When I started practicing daoist qigong and nei dan, the energy field shifted deeper inside my body. I got grounded, less spacy, and my body grew strong again. Rather than looking down from above my head, and I felt myself deep inside my body looking out. As I began learning the first formulas, my vital organs began pulsing with new life, currents of energy began flowing in different meridians and in my limbs. Buried emotional patterns I thought were long gone surfaced and released. This opened up more space inside my body. Later there was a progression of strange symbols and images - cauldrons floated deep within the inner spaces of my body, bagua shapes made of light suddenly flashed. I felt sexual-like orgasms in different vital organs, and once my spine ecstatically dissolved, as if some invisible being were making love inside my body.
I had entered some new mythopoeic world, seemingly crafted with amazing elegance and subtlety in advance of my arrival into it. It was a unique feeling of satisfaction, like I had been allowed a glimpse inside my real body. These experiences arose from practicing only the second alchemy formula of “Lesser Water and Fire”, long before I understood anything about original qi or communication with deeper levels of Nature’s qi field. Later, I came to recognize the progressive levels of “emptiness” in the cauldrons used in each formula were actually “filled” with this elusive original qi; that “sitting in forgetfulness” was actually remembering my original energy. At this time I was still at a low level, but didn’t know it and didn’t care. I felt I was going home, and was willing to start over completely to get to the heart of the Dao.
Oddly, shifting from tantra to daoist alchemy reminded me of my experiences in learning new foreign languages, which i did often in the course of travelling to 90 countries over my lifetime. I had immersed myself in Russian language and travel in college, taught myself French living on the Riviera after graduation, and learned Amharic (Ethiopian) and enough Arabic to get by while working as a free lance war correspondent in Africa. Learning each language had given me the thrill of being able to communicate with a secret set of sound-symbols unknown to non-initiates of that language. Each language unlocked a new culture. When local people heard me speak in their tongue, their hearts opened. I was recognized as belonging to their world and invited inside their lives and homes. Each culture was a private microcosm, holding its own intimate conversation within the macrocosm of a planet with billions of people chattering away in thousands of different dialects and tongues. (7)
As I was inexorably drawn deeper into daoist alchemy, each suceeding alchemical formula resembled gaining fluency in an exotic foreign language. When first learning a formula I would feel awkward, like I didn’t know how to get around or ask for anything. I would gradually get comfortable “speaking” through a new subtle qi channel or “talking” with the local qi field of a vital organ, a mountain, the ocean, or the sun using the language of resonance. As each formula gave me confidence to communicate with a new aspect of the collective mind reasonably well, I got invited into a deeper and more intimate level dialog with “Nature”. This meant learning to listen to both self-nature (microcosmos) and environment-nature (macrocosmos). Where was this conversation going? It felt like I was entering a series of rooms or nested cauldrons within myself, leading into some unseen inner sanctum.
Learning to speak in the deep language of each formula meant learning to shape my personal qi field into a recognizable alphabet of energy patterns within myself that matched some invisible inner faculty of intelligence in Nature. The repeated alchemical cookings of the main “ingredients” - body-mind-spirit-emptiness (jing-qi-shen-wu) - were octaves of the same inner conversation, taken a little deeper in each formula. The increasingly subtle nature of nei dan’s deep language made the stream of thoughts chattering within my mind seem increasingly secondary.