There are Two Realms of Heaven + Earth in Taoist Studies
The philosophical concept of Heaven and Earth encompasses many practices of both the manifest and primordial realms. As a qi gong practice, Heaven and Earth is an excellent methodology for penetrating deep into the body and bringing alive the many layers of flesh, fluids and qi; whereas, Heaven and Earth as a fundamental aspect of Taoist theory enters the realm of the cosmic, having very different implications.
This dual-aspected philosophy is not unique to Taoism, as discussed in the article from which this excerpt is derived, but the pragmatic and skilful approach of the Water method allows the Taoist seeker to evolve on all levels of their being through a systematic training protocol. Derived from study of the Five Elements and I Ching, this practice methodology offers the dedicated student of the Tao effective strategies for navigating the pitfalls of living in the modern material world, and effectively growing their personal and spiritual potential.
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”.
My colleague Dan Kleiman, founder of Qigong Radio, recently interviewed me on the how to get the most from Tao arts training. Dan has a great ability to make connections that help his students to evolve their practice, and I always find it interesting to sit down with him and see what he manages to stir up!
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Although many books on tai chi assign the eight internal energies of peng, ji, lu, an, lieh, tsai, kao and jou to the eight trigrams, they are not manifestations of the trigrams themselves, otherwise bagua—the art form of the I Ching—would employ that methodology. In bagua’s palm changes, all eight internal energies are used in each palm and yet each palm develops the energy of a single trigram.
Likewise, in tai chi, you stream through the eight internal energies as you practise your
form and yet your focus remains on developing the energy of a single trigram. When
practising a form or any section that is highly familiar to you, your focus is placed on the trigram of your choice, the energy behind the symbol. You then attempt to make the jump
and contact that particular primordial energy.