taoist practice



EXTRA Darkroom Meditation Background

EXTRA Darkroom Meditation Background Information: Excerpts from DOOR TO ALL WONDERS

The soon-to-be-published book, DOOR TO ALL WONDERS, Spiritual Application of Tao Te Ching, is a work of collaboration by Master Tao Huang and Master Mantak Chia. These excerpts provide some insight as to the processes that one undergoes in the course of Taoist training, which comes to fruition in the stage of Darkroom Meditation.

I. From the section entitled Mystic Female:

Awakening the unconscious in the abdominal area and the emotional love in the chest … In the third area, the most rewarding experience is awakening the unconscious that is stored in the abdominal area and the emotional love residing in the chest. This can occur when the active mind is stilled and the pituitary gland is calm as its hormone-directing functions are balanced and minimal. In sustained conditions of darkroom meditation (such as in a mountain cave), this desirable subtle effect is especially profound when the pineal gland becomes the energy center-the entire biological process of life is altered. The triad relationship among spirit, love and pineal gland will create the finest marriage on earth and in heaven: oneness.

The section entitled Development of Five Senses contains information about brain, glands and biochemical reactions relating to the Darkroom experience:

Five senses are developed within the entire animal kingdom, coordinated through the primitive brain, or cerebral cortex. In humans, the term cerebral cortex describes the thick layer of gray matter encasing the cerebrum, just as fruit encircles its kernel. Cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, consisting of two hemispheres separated by a deep longitudinal fissure. It is the central authority for sensation as well as all voluntary muscular activities, the seat of consciousness, and the center of the higher mental faculties such as memory, learning, reasoning, and emotions. It consists of four lobes: occipital lobe for visual association, parietal lobe for touch and taste, the temporal lobe for smell and hearing, and front lobe for motor activities of thinking and reasoning.

All sensory activities governed by the cerebral cortex are centralized through the thalamus glands and executed through the limbic system, the name being derived from "limbus," the Latin word for "ring." This ringing system enables us to learn and to memorize. This ability is the conductor to sound and its vibrating frequencies, ensuring the person of her/his next breath, the next meal or opportunity. Prior to development of the limbic system, all species possessed a brainstem that encircled the top of the spinal cord that was poorly developed, particularly among fish and insects. The brainstem, even more primitive than the limbic system, directs (as it is preprogrammed to do) the functions of breathing and metabolism. It controls our stereotyped reactions and movements as well. It is vital in maintaining our conscious wakefulness and alertness. The primary functions of life-heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing, coughing, breathing and unconsciousness-is charged by the brainstem. The alarm system in the brain, the reticulating activating system (RAS) consists of reticular formation, sub thalamus, hypothalamus, and medial thalamus, with hypothalamus serving the highest purpose of all. It contains many tiny clusters of nerve cells called nuclei monitors that regulate body temperature, food-intake, water balance, blood flow, sleep-wake cycle and the activity of the hormones secreted by the pituitary glands.

The brainstem, in Taoist practice, comprises the first storeroom of sexual energy as it rises through the spinal cord. It then further nourishes the pituitary gland and pineal gland in meditation practice at the second level: transforming Chi into Shen, then Shen into Emptiness and finally Emptiness into Tao. Its primary factor is its ability to regulate the hypothalamus gland. The meditators who fast long periods of time without sleeping are capable of unifying this gland by constantly drawing light into the brain and body through the pituitary gland. By keeping the adrenal hormones at their lowest levels the inner peace will remain undisturbed. In such a state, the sensory receptors that are controlled by the thalamus glands, with the exception of the olfactory, will consciously withdraw. Thus, breathing activity substitutes for the restfulness of visual and auditory function. In complete darkness, as is found within caves where the meditators engage in their highest form of practice, the visual and auditory abilities become ever more powerful. By drawing the unconscious light from the adrenal glands that are being charged by the primordial sexual energy, the mind sees the light and the inner ear hears the cosmic vibration within both the body/mind and the mother earth. Mysteriously, the cave and the hollowness within the bones echoing each other, making the cosmic vibration visibly meaningful through the conscious eye. Olfactory becomes the chief organ to supply the little needed energy to the body/mind. Thus the thalamus glands are actively shut down. The pituitary gland-the master gland for bodily hormones-becomes distilled by the exchange of energy in the body/mind needed for spiritual awakening power. The hypothalamus gland alternates peacefully, remaining in perfect balance between wakefulness and sleep. The pineal gland, secreting melatonin to control the subtle bodily rhythms, is alternated by the vibration of earth and the scanning light, no longer being driven by the instinctive drive from adrenal power and conscious awareness of the thalamus glands. In this state, wakefulness is a dreaming state and dreaming consciousness is awakening consciousness. They become the functions of spiritual stars and planet earth, rather than the rotating power of the earth, the sun and the moon. This state is the final stage of the returning process on earth.

With the development of the brainstem, the emotional or adaptive center emerges, enabling the body to function more actively, both organically and emotionally. The root word for emotion is motere, the Latin verb "to move." By adding prefix "e" to the word "motion," we see the correlation of organic life in circulating and retreating from its very basic mechanical function.

The Taoists view emotional activities as energy diffusions. The seven emotional expressions of organic function with the passion of the heart are closely connected with the seven openings in the face expressing happiness, rage, sadness, joy, love, hatred and desirable action. The first six are the organic expressions of heart, liver, and spleen. The desirable action is the egoistic mental action. The primary organ for these emotional activities is coordinated through the function of amygdala, taken from the Greek word for "almond" because of its fanciful resemblance to almonds. In Taoist tradition, this is the crowning center where both the light and visual frames register, such as the image of sun or of a snake. As the sexual power engages with the light above the brain to form sweet dew, the light in the pituitary becomes gray-white. When it radiates, the two amygdala glands are activated, allowing the Chi to circulate on either side of the head, above the ears and around the temples. As the light moves forward, the third eye-the essential tool for healing diagnosis-will be opened.

The overall functioning of amygdala is related with the energy of the kidney Chi (among adrenal glands, kidneys, bladder and ovarian/prostate glands), particularly the will/fear expression. Fear is the oldest negative emotion. It is felt by all animals, and is even stronger among humans since they have so little power to protect themselves, especially the newborn. The longer history required for organic development makes fear the basis of the entire civilization process: to protect ourselves and achieve higher potential. Kidneys have their corresponding facial locations within the temples and ears. When your kidney Chi is vibrant and flows freely to the brain, there is no blockage in either temporal lobe or around the umbilical cord. The energy flows freely to create pure emotional vibration: compassion.

The temporal lobes govern all auditory, somatic, and motor sensitivities. The breath coming through the nostrils as well as light shining upon the amygdala charges these sensory activities. The adrenal glands, responsible for releasing dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, become the seat for true inner stillness. This inner stillness is opposed to the extremely fearful reactions that manifest in response to life threatening situations such as freezing, numbness and immobility. In this state, everything is in the harmless and loving present. Being neither fearful nor excited, the heart remains calm with no attachment to anything internal or external. The dopamine's main effect, increasing the pumping of the heart and blood flow, dissolves and transforms itself into healing power. The primary action of norepinephrine, primarily responsible for freezing the muscular and organic expansions, becomes chilled. These two catecholamines then coalesce with epinephrine. This phenomenon increases the production of glucose from glycogen that is produced in the liver. This results in increased energy to eyes and temples, consequently diminishing or greatly reducing the activity of the gastrointestinal system. The energy coming through the liver adds additional power to the cerebrospinal fluid necessary for the cell function in the brain. The breath becomes deeper, longer, smoother, and yet more subtle.

Revolutionarily speaking, when the meditator's breathing condition becomes as such, animals will retreat from this seemingly dead body. Rather, they choose to make friends with it rather than viewing it as a meal. The animals are curious to learn what had come over their food-supplier. In time they become inspired to enter a life of service to those few highly advanced people. This serves as one example of the earliest history of domesticating wild animals. In many cases, those animal friends took on the role of protectors who fought for their masters. For example, in ancient China there are many written descriptions of the highly skilled commanders and martial artists employing wild animals in battle. This is perhaps the earliest meditative power exerted by humans in dealing with their predators. Gradually, throughout the history, we have internalized this skill into a two-sided built-in self-preservation technique: positive and negative.

The negativity freezes or numbs the body/mind subconsciously in its confrontation with danger. The positive side exercises the human willpower to swiftness and fearlessness as characterized by kingship, noble men, and sages. Action (Te) in its profundity is like a newborn baby. Poisonous insects and venomous snakes do not sting it. Predatory birds and ferocious animals do not seize it. In ancient literature, stories were written about kings, noblemen and sages as examples of sovereignty, to be regarded by the commoners as spiritual or god-like creatures, worthy of worship. They needed leadership, guidance, a common hope and belief. Since the majority of the population was unable to survive due to rampant disease, lack of food or becoming the food-supply of the stronger wild animals, they were destined to die at a very early age. The few who survived honed their skills in order to transform their fear and reverse the prevailing life-threatening situations into a positive outcome.

According to pre-heaven theory in Taoist tradition, the abdomen is yang and brain is yin. In the beginning of its life within the womb, generally within three to five months, the body turns upside down with the water at the top and the fire at the bottom. This flow is the function between the North Star and the sun: tailbone and fontanels. The North Star provides the holy water and spiritual light, while the sun ensures the biological formative power and the conscious nutrients: blood and fire. The tailbone provides and directs the initial spinning, rotating or swinging power. It also provides flexibility for the pelvic structure to accommodate the birth process. The fontanels, serving as the cosmic urinary and defecating gates, channel the communication between the fetus and mother. As a fetus grows, the nutrients coming through umbilical cord and placenta shower through the sacral bones to the entire body. The spine becomes like a riverbed, allowing the water Chi to flow and nourish the organs, muscles, tissues, bones and other bodily parts, enabling the fetus to rotate, moving from side to side and up and down. The ears become as the mouth of this river flow, ready to receive the vibration between the fetus and mother, and communicate between the skin and the amniotic fluid. The umbilical arteries and veins within the cord provide the vital energetic circulation of blood. Unlike other species in the animal kingdom, human babies hang upside down in the mother's abdomen until the birth process begins. Animal mothers give birth while standing on their four legs; therefore there is no fear of darkness in baby animals. In contrast, the human baby's brain is always held vice-like in its mother's pelvis, looking down into darkness, causing the fear of darkness to become a built-in biological reaction.

In post-heaven life, the nine sacral and tailbones are fused into two, enabling the trunk of the body to stand upright. The resultant walking ability defines the natural difference between a human baby and an animal baby. It takes a period of six months or more for a human baby to develop the ability to stand on its feet and walk, while only a matter of minutes for a baby animal to do so.However, later on in adulthood-in cases where lifestyle effects have resulted in ossification-like conditions in connective cartilage and other connective tissue between the sacrum and bones in the pelvic area-the sacrum and the affected bones of the pelvic girdle become effectively fused together. The fused bones prevent independent movement of the sacrum, and flexibility of the sacral area is lost. In meditation practice, if the sacrum bones are not re-opened, there can be no free flow of kundalini power for the total awakening experience. In higher stages of Taoist meditation practice, we are told that unless the sacral and tailbones are reopened, it is not possible for the neck muscles, cervical spine and throat to operate freely. The Energy-energy body (fluid-state) cannot be upgraded into the Shen-energy body (illuminating-state) until this process is completed.