In the modern world we are so focused outwardly – what it looks like, the appearance, what the other thinks of it. Rarely do we turn our attention inwardly. There is a pandemic of a different kind, one of an increasing rate of decay of relationship with ourselves. How many people now cannot stand to spend time alone with themselves without television, music, phones or some external source of distraction? We try to cover it up, to pretend it’s not there, to escape it in thousands of different ways, but in the end it’s always waiting there patiently for our attention.
What if instead of escaping, we turned our attention towards ourselves and started working on our relationships with what is there. Typically the closer we get to ourselves, the more we will find the imperfections, the problems, the inconsistencies. The good news is, with practice we can resolve many of these problems, and learn to accept those that are there to stay – after all being human does not mean perfection.
Instead of being a victim of your internal landscape, you could get to know it thoroughly through practice, confront and deal with your problems, and live a life where you’re happy to be yourself, and be with yourself without distraction.
I teach people to develop a habit of balanced practices designed to bring you a stable and healthy relationship with your body, breathing, emotions and mind.
It is possible for anyone willing to put in a little effort to reconnect with the forgotten parts of themselves, to feel this inner landscape in extraordinary detail, to find and resolve the hidden tensions and weak links so we become unified and strong, and to forge a relationship with ourselves that will continue to grow into old age.
I have been a student of the Da Xuan Daoist tradition since 2014, and an instructor since 2017. Prior to this I studied many varied arts of physical development. I specialize in using Daoist exercises to help people awaken their inner landscape by restoring the relationship to the hidden parts and confronting and resolving tensions and weak links.
Many people have walked these paths before, and it would be unwise to disregard the experience of those who came before us. Although not popular or very well known in the west, these methods have been used for thousands of years in the east with great success, with many of the past masters having positions as advisors to government or other important roles in society. They have been tried and tested in many different time periods, across many different generations, on many different types of people.
In my understanding of this approach, there is an idea that we want to embody certain qualities. The exercises and techniques are not the qualities themselves, but the repetition of the technique acts as a catalyst to ignite the qualities within us. Once the quality is embodied, then we can do away with the technique and express the quality in a more natural way, having it infuse into the ordinary parts of our life. It is for this reason that I stick to apparently simple methods – lying, standing, shifting weight or walking, with basic motions of the arms and legs. If exercises are too ritualized and disconnected from our daily lives, it becomes difficult to bridge the moments of practice with the moments of mundane activity.
To train the internal aspects, you must first develop the external frame:
The overarching idea is that we want to open up the structure (primarily the body but this applies elsewhere as well) and spread things out so we can see what’s going on inside, in the same way as you clear some space in a messy room before you can take inventory of what’s there and start removing the unnecessary elements. An open structure will reveal what’s going on, and will give space for a freedom of movement and circulation in the system.
Once we open up, we begin to see that there are many areas of pathological tension that we can start to release, and doing so will lead us towards a deeply relaxed system. At this stage it is counter productive to engage in heavy resistance training such as weight lifting which will encourage the system to close tightly. Relaxation in our system is directly linked to the possibility of feeling what is going on inside the body, starting from our fundamental position and direction of travel in space, knowing the entire surface of the skin, then slowly going deeper revealing the relationship to the muscles, tendons, bones and even organs. By extension it also allows the possibility of true coordination – the ability to direct the entire body consciously.
As we begin to relax deeply, many aspects of the body that have fallen into atrophy from disuse will be revealed. These weak links will be confronted, and slowly strengthened and reunited with the rest of the system. As this happens we go towards a more united strength, and a more robust body that distributes and uses force effectively, thereby allowing us to relax even more. This way of strengthening the body is a much slower approach but also is much longer lasting and continues to improve into old age rather than relying on the vigor of our youth.
The more we relax, the more we reveal and resolve the weak links, the more aligned and grounded we will become. Grounding means that forces (either from gravity which is always present, or from an external source such as another person or object) are able to pass cleanly through us, not getting stuck in our body at points of pathological tension and therefore giving us many more possibilities of interacting with these forces.
After enough repetition of a given physical movement, it will become assimilated by the unconscious, meaning we can do the motion properly and accurately without paying attention. This frees us to be able to focus our intention on more subtle energetic movements in the internal space, bringing them into harmony with the movement we have already externally assimilated. Specific intent can create an internal movement that brings incredible levels of vitality and transformation, and the possibility of resolving deeper blockages than the external training alone is capable of.