bad: we have neither the time nor the money. Therefore, humans find vibratory practices most appealing. Indeed, these practices can be performed rapidly and everywhere, and their effects can be felt almost immediately.

The growth of practices with mantras during the last thirty years (even the word “mantra” is already included in our language) has to do with the phase we are in now. What is the practice with mantras about? There are different functions in nature, like for instance joy.

And every function has a certain vibration, a sound, that we call the root sound or mantra. In the case of joy, its sound or mantra is RHIM. Therefore, practicing the mantra RHIM allows us to contact the energy of joy directly. There exist as many mantras as functions in nature. However, what the ancients did was to develop the most essential ones.

Most of the mantras we know today are in Sanskrit, but, is it possible that more languages with this power existed in the ancient past? For example, I imagine an Egyptian or Mayan priest saying some secret syllables to obtain a given effect, or a druid or a shaman performing a certain type of invocation... It is said that in past times before the Flood, human beings used mantric languages.

There is speculation that, during the period of the Flood (some 12 000 years ago) there were many geological changes (such as big earthquakes or constant floods), a highly variable climate and large human migrations. With the scattering of humans that occurred during the Flood, languages of that time got mixed, resulting in the loss of many of them.

However, many languages of the Northern hemisphere still share common roots of sounds. In fact, from Celtic languages to China, and in India, there are roots of sounds that are identical. Do you mean that all languages before the Flood were part of a single universal language, something like what linguists call Indo-European? That’s right.

There was certainly a time before the Flood in which the root (mantric) sounds, were part either of a sacred and ritual language or of the common language. Nowadays, every language has remains of what that common language could have been. That makes me think of Jodorowsky explaining that in order to stop the internal dialogue we can take any word and repeat it over and over again until we stop the constant stream of thoughts in our mind. Imagine something like: Coke, coke, coke, coke...

What has that to do with a mantra? And many prayers and chants from the different religions, like the Kyrie Eleison of the orthodox Christianity, do they have something mantric about them?

It may be that endlessly repeating the word coke can stop, at least for a moment, the internal dialogue. However, as the word coke is not a mantra, a root sound, it won’t contact essential functions and will not lead to the same effect as the practice with mantras.
In the case of religious chants, it’s important to differentiate between psalms and prayers of the common language (which is different for each culture) and those using languages like Sanskrit or old Hebrew, which are thought to be of mantric origin. Only these languages can activate the functions of nature.

Who knows, perhaps Chinese and old Egyptian are also mantric languages, and other languages as well, but in order to find that out, a lot more research must be done. The power of sound as divine power, OM as the sound of the creative energy...

What magic. I always remember the words I once heard André Malby say: a magician is he who says “chair” and then sits on what he just said. And in the Bible it is said “in the beginning there was the Word” and in the Vedas “Nada Brahma”», which means «the world is sound».
Amen.

The subtle bodies: mental body and emotional body

Interview with Juan Li by Pere Muñoz Avellaneda

After some time of practice, who has not wondered whether one is doing the right thing, whether the results that one is just starting to obtain are correct, whether beyond mental images, feelings and postures one is progressing through the different stages of practice?

Because, as it frequently happens with the energetic practices, it doesn’t matter how much we visualize; if the visualization is not accompanied by a feeling in the body the practice won’t cross the mental level. And although it seems that most practitioners give this for granted, it represents the most critical ingredient to deepen into the different levels of practice.

The practices of the Tao system repeat once and once again that feeling is the first step on the path of personal development. In fact, from the introductory level on, one is initiated into a process of self-consciousness that allows one to feel what happens in one’s own body. The softening smile teaches how to contact oneself and to feel well-being. The six healing sounds allow one to feel the different inner organs and the emotions associated with them. Through the microcosmic orbit, we learn to directly feel the life force, increasing our vitality and balancing our being.

When Juan proposed to talk with me about the subtle bodies, he said that this topic repeatedly appears when he is sharing the practices with students. It is important to make sure that the practices are not exclusively mental but an energetic experience that other person can perceive. Because of this, Juan said that the objective of this interview was to clarify concepts and differentiate between what we call the “mental body” and the “emotional body”.

Let’s start from the beginning.
The different bodies of the human being are structured in the following order, from more dense to more subtle: the physical body, the energetic body, the emotional body then the mental body, and then other even more subtle bodies.

In this interview, we will focus on the mental and the emotional bodies.

The emotional body is associated with the ability to feel and to communicate. When the emotional body is not yet structured, the person uses emotions to communicate, like for example a baby that cries and screams when he is hungry. When the emotional body gets structured, which generally happens when the person is 6-8 years old, the child starts to express his own needs with words rather than only with emotions. That happens because the child can gradually manage his emotions much better.

If a child experiences very painful things (for instance, if the parents are fighting all the time), he can decide not to feel anymore because feeling under those conditions is too painful. With that decision, a child stops the healthy development of the emotional body. If a child already had developed a mental body, he could have realized that the parents had a problem and that, as adult people, were going to find a solution.

But the mental body starts developing only at around puberty (with the exception of children that are forced to mature rapidly because they start to work and acquire responsibilities early). Therefore, it is said that bad traumas are settled within the first seven years of life because at that time, the person does not have resources to manage emotions.

When the emotional body is not sufficiently structured, whatever the cause, the person will have a childish behavior his whole life, with an exaggerated susceptibility and sensitivity, going from happiness to anger after only one word or gesture. And what about the mental body? The mental body is associated with the capacity of thinking. As the mental body gets structured, the adolescent starts understanding things and analyzing situations. I have been observing that different cultures have different configurations depending on their latitude. For example, in the most extreme parts of the northern hemisphere people have to plan very much what to do to survive during long periods without fresh food and light. Because of that need, people have developed a strong mental body. In contrast, in other latitudes like in Spain and southwards, where the weather is warmer and more stable, and the fields provide several harvests a year, that urgency to plan does not exist. The tendency is that people living in more extreme latitudes of the northern or southern hemispheres are more mental.

  • But, what happens then when a person develops a powerful mental body?

As the emotional body develops first, it represents the foundation for the mental body. If someone develops a strong mental body, one is able even to shield the emotions. Soldiers are an obvious example because they can commit very cruel actions during a war without hesitation. When they are asked after the war why they did such atrocities, the answer is always the same: “I was following an order”. That decision was obviously taken with the mind but with a closed emotional body. Otherwise, the soldier would have questioned that order. Any person who constantly uses intellectual skills at work, who first conceives things in the mind, like an architect or a researcher, usually has a marked tendency to use the mind in the taoist practices.

For example, when practicing the “harmonization of the five elements”, which is aimed at transforming negative emotions, it can occur that this kind of person is not focusing on the physical organ but rather on the idea of the organ. Therefore, it can happen that this person limits their practice to the level of imagination.

That is the reason why it is recommended that practitioners pay a lot of attention to feeling something, especially if they have a profession requiring a great intellectual effort. It frequently happens that one easily believes that everything is fine, that emotions are balanced; but in fact, that superficial calm is not caused by a good managing of emotions but rather by a repression of emotions that make us suffer. This is a subtle phenomenon because the line that separates imagination and sensation is very thin.

  • But, what can we do to focus our attention on feeling?

The practitioner can start by focusing attention on feeling the difference of temperature in a certain part of the body before and after an exercise. Also, one can try to feel whether a friend is happy or sad. Then, contact that friend by phone and investigate whether our initial feeling before the phone call was correct or not. In all these practices, a strong mental body is of great help because it will allow the person to keep the attention focused. In a few weeks, the person will already be able to feel and then regain contact with the emotional body.

  • Why are emotions so important?

When working with practices of the inner alchemy, it is essential to work with emotions of the highest quality, because these are the fuel.

  • What do you mean by the fuel?

After having recycled and transformed emotions through the practice, one acquires emotions of a superior quality, like compassion and an altruistic point of view, and these qualities are the fuel for the alchemic process. By the way, the mental body is very useful because it allows one to project the intention and to practice with discipline. But if a person works only with the mind, for instance, generosity will be generated as an idea of sharing one’s own abundance, and not as a feeling of the heart. Then, the practice will be limited and the practitioner won’t get deep into it. Briefly speaking, the objective of all inner practices is to work both with the emotional body and the mental body in a balanced way, without predominance of one over the other.

  • Which signs indicate that the practitioner is progressing?

The level of vitality, for instance. This level increases with the practice and becomes more stable, so that the ups and downs of energy are eliminated. Another sign is what the practitioner experiences in his or her daily life. In fact, what one experiences reflects what we actually are. We can then ask ourselves how our life has changed after some time of practice. Other signs are: our level of health, the number of hours we sleep and in which state we wake up, and also the way we manage our emotions. For example, if someone receives an unfair criticism at work and is not affected, that means that such person has a broad stock of vitality and can manage emotions and conflicts with calmness.

  • How do you explain that so many people today, including great masters, are shielded at the emotional level?

Well, the mind is very much emphasized in our modern culture. And the daily use of computers and phones strengthen that trend. Making a phone call is something abstract because it requires that we imagine the person we are talking with. And the more technology gets developed the more complex the use of such technology and therefore, the stronger the mental body gets. Another aspect of our modern culture, especially in the western world, is that a person who expresses his or her own emotions is considered immature.

  • It is said that “men don’t cry”, isn’t it?

That makes me think a bit about the Japanese society... Yes, the Japanese society has always been a very structured and hierarchal society, with many rules, and a lot of obedience. Every person has a place in that society and has to play his or her role to the letter. And that is very mental. And of course, one cannot show any kind of emotion in public. That’s right, and that is the reason why so many people commit suicide. When a strong mental body is accompanied with an underdeveloped emotional body, a person can rapidly reach the mental conclusion that life is not worth living. Modern society does not support that people express their emotions. Emotions are not appreciated. It is like a modern taboo. One has to be efficient and quick...

That is the North American model: one has to work hard and the quality of life is improved through that hard work. Also, the discipline required to follow a strict work timetable has strengthened the mental body even more. With the current development of the modern society, the practitioner is probably more separated from the emotions than years ago. Starting to practice yoga from any kind of system allows the practitioner to meet his or her own emotions, to bring then to the surface. The emotions recover their importance because the yogic practices favor our work and research on our emotions.

  • In fact, ancient traditions say that the first thing to do on the path of inner development is to harmonize the emotions, isn’t it?

That is the first step because emotions are very important for the development of a person, and are also very important in the development of yogas. That is why the path of inner development is called “the second birth”, because it goes through the same steps. In the Taoist system, this work with the emotions is achieved with the three levels of the practice called “harmonizing the five elements”.

The process of development requires an increase of vitality. Emotions are the first place where energy gets stagnated. For instance, if I am angry with someone for several years and I get furious every time I think about that person, this means that the energy associated with that person is stagnated. When something like this happens, there is a lot of vitality blocked there. When a person harmonizes his emotions, leading to the development of positive emotions, the vibratory level of the energetic system increases. And when one adopts an altruistic attitude, when one’s own intention comes from the heart, the vibratory level makes a great leap. The practice with the emotions is aimed at adults.

It is not suitable for children because, as they have not yet structured the mental body, they won’t have the ability to focus their attention for a long time. Therefore, children do not have the basis for meditation.

  • And what about an adolescent?

Adolescents start structuring their mental body step by step. They don’t have much experience of the world, so they first have to try different things out to see what they like. That process lasts, depending on the culture, about five to six years. When adolescents grow into adults, they have less possibilities of choice. In contrast, they acquire the ability to deepen into something. But, coming back to modern society, it actually does not favor such work of deepening into something...

Well, it is true that such a process is not supported in our modern society. In this society, everything changes and gets obsolete very quickly, and external stimuli, such as visual stimuli, are so numerous that people are distracted all the time. Modern people live in a culture characterized by superficiality, and their senses are saturated because of the constant stimulation. As it has been mentioned before, the great majority of people do not take enough time to work with emotions and to free emotional traumas. They have no time because they are consumed with work throughout the day and when they finally get home, they are so exhausted that they don’t have the strength to start anything. Also, it frequently happens that modern people do not think that working with emotions is important. It is also important to be aware that the brain consumes a lot of oxygen and energy and when it works too much can be a dictator for the rest of the body. Such extreme mental activity acidifies the blood, makes the organism more rigid and hard, and blocks the flow and natural expression of emotions. Keeping up this pattern of mental activity as more and more time passes, the emotional body can become weakened or drained and diseases like chronic fatigue can arise. This is an alarm, a signal indicating that the person has to change something, that things cannot continue like this.

I had a student in this situation that was suffering from chronic fatigue. After work, his main practice for some time was “to embrace the tree”. Through this practice, he could increase his level of vitality. Then, as his point of view and priorities changed he could modify something in his life. You have already talked about the importance of feeling in practices requiring visualization..

  • Can you say something else?

Visualization is useful for the practice, but it is not enough. I have been observing that people that only use visualization or affirmations like “I am happy”, or “I have the perfect weight”, do not reach their goals because they do not work with emotions. It can occur that at the emotional level, what that people are actually saying is “I hate myself” and “I don’t want to look myself in the mirror”.

Therefore, if the person has an emotional conflict inside, those techniques applying positive thinking and visualization won’t work by themselves. When one is doing a technique requiring visualization, it is necessary to add the energy of the heart, a pure emotion, because such intention coming from the heart is able to change the energy and to attract energy of a similar quality. In this way, the visualization practice does not remain neutral or only mental, and the practitioner avoids that the technique fails due to a hidden negative emotion. However, I have to say again that to have a strong mental body is not a defect, rather the contrary.

If a person’s goal is to develop the ability to feel, one will be able to develop such skill rapidly if the mental body is well developed and the intention is clear. For example, some time ago I gave a seminar for businessmen in Germany. I thought it was going to be a failure, meaning that people would need a long time to feel something. However, all of them without exception felt the inner smile, the six healing sounds and even the microcosmic orbit, which is something exceptional for beginners. Afterwards, I reflected on this and I understood that all those businessmen had a strong power of intention and great mental faculty. Thus, when they decided to undertake something, they did it thoroughly.

Therefore, balance is the key. Balance between the mental body that visualizes and focuses, and the emotional body that feels and provides the fuel. Thanks to this balance, the practitioner can go deeper into the practice(s) and make sure that he is on the right path.

 

Taoist Dream Practice

Playing With the Clouds: The Foundations of Taoist Dream Practices

by Juan Li

The beginnings of dream practices in China are lost in the depths of antiquity. It is said that the emperors of the Shang Dynasty some 3500 years ago had attached to their court a category of ritual performers called Zhan Meng in charge of interpreting dreams and facilitating dream divination.

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