In April 1999, a dozen Senior Instructors and old time US students from the 1980’s were waiting in Masahiro Ouchi’s New York office to meet with Master Chia, who was delayed by half a day. This was the core group that had launched the Healing Tao and supported it in its uncertain early days. There was some gloom, caused by the divorce of the Chias’ and its surrounding dark aura of rumor and lawsuits. We decided to each share our vision of what we wanted the Healing Tao to be, with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight.
The visions that emerged were spoken from the heart, in a circle of old friends. Many felt the Healing Tao could be more heart centered in its teachings, less manipulation of chi by technique. Some called for more balance between the male and female approaches to teaching, more “yin” practice focused on receiving and nurturing chi and cultivating virtues of love and compassion, instead of “yang” methods of commanding and projecting chi. Others asked for simplicity, greater focus on the ultimate truths of the Tao, less attention to myriad ways to energetically change yourself or the world, more attention to cultivating “shen” and spiritual values.
Since then, I have received many letters and had many conversations with HT instructors from around the world. I sense there is a genuine shift occuring in the Healing Tao, a yearning for core simplicity and truth and silence. The HT has made its fame with the many sophisticated methods for managing the energy body, and this has perhaps been its first necessary step to achieving acceptance in the West. Master Chia has been a superb emissary for accomplishing this mission, and our collective impact worldwide has been tremendous.
One of the reasons I myself supported the HT from the very start was its practicality in everyday life, its immediate benefits, the very tangible opening of personal chi flow. This was my prime motivation in spending years writing & editing its many books filled with techniques, and encouraging others to do so. I was well aware of other paths that focused more direclty on other-worldly, transcendental approaches to meditation. I had close connections to other highly achieved spiritual teachers in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, but chose not to promote them because of what always seemed to me to be excess religious baggage.
But now, 20 years later, on the brink of a new millennium, I find my own teaching style has dramatically changed. I want the Simple and True in my own life, and have seen too many students drop away from the Tao because they could not keep up with the perceived necessity of doing so many techniques. Techniques can become a way for the Ego to hide its fear of losing control behind a mask of accomplisihed skills.
I am concerned for the future growth of the Healing Tao, and ask myself, if we put on a simpler face, would the teachings achieve even more widespead acceptance, more devoted adherents? Do we need to fear Simplicity? The key is to emulate nature, and Nature always seems to favor the simplest way of doing things, even complicated things.
As the current President of the National Qigong/Chi Kung AssociationoUSA, I have had the opportunity to exchange teachings with dozens of other schools of the Tao. When I co-lead an NQA trip to China last year with 30 sophisticated western qigong healers, I was especially impressed by a comment made by Dr. Cai Jun, the head of Qigong Medicine at Shi Yuan, a major Beijing hospital: “It seems you Americans are well trained in qigong techniques. Some of you are on the edge of being really good. Actually, I think Americans in general may be more sensitive to chi than the average Chinese person. But I perceive a general weakness in your dan tiens. If you build the lower dan tien, then all the other channels, the orbit, healing ability, etc. will easily follow. Taoist neidan (alchemy) is very simple this way.”
I have taken his comment to heart. In my Chi Kung Fundamentals course, I spend a long time from the very start doing a very simple chi kung movement I now call Ocean Breathing, a brilliant term coined by Senior Instructor Walter Beckley, who was experimenting with similar simple breathing methods. The secret in these methods is to get “mindless” as quickly and directly as possible, while still focusing on the lower dan tien. The image of water gets you out of the heady concept of breathing air, and into the deeper watery rhythms of your blood and jing. I link in a heart centered Inner Smile with this state of floating in waves inside the dan tien, and being aware of a vast ocean inside the body, an inner ocean of chi, bigger even than the outer ocean.
The dan tien is no longer a tiny, hard to find point inside a dense little physical body — it is immense, and from the very start the source of all pure chi used in the Healing Sounds. I teach students to see their bodies filling with clouds of different colored chi from this inner ocean filling their vital organs and entire body, before they breathe it out using the Healing Sounds. And I give them dynamic movements to help release the chi, by integrating the Six Healing Sounds with the oldest chi kung movement known in China, the Five Animals Play. In between each sound & animal movement, I have them internally breathe between the vital organ and the dan tien.
I never let the students get away from this inner ocean of chi in succeeding practices like Fusion and Healing Love or a new course I teach called Internal Chi Rooting and Breathing, my simplified version of Iron Shirt (different postures learned in China) and neutral force breathing.
To make sure spiritual values are reinforced, I begin training them from the very start to contact not just the chi of each vital organ, but the shen (spirit, or “natural intelligence”), as well. This opens up a different kind of communication internally, in which you have to open your innermost heart in order to talk with the spirit of each organ. I introduce the Five Shen as “my inner family” or “inner children”, each with different needs and abilities.
It also paves the way for a shen (and “te”, or virtue) based practice of the Fusion and Kan and Li formulas. I’ve found this an effective way to simplify the Healng Tao practices. Chi can be manipulated using outer will or ego. Shen, as your inner voices, will only relate to your inner will or spiritual intent. Anytime a practice starts to feel complicated or too pushy or too heady, I tell students to drop all the techniques, go back into the Inner Ocean, and invite one or all of their their Five Shen/ Inner Family to take an internal vacation doing nothing but smiling and riding the pulsing ocean waves. In short, drop back into empty mind, but an emptiness that is grounded in one’s inner oceanic essence and the sensuous, primal orgasmic pulsations of the life force.
I encourage every instructor to find the Way that speaks to you personally and feels most true, as this felt sense of truth is what ultimately gets transmitted to students. If you cannot find the Simple and True inside yourself, how will your students find it? The Simple and True ultimately can only be apprehended in Silence and Stillness, where the monkey mind cannot bring its endless techniques and concepts/images and words. This is constantly stressed in the ancient Tao teachings. In the Tao Canon text of the Zhonghe Ji, it puts it thus: “Silence is the Word. Fundamentally in the place where the Word exists there is Silence. The world is silent; that is the secret formula of alchemy.”
We have the secret formula under our noses already in the Healing Tao, and it is called the Inner Smile. But I rarely see it taught as a high level shen practice, only as a beginner or warm up to a meditation, or tied into an ever more complicated technique of manipulating chi. But once technique has used the polarities of yin and yang to change the balance of chi in any moment, that is the moment when our Original Being has a new opening to come into Presence. Techniques open the gates, then we must leap quickly to ride on the invisible back of yuan (original) chi between the waves of dragon and tiger, of yin and yang.
So really, I think all the Healing Tao techniques should be seen as warmups for a Simple and True Inner Smile. Control of Chi must each time be followed by Surrender to Shen. Practically speaking, appropriate time and emphasis must be given to allowing our inner heart virtues of love/acceptance (fire), kindness/compassion (wood), integrity (gold), wisdom (deep water) and trust (core earth) to merge with this Inner Smile. In my experience, this deeply felt natural virtue is what attracts the Tao Iimmortals. They are not faked out by the concept of virtue, by words imitating virtue or the techniques trying to control or force virtue. But when natural heart virtue and method unite in focused spiritual intent, they must come to assist their human brothers and sisters in cultivating the Elixir of immortality.
As a Healing Tao-ist, are YOU ready to embrace the Simple and True?