Taoist arts and philosophy are extremely pragmatic and incredibly understated with instructive texts often being terse and cloaked in many layers of metaphorical language. While obvious meanings may be gleaned from a casual read by just about anyone, laying just below the surface is a treasure trove of principles detailing technicalities and natural law that can only be truly revealed by the initiated. Feasibly and perhaps paradoxically Taoists have always regarded that the best place to hide something of value is out in the open.
However, the bulk of the Taoist tradition is oral with teachings and experiential knowledge wrapped up in short proverbs that guide the dedicated student cleanly and clearly through the trappings of the ego, and into the unchartered waters of the mind. The secrets within can only be discovered by those who dedicate themselves to The Way or The Path of personal and spiritual development. As the student walks along their path and trains, the many veils peel away and the guiding principles uncover ever-deeper truths. And the same few words that exploit these meanings, propel the persistent student along their journey. One such maxim containing the potential of the entire development within the Tao internal arts is nei wai hsiang he or “inside and outside become one”.
The Two Levels of Nei Wai Hsiang He
In Taoism, first the physical body is developed–including all of its external and internal aspects, its qi and, to some degree, the mind–in a systematic methodology that culminates in the spherical operation of the body, qi and mind. It takes a few seconds to make the statement and half a lifetime to develop!
This first level of practice is contained within the concept of nei wei shang hur, having only to do with the human as a physical being and the qi or fuel that powers that physicality. Yes, there is some development of the mind, but by all accounts these methods are indirect as they are developed as a by-product of learning and practising qi arts.
The second level of practice has to do with directly training the mind through meditation, holding much greater potential to develop the entire human being. So from the meditation tradition of the Taoist Water method, nei wei shang hur is applied to the very core of the human being (i.e. penetrating deeper and deeper inside) as well as feeling and contacting the entire cosmos all the way to the outer edges of the universe (i.e. expanding ever-further outside). This is the very definition of a fully realised Taoist Immortal: an adept who is continuously conscious of all and everything—both inside and outside. It is also the highest level of Enlightenment within the Buddhist Dzogchen tradition. Of course, nobody goes from training nei gong to expanding their consciousness to encompass all and everything in one jump!