Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Matter of Transmission

When people started falling to the floor during Damo Mitchell’s Dragon Dao-Yins seminar (about which I wrote last week), I was not alarmed.

I’d read about spontaneous energetic movement in Damo’s and other people’s books, so I knew that people did sometimes fall or spin or twitch or jerk or laugh uncontrollably as they worked the kinks out of their energy systems.

The falling would occur during the period of standing meditation that followed each of the Dragon Dao-Yin exercises. I never actually saw anyone collapse because I was in the front row with my eyes closed, busy focusing on my dantian, but I would hear a gentle thud and several times opened my eyes and looked toward the sound. One of those times, I saw a woman lurching in circles around her partner, who was on the floor, and both of them were laughing. Another time I peeked I saw a woman twitching and jerking as she stood otherwise still.

I don’t know how many of the 25-some participants eventually fell to the floor, but I did not. I did a bit of circling with feet together in one spot, like a very slow top, but I did not collapse.

Part of me wanted to. I would think, “Oooh, that would be interesting, that would be progress.” But then another part of me would think, “Oooh, I’m 72 and I wear glasses, I might break something.”

People can get into spontaneous energetic movement on their own, but some if not all of the people at the seminar were getting a little help from Damo in the form of energy transmission. One of the times I opened my eyes, I saw Damo standing with both hands pointed towards someone, clearly sending energy their way.

During one of our breaks, Damo said that people fall because so much yang energy builds up in opening up the du meridian (the one that runs up the center of the back), that the body seeks yin energy by going to ground. He also said that sooner or later, everyone will go to the ground.

I don’t know why I didn’t fall. Perhaps I was doing too much thinking. Or maybe at 72, my body can’t accommodate that much energy at any one time. Or maybe I’ve done enough taiji and qigong that I’ve already gotten out the worst of the kinks.

I would feel pressure building in my lower abdomen, and one time as Damo walked past me I told him I felt like the energy wanted to go up into the small universe, and he said let it—and I did let it go up, although it didn’t feel much different than usual.

Another time when Damo walked past me, he asked if I was feeling OK. I nodded yes. “You’re not nauseous or anything?” I nodded no. Later, of course, I wondered why he had asked me those questions.

Had he tried to send me enough energy to get me to go to the ground? Was he wondering if I’d felt it at all? I don’t know and never will because I didn’t think to ask when I had the chance.

Nor do I know if I will fall over if I practice the Dragon Dao-Yins on my own. The times I’ve done them, I’ve taken care to stand well back from sharp corners and to remove my glasses, just in case. At this point, however, I’m neither worried not eager.

Dr. Sun also does energy transmission, although his version seems more gentle, an infusing of energy rather than a zap. When he’s done it for me, he’s been standing close to me, although generally not touching me, and I’ve felt a gradual building of energy in my body. I have seen him send energy to other people, too, and I’ve never seen anyone go to the ground. Nor, in fact, can I even imagine that. I have the feeling that Dr. Sun would consider it unhelpful in the long run, and perhaps energetically unsafe, to do something so drastic.

Of course, I don’t know what the people who went to the ground at Damo’s seminar felt. Maybe they felt a gradual infusing of energy, too, only it somehow pushed them over the edge.

And so, as in my last post, I’ve quickly come to the limits of my knowledge and understanding.

I am glad, however, and do want to share, that Damo has written a book and produced a set of DVDs on the subject of the Dragon Dao-Yin exercises. The book, “The Four Dragons,” is supposed to be available at on Sept. 21; the DVD set, “The Dragon Dao-Yin Exercises,” will be released in July, although you couldn’t pre-order it from amazon the last time I checked.

For now, here’s a link to a trailer from the DVDs:

I will most certainly purchase both the book and the DVD set, although at the moment I am feeling uncertain about doing the Dragon Dao-Yins. I like the exercises, but when I do the standing practice after each exercise, I feel a lot of pressure on my bladder and other lower organs, and the discomfort can linger when I stop. I’m not sure this is a good thing. And like I said above, perhaps my doing taiji serves the same purpose as the Dragon Dao-Yins.

But we shall see…. The existence of a book and a set of DVDs means I don’t have to worry about the exercises slip-sliding out of my memory banks; I can always try them again. Who knows what may happen….


Filed under Practicing

The Pill and I

Sometimes the major content of a seminar turns out to be the least of what you take home, and the “stuff between the cracks” turns out to be the most.

So it was for me and the seminar Damo Mitchell taught a month ago in California on the ancient Daoist Dragon Dao-Yin exercises.

According to the promo blurb on Damo’s website, these exercises were designed to “open the spine and awaken the dormant vibration force which sits within the base of the body…. (They) work by purging the body of energetic pathogens.”

Wow! That sounded good to me and my twisted spine—and so I went.

I found Damo to be an engaging, excellent teacher who inspired my confidence and respect even though he is 34 and I am 72 and old enough to be his grandmother. I was never bored, and I came home able to do the three exercises he set out to teach, although I may or may not continue to do them.

After all, Damo did say that at his school in Britain, Lotus Nei Gong School of Daoist Arts, students who aren’t studying a martial art learn the Dragon Dao-Yins to prepare their bodies for energy work. Since I practice taiji, perhaps I’m off this particular hook.

At any rate, I found some of the “stuff between the cracks” to be even more interesting than the exercises themselves.

Take, for instance, the matter of “the pill.”

Damo didn’t precisely define it, but I believe “the pill” is an energetic entity that you develop during the practice of neigong (which is, more or less, advanced qigong), that you can then choose to send up, to the heart, or down, to water (which water, I don’t know). If you do the appropriate practices to send the pill down, you can develop supernatural powers, such as physical longevity and the ability to throw someone to the ground without touching them; if you do different practices and send the pill up to the heart, you can develop virtues—but, according to Damo, you may die young.

Sending it down was what the ancient Daoists were about, according to Damo; it wasn’t until Buddhism began to affect the practices of internal cultivation that sending it up to the heart entered the picture.

The risk of sending your pill down, according to Damo, is that you may create distortions in your shen/consciousness (your mind/spirit/psyche). You may become a real jerk.

Where did he send his pill? “I’m afraid down,” said Damo—but then he explained that he believes that if you send it down, you can still cultivate the virtues by other means and attain the best of both worlds.

I was told years ago about a very well known teacher who is pretty much universally regarded as a jerk of major proportions, and it has troubled me ever since that one might pursue internal cultivation and end up totally lacking in compassion for other people. I had thought from my years in Buddhism that if you overcome the bonds of ego, you see that all beings are connected and you naturally strive to be kind to others.

I still wish that this were always so, but apparently it is not—and I appreciate having the issue on the table with a little more context.

I also better understand where Yi Ren Qigong and Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun’s advanced seminars fit into the overall scheme of things.

Dr. Sun is very definitely teaching the cultivation of virtues rather than supernatural powers. He uses the term “elixir” instead of pill, but he’s definitely sending his up to the heart.

I was not aware that in studying with Dr. Sun I was choosing to pursue virtues rather than powers—and according to Damo, it’s an all-or-nothing choice because “you have only one pill.”

But wait a minute….

Unless you do a particular set of exercises once, and whoosh, your pill goes up or down, never to return, you must have to do the exercises over some period of time. What if you did “down” exercises on odd-numbered days of the month and “up” exercises on even-numbered days? Would you become well-rounded or merely energetically and spiritually confused? Or what if you studied with an “up” teacher for a while, and then decided to study with a “down” teacher for a while? Could you? Would it work?

Clearly I have a lot to learn—not that I think there are any clear-cut, generally-agreed-upon-as-true answers out there. But I don’t feel much urgency in the matter, since I doubt I’m anywhere near having a pill or elixir to send either up or down.

And if I’m closer than I think and something suddenly goes whoosh and that whoosh is up, and maybe even up forever, well, that would be OK with me. I would like to be a more heartful, more virtuous person, and I have no desire for supernatural powers. Nor do I wish to outlive my children and my grandchildren.

I recently found in my purse a note I’d written during a seminar that said women’s greatest obstacle to enlightenment is attachment. Oh, well…..

NEXT WEEK: Another learning from the cracks around the Dragon Dao-Yins: A Matter of Transmission.


Filed under Philosophy

In Search of the Moon

moon-of-blueMy qigong practice has a new element: Gazing at the moon—or, at least, attempting to gaze at the moon.

I was turned onto moon gazing at a seminar taught recently in California by my favorite qigong writer, Damo Mitchell, a seminar on a completely different subject—the classic Daoist Dragon Dao-Yin exercises.

But Damo was asked if and how women’s practice should be different than men’s, and he was willing to digress, albeit apologetically: It really shouldn’t be him talking about women’s practice, he said, because he is a man, but his partner, Roni Edlund, who is currently rewriting one of his books from the point of view of women’s practice.

However, according to Damo, where men are energetically connected to the sun, women are energetically connected to the moon, and it therefore behooves them to spend time looking at the moon and developing an intuitive awareness of where it is and what stage it’s in at any given time. Continue reading


Filed under Women's Practice

A Twisted Universe

Throughout the ages, qigong has mostly been a guy thing.

Its practices were developed by men for men; only a few women, most of them long ago, were able to slip through the cracks of cultural control to become adepts. But now many women are seeking and finding training; at the qigong seminars I attend, there are generally more women than men.

Since our physical bodies are different than men’s, our energetic bodies are doubtless different as well. So should our training and practices be different?

In taiji, the only point of difference I encountered was which hand should be placed against the body first when bringing both hands to dantian if you did a gathering breath following the form. And even then, teachers didn’t agree: Some said left first for women, and some said right first. My long-time Yang-style teacher Martin Mellish said that his teacher, the revered Madame Gao Fu, said she didn’t think it mattered, that you should do whichever felt right to you.

When I began studying Yi Ren Qigong, I learned that there were male and female versions for some of the exercises—although again, it was mostly a matter of hand positions. I always bristled slightly when Dr. Sun (Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, the man who developed Yi Ren Qigong) would have men and women do things differently. I would be thinking, hey, wait a minute, I don’t want to do the women’s version, I want to do the best version, the most powerful version—and I’ll bet that’s the men’s version. (It probably pays more, too.)

But I would dutifully use the female hand positions; who was I to know if it mattered?

However, recently Dr Sun created a significantly different female version of one of the key exercises of Yi Ren Qigong, a small universe exercise which brings energy up the back and over the top of the head in the Du meridian, and then down the front of the body in the Ren meridian. Continue reading

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Filed under Women's Practice