Closing the Third Eye

One of the enlightenment goals of Daoism is closing the third eye. Many religious systems actively try to open the third eye because it is associated with intuition and wisdom.  Daoists don't openly reject intuition and wisdom--both are good for party tricks and playing the stock market--but most of the time we don't need them, especially not before I've had my morning coffee.  

In the old days, the third eye had many practical uses, like seeing what was happening far away.  It took a lot of effort and was unreliable, but using it made people feel powerful.  That is why Daoists close the third eye, the two regular eyes are unreliable enough without adding intuition and wisdom into the mix.

Now-a-days, everyone has a smart phone or a computer close at hand.  Using these devices opens the third eye. You can ask any question, create any fantasy, see any event or map, and know what is going on anywhere.  It is not just that you can hear a few voices in your head--you can hear any voice!  

The basic instructions for Daoist meditation can be summarized like this: if the third eye opens, close it.

Closing the third eye used to be easy.  Most people wanted to open their third eye, but it took so much effort, concentration and practice; so most people didn't bother. That's why some religions valorized it.  Historically, Daoism was responding to the excesses of fasting, drug use, and sleep deprivation strongly associated with opening of the third eye.  Daoist doctrine, beginning with the Daodejing, saw this as a waste of life and vitality (qi and jing).  

Today, third eye powers are common, and used for so many different purposes; if someone wants you to believe in their religion, say the Second Coming, global warming, gender indeterminance, or that it is good to marry a piece of furniture--they will show you this with their third eye! See?  Just watch this video or visit this news sight.

The first Daoist precept--explained by the founder of Religious Daoism, Zhang Daoling, the original teacher, in about 50 CE--"Don't interfere with people's direct connection to heaven."  In other words, if people want to believe something, let them.  You just close your third eye and see things as they are.  

Closing the third eye is becoming harder.  Socially people are expected to keep it open as a form of communication, and to stay informed.  Having an open third eye is so easy that most people become addicted to it at some point.  This is extremely draining.  People actually say things like, "Do you remember how you used to find your friends at a crowded public event?"  People now use their third eyes for all sorts of things which their regular eyes are perfectly capable of achieving.  


Now let me explain a Daoist method for closing the third eye.  Use your third eye in reverse, suck in and dissolve the world.  While doing standing meditation, look out into the distance and suck everything into the third eye, send it down to the feet, and merge it with the firmness and darkness of the earth.  The need for the third eye will be eliminated because everything in the environment will be present.  Simply find chaos and embrace "not knowing."

Over time, the effect of closing the third eye is that the body becomes empty of all intent, old injuries resolve, and one's natural (child-like) ability to balance incoming forces is restored.  

Having an open third eye drains the kidneys, injures the lower back, and causes the head to pitch forward. The modern explanation for this problem is that people are spending too much time staring at a screen.  The traditional explanation is that when the third eye is open, you can't see the hungry demons sneaking up to chomp on your kidneys and nibble on your neck.

In closing I would like to say a few words about standing meditation.  I think it is the core of internal martial arts practice.  People often talk about the difficulty they have meditating, the difficulties they have starting or maintaining a practice. I have always found this puzzling.  Perhaps it is because people are trying to open their third eye?  This might explain why people find it difficult.  

My definition of meditation is: pick a time and place to practice.  The time is one hour, the same time of day, everyday.  The place is a quiet place, a space where you won't be disturbed or distracted; the same place everyday.  If a practice has some other characteristics, it might be better to call it something other than meditation so people don't get confused.  

Fun personal note of no particular significance:  I've been standing still since I was 20.  In my 24th year of practice (four years ago) I passed a significant marker: having stood still for the equivalent of a whole year. 

The Primeval Tongue

feng-mei-qi-orbitIt is a staple of Chinese movement and religious studies that the tongue should be on the roof of the mouth.  In Daoist ritual and ritual meditation the tip of the tongue is sometimes used to draw talisman on the roof of the mouth.  But in Zouwang (sitting and forgetting) the basic emptiness meditation practice, which is very much like Zen, part of the posture instructions for stillness include putting the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind the teeth.  I’ve also heard people say to put the tongue on the soft pallet.  The identical instruction is standard in Tai Chi and other internal martial arts and qigong classes.

There are two explanation commonly given.
The first is that keeping the tongue in that position allows the throat to open so that saliva can travel downward without stimulating the gag reflex or the need to swallow.
The second explanation is that it somehow connects the meridians which travel in a circle up the back, over the head, and down the front-- popularly called the “micro-cosmic orbit” of the du and ren acupuncture channels.

A while back I wrote about Michael Jordan’s amazing tongue.  In an interview he said he learned to do tongue lap-rolls from his father who always rolled his tongue when he was chopping wood.  I’ve been experimenting with this for a long time.  How does movement of the tongue help the movement of wood chopping?  I think I have the answer.

The sucking reflex babies are born with is a whole body movement which comes up from the belly and presses the tongue to the roof of the mouth.  Not the tip of the tongue!  A spot about a centimeter back from the tip of the tongue presses upward into the roof of the mouth. This creates a rolling effect pushing the tip of the tongue downward and out (to surround the nipple).

If you don’t have a baby handy to play with, find a cat and interrupt her while she is licking herself.  She’ll probably stop with her tongue just slightly out of her mouth on a downward arc and give you this Jewish grandmother look like, “What? You want something? No, what makes you think I’m busy?”

If you put your own tongue in this position and try to talk it will sound like, “blublah.”  I find that practicing with my tongue in this position is very similar to having “baby feet” (see previous post).  It is an even better position for getting saliva to flow down the throat without stimulating the gag reflex.  It also seems to interrupt my tendency to think in words.  Why did it take me 20 years to figure this out?

This is a very relaxed position of the tongue, it is not held with pressure.  Any movement of the dantian (the abdominal region of the mind) will be felt as a subtle change in the shape or fullness of the tongue if it is relaxed.  If the tip of the tongue is curved upwards this feedback loop will be broken.

Perhaps this experience is what was originally meant by “connecting the du and ren meridians” but if that is the case, the method and purpose really got mangled in the translation, or the transition to modernity.

(please, no “baby talk” in the comments)

Here is a video of an infant sucking: