Exploration of the traditional Neidan method

Author: Song Tainbin
Affiliation: Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China [1]
Conference/Journal: 1st World Conf Acad Exch Med Qigong
Date published: 1988
Other: Pages: 204 , Word Count: 1548

The Neidan method has always been regarded as a mysterious skill of the Taoist School, the purpose of which was not only to preserve health and prolong life. However, when we remove its mysterious veil and look at it from the point of view of modern medical science, we find that the traditional . Neidan method is indeed a kind of qigong exercise for the treatment of diseases, preservation of health and prolongation of life. The Neidan method of qigong embraces the three basic elements of modern qigong —regulation of the mind, breath and body. In addition, its complete theoretical and methodological system is the core of the Chinese science of qigong, a summarization of all the various schools of qigong . The exercise of qi circulation, which is regarded as an advanced form of qigong by many practitioners, is the basis and typical feature of the Neidan method.

Works on alchemy contain useful experience and records of experiments, but they also contain deliberately mystifying things and various pretexts. Therefore, if they were accepted without discrimination, the practitioners would easily be led astray. Take the exercise of qi circulation for example. If the practice believes that it can provide such wonderful effects as eternal life, ascending to Heaven, body duplication and transformation, access to fairyland, and rejuvenation, if he improperly pursues such effects, he may result in psychological disorders. There may be abnormal and painful sensations, or functional disturbance of the vegetative nervous system. In severe cases the victim may become psychotic. Even if nothing goes wrong, excessive desire will lead to useless consumption of qi and mental fatigue with hallucinations instead of healthful effects. Ancient works on alchemy, in fact, recognized the possibility of such dangers and maintained that the practice should have a proper purpose and lead a simple, quiet life. With a proper understanding and application of the Neidan method, such dangers may be avoided entirely.

Historical records and actual experience all prove that the Neidan method undoubtedly has a health-protecting effect. The exercise of qi circulation, for example, has at least three advantages First, motion is placed under control and breathing is regulated, so it is easy to void one's mind of other thoughts and go into a trance. The physiological processes affect the psychological processes, resulting in a healthy mental state of calmness and pleasure with no desire. The body and mind is adjusted to the optimal state so that the person' s intelligence and capability are better than usual. Secondly, self-implication is put into full play. Mental control is achieved through a great variety of measures which effect and regulate the physiological processes. It is inferred that the metabolic processes may be improved through the auto-regulation of the neurohumoral regulatory system, as the result some biochemical reactions and consequently the aging process may be slowed down, whereas certain functions may be activated to maintain youthful vigor and exploit potential energy. Thirdly, the body and mind receive all-round exercise with an emphasis on protecting health. The mind, breath and body are regulated together. The essence of life, qi, and the spirit are all adjusted. Stillness and motion are combined with the former as the basis. In other words, the body is still outside yet moving inside, and absolute stillness causes motion.

It has been proved by modern experimental studies that the physiological indexes showed marked changes after practicing the exercise of qi circulation. It was observed in the Beidaihe Qigong Sanitarium that there was no statistical difference between an experimental group and a control group before practicing the exercise, whereas after practicing the exercise of qi circulation for two months, the respiratory rate of the experimental group during the qigong state was significantly slower than that of the control group, the cerebral blood flow was markedly decreased, and the temperature at the Mingmen (Du 4)and Qihai (Ren 6) increased by an average 1°C. It was observed at the Jiangxi Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology that in ten persons who practiced the exercise of qi circulation the skin temperature at the lower elixir field, Juque (Ren 14), Jiaji (Extra 21), Mingmen (Du 4), Yintang (Extra l), and the bilateral Laogong (P 8) increased markedly during the exercise as compared with the temperature before the exercise, whereas there were no changes in the control group. This shows that the psychological activity of controlling one's thoughts has an actual physiological effect. It is not just a heat effect; it has a clinical therapeutic effect as well. It was reported by the Beidaihe Qigong Convalescence Hospital that among ten patients suffering from chronic diseases, two were cured, seven improved markedly, whereas only one did not respond after practicing the exercise of qi circulation for two months. According to the past experience, the patient suffering from gastroptosis who did not respond could also be cured if the course of treatment was prolonged for another 3-5 months. The Zhejiang Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology reported that the exercise of qi circulation at Mingmen ( Du 4 ) can be used to treat cancer. Other experiments show that during the exercise the appearance of the feeling of meridian conductivity is markedly higher, increasing from 21. 3% to 42. 5± . This shows that the circulation of qi in the body in the Neidan method is a natural phenomenon during the period of exercise in which the feeling of meridian conductivity appears, and that it is nothing mysterious. At present very few experiments have been conducted in which the exercise of qi circulation was observed directly, but many experimental studies on the regulation of the mind, breath and body conducted in the past have indirectly proved that the psychological and physiological effect of the .Neidan method is authentic. However, it is not easy to attain such effects as described in ancient works like long period of fasting, extremely slight respiration, hibernation, etc. So it is not difficult to understand why the Neidan method has for thousands of years been regarded as a mysterious, advanced form of qigong exercise.

If we peel away its superstitious, religious covering and look through the mysterious veil, it is absolutely possible to understand its mechanism from the point of view of modern science. This would help in avoiding untoward effects and in achieving early success. From the point of view of modern anatomy and physiology, the position of the elixir fields are precisely the location of the important nerve centers and endocrine glands. such as the lobus parietalis and lobus frontalis of the cerebral cortex, the hypothalamus. the medulla oblongata, the spinal cord, the celiac plexus, the pituitary, the thyroid, the thymus, the gonads, the adrenals and other glands of the digestive system. These organs are essential to life and may be regarded as life centers.

On this basis we have designed a short-cut to the modern .Neidan method, namely, direct psychological training of the neurohumoral regulatory system to affect physiological activities with psychological processes. The actual procedure is first to draw a colored anatomical graph showing the position of the important internal organs of the neurohumoral regulatory system. Then the ancient method of looking and thinking is employed. The practitioner first looks at the graph, and then tries to visualize it in his mind with his eyes shut, repeating the process for a number of times and gradually prolonging the period of recalling the image with the eyes shut. Finally the anatomical graph is reconstructed in his own body so that when he visualized the image in his mind, it is as if he could see his own internal organs clearly. Then accompanied by light music and inducing readings from a tape, the mind concentrates on the following locations successively the testes, perineum and coccyx the lumbar region of the spinal cord and the adrenal glands the thoracic region of the spinal cord and the medulla oblongata the hypothalamus and pituitary the lobus parietalis and lobus frontalis of the cerebrum and Yintang (Extra 1) the tongue, parotid glands and sublingual glands the thyroid, thymus, ear and lungs the stomach, gallbladder and pancreas the ovaries and the vegetative nerve plexus in the abdominal and pelvic cavity.

The mind should concentrate on each location for three minutes, making a total of about 30 minutes before the second cycle is started. The practitioner may maintain normal breathing and simple concentration of the mind, or, after a period of training, use a method of breathing peculiar to the Neidan method in which qi ascends via the Du Meridian during inhalation and descends via the Ren Meridian during exhalation, quickly passing through the aforementioned locations. But it is better not to imagine sights and pursue the sensation of qi in order to avoid the possibility of such untoward effects as functional disturbances. The practitioner should concentrate his mind so as to go into a calm, natural state of quiescence. The purpose of the exercise is to prevent diseases, improve health and slow down aging process instead of pursuing the feeling of meridian conductivity. Only then beneficial physiological changes appear can it be said that qi is really circulating smoothly. Without such changes there is just imaginary circulation. To be sure, imaginary circulation is helpful to the circulation of qi . but a proper degree of the imagination is important. It would be difficult to attain success with an excessive or insufficient degree of imagination.