Sleeping and Resting
Newsletter 5th May 2016
Sleeping and Resting
Resting and Sleeping are one of the important Pillars of Health and hence key compo-nents of Take Home Practice. Sleeping is more than recovery time - it is an opportunity for physical and emotional healing, spiritual development, creative ideas and problem solving. There are three states of mind: the state of being awake, the state of meditation and that of sleep. Ultimately, in realization of the Tao all three states merge into one consciousness. This process of merging is highlighted by Chuang Tsu’s memorable quote:
Once upon a time. I Chuang Tsu, dreamed I was a butterfly flying happily here and there, enjoying life without knowing who I was. Suddenly I woke up and I was indeed Chuang Tsu. Did Chuang Tsu dream he was a butterfly, or did the butterfly dream he was Chuang Tsu?
As we shall see further on in this section of sleep, meditation practice and awake consciousness merge in higher-level practice. As in preparation for sleep, the common theme in most Taoist practices (meditation, Tai Chi, Chi Kung or Discharge Power) is to fill the body up with Chi and open the meridians and Tan Tiens. It is no different for the art of sleeping and resting. There are three basic methods that we recommend prior to sleep and include stretching, the Six Healing sounds and meditation.
Stretching was discussed in some detail in the Warm Up chapter, so will I will not discuss in any detail here. In stretching, deposits of stagnant accumulations of toxic Chi can be cleared using a combination of muscle lengthening, mindful relaxation and breath. Filling the body with Chi is largely a yin process. It is a process of letting go, connecting to heaven and earth while providing a firm framework for the Chi to enter.
Extreme passive relaxation is not the method. Being like tofu or a dead fish doesn’t allow the entry of Chi. As energy levels have diminished, stretches are usually performed on the ground using the methods described in the Tao Yin book. Sleep while it has some healing effect on negative emotions is not as capable of repair as the awakened state that can link the physical, the energetic and the integrated mind (3 Tan Tiens). Sleep operates at a higher level of mind and spirit and only partially engages the body and emotions. Therefore preparation for sleep should include the Six Healing Sounds. In these Healing Sounds the negative emotions are identified, ex-pressed and transformed to the positive. The body becomes emotionally positive and a connection is made between organs, their respective spirits and the universe.
As mentioned with the dietary advice above, the evening meal ideally is the smallest of the three daily meals. Going to bed slightly hungry or just on the light side of satiation is optimum. Certainly going to bed soon after a heavy meal is wrong. Digestion and sleeping are both yin functions that require whole body energetic systems. They cannot be done simultaneously without some negative side effect. Side effects of incorrect eating include: nightmares, disturbed sleep or even insomnia.
Sitting meditation prior to sleeping should have limited expectations. The purpose prior to sleep is to just to have a gentle meditation – and to avoid the stronger energising meditations of Fusion and Kan and Li. At some stage a natural sensation of a sleepy feeling – pleasant and inviting will overtake the body and mind.
At this stages go into a side position, (preferably the right side down) with the left hand over the top aspect of the upper thigh of a bent leg. The right hand is placed under the head or at second best under the pillow.Next give yourself some brief dream commands, which may include: ‘I want to come at a solution in the morning for the following problem. Please my spirit, venture out and solve this problem. Please give the answer to me as a thought in the morning or alternatively, make me remember a relevant dream.’ The problem may be a Chi blockage in your body that you are having difficulty clearing in order to improve your Tai Chi. There may be difficulties in with having excess yang and insufficient yin energies. Whatever the problems is ask your spirit and dream world for help.
Chen Tuan (871-989) was a Taoist sage that practiced on Hua Shan Mountain. According to legend he would sleep for months at a time with no signs of life. Vegetation would also grow upon him. He comments on our lay sleeping habits:
An ordinary person eats to satiation and then takes plenty of rest. He or she is mainly worried that the food should not be too rich, eating when he feels hungry and sleeping when he feel stirred. His snore is audible all over the place. Yet then at night, when he should be sound asleep, he wakes up unaccountably. This is because fame and gain, sounds and sights agitate his spirit and consciousness; sweet wine and fried mutton muddle his mind and will. This is the sleep of ordinary folk. But I practice the sleep of the perfected.
Chen Tuan highlights one of the foundation principles of Taoism, which is in order to find peace the adept needs to let go of attachment to the external senses and accomplishment. Instead the adept needs to become eager and even fulfilled by the inner world of the pleasant sensations of Chi and dreams. Unfortunately to accomplish ability in Tai Chi one needs to progress in line with these principles of sleep and rest. All facets of earthly existence and desires advance towards the seemingly immaterial. Paradoxically when the material world is forsaken then it can be mastered.
Chen Tuan’s methodology involves a combination of lucid dreaming and alchemical practice. His spirit consciously explores the heavens and the earth and absorbs various essences and places them in his cauldron. He has developed his practice to a stage whereby alchemical practices such as Kan and Li and Sealing of the Five Senses can be performed while asleep. The Xiandao Jing (The Scripture that Manifest the Tao) describes meditations that can be carried out in the reclining position. These give us clues as to how to optimise our rest and sleep and to align ourselves with the Tao. These meditations can be done both day and night.
Practices are best performed in an isolated (close to nature) chamber, which is clean and dry. Diet has been modified such that solid food is reduced and a sense of lightness is obtained. This meditation is best done after bathing in a light robe or even nude. Begin by lying on one’s back. Focus the mind on the lower Tan Tien. The principle behind this meditation is to gather the spirit or essence from each organ and then merge them in the lower Tan Tien. A ritual or incantation can be used whereby the actual names of the residing spirits are summonsed in the creation sequence – they are: Houhou or Shen (heart), Beibei or Yi (spleen), Yanyan or Po (lungs), Fu Fu or Zhi (kidneys) and Jianjian or Hun (liver).29 This is repeated until a bright light and warmth occurs in the Lower Tan Tien. Opening this place will automatically open the microcosmic orbit. Breathing can be initially coordinated with this meditation to assist the process. Inhaling stimulates the kidneys and liver, while exhaling moves the heart and lungs to the center point being the stomach and spleen.
For the purposes of lucid dreaming, the merged five spirits from the lower Tan Tien are then brought up to the heart and then to the Crystal Palace (also known as the Divine Palace or Hall of Light). The team of merged spirits can exit via the crown.
Being conscious during the whole dream or alternatively remembering the dream after waking completes the process. During the day the content of the dream is processed and if necessary action is taken in the material