San Francisco is Wudang Shan West. Wudang Shan is the legendary birthplace of Taijiquan, the sacred Daoist mountain from which many of the extraordinary methods are said to have arisen. It is also the home of Quanzhen, the Perfect Realization tradition of monastic Daoism.
Cities are generally considered bad places to cultivate Dao, because they are noisy, dusty and crowded. Ritual traditions of cultivating Dao are of course based in communities, but development of specialized techniques and skills are often thought to require fresh cool air and quiet.
San Francisco, rarely has a hot day and never has a hot morning, yet it never snows either. It is possible to practice in pristine ocean fog 3 out of 5 days all year round. At 6am, a spot sheltered from the wind will be as quiet as a mountain retreat.
It took me three days of being back here to re-regulate my breathing. If I can lose it temporarily on a one month trip, after 22 years of standing meditation, how could those with an irresolute will even stand a chance of weaving the golden thread?
Without the right environment, practicing martial arts is a struggle. On this trip, the heat made me resistant to practice. I got a sense of what it might be like for some students who tell me practicing consistantly is difficult. Daily practice has always seemed natural too me, even in my rebelious teens, everyday at 6am I got up and danced around my room for a few hours, or went skateboarding, or sailing. I was born at Wudang Shan West.
George Xu has been using the vocabulary of two bodies. He says we need to have both a Jing body and a Qi body. These two bodies must be clearly differentiated. One way to recognize this differentiation is by exploring how these two bodies respond differently in different environments. Here are some musings on that topic from the last days of my trip which you may find helpful on your own journey inward.
Think of Jing as the mass, as the reproducible essential substance --as the puppet. Think of Qi as energy (in the most vernacular sense of the word, “I feel energized,” or “I’ve got no more energy,”), as direction, style, and dynamics --as the puppeteer.
Cold causes qi to go interior and consolidate.
Heat causes the qi to release and disperse.
In the cold we tend to “stagnate” we want to be still to sink into the couch.
In the heat it is very hard to exercise, particularly damp heat, we get tired very easily.
Meditation is easy in the cold, particularly early morning or late at night when other people aren’t moving. Meditation and stillness are easy in the cold because the qi consolidates.
In the heat, meditation is truly difficult because ones qi is so easily dispersed.
JIng is harder to understand.
Jing is more easily injured in the cold where muscles strain and resist movement.
In the heat, jing is soft, loose and relaxed, structural injures are rare, but exhaustion can set in within minutes, the qi is just too easily dispersed. Over time our qi can become “depleted.” As there is no 'motor' to drive the Jing, it too can become depleted.
Qi is easier to store in the cold. Of course not everybody eats well and gets enough sleep, and the right kind of exercise, but assuming that base, qi is easy to store.
In the heat most exercise is out of the question because it would simply disperse the qi before the exercise had a chance to do any good.
In the old days, damp heat caused food to spoil and people to get sick.
In the old days, in the cold, people sometimes ran out of food.
Without proper nutrition, jing will become depleted, but qi usually gets depleted first. In the heat, jing is easy to mobilize but the qi isn’t there to push it.
Of course in extreme cold, circulation stops and the lungs start to freeze. In extreme heat the brain starts to cook.
Wind is a problem in either situation because it disperses the weiqi, the protective qi on the surface of the body. In the cold, wind causes the to muscles cramp and seize, and the lungs to be vulnerable to colds and flu. In the heat wind leads to head aches, fever, and loss of appetite.
I’m starting to think that the great deal of art and poetry produced to described the elixir practice is mostly just a way of saying, "look at my unique experience of differentiating jing and qi." If you cultivate dao, and differentiate jing and qi, you will likely have a unique experience and you may recognized that cultivation in other people. It is said that there are lists of ways to recognized another immortal (xian). I have to go look for one of those lists but I know that one of the things on that list is long earlobes. You can recognize an immortal by their earlobes! When jing and qi differentiate, the Jing body becomes like free floating earlobes.