In the U.S. we are fortunate to be living in a time when our societal development has seen huge breakthroughs in overcoming prejudice and inequality. More than in any generation before, our choices and means to manifest our dreams are not dictated to us the way they have been in other generations. Doesn’t it behoove us then to take advantage of these freedoms and learn what our predecessors could only dream of knowing and experiencing? Add to these freedoms the good fortune of seeing Eastern wisdom practices migrating to the West, and we must admit that we are blessed indeed. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were unfamiliar with words like Yoga, Qi Gong, Feng Shui, and Tantra. These once-obscure and peculiar Eastern practices are now taught and practiced throughout the whole country and have become part of our everyday vocabulary and routines.
This influx of Occidental information is changing the way we see the world and changing the way we see ourselves and each other. As we become increasingly fixated on the technological world, there is a greater need than ever before to be balanced by the practices that bring us back to our bodies and back to the natural world. It’s a new era for these teachings, and we are the pioneers and creators of this next generation of Mind and Body practices.
A brief and succinct definition of Taoism might be: Living in harmony with Nature or Living in Harmony with Reality.
Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism) is the first indigenous philosophy of China. The word Tao literally means “path” or “way” but can also be a metaphor for “essential nature” or “limitlessness.” The Way is the manifestation of the subtle laws that govern our natural world. We might even call it Reality.
Tao also means the primordial essence or foundational nature of the universe, referred to as Wuji: the notion of both fullness and emptiness held together in a form that is motionless. This motionless Tao is pregnant potential. Therefore it has no name; it is before the naming of things.
The creation of the world as we know it happens when the Tao begins to move. This movement creates differentiation. This differentiation is called Taiji or Great Ultimate. Reality then becomes a dance of two polarities: Yin and Yang.
The symbol on the left is the representation of Taiji and this differentiation. This symbol is expressing the relationship between Yin and Yang and has become the foremost expression of anything Taoist. Taiji is a depiction of a universal process that portrays a changing rather than a static picture of Reality. The black in the symbol represents the Yin principle coming from above and reaching fullness below. The white half, which denotes the Yang principle, begins from below and has its fullness from above. As you can see by the small circles in each half, there is a trace of Yang in Yin and a trace of Yin in Yang.
To fully understand this symbol we need to imagine that these two polarities are in motion, much like a heart beating. The movement of Yin, when it reaches its fullness, will convert to Yang. Yang, when it reaches its fullness, will be transformed into Yin. This is the proper way to envision this symbol and the overall meaning it represents.
Yin and Yang
From a Taoist perspective, observable parts of Reality can be classified under the title of being either Yin or Yang. To understand this principle let’s look at a few simplified examples:
Yang is hot, while Yin is cold
Yang is full, while Yin is empty
Yang is dry, while Yin is wet
Yang is bright, while Yin is dark
Yang moves outward, while Yin moves inward
Yang is more male, while Yin is more female
Yin and Yang are two polarities. In their pure form, they are extreme. When either element reaches a point of being too large, that element begins to take on the quality of the opposite. Too much of either condition creates a dangerous turn of events. For example, from the list above let’s look at the polarity of hot and cold. If there is an extreme of either of these qualities, death is imminent.
Taoists found that there is a danger when we live in the extremes of black and white. It is better to keep to the grey area, where Yin and Yang are more in balance. We might call living in the grey area as “The Middle Way,” keeping both Yin and Yang in agreement with each other.
At its heart, Taoism seeks to live in harmony with Nature by balancing the natural forces of Yin and Yang. Ultimately this harmony has the power to create vital health, longevity, and serene and happy life. A life with these forces out of balance breeds disease, chaos, and ultimately early death.
The writings that were the foundation from which early Taoist practices and philosophy were built came from several sources.
1. The I Ching, or The Book of Changes, is the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. It is from The Book of Changes that the concept of Yin and Yang was first revealed. The basic message of the I Ching proclaims that life is in a state of constant change, continuously moving from Yin to Yang. If a person is wise and understands the pattern of these changes, that person can take advantage of this movement and act at the right time and in the right way to bring success and power to his/her undertakings.
2. The Tao Te Ching (“The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue”) is attributed to Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher who lived in China during the Spring and Autumn Period (4th century BCE) of Chinese history. The Tao Te Ching (pronounced “Dow Duh Jing”) is a collection of eighty-one short poems that explain how to live in harmony with the Tao. Written in a plain, straightforward style, these poems give instruction on how to use Taoist principles to live a balanced, useful existence in good health, joy, and tranquility. Many chapters are dedicated to advising leaders on the right way to serve their country as well as ways of fostering peace and harmony. All the teachings in the Tao Te Ching are applicable to the world today. This may be why this treatise has been read more than any other book in history. Its wisdom is timeless. On a deeper level, the Tao Te Ching is a guidebook for alchemical transformation.
3. The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Medicine Classic, written by Huang Ti, is the most important and most ancient text on Chinese medicine. This book was the first text to provide practical methods of applying the principles of Yin and Yang to generate better health and greater longevity as well as preventing illness and curing disease. It also introduces the concept of the “Three Treasures” and the “Five Elements,” a paradigm for understanding the cause of illness and a way back to optimal health.
From these three basic treatises, all other Taoist writings come, making the Taoist Canon over 1,400 texts. These texts derive their ideas from thousands of years of practice and thousands of points of view coming from a multitude of adherents and practitioners.
Taoism’s Different Schools and Factions
Not unlike Western ideologies, over several thousands of years, Taoism and its tenets have been interpreted in a multitude of different ways leading to separate and distinct sects, schools, and differing practices. In this brief introduction to Taoism, it would be too complicated to categorize all these various schools of Taoism and be completely accurate. Therefore I will reference them together in the following six categories:
1. The Way of Power and Prediction
Shamanic Practices of Magic, Divination, and Geomancy (Feng Shui).
2. The Way of Devotion
Ceremonies and Liturgies including Chanting and Deity veneration.
3. The Way of the Mystic
Viewing the world as a microcosm of the macrocosm. The belief that deities and cosmic powers are living in the human body, and the practice of exploring the cosmic universe through Soul travel.
4. The Way of Right Action
Karma Taoism, rewarding those who do good deeds and punishing those who do unethical deeds.
5. The Way of Transformation
Internal Alchemy Practices. The process of forming the “Elixir of Immortality” to bring about greater longevity, conscious death, and enlightenment. Sometimes includes physical restoration methods and sexual yoga.
6. The Way of Unification
The fusion of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism (or any other belief system).
The tenets of Taoism are inherently inclusive. Therefore, unlike some other faiths, in Taoism, there are no heretics. While there are many diverse ways of practicing The Way, different groups or sects try to respect and tolerate each other and their different points of view. Some Taoists may even practice all or more than one of the six different paths I have described above. Taoist arts and methods are individual and meant to fit the person’s nature rather than make the person fit into a system that does not resonate with his/her makeup. One could practice completely by himself, like a hermit living in a hut on a mountain top, or one could practice with a large group of like-minded affiliates. Whatever method a person chooses to cultivate the Tao, their choice is considered valid and under the tenets of Taoism must be respected.
What does it mean to achieve immortality?
From a Taoist perspective, the concept of Immortality has several notions. Referring to the physical body, one could break down these notions into the following feats: First, a mortal who never experiences death, but continues to live in their body for as long as they want. They may or may not appear to age. Second, a mortal achieves the experience of dying while still fully alive (meaning the ability to move beyond their body to other spheres of consciousness) and when they die, they do so with their full consciousness intact. Third, and easiest of the three to achieve, is when a person lives a long and healthy life to one hundred years or more while retaining their youthfulness within their older age.
This kind of Immortality is very important to Taoists since they value the cultivation and wisdom of an older person who is still vital and young in mind far more than someone still in their youth. Living long without unnecessary aging gives a person added time to achieve their spiritual goals, and it allows for a more fully developed life experience.
Referring to the Mind, Immortality means “being present.” Being in what we have come to call the Now. It is a timeless state. Without time, we are all Immortal. Master T.T. Liang, a Tai Chi teacher who achieved his title of Immortal by living to the age of 102, used to say to his students, “If you want to be an Immortal, stop thinking like a mortal!”
An essential prerequisite for achieving immortality is to practice conserving and revitalizing three internal substances that Taoists refer to as Ching (generative and sexual energy), Qi (vital energy and breath), and Shen (spiritual energy, including the heart and mind). These three internal essences are so important to optimal health that they are given the honorific title of The Three Treasures.
To find out how a mere mortal can achieve immortality, we must first understand what makes the body prematurely age. The ancient Taoists gave prodigious attention to this phenomenon and derived the theory of the three internal potentials, referred to as The Three Treasures (sometimes called The Three Flowers, The Three Medicines, or Three Elixirs).
The Three Treasures are our internal life energies that produce everything physical, mental, and spiritual. They are considered treasures or medicines because they are the building blocks upon which pristine health and impressive longevity are built. If we lose these energies, our health deteriorates. When we gather and circulate these energies, we have the potential to live long and healthy lives.
The first treasure is Ching (sometimes spelled Jing). In Sanskrit, it is known as Oja. Ching is translated as sexual energy, generative energy, or life force. In Taoism, Ching also includes our quintessence (e.g., soul, substance). It is the regenerative force in human beings, that gives us strength and potency. When someone says, “That guy had a lot of balls to do that,” they are referring to his Ching. His potency. His Mojo. When our Ching is abundant and circulated correctly, we have greater power to create and this brings the fortitude to accomplish our goals and stick to them.
What is Ching’s Purpose?
The innate impulse of Ching is to motivate us to procreate and be sexual. It is also the creative energy that permits us to ascend the ladder of mortal existence to find the home of our primordial spirit. The manifestation of Ching is expressed in our joyfulness, sensuality, and fecundity.
Where is Our Ching?
Ching is physically manifested in all parts of the human body, but it is particularly concentrated in these bodily fluids: all sexual secretions especially semen, menstrual blood, mother’s milk including colostrum, bone marrow, saliva, synovial fluid, cerebral spinal fluid, lymphatic fluid, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones.
Where Do We Get Ching?
We acquire Ching from two sources. One is fixed, the other is not.
The first source is our ancestors, from the fusion of sperm and ovum provided by our parents. This Ching is our inheritance and the efficacy of this kind of Ching relies on the health of the DNA of our parents. This Ching is referred to as Prenatal Ching. It is stored in the adrenal glands and in the sperm, egg, and sexual secretions. This is the Ching that we pass on to our offspring.
The second source of Ching is called Postnatal Ching. It is an essence that is refined and synthesized from nutrients taken in from food and water. Postnatal Ching is stored in the liver, blood, and marrow.
How Do We Lose Ching?
Imagine your parents created a trust fund for you with $100,000,000 in it. That fund is there for you to spend any way you wish, but it must last your whole life because when it is spent, it’s spent. That is what our prenatal Ching is. It’s the potential energy that we are born with. We begin to use this Ching the minute we are born. This essence is stored in our adrenal glands and sexual secretions. Too much exertion of the adrenal glands, without allowing for restoration periods, lessens our prenatal reserves. The excessive loss of sexual fluids drains our prenatal bank account.
Taoists are fond of saying, “Sex is the cause of your birth, and likewise sex is the cause of your death.” Sexual fluids are the genesis of human life, and the misuse of these fluids is the reason for premature aging and death. For men, the loss of Ching comes from the unnecessary loss of semen. For women, it’s excessive loss of menstrual blood and the generative energy sacrificed to both create and feed their offspring. In both genders, the loss of Ching comes from overworking the adrenals and immune system through constant stress, lack of adequate sleep, chronic illness, and poor diet.
Without Ching, we cannot live. With deficient amounts of Ching, we are only half living. We are not able to feel the joy of life. Instead, we feel tired, drained, and worn out. This is why Taoist and Yogic practitioners consider the cultivation and preservation of Ching to be the starting point of any health practice. This is often the missing link in most fitness plans. It is also the missing link in many spiritual and religious practices. It is certainly a prime consideration for anyone who has a desire to be immortal.
The second treasure is Qi (also spelled Chi). In Sanskrit, it’s known as Prana. Qi is our vital energy and breath. We could not live very long without it.
In the West, we think of breath as oxygen. In Latin, the word for breath is Spiritus or Spirit. The ancients perceived that there is something more than air in what we are breathing. Something more substantial and sustaining. Something that is akin to intelligence. Modern-day scientists have found that when breathing in the breath of another you are actually breathing in their molecules and within those molecules is information. We are breathing the breath of everyone who has ever existed on the planet, including Jesus, Buddha, and all advanced thinkers and souls. For Taoists and Yogis, breath is knowledge. Breath is wisdom. Breath is the vitality of life.
What Does Qi Do?
Qi instills life in the physical body and makes active mental function. The manifestation of Qi is expressed in our strength, stamina, and personal charisma. Qi’s activity is movement. It relates to how everything moves both in your body and outside of it.
Qi can be harnessed for healing. Acupuncture uses needles, placed carefully on certain areas of the body to both stimulate and gather Qi in the body. If Qi stagnates we have an illness. If Qi moves too fast, there is depletion. Acupuncture and massage seek to balance the movement of Qi and cause it to flow correctly in the body. When Qi is moving in a balanced way, the body functions at its most optimal.
Other practices that harness Qi are Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga. These practices help a person circulate Qi through the body to restore vitality to parts of the body that are lacking it. These practices also help to balance the emotions and mind. Meditation helps to gather and store Qi.
Another Taoist practice, the art of Feng Shui, is a method of observing the movement of Qi in your home and environment to determine how this movement affects your wealth, relationships, career, and health.
Where is Qi?
Qi is abundant in the lungs and in the blood. It’s in every cell of our body. When tissues don’t have enough Qi they degenerate. Qi is manifested in our personal radiance and magnetism. Yoga, Qi Gong, and martial arts methods help to store Qi in the navel area (referred to as the lower Tan Tien or Hara). Huge storage of Qi in this area can make a person very powerful in every aspect of his life. A person with an abundance of Qi usually has a powerful personality, plenty of energy, vitality, and charisma.
Where do we get Qi?
We get Qi from the universe, from our environment, from each other, food, water, and air. Prenatal Qi comes from our parents. Postnatal Qi is given to us by heaven and earth — the material world. The energy of the universe is in constant exchange with us and is an infinite source of Qi. Taoists call it the Inexhaustible Mother. Qi is circulated by movement, breathing, and the pumping of the heart. Qi can also be circulated and moved by the attention of the mind.
How Do We Lose Qi?
We lose Qi by too little or too much activity. We lose Qi by too much talking. Qi is also lost by compulsive thinking. Especially thoughts about the past or the future. Whatever you focus on, that is where your Qi will go. When we focus our awareness on the present moment, we bring our energy back to ourselves. In this way, we can conserve our Qi. Addictions and obsessions are also ways we lose Qi.
We have both outer Qi and inner Qi. Outer Qi is gathered through the act of breathing, eating, and drinking. Inner Qi, through the act of stillness and relaxation. To draw the outer Qi into our bodies we can use the Sun, Moon, stars, planets, food, and so forth. To stimulate inner Qi, we must still the mind and attend to the breath. Stilling the mind is like opening a window. Open up the windows and the air circulates in the house. Open up your inner windows and the Qi circulates through your body.
Aches and pains all have to do with the way Qi is moving (or not moving) in the body. Worry, resentment, anger, and fatigue, all have to do with the way the Qi is moving in the mind and emotions. Worry exhausts our Qi, anger depresses it, fear freezes it, sorrow cuts it off, and too much exuberance imbalances it. Practices, such as Qi Gong, Yoga, meditation, and massage help to bring the mind and body back into balance and restore our lost Qi.
The third treasure is Shen (pronounced shun), the spirit-mind energy. Shen refers to that aspect of our being that is spiritual and mental. It embodies consciousness, emotions, and thought. According to Taoism, Shen is said to preside over activities that take place in the mental, spiritual, and creative planes. This energy rules the activities of the mind, including the potential for enlightenment. It has to do with our spiritual existence and cosmic consciousness.
Shen is also the attention and focus of awareness. The ability to remain present. Tao itself is a pure presence, and all things are created from Presence. Focusing on what Taoists refer to as The One, is to focus on Presence. Therefore, Shen is the entryway into perceiving reality.
The Purpose of Shen
Taoists view the spirit as an integral part of our overall health and well-being. Cultivation of the spirit is considered essential for optimal health. It is through Shen that we radiate ourselves into the world. This spiritual radiance manifests as our intelligence, wisdom, emotional balance, and compassion. Shen refers to that aspect of our being that can perceive the consequences of our actions. Shen connects us to the spirit of others and allows us to empathize and relate to them, thus allowing for deeper connections with our loved ones as well as with ourselves. Shen draws us towards our divine selves or higher consciousness. The manifestation of well-cultivated Shen is expressed by extreme lucidity, tranquility, and bliss sometimes referred to as Enlightenment.
Where Is Our Shen?
Shen is located in the upper Tan Tien, the area between the eyebrows and the crown of the head. Shen is expressed through the eyes. The saying, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” refers to the reflection of Shen in a person’s countenance.
How To Cultivate Shen
Meditation and acts of kindness are the best ways to cultivate Shen. Tai Chi, Qi Gong (especially Pan Gu Shen Gong), and Yoga are excellent ways to nourish Shen. Shen can also be strengthened by acupuncture and herbal remedies. Another effective way to bring Shen back into balance is by implementing methods of Inquiry. When Ching and Qi are developed and refined, the result is the illumination of the Spirit.
The Loss of Shen
When Shen is abundant, we are calm, content, and in good spirits. However, it is easy to throw our Spirit out of balance. The Spirit is harmed by excessive emotions, a highly ego-driven lifestyle, and by too much greed and avarice. Disharmony of Shen often manifests as anxiety, insomnia, lackluster eyes, confused thinking, forgetfulness, chronic restlessness, and, in severe cases, mental illness, including depression and mania. Any mental disorder or mental malfunction is caused by a deficiency of Shen.
The body is the vessel where the three energies–Ching, Qi, and Shen–play out the experience called life. A Taoist or Yogi could not achieve immortality without fortifying these three treasures. And each treasure builds upon the next. Ching is needed to create Qi. Qi is required to build Shen. In that order. But there is a limit to the amount of life energy we are born with and when that Qi is used up, the body can no longer remain alive.
Fortunately, Ching (sexual energy) can be cultivated and made stronger. Taoists found if they could increase their Ching, they could restore and revitalize their Qi. When a person’s Qi was strong enough it activated Shen (Spirit), and the illumination of the Mind-Spirit was attained. For this reason, the conserving and gathering of Ching was of utmost importance to would-be Immortals seeking longevity and spiritual enlightenment.
Before we look at ways to increase sexual energy, we must first address the ways we lose sexual energy. A woman loses Ching every time she has her period. A man loses Ching every time he ejaculates. To conserve Ching, a man must decrease the number of times he ejaculates and likewise, a woman needs to decrease the amount of her menses.
I have established this to be true in my own experience. For example, I know two lovely men who were born just a few days from each other. One of them had a vasectomy when he was in his thirties; the other did not. A vasectomy operation cuts off the flow of semen and does not allow it to escape during ejaculation; rather, the precious Ching is absorbed back into the body. Upon observation of these two men, now in their sixties, the man who had the vasectomy looks at least 20 years younger than the man who didn’t have the vasectomy. I am not recommending that a man have a vasectomy for Ching conservation, because the natural flow of Qi is cut off from that operation. But this is actual evidence of what the Taoists and Yogis knew regarding the effects conserving Ching had on one’s ability to stay youthful. When a person begins to experience his or her sexual energy declining, we know it’s time to restore and revitalize it. Yogis and Taoists have found that is possible to be potent and vital throughout our whole lives. Even into the Immortal years.
However, the conservation of sexual energy is only part of the equation. For physical restoration and revitalization, a person needs to do more than just conserve his or her Ching. One must also practice methods to build and cultivate it. The Ching that we were born with, prenatal Ching, is very hard to increase. However, postnatal Ching can be restored. I had a friend in his sixties who came to me a year after his bypass surgery. He was on all kinds of heart medication. He applied himself to the practices of increasing his Ching, Qi, and Shen. Within a year he looked 10 years younger and his face had a real glow and vibrancy. He went to his doctor for his regular checkups and each time his heart seemed to be repairing itself. Finally, he was so healthy he got to the point where he didn’t need medication anymore. His doctor said, “I don’t know what you are doing, but whatever it is, keep it up.” My friend just smiled to himself, since he knew if he told his doctor what he was doing he would never believe it.
Taoist schools of internal alchemy and herbal medicine as well as schools of Yoga and Ayurveda address methods to lengthen a person’s life by restoring Ching. Methods of retaining and circulating sexual energy are the aim of Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Tantric Yoga, meditation, and Taoist massage. To reverse the constant and debilitating depletion of essence requires a familiarity with the universal principles that govern human life. If a person is to truly restore their essence, then desire, fortitude, resoluteness, and willpower are a prerequisite. One must take full responsibility for one’s own body and life. The rest is simply a matter of method.
“The secret of longevity is to learn how to strengthen the quintessence of man. If the quintessence is preserved, sexual energy will feed vital energy, and you will feel in top form. Once you learn to conserve your sperm, not to ejaculate simply for the sake of ejaculation, your quintessence will be reinforced, you will achieve longevity.” —From Mawangdui writings
translated by Lin Liao Yi
It is a common belief amongst Taoists and Yogis that a man’s good health is directly related to his sexual energy (Ching/Ojas). Without enough Ching, there is insufficient internal energy to forge what is called the Elixir of Immortality, which is the result of accumulating and refining Ching and Qi. The first priority then of any practicing male Taoist seeking long-term health and vitality was to cultivate his Ching. A robust, healthy man would have the following characteristics:
A strong erection and a fully functional Jade Stem (penis)
Healthy and abundant semen
A healthy sexual desire
The ability to achieve multiple orgasms
These abilities are usually plentiful in a man’s youth but over time they will diminish unless he consciously cultivates them.
The Taoists used safe and simple techniques to increase their Ching. They included:
Exercising the Jade Dragon (penis)
Proper Breathing and Exercise
Conservation of semen
Increasing semen volume
Proper Sexual Practices and Behavior
These techniques took dedication and discipline to practice but had many rewards. Even if a man is not seeking immortality, these methods can greatly enhance his pleasure and that of his partner. I will briefly explain each of these methods and their purpose.
Contrary to what most magazines tell you, the size of the penis is not what matters most in sex. A strong full erection is much more important because this means that Qi has gathered abundantly in the Jade Stem. Even a man with a strong, full erection can make it stronger and fuller by practicing the Eight Jade Dragon Exercises. The Taoists used these exercises to enlarge and thicken their Jade Stem (penis) and Dragon Head (glans penis). This gave them the opportunity to perform sexually to their fullest potential and had the added psychological benefit of making them feel sexually powerful. While the penis is active during sex, nothing in the sexual encounter helps a man increase the girth and size of his penis. He must be like a bodybuilder and spend time doing exercises to strengthen and enlarge his penis muscle. Erections are simply engorgement of the penis chambers with blood, and the more room you make for the blood, the larger, longer, and thicker the penis will become. The Jade Dragon Exercises use specific methods to gradually allow the penis to accept more blood. Men who have practiced these exercises on a regular basis have reported having increased the size and girth of their penis by two inches. Adding the application of herbal supplements to these exercises makes them even more effective.
Amongst traditional Taoists, herbs and the knowledge of herbs were essential ingredients for fostering longevity. Drugs, like Viagra, while they do give a man an erection, do nothing to build his Ching or help his symptoms long-term. However, used correctly, herbs can build a man’s sexual energy and increase his stamina long into his later years. Taoists started taking herbs during their thirties and continued doing so throughout their lives. Herbs taken specifically to help restore Ching helped to:
Enlarge and thicken the penis
Create stronger erections and stamina
Increase semen volume (thus increasing the length of orgasm)
Improve the quality of the semen
Give multiple orgasms
Increase overall sexual desire and energy
One herb taken regularly by Taoists was Ginseng or ren shen, also known as “the king of herbs.” Ginseng is said to aid in dispersing Qi to the meridians and organs. White American ginseng, being more yin, reduces heat in the lungs and is considered best for increasing sexual energy. Chinese red ginseng is known for increasing semen quality. When deciding on what herbs to buy, it is important to find fresh herbs formulated correctly. Your neighborhood health store would have information and products formulated for sexual vitality. I have seen good results with New Chapter’s Native Man. A Chinese herbalist (if you are lucky enough to have one in your area) can also be very helpful in finding the right herbs to increase Ching.
Healthy caution should be administered when taking herbs. While herbs are a natural substance, more is not necessarily better. In fact, the rule of thumb for taking herbs is to take them for six days, then skip one day. Do this for six weeks, then skip one week. Continue this cycle for 6 months, then skip one month. Repeat this cycle again or take it as needed. Because herbs are reestablishing the body’s natural intelligence, it is important to give them at least 6-9 months to work. Also, when taking restorative herbs, discontinue using them if you get a cold or flu. Bacteria and viruses are made stronger by these herbs. Restorative herbs like ginseng will actually feed your cold. Therefore, take these herbs only when you are well.
In the U.S. we all know that eating fresh and well-prepared foods and drinking pure water help prevent disease and create strong healthy bodies. Taoists would also advise not to consume too many processed (dead) foods and foods that contain sugar. Sugar depletes sexual energy and over time can adversely affect a person’s Qi. Likewise, too much caffeine will drain the adrenal glands, robbing them of beneficial Qi and leaving you bankrupt in your old age. Nicotine has been proven to adversely affect blood flow to the penis and can cause impotence. Drugs will, over a short period of time, cause all kinds of sexual dysfunctions in a man. Alcohol, when consumed moderately, helps to increase sexual desire. But if consumed to the point of drunkenness dulls the mind and can also cause sexual dysfunctions.
Breath is Qi, and Qi is breath. It would be impossible to build and cultivate Qi without paying attention to the breath. Breath exercises, therefore, were applied in all Tantric and meditative practices. The practice of Tai Chi and Qigong and Yoga is another way the Taoists add years to their lives. Tai Chi exercises help to stimulate and accumulate Qi in all the major organs and systems in the body as well as restore youthful flexibility. It is also a form of meditation that helps to calm and center the mind. Qigong helps to restore Ching, Qi, and Shen. Yoga keeps the spine flexible and rejuvenates the nerves and glandular systems.
Great care was taken in Taoist’s Tantric practices to create a mood and an atmosphere that allowed for intensity and passion. For this reason, they engaged as many of the senses in their lovemaking as possible. Sight, sounds, smells, tastes, touch—all were important elements designed to give greater pleasure and intensity to their partners. Fresh sheets and fresh flowers were laid out. Incense burned while they listened to their beautiful music; candlelight, delicious food, and drink all add to the sensuality of the encounter. Bathing was also a part of this ritual as a clean body was more desirable and inviting. A man would carefully clean himself and put on cologne (as would his partner) to make his body pleasing.
It was also important to shave the pubic and groin area. There were three reasons for this. The first was that when the pubic hair was removed it was easier to keep that area clean (pubic hair holds bacteria, oils, and excrement). With the pubic hair removed, his partner would take more pleasure in the oral arts of sex. The second reason for shaving was that it sent restorative signals to the body, triggering adolescent responses and making him feel more youthful and energetic. The Third value of shaving was aesthetic. It made the penis look bigger and younger.
Men who ejaculate often age much more rapidly than men who conserve their Ching. Symptoms of excessive dissipation are: having dribbling ejaculations, thin, clear, runny semen, and testicles that hang low and sag. The indications of healthy semen are hard, spurting ejaculations, pure white, thick consistency with a pleasant taste. Taoists interested in restoration and revitalization saw the benefit of using their willpower to limit the frequency of ejaculation. They knew that having less but more intense orgasms brought about greater bliss and fuller satisfaction for themselves and their partner. Conserving their Ching also increased the volume and quality of semen which had the added dimension of impressing his partner. The rule of thumb for masturbation was to ejaculate only once in every three masturbations. The other two times, stop before the sensation of climax occurs and simply relax and breathe until the urge to climax disappears.
The Yellow Emperor’s Plain Girl Classic says this about ejaculation:
“Upon the first sensation of ejaculation, if you control it correctly, you will strengthen yourself and enhance your virility. Here are the benefits of restraining ejaculations:
Restraining the second ejaculation will clear the ears and eyes.
Restraining the third ejaculation will rid the joints and muscles of the body of soreness and ailment.
Restraining the fourth ejaculation will strengthen the five internal organs.
Restraining the fifth ejaculation will regulate all the pulses of the body.
Restraining the sixth ejaculation will strengthen the spine and waist.
Restraining the seventh ejaculation will strengthen the buttocks and thighs.
Restraining the eighth ejaculation will bring youthful color to the skin and a smooth, robust complexion.
Restraining the ninth ejaculation will naturally increase longevity.
Restraining the tenth ejaculation will lead you to immorality.”
Diet, taking herbal supplements, and exercise also play an important role in controlling ejaculation.
Besides taking herbs, practicing the Jade Dragon exercises, and limiting the frequency of ejaculation, there were still other methods for increasing the volume and quality of semen. They were:
Soak the scrotum in cold tap water for three minutes for thirty days. Discontinue for thirty days and then soak the scrotum again for thirty days. Continue this cycle for a full year. This method doubles the amount of semen a man normally produces, especially if he is taking herbs and practicing the Jade Dragon exercises.
Every day place a slice of red ginseng in your mouth until it dissolves.
Eat two ounces of crushed walnuts a day for sixty days. Wait ninety days and then resume eating the walnuts again. Continue as needed. This helps restore sexual energy, strengthen erections and increase semen quantity.
Eat cinnamon sticks, licorice root, and fresh pineapple to make semen taste better.
Limit dairy products and sugar as they make the semen taste bitter or rancid.
Let your partner see you ejaculate (rather than ejaculate inside her or in a condom). Do this on her body. It is very healthy for women as it creates an important psychological response. This will make the orgasm more intense.
Another benefit of increasing the quantity of semen for a man is that his orgasms will last longer.
It is often the case in long-term relationships that sex becomes less frequent and less interesting. If sexual energy dwindles so does the health of both partners. Taoists took great measures to ensure sexual desire and intensity were continuously fostered in their relationships. Some of the methods were different for each partner, some were similar. I will give a few important examples here, but be aware that there is much to be learned on this subject.
One of the most important lessons the Taoists taught regarding men in all sexual situations is to maintain the utmost respect for the woman’s feelings, satisfaction, and comfort. They make the analogy that a woman is like a rose that has not yet opened. How does one open the rose without harming the petals? This is where understanding the arts of the bedchamber paid off the most.
Let me quote from the 3,000-year-old Plain Girl Classic. This was the sexual advice given to the failing Yellow Emperor seeking revitalization and longevity. Plain Girl states:
“Sex between males and females is a natural act that determines and produces a higher quality of life. If sexual activity is practiced in accordance with the principles of yin and yang, the male will greatly enhance both his prowess and energy, and the female can eradicate illnesses and restore her youthfulness. Both the male and female can experience inner joy, live in good health, and be full of enlivened spirit. However, if they do not maintain the principles of yin and yang within their sexual activity, their bodies will suffer imbalances and be hastened toward deterioration…
“Sexual activity is never to be considered as an end in itself, as it is but part of a larger scheme designed to develop love and the natural exchange of male and female sexual energies. All sexual activity should be embarked on first with mutual respect, love, and great anticipation… each partner must have the proper attitude and feeling to fully experience the activity. It is for this reason that sexual activity must be undertaken with an attitude of harmony and gentleness. Approach everything slowly and with awareness of what is taking place. Make a concerted effort to feel and sense the actuality of the other person’s energy and sensation… All violent or hard movements must be avoided if the heights of pleasure and joy are to be attained…
“When a man seeks to have sexual activity with a woman he should always prepare himself mentally by approaching it slowly and in a progressive manner. But the most important thing is to calm the mind; once that occurs the Jade Stem will stand and remain erect.
“The man must also observe the Five Empowerments: kindness, proper conduct, manners, knowledge, and sincerity. Along with these, he must know how to properly stimulate her Nine Erogenous Areas. Then, when expressing his sexual desire for her, he will be able to show his full appreciation for her Five Beautiful Qualities and so benefit from the union. With all these, new stamina and vigor will fill his entire body.”
— From Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress
The Plain Girl was hinting at the secrets that few men know about women, partly because men assume a woman’s sexuality is like theirs. And because little knowledge is given to women about their sexuality, a woman may try to be like a man in the way she approaches sex. Every man is different in the way he approaches sex and how he needs stimulation. Likewise, every woman is different in her approach to sex and how she can be satisfied. Part of the reason for this has to do with the type of body a person has. For instance, there are 8 different penis types and 5 different glans penis types in men. In women, there are 3 different clitoral types, 8 different vagina types, and 5 different areola types. Each type has its own distinct sexual expression and needs. Each person is a flower waiting to be opened.
Taoists knew thousands of years ago that there are potent medicines in a man’s and a woman’s body that, when generated during sexual practice (both solo and with a partner), regenerate and revitalize their health and youthfulness.
Intercourse was approached very carefully so as not to cause pain or injury to the woman. Special techniques were practiced to help give greater pleasure and to assure that the union benefited both partners. Many of these techniques were used to heal and restore the organs and Qi. Advanced techniques, known as “Transformational Sexual Methods,” were practiced only with a trusted partner, as they had very powerful psycho/spiritual effects. Learning the proper methods of breathing during sexual activity was also something that could greatly benefit one’s health.
“One cannot avoid life by hiding in the mountains, because life
exists there as well. But one can avoid the disturbance of the external
world by remaining centered and calm like a mountain.”
— I Ching by Hua-Ching Ni
The idea of cultivating tranquility is rather foreign to most Westerners. We believe that more is better and that each second of the day should be filled with doing things and fulfilling obligations. Taking leisure time seems like something lazy people might do. Every moment must have a purpose to it, otherwise, we are wasting our lives.
For the Taoists seeking to live a long life, nothing takes them further away from that goal than too much activity and too little tranquility. It was important to stop and take time every day to be quiet and still. Leaving the turbidity of daily life meant restoring their Qi. There is really nothing that restores and accumulates Qi as well as sitting in tranquility. Meditation was paramount to their restoration and spiritual practice as it cultivated their yin energy like nothing else.
Our goal, if there is one, in meditation is to 1) breathe and 2) observe. We have been breathing since the day we were born, so it’s something we know we can do. For just a few minutes a day, we give ourselves one job, one task and that is to breathe and watch the breath. When we do this our mind begins to quiet down and our bodies begin to relax.
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