Monday, July 6, 2009

Colours and Elements in Tantric Psychology

Embracing Emotions as the Path

Colours and Elements in Tantric Psychology

by Ngak’chang Rinpoche & Khandro Déchen


Only through direct experience can we begin to perceive our world differently. Philosophical speculations and intellectual conjectures that are not experienced cannot be integrated into our fundamental perception of the world – they will remain abstractions. It follows that the experience of meditation practice is essential as a means of realizing the Buddhist view, for it is only within the development of the meditational experience that we become transparent to ourselves through witnessing the mechanics of our stylized perception.

According to the Tibetan yana whose path is the transformation of neurotically confused emotions into their enlightened equivalents. Compare Sutrayana—the path of discovering emptiness through renunciation—and Dzogchen—the path of remaining in rigpa by means of self-liberation.

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view there are three spheres of being: the outer world of our surroundings, the inner world of our perceptions, and a spatial continuum that underlines and interpenetrates both. This spatial continuum displays itself as five fields of primary energy, which make up the elemental basis of both external and internal phenomena. These fields are solidity or earth, fluidity or water, combustion (heat) or fire, motility or air (wind), and emptiness or space without content. The primary purpose of Tantra is transmutation, which, rather than trying to ‘get rid of our problems’, facilitates the transformation of their intrinsically enlightened energy.

Tantra sees us as being symbols of ourselves: we are not the ‘real thing’, simply colourful energetic vibrant free energies that are utterly real. The enlightened being that you actually are, and have always been – this is ‘the real thing’, rather than the collection of neuroses, anxieties, and habits with which we are familiar. So, the pattern and individual character of our psychological and emotional framework is ’symbolic’ in the sense that we symbolize our own enlightened being in ways that take the form of one or a number of the elemental fields: earth; water; fire; air; and space.

Our expressed personality is derived from the encyclopaedia of symbols of our enlightened nature. As such it offers the key to discovering that nature.

Every state of mind, however distressed or distressing, is linked dynamically to an aspect of the intrinsic freedom of the non-dual play of our free elements. The yana whose path is the transformation of neurotically confused emotions into their enlightened equivalents. Compare Sutrayana—the path of discovering emptiness through renunciation—and Dzogchen—the path of remaining in rigpa by means of self-liberation.

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methods reveal that mind is intrinsically free (unconstrained by symbols), and that this complete openness of mind needs to be personally disclosed rather than created. There is no concept here in which one has to artificially re-structure oneself according to a spiritually healthy philosophical perspective – all positivist intellectual formulations, are based either on wishful thinking or naïve idealism rather than on direct experience. So, although the view of our distorted emotional patterning which we are now about to explore may be a positively creative perspective, if it remains in the realm of theory it won’t actually be of any real use.

As soon as we are able to witness our stylized perception directly we will become aware of whether what we are exploring is heartfelt or intellectually fabricated. When we are able to see ourselves in operation, then other people also become increasingly transparent to us, and this may facilitate compassionate responses of less restricted scope. In healing ourselves, we may develop the clarity and insight essential if we are to facilitate the healing of others.

To discover the raw methodology of embracing emotions as the path, we need some understanding of the Tantric perspective, in which human beings are seen as lacking psychological health and freedom. In Tibetan medicine, the first premise which prospective doctors have to acknowledge is that they themselves are ill. The doctor/therapist – patient relationship is considerably influenced by the fact that Tibetan doctors see themselves as having specific knowledge to help others suffering from more severe and externally manifested variants of their own illness – the illness of duality. This duality is the mind-constructed division of Dzogchen perspective, emptiness is always only relative, due to the non-duality of form and emptiness. Emptiness is perceived directly in the practice of shi-nè.

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and the non-duality of form and emptiness.

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which continuously arise from (and dissolve back into) emptiness. When we polarize emptiness and form, and then reject emptiness in favour of form, we enter into Dzogchen, it refers particularly to the attempt to separate form and emptiness; or more subtly to separate duality and non-duality.

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. This occurs when we react inappropriately to the intrinsic spaciousness of being in terms of mistaking the intrinsic spaciousness of being as emptiness. This maladaptive reaction appears to be our ’characteristic human predilection’, and seems to evolve in five recognizable patterns of distorted experience. The five patterns take their character from the elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) as they manifest in terms of our emotional/psychological energies.

These maladaptive behavioural patterns are all designs or scenarios that we have personally evolved, their performers, to create the sensation of well being or security. We all have these ‘perceptual philosophies’ and ultimately, although we may consider ourselves to be well-balanced, emotionally stable people – we all are subject to the continual irritating prickle of ‘life’, which is never quite what we want or need it to be. The people whom we may describe as being emotionally /psychologically unstable or unbalanced have merely complicated these ‘perceptual philosophies’ and act out highly convoluted ‘sub-plots’ that can be farcical or tragic. If we have such problems, it is because our life circumstances have ‘conspired’ to facilitate our integration of increasingly distorted ‘perceptual philosophies’. In order to unlearn these unhelpful ‘skills’, we first need to examine the apparent benefits we derive from implementing them.

These peculiar benefits take their characteristics from our distorted reactions to the ‘intrinsic spaciousness of being’; each characterized by the qualities of the five elements. Exploring the nature of each maladaptive habit pattern requires that we examine the nature and functioning of the natural elements. From a merely intellectual point of view, the psychology of Tantra is delightfully picturesque and poetic in the way that it draws ‘analogies’ between the elements and the states of mind to which they are linked. To the practitioner of Tantra, however, they are not analogies, but dynamically linked configurations of lived experience. The system of elements and their subtle psychological/emotional counterparts enables Tantric practitioners to see the phenomenal world as a psychological teaching aid. We have explored these ideas more fully and in less condensed language in Spectrum of Ecstasy.

Five distorted reaction patterns

Let us look at these five distorted elemental reaction patterns. The reaction of the distorted Earth element to the intrinsic spaciousness of being is one of insignificance and insubstantiality, and the tangent we take leads us to cultivate solidity and power. The need to surround ourselves with overt displays of wealth and dominion grows out of our deep-seated sense of poverty and worthlessness. To compensate for this hollowness, we become builders of empires – we hoard wealth and accumulate seemingly cogent definitions of who we are in terms of status, ownership, control, fame, worship and dominance. Concretisation and obduracy feed the rigidity of our frames of reference – territorialism and arrogance lead us further into antisocial interpersonal behaviour.

The distorted Water element’s reaction to the intrinsic spaciousness of being is one of fear, and the tangent that we take is aggression, in which we feel justified in lashing out. Justification feeds our anger and sense of resentment and we see the world as a field of combat. We come to regard ‘emotional-overkill’ as an effective means of keeping our fear at bay. If we feel ourselves to be powerless, we necessarily feel compelled to arm ourselves with physical, intellectual and emotional weaponry. We magnify the ‘strike-potential’ of others out of all proportion, because we identify them with the spaciousness we fear. We rapidly ‘learn’ that attack is the best form of defence. But when we feel ourselves to be naturally empowered and confident, we can afford to be gentle and tolerant.

The distorted Fire element reaction to the intrinsic spaciousness of being is one that gives rise to the feeling of isolation and separation, and the tangent that we take is one in which we generate the compulsion to consummate, and to cling to the comforting proximity of people, places, things and ideas. We find our world to be an emotional desert and attempt to crowd out our loneliness by indiscriminately grabbing at the experience of union with any focus of our fleeting attention. In some ways, this pattern is similar to the distorted earth-style reaction – but whereas the distorted Earth style finds only the sensation of emptiness and insubstantiality in the process of hoarding and scanning, the distorted fire style finds only the emptiness of isolation and separation in the process of consummation. In the earth style we misinterpret the discovery of insubstantiality as the need to consolidate further; we need to scan mightier ramparts and bastions of personal reality. In the fire style, we misinterpret the discovery of isolation/separation as the need to unify as quickly as possible with further and yet further focuses of seductive proximity.

The distorted Air element reaction to the intrinsic spaciousness of being is one of groundless anxiety and the tangent we take involves us in self-generating suspicion that accelerates in such a way as to make further acceleration the only possible option. We suspect that complex contrivances are in motion, born out of the sinister unknown, whose designs are to undermine us in ways that are not immediately apparent. We lack any sense of stability – we feel that whatever sense of somethingness which we are manipulating to counter the threat of oblivion exists ridiculously precariously in comparison to the lurking threat of that worrying ‘nothingness’. We become tense, agitated and hyperactive as we keep our concentration continually moving – trying to keep everything under surveillance at once. We never know in which moment we could be tricked or treacherously betrayed if we falter in our vigilance. Our feelings range from envy through jealousy and suspicion to paranoia; and finally, psychosis. In some ways, this pattern has similarities to the distorted water element reaction, but whereas in this style, we fear direct, coherent and obvious assault, the air style is one in which fear in the form of uncertainty and nervousness arises out of not knowing how and when suspected assault will manifest. So, rather than lashing out at ‘obvious’ but mistaken threats we engage in high-tension speculation. The water-style defence mechanisms are fairly direct and brutal – we could compare them to jet-fighter planes or battleships. But the air style defences are far more complex, intricate and indirect; there is absolutely no trust involved in anything – we wouldn’t even get our fighter planes off the ground because we would become involved with interminable double-checking. We become obsessed with grotesquely convoluted analyses of the range of hidden plots against us – we could compare the air-style maladaptive pattern to counter-counter-counter-espionage against double/triple/quadruple agents.

The distorted Space reaction is fundamental, it underlies the other four because it is the initial misapprehension giving rise to the other four and into which they subsequently collapse. This fundamental distorted pattern is one in which we are quite simply and utterly overawed/overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of space. The tangent that we take is maybe better described as one in which we feel completely unable to take any kind of tangent – we become incapacitated and depressed. We cut off from the outside world and become introverted, locked inside ourselves – we play blind, deaf, dumb, insensate and numb to experience – we seek shelter in oblivion.

These five distorted reaction patterns exist within each other and most ‘healthy’ people have a balance of these patterns in their less tortuous manifestations. Some ‘healthy’ people have imbalances of one or more element patterns but their energy generates qualities, abilities and talents as well as destructive habits and tendencies. Some people have great elemental imbalances that become fuelled by circumstances to such an extent that we designate them as emotionally unbalanced or psychologically disturbed. But whatever the imbalance, the essence of Tantric psychology is that our distorted element reactions to space are dynamically linked to our liberated potentialities.

Five liberated energies

The territorialism of the distorted earth element neurosis can be transmuted into non-referential appreciation and spacious generosity. The aggression of the distorted water element neurosis can be transmuted into clarity and insight.

The obsessiveness of the distorted fire element neurosis can be transmuted into active-compassion – the passion beyond passion. The paranoia of the distorted air element can be transmuted into uncodified confidence and self-accomplishing activity. The deliberate depression of the distorted space element reaction can be transmuted into ubiquitous intelligence and pervasive awareness.

Element Response to Intrinsic Spaciousness Reactions to the response Effect of transmutation
Earth element Feeling of insignificance Cultivation of solidity and power Equanimity
Water element Fear, feeling powerless Lashing out, recklessness Clarity
Fire element Isolation, loneliness Clinging to comforts Compassion
Air element Anxiety, vulnerability, paranoia Excessive analysis Confidence
Space element Sense of being overwhelmed Incapacitation, depression Pervasive intelligence

With this model of perverted perceptual philosophies and emotional habit patterns (as distortions of the liberated energy of our emotions) we are able to see ourselves in a different light. The painful aspects of our emotional personalities (as well as the joyous aspects) are doorways to our liberated potential. Experiential familiarity with the Tantric view of the emotions enables us to recognise in ourselves, vibrant open qualities within what has come to be devalued as merely emotionalism.

If we look carefully at anger for instance, we can see many of the qualities of clarity, as distorted yet recognisable reflections. Anger is hyper-intelligent – often in a state of anger we release heightened capacities of wit and memory. Sarcasm is delivered with speed and unusual accuracy – we know just where the exposed emotional nerves are in others and we make rapier thrusts at them with the surgical sharpness of our hatred.

Taking emotions as the path

In this view of our emotions as ‘reflections’ of fields of liberated energy, our method of freeing ourselves is one of making direct contact with our emotional energies rather than one of becoming involved at the level of reactions which involve ourselves in expression, repression or dissipation.

These three familiar methods of working with emotions are linked to the three Dzogchen, it refers particularly to the attempt to separate form and emptiness; or more subtly to separate duality and non-duality.

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tendencies: attraction, aversion,
and indifference. These are the ways in which we react to everything that presents itself as long as we ‘hide’ from the spaciousness of being. Attraction, aversion, and indifference underpin the fabric of our motivation as long as we equate the intrinsic spaciousness of being with annihilation, and as long as we have this conception that we can only react in these three ways. We continually scan our perceptual horizon in order to establish reference points to prove to ourselves that the intrinsic spaciousness of being is a figment. And so we are attracted to whatever makes us feel solid, permanent, separate, continuous and defined. (Solidity, permanence, separateness, continuity, and definition relate to earth, water fire, air, and space.) We are averse to anything that suggests the opposite and indifferent to whatever we are unable to manipulate. It is this dense web of motivation and patterned perception that almost entirely restricts the natural ‘sparkle’ of our being. We cannot get rid of the cause of our painful feelings by repressing them, or by expressing them, or by dissipating them.

Many people have found that through being helped to express their anger (for example) they have overcome such problems as depression (which can be caused by repressing feelings of anger), but this has led to the mistaken view that it is healthy to express anger. In Tantric terms, to express anger is only to intensify the distorted reflection and to create further illusory distance from the liberated energy of that emotion. To express anger is only to condition us with a pattern of perception that triggers angry responses more readily in more varied situations. Simply speaking, if we regard our anger as a healthy release, we’re just training ourselves to be angry people. We avoid the side effects of repression, but we acquire the side effects of expression. Dissipation is the least injurious activity in terms of side effects whether dealing with anger or with any emotion, but it doesn’t deal with the root of the dilemma. Until that is directly confronted, an emotion will always re-emerge when our circumstances trigger one of our five distorted responses.

The practice of meditation in the context of embracing emotions as the path gives us another option. This option is one in which we neither repress, express nor dissipate our emotional energy. But one in which we let go of the conceptual scaffolding and wordlessly gaze into the physical sensation of the emotion. This is what we describe as 'staring into the face of arising emotions in order to realise their empty nature’. This is where meditation becomes an essential aspect of our method of discovery. The form of meditation we will discuss here comes from the system known as Trèk-chöd, which means ‘exploding the horizon of conventional reality’. Trèk-chöd involves finding the presence of awareness in the dimension of the sensation of the emotion we are experiencing. Simply speaking, we find the location of the emotion within the body (it may be localised or pervasive). This is where we feel the emotion as a physical sensation. We then allow that sensation to expand and pervade us. We become the emotion. We cease to be observers of our emotions. We stare into the face of the arising emotion with such completeness that all sense of division between ‘experience’ and ‘experiencer’ dissolve. In this way we open ourselves to glimpses of what we actually are. We start to become transparent to ourselves. Through this staring, the distorted energy of our emotions liberates itself. In the language of trèk-chöd it is said: ‘of itself – it liberates itself’, and ‘it enters into its own condition’. In order to use meditation in this way, we need to have developed the experience of letting go of obsessive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process as the crucial reference point on which our sense of being relies. In short, we need to be able to dwell in our own experiential space without manipulating whatever arises to referential ends. We need to experience mind, free conceptual activity – yet qualified by the effulgence of pure and total presence.

Through the practice of meditation, we discover that we can make direct contact with the unconditioned essence of our spectrum of liberated energy. We can embrace our emotions and realise the unending vividness of what we are.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tibetan yoga

Into the Mystic

Still largely cloaked in mystery, ancient Tibetan yoga practices are slowly being introduced in the West, but teachers remain cautious about revealing their secrets.

While the Chinese occupation of Tibet has stirred the outrage of the world's spiritual community, it has also brought many of Tibet's religious secrets into the light of day. Tibetan spiritual masters have carried their knowledge and traditions to the West, capturing the imaginations of mystics, seekers, and scholars everywhere. In fact, stories that began to trickle out of Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century were no less than fantastic—yogis who could generate immense inner heat, enough to survive unclothed in the harsh and freezing Tibetan landscape, who could literally open the tops of their heads and transfer consciousness to another, and who could transport themselves effortlessly across vast distances at superhuman speed.

A growing body of knowledge about Tibetan spiritual arts and beliefs, utterly magical and almost hallucinatory in their drama and complexity, has begun to articulate the meditation and visualization practices that helped generate these powers and, more importantly, the states of mind and spirit that made them possible. But there have been frustratingly few specifics about physical movement practices that are Tibetan in origin. Though tantalizing hints are woven into texts describing the meditation and pranayama practices of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism and other Tibetan teachings, most of the references are general and vague, with reminders of the extremely clandestine nature of these practices. But movement practices do indeed exist, and in fact play an important role in the trinity of body, mind, and spirit that grounds Tibetan theology.

Until very recently, Westerners have had few clues in the search for knowledge of these Tibetan yogic paths. In the past few years, however, select teachers from two Tibetan spiritual communities now centered in the West have begun to share their long-secret, carefully guarded movement practices. Both of these practices are forms of what is called, in Tibetan, 'phrul 'khor, pronounced "trul-khor." Trul-khor is the generic name for Tibetan movement practices, and today, two forms of trul-khor are being taught in the West.

The first form is called Yantra Yoga (not the yantra yoga of India, which is associated with geometric images) and is taught by Chˆgyal Namkhai Norbu, leader of the Dzogchen meditation community based in Naples, Italy, and Conway, Massachusetts. Norbu, who is beginning to make the practice more widely available, was born in Tibet in 1938 and recognized as the incarnation of a great Dzogchen master at the age of 2; he recently retired after serving 28 years as a professor of Tibetan and Mongolian language and literature at the Oriental Institute of the University of Naples. He is a living holder of the Yantra Yoga teaching, which stems from an ancient text called The Unification of the Sun and Moon and which descended through the famous Tibetan translator Vairochana and a lineage of Tibetan masters, according to Snow Lion Publications, which publishes an extensive catalog of Buddhist books and other materials.

The second form was brought to the West by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, a master of the Bˆn school of the Dzogchen meditative tradition. In 1992, he founded the Ligmincha Institute, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, with branches in Texas, California, Poland, and Mexico; its aim, according to Ligmincha literature, is to "introduce to the West the wisdom traditions of the Bonpo which are concerned with the harmonious integration of internal and external energies." One part of these wisdom traditions is the Tibetan yoga practice that Ligmincha practitioners call Trul-Khor. (In this story, the capitalized term "Trul-Khor" refers to the movement practice taught by the Ligmincha Institute's authorized teachers; the lowercase "trul-khor" is a generic term referring to Tibetan movement practices in general.)

Both Yantra Yoga and Trul-Khor are forms that have been kept intact through centuries, and that are designed to create a state of "natural mind" for the devoted disciple. With newly available workshops, classes, instructional videotapes, and soon-to-be-published books, Tibetan yoga is bound to attract the interest of Westerners. Those who know the practices say they hope these yogas will not be diluted or modified as hatha yoga has been. Powerful and demanding when fully engaged in, these disciplines will probably never find their way into the class schedule of every health club in America. The serious seeker who finds this path, however, will discover the magic of an ancient tradition still intact.

The Magical Wheel

"Trul-khor" means "magical wheel," says Alejandro Chaoul-Reich, a teacher associated with the Ligmincha Institute and a Ph.D. candidate in religious studies at Rice University in Houston. Chaoul-Reich learned Trul-Khor, a set of seven cycles with a total of 38 movements, at Tritan Norbutse Bˆn monastery in Kathmandu, and was then able to verify the movements against an original Tibetan text with his teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.

The form known as Yantra Yoga has 108 movements in all (a number considered auspicious because it echoes the 108 canonical texts of the Buddha). Yantra Yoga is one of the few trul-khor practices of the Buddhist tradition that authorized teachers will transmit, at least in part, to students who are not engaged in the traditional three-year retreat process, and who have not completed a lengthy series of prostrations, meditations, and mantras.

The Eight Movements of Yantra Yoga, a recently released videotape from Snow Lion Publications, represents a remarkable breakthrough in making Tibetan movement practice universally available. "It's out now because Namkhai Norbu is willing for it to be made public," says Jeff Cox, president of Snow Lion. "Norbu is concerned that people do these movements properly, and with the release of this video, I think he's making a statement that he thinks enough people will be able to learn and benefit from it." The eight movements demonstrated on the videotape can be considered a preparatory method for balancing one's energy system, Cox says; a book with extensive instructions for the full system of Yantra Yoga is being translated from Tibetan by Adriano Clemente of Italy, a student of Norbu's, and will be published by Snow Lion.

Fabio Andrico, also of Italy, is the tape's instructor; originally a student of hatha yoga, as were many trul-khor practitioners, he met Norbu Rinpoche in 1977. "I met Yantra Yoga and my teacher after having studied hatha yoga for several months in southern India," says Andrico. "A friend of mine told me that a Tibetan teacher was giving teachings on an advanced form of yoga which deepened particularly the aspect of the breathing, so I decided to go to the retreat in southern Italy." More than 20 years later, Andrico is helping to disseminate the teachings he calls "subtle and powerful."

When asked to compare trul-khor to hatha yoga, Andrico notes that Tibetan yogas vary; just as there is a wide range of schools and traditions in hatha yoga, the same is true in the lineage-specific forms of trul-khor. "But to make a generalization," Andrico says, "the principle difference is that in Yantra Yoga we have a continuous sequence of movement while in hatha yoga there is more emphasis on static forms. In Yantra Yoga, you do not stay in a position for a long time—the position is only a moment in the sequence of movement, ruled by the rhythm of the breathing and the application of one of the five kinds of breath retention."

Chˆgyal Namkhai Norbu expands on these differences in his introduction to The Eight Movements of Yantra Yoga. "In Yantra Yoga there are many positions similar to those of hatha yoga, but the way of getting into the positions, the main point of the practice and the consideration, or point of view, of the practice of Yantra Yoga is different," Norbu says. "In Yantra Yoga the asana, or position, is one of the important points but not the main one. Movement is more important. For example, in order to get into an asana, breathing and movement are linked and applied gradually. The [hatha yoga] movement is also limited by time, which is divided into periods consisting of four beats each: a period to get into the position, a certain period to remain in the position, and then a period to finish the position. Everything is related in Yantra Yoga. The overall movement is important, not only the asana. This is a very important point."

Michael Katz, author of The White Dolphin (Psychology Help Publications, 1999) and editor of Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light by Namkhai Norbu (Snow Lion Publications, 1992), has been practicing Yantra Yoga since 1981 and teaches in various locations, including New York City's Open Center, through the Conway, Massachusetts-based Dzogchen community. He agrees that the focus on breath is a primary point of difference between Yantra Yoga and hatha yoga as it's taught today in the West. "Yantra Yoga seems more active, movement-oriented—at first blush that's the distinction," Katz says. "I think there's a very strong emphasis on the breathing process, and a lot of the exercises that are presented in the form of yoga are designed toward developing advanced breathing exercises."

The Trul-Khor taught by Chaoul-Reich shares this emphasis on movement and breath. "One of the more obvious distinctions with hatha yoga is that in Trul-Khor the postures are not fixed asanas, but are in continuous movement, some very vigorous," Chaoul-Reich says. "Another peculiarity of Trul-Khor is that one is holding the breath during the entire movement and only releasing it at the end of the posture. Some say that because of its forceful nature, Trul-Khor is similar to what is called Kundalini Yoga in the West," he adds.

The Tang of Tibet

Another series of movements said to be Tibetan in origin is known as "The Five Rites of Rejuvenation" or "The Five Tibetans." These unusual, rhythmic movements, which have circulated for decades among yogis but are finding new popularity today, have been credited with the ability to heal the body, balance the chakras, and reverse the aging process in just minutes a day. Legend says that a British explorer learned them in a Himalayan monastery from Tibetan monks who were living in good health far beyond normal lifespans. Skeptics say that no Tibetan has ever recognized these practices as authentically Tibetan, however beneficial they may be.

Yoga teacher Chris Kilham, whose book The Five Tibetans (Healing Arts Press, 1994) has contributed to the practice's current popularity, makes no claims of certainty about the series' origins. "Whether or not the Five Tibetans are in fact Tibetan in origin is something we may never ascertain," Kilham writes. "Perhaps they come from Nepal or northern India...As the story has it, they were shared by Tibetan lamas; beyond that I know nothing of their history. Personally, I think these exercises are most likely Tibetan in origin. The issue at hand, though, is not the lineage of the Five Tibetans. The point is [their] immense potential value for those who will clear 10 minutes a day to practice."

Kilham believes the Five Rites have "the tang of Tibet," and others agree that there are similarities to Tibetan yogas. "I personally don't know if they're for real," says Andrico. "Oddly, some of the five movements—one especially—resembles one of the eight movements of Yantra Yoga, but it's done without any knowledge of integrating the breathing with the movement, which is a fundamental point in the practice of Yantra."

Whatever their origin, the Five Tibetans/Five Rites share both method and potential madness with trul-khor practices. "These exercises seem to speed the flow of energy or prana up the spine and through the chakras," says Jeff Migdow, M.D., a contributor to Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, Book 2 (Doubleday, 1998), director of the Prana Yoga Teacher Training course at the Open Center in New York City, and a physician in holistic practice with an office at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. Furthermore, the Five Rites are potent in their intensity. "If people do them incorrectly, they may experience dizziness or nausea," Migdow says. "The exercises are deceptively simple but very powerful."

"The Five Tibetans combine posture, breath, and motion to create a dynamic energetic effect," Kilham says. "They do not require either exceptional strength or flexibility, but with a minimum of both, they can generate significant energetic power, which is then used in meditation to shatter the cognitive boundaries of the mind and achieve a transcendent state."

Whatever the provenance or effects of the Five Rites/Five Tibetans, it seems clear that the practices of Yantra Yoga and Trul-Khor are keeping ancient, secret traditions alive and intact in a way that hatha yoga, perhaps, can no longer claim. "I think [Yantra Yoga] is very much as it was when it was first introduced. There's an unbroken lineage," Katz says. "It's rarely presented to the public, which limits the likelihood of the distortion of the lineage. This may not be the case with some hatha yoga traditions, where there are various interpretations. I think the lineage in this particular tradition is very strong."

Chaoul-Reich echoes this reflection on the adaptation of hatha yoga traditions, agreeing that teachers of Tibetan yoga must weigh the risks of compromising tradition against the risks of losing these practices altogether if they are not taught more widely. "Through the years we've seen many kinds of yogas, which were originally from Hindu sources, that seem to have been adapted for the Western mind, body, and lifestyle. Today we even see hatha yoga courses in gyms which seem to be just stretching exercises," Chaoul-Reich says. "Don't get me wrong—I believe it's a way that these traditions can reach more interested people that would probably not come if the methods were not adapted. I believe it's a challenge, too, to be able to instruct without corrupting the teachings, yet acknowledging the audience."

"I do have concerns that the complexity [of Yantra Yoga] will disappear," Katz says, "But I've come to the conclusion that Norbu Rinpoche, who is the guardian of this tradition, has the bird's-eye view. If he feels it's more important that it be practiced more accurately by a very few, he'll make the call. All the Tibetan teachers want to make sure these traditions are not lost, and so would like people to practice. At the same time, if it's not practiced as accurately as they would like, they have a strong feeling it's not worth it." The jury's still out, Katz says, on how much Tibetan yoga will be revealed in a much more public way.

Is It Magic?

If it seems startling that any tradition could remain so mysterious and little-known today, when virtually every culture and every corner of the world has been explored, it may reflect the power that these practices are said to have. As mentioned above, early Western visitors to Tibet reported yogis with phenomenal, almost unbelievable, powers. While trul-khor practices may have been only a small part of the spiritual landscape—and lifetime devotion—that made these feats possible, the movements are nonetheless considered to be powerful. While holding unlimited potential for healing and balancing the body, mind, and spirit, these movements were and are also considered possibly dangerous to those who use them recklessly or without adequate instruction. In the West, however, the current level of teachings available will not take students to dangerous extremes.

Theoretically it's possible to develop these powers through the practice of trul-khor and, in particular, the "unification of the sun and moon," Katz says. "I'm not aware of any current Western practitioners who have taken it to that level...but I do believe these practices are profound. Someone who was to devote his life, in retreat, to these practices could develop these kinds of capacities," Katz adds.

Most Westerners are, instead, at what Katz calls a "spiritual beginner" level, which limits our capacity for such extraordinary feats. Moreover, trul-khor can have negative consequences if performed improperly or with arrogance. "It's been described as a 'sharp path,' meaning it can cause negative health problems if it's done incorrectly," Katz says. "It really can't be done frivolously."

Those potential negative health effects that can result from misuse of these movements are making teachers all the more cautious, adding to the mystique and the secrecy of the teachings. The dangers are more subtle than sprained ankles or sore muscles. "Breathing is intimately connected with energy," says Snow Lion's Cox. "Breathing can affect a person's energy system more deeply than movement. So there are usually warnings not to overdo or try to force things, like holding the breath too long or doing too many repetitions," he adds.

"You're playing with some of the energies of the body, the internal circulation of air," agrees Katz. "If you direct or force the internal airs into the wrong channels, you can disrupt the natural processes of the body. These are quite powerful exercises, and doing them improperly even for a short time can result in insomnia, digestive problems, whatever—or, in the extreme, if you were to abuse the practice, you could have mental problems such as anxiety or depression," he says.

Healing & Purifying

Done correctly, these movements can be equally powerful as agents of healing and balancing the body and mind, beyond the extremes of supernatural abilities or destructive forces.

In fact, the trul-khor systems are intricately designed to maximize positive effects on the body and mind. Ancient Tibetan medicine identifies five elements—space, air, fire, earth, and water—which correlate to organs in the body and to emotions, both positive and negative. Chaoul-Reich says that the Bˆn tradition, in particular, explores the elements, though the system is also used in Tantra, Tibetan shamanism, and Dzogchen, and is similar (but not identical) to the five elements in traditional Chinese medicine. In the Trul-Khor of the Bˆn tradition, the first, or preliminary, cycle of movements is an introduction to the breath. The second, more vigorous, cycle specifically balances the five elements and their corresponding afflictions.

The 108 movements of Yantra Yoga also address the body's "channels," says Andrico. "There are three families of preparatory exercises apart from the eight movements [shown in the video]. There are five movements to mobilize the joints and five movements to control the channels. Before that we practice a breathing exercise designed to expel the impure prana." In the complete system, these are followed by 25 positions, called yantras, with two variations of each for a total of 75 movements divided into five groups. Finally, says Andrico, there is a series called the vajra wave, designed "to correct any possible obstruction of the flowing of prana created by distraction during the practice."

Ultimately, the intention of both Yantra Yoga and Trul-Khor is to clear all of the qualities identified as unwanted obstructions, imbalances, distractions, or afflictions, including negative emotions. In this state of purification, the student can begin to experience "the natural mind."

"The basic goal is to be able to continue in a state of relaxation—a natural state without tensions, but in the full presence of our potentiality," Andrico says. For both Yantra Yoga and Trul-Khor, meditation is an integral part of the practice; the bodily movements are designed to be experienced with the meditations that are part of each tradition's lineage. "Yantra Yoga is meant to be done in conjunction with meditation, particularly from the Dzogchen and Vajrayana tradition," Michael Katz says. "It's good for people who are particularly oriented toward balancing their yoga practice with a very intact spiritual tradition." Yet here in the West, those people seem to be a rare breed, and in fact hatha yoga is often presented as only a physical pursuit. "Tibetan Yoga is little known and practiced exactly because it is so doggedly focused on conscious training and liberation," says Chris Kilham.

Buddhism, on the other hand, is often presented as a meditative and intellectual religious practice without a physical component. For this reason, says Katz, Westerners have been relatively slower to seek out traditional Tibetan yoga practices than to adopt Buddhism's more ethereal components.

"Buddhism tends to be presented in a rather sedentary and intellectual manner in the United States," Katz says. "It's unbalanced, with an insufficient emphasis on the physical body. [Trul-khor] is a way to balance out that problem." Although Tibetan yoga may have been somewhat overlooked, the fact remains that a cloak of secrecy has surrounded it.

For Namkhai Norbu and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, releasing these teachings is a matter of necessity—to preserve the traditions—as well as one of generosity, in sharing what they believe can be a beneficial practice leading to spiritual awakening.

But it's also an act of courage, as they send their ancient, closely guarded traditions into a modern world that is likely to change them.

Yet if these teachings can make a successful transition to Western culture in the eyes of Tibetan spiritual elders, it's likely to propel even more of Tibet's secrets into the open.


Tsegyalgar, the U.S. center for the teachings of Namkhai Norbu, in Conway, Massachusetts: (413) 369-4153;;

The Eight Movements of Yantra Yoga: An Ancient Tibetan Tradition (videotape), by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, with Fabio Andrico, instructor. Snow Lion Publications: (800) 950-0313;

Ligmincha Institute, led by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: (804) 977-6161; e-mail:;

Elaine Lipson is a Colorado-based writer specializing in yoga, organic foods and natural health, and textiles. She has practiced the Five Tibetans since 1993.

Tsem Tulku Rinpoche explains YAMANTAKA

Friday, April 27, 2007

Witch Bottles

Witch Bottles
by Faerie K. for Vox Paganorum
translated from the Finnish by Faerie K.

Witch-bottles are probably quite familiar to many Pagans, at least as a concept. Witch-bottle isn't a poor little Witch in a bottle, or hold something Witches drink in their gatherings. They are more akin to a "bottled spell". The tradition originates from British folklore, traveling with British immigrants to the Americas, if not further. Many modern Pagans have included Witch-bottles in their collection of spells, widening and diversifying this old tradition - and making it more comparable with their personal ethics.

A Bit on the History of Witch-bottles

The history of Witch-bottles goes back hundreds of years. The origins of this tradition has been dated to the 1500's. They were used most actively for a couple of hundred years. This is the same time when the Witch-hunts were going on. After this period, the tradition slowly waned. The last historical Witch-bottle was found in a cabin built in mid 19th century, in Pershore, Worcestershire (UK).

The actual bottle of a traditional Witch-bottle during the 16th and 17th century was a German stone bottle called "bartmann" or "bellermine" bottle. Similar bottles of stone material were manufactured in Holland and Belgium. The technique wasn't mastered in England before the 1660's and bartmann bottle manufacturing was rare in Britain.

The bottle got its name from a cardinal called Bellarmino only after the Witch-bottle tradition had already begun. These bottles had a round belly and they were decorated with a facial image of a grim looking bearded man and a medallion of stylized floral or natural imagery.

Even though these bottles were being manufactured actively in Germany long before the time of Bellarmino - who was against the Reformation - these bottles were given their familiar name as a satirical comment on the Cardinal. His bearded figure resembled the typical bearded man depicted on these bottles.[1] Later on, the bearded image was taken to represent the Devil, which suited well for Witch-bottles, after all -- witches were considered as people allied with the Devil.

Glass bottles were also used, but according to my sources they were never as popular as Witch-bottles as were the bartmann ones.

Old Witch-bottles contained things like bent iron nails, human hair (head hair and pubic hair) and urine. Urine as an important ingredient of a Witch-bottle has been long known in folk traditions, but actual findings with the bottle still containing urine have been rare. However, all of the Witch-bottles found in England which were tested for urine, did prove positive. Other traditional items contained in Witch-bottles include small bones, thorns, needles, pieces of wood and in some cases heart-shaped pieces of cloth.

The bottles were most often found buried under the fireplace. Other sites include under the floor, buried in the ground there, and plastered inside walls. The fireplace is, from a magical point of view, a security risk as it has a straight connection with the open skies above. It was believed that the curse of a Witch or even a Witch herself in a shape-shifted form could get into a house through the fireplace. Another security risk was the doorway, as doors are opened and closed several times throughout the day. In addition to the fireplace, the bottles were often hidden near the doorway.

On the Original Uses

The most active period of Witch-bottle usage and the Witch-hunts don't coincide by accident. The fear of Witches produced ways of protecting oneself against them during times when slightest misfortune was easily interpreted as being caused by a curse put on one or another member of the family. From the point of view of a present day Witch, the original purpose for building a Witch-bottle wasn't that pleasant: they were intended to keep Witches and Witches' curses away. The contents of a Witch-bottle was designed to not only divert an attacking Witch, but also to cause her to suffer the agonies brought on by all the nasty things inside the bottle. To put it simply: to turn the curse back to the curser.

The urine in the bottle symbolizes the target of the curse. The curser and the target of the curse were believed to have a strong connection and the curse was believed to target not only its intended victim, but also the bodily fluids of the target. When the bottle was placed in a way that made it easier for the curse to meet with the urine (in the Witch-bottle) before the actual target, the curse hit the bottle and not its intended victim. This is why the bottles were usually hidden where they were. The importance of pubic hair and hair was similar to that of the urine.

Witch-bottles are very much a part of age-old traditions of sympathetic magic with its intentions of causing pain for the Witch with the contents of the Witch-bottle. According to folk beliefs, the use of Witch-bottles sometimes brought the Witch herself, writhing in agony, knocking on the door - begging for somebody to break the Witch-bottle and promising to reverse the curse.

The Witch-bottle was believed to be active as long as the bottle remained hidden and unbroken. People did go though a lot of trouble in hiding their Witch-bottles. Those buried underneath fireplaces have been found only after the rest of the building has been torn down or otherwise disappeared.


Very generally speaking, the modern day Witch-bottles are very similar to historical Witch-bottles in their basic structure, even though their intended purpose has changed. The most common purpose for constructing a Witch-bottle today is capturing negative energies targeted at the constructor of the bottle, her family or her home. Even though some bottles are "mirroring" in nature, they aren't normally built to cause agony to the sender of negative energy/caster of curses. Some Witch-bottles are intended to change negative energy into positive one and then release it into the surrounding area. This kind of bottles could be classified as "guard and protect"-bottles.

The basic structure of Witch-bottles can be used for purposes other than protective: for financial gain, for helping with artistic creativity, to call forth positive energy (instead of "just filtering out negative energy"), for improving health, etc.

One could say that the basic principle is the following: practically speaking, a Witch-bottle is a container of some sort, usually a jar or a bottle, which is filled with objects and often also liquids which fill a given magickal purpose. The person making the Witch-bottle, or in other words, the one casting the bottled spell, can charge the objects magickally beforehand and build the bottle to work on this charging until the need of renewing the spell arises. Witch-bottles can also be built to recharge themselves by the energy they 'capture' for as long as the bottle stays unbroken, whether it be years or centuries.

Instead of magickally charging the items, one can build a bottle whose the powers are based on its contents, but cumulatively so, resulting with powers stronger than the sum of its parts. Also this version can be designed to be seasonal or "one time lasts a life time".

What Do Modern Witch-Bottles Contain?

The typical contents of the basic protective Witch-bottle today is quite similar to that of the traditional one: bent iron nails (some say they are better if old and rusty while others say clean and unused are best), thorns, rusty razor blades, broken glass or pieces of broken mirror (some say breaking a mirror for Witch-bottle use causes bad luck, others claim that breaking a mirror for this particular use will not cause bad luck except for people sending negative energies to the bottle builder), or other sharp and dangerous "nasties", urine of the bottle's builder, often also menstrual or other blood. One could use semen as the masculine counterpart for menstrual blood. The bottle is often a common tight-lidded glass jar, or a bottle with a rather wide mouth.

Other types of Witch-bottles may contain sand or different colored sands, crystals, stones, knotted threads, herbs, spices, resin, flowers, candles (no, you won't burn them inside the bottle), incense (you won't burn it either), votive candles, salt, vinegar, oil, coins, saw dust, ashes etc etc. Actually, everything used in "normal spells" can be used in this bottled version of a spell, the Witch-bottle.

Additional materials include candles and/or wax to seal the bottle/jar with. The rest of the materials depend on the ritual in question (if any) and the religion of the builder of the bottle.

On the Hiding Place

A Pagan living in their own house may be able to hide the Witch-bottle in the traditional way under the fireplace, under the floor, or in the walls. However, it is more common to bury the bottle in the yard in a place where nobody will accidentally break it while digging in the garden. One such place is behind stones under the stairs. For a Pagan living in a terraced house burying the bottle in the garden should work well - as long as you are careful not to attract too much attention to yourself while burying an odd object (the bottle) during the correct phase of the Moon, at night, with just candle light, wearing suspicious looking ritual garments.

Apartments can be a difficult place to live in when you're trying to find somewhere to hide a Witch-bottle. Or, at least it may seem like that! Digging a hole and burying the bottle in the yard may be not only difficult, but also quite likely not allowed. Nosy kids can dig the bottle up and hurt themselves on the contents. Not to mention that in the right (or wrong, to be more precise) neighborhood could cause lots of trouble for the Pagan attempting to hide a bottle in the yard.

However, the situation is not that impossible! The bottle doesn't need to be situated near the home in order for it to work. If you are constructing a bottle intended to be a personal safety guard, it can be buried in a forest or sunk in a swamp. With a Witch-bottle designed to guard a given home and those living in it, you can use a large flowerpot by the front door or on the windowsill to bury the bottle in to. In this case, the bottle should be small enough to fit in the flowerpot - with the plant!

Another idea I've heard is putting the Witch-bottle into a closet next to the front door, where it could easily do its job as a guardian and protector of the home and its inhabitants. However, this solution might cause some trouble if the same thing that happened to one Pagan happens to you: the Witch-bottle she kept in her closet worked very well - until it one day literally blew up. The bottle was of the very traditional type, so cleaning up after this wasn't that pleasant, as you can well imagine! While refining the idea further, we ended up putting the bottle in a covered bucket filled with soil and then putting the bottle inside the bucket in the closet.

For a Pagan still "in the closet" or living in something like student housing with a room mate these ideas may not be that usable. There's still no need to panic, as Witch-bottles can be made in miniature size, too. One witch working with test tubes in her professional life worked out recycling methods for test tubes as miniature Witch-bottles small enough to fit in the flowerpots on her windowsill. If you want to use test tubes, make sure you can close them tightly. There are also miniature bottles and jars available at various gift shops which can be used as well.

It should be noted that not all Witch-bottles are designed to be hidden away. Some are intended to be left out in the open, for example on the windowsill, on your altar or on your (work) desk.

Some Instructions

The next part contains some instructions for making Witch-bottles. I won't be including any particular instructions for rituals. First, because the exact rituals used depend on the religion of the person crafting the Witch-bottle and rituals aren't even always necessary. One doesn't even have Pagan religious inclinations for constructing a Witch-bottle. One of the persons who has made a Witch-bottle with my instructions is completely unaffiliated religiously, doesn't consider himself a Pagan, and is more or less an Atheist. He is, nevertheless, very happy with the results. Second, planning the ritual (if one decides to have one) can be considered an important part of constructing a Witch-bottle. As important as planning and gathering the objects used. Third, if you are using a pre-made ritual, you can easily end up repeating somebody else's words and copying somebody else's motions, without proper emotions. Finally, modifying things to suit you better is in this context not only allowed, it's recommended!

Basic Bottle for a Modern Witch

This is the tried and tested basic Witch-bottle, suitable also for modern day Pagans. The bottle is intended to be one that protects its maker, often also the maker's home and family, from negative energies. Depending on how the bottle is made and on the maker's Will, the bottle can be one that gathers the negative energies in itself (capturing), one that sends the energies back to where they came from (mirroring) or one that changes negative energy into positive (transforming). I would say, however, that this traditional Witch-bottle isn't the best suited one for the last option.


  • Glass, earthenware or stone bottle or jar, with a tightly closing cap. Size depending on how big you can easily hide. Size doesn't matter that much, so be reasonable.
  • Protective gloves for handling items you'll be putting in the bottle. A Witch-bottle won't help you much if you manage to get a blood poisoning while constructing one.
  • Wax or candles to seal the bottle. Black is a good choice.
  • Another jar for "potty" if you don't have one. Aiming isn't that easy, especially if you're trying to hit something like a Witch-bottle. So, you'll need something to pee into - and of course you'll need your urine.
  • All kinds of "nasties": Nails, rusty and bent (you can bend them yourself, too). Pieces of barbed wire, thorns, burrs, pieces of glass and/or mirror, needles etc.
  • Some things to choose from: Menstrual blood (if you are female) or semen (of you are male). You can drain menstrual blood from your menstrual pads or tampons, in order to get semen. Well, you do know how to get it. Word of advice, though - if you are using sex magick as a part of your Witch-bottle building ritual, do try to remember that you were supposed to collect some of the semen to use in the bottle. It's not that easy to collect it out of your partner, you know. Other blood - get a sterile needle from the pharmacist and remember to buy some band-aids as well. You can also add your pubic or other hair to represent yourself. An egg can also be included.
  • Bandages should be readily available, in the case something happens. A lot of the stuff you're putting into the bottle is sharp.

Preliminary preparations

Gather all the necessary items, your bodily fluids being the very last ones as you don't want to store them even for a day. You can collect other items intended for a Witch-bottle over a long period of time, storing them until you have all the necessary items and enough of them. Items found on the ground suit the purpose well. Cut metal items into smaller pieces if necessary so that they fit into the bottle you've chosen. If you're using a very small bottle, remember that will need only a very very small number of each item or alternatively small items (broken needles, tiny nails etc).

Choose a date to suit your magickal workings best and plan your ritual, if these things are important for you. Waning moon is often considered a suitable time for building a Witch-bottle. The ritual can consist of just the visualization of the bottle's intended use.

You can use the following to help with your visualization:

Your bodily fluids are intended to symbolize yourself, they are part of your essence and are traditionally used in magick. Instead of having the negative energies hitting you, they hit your "representative" in the Witch-bottle, the part of your essence.

For a capturing bottle: The "nasties" inside the bottle are intended to capture the negative energies - the metal captures them, the glass confuses and cuts them, the thorns puncture them and iron (and egg) dissolve them. You can visualize the negative energies drowning in the urine. If you are building a mirroring bottle, visualize the glass and mirror mirroring the negative energy back to its sender or to grounding it to earth. For a transforming bottle you can use colored glass and visualize the negative energy transforming into positive one before continuing on its journey forward to benefit you, your home or the universe.

Choose the place to hide your Witch-bottle before you make it. Be sure you have all the necessary equipment like a shovel. By the time the bottle is finished, it's too late to start pondering "but where will I put this thing?" If you are going to bury the bottle in the ground, choose the place so that people or animals will not dig it up.

The Actual Making of the Bottle

Have all the necessary equipment and items at hand in a place you consider best suitable for the task, at a time most suitable for you. Cast a circle, if you feel one necessary. You can build the bottle and have your ritual at the site of where you will hide it or do everything else in one place and then take the ready bottle elsewhere to be buried.

Fill the bottle with items you've chosen until they form a disgusting mixture. Shake the bottle to mix the items, if necessary. If you are including an egg, don't break it and add it as the last of the solid items. Remember to leave enough room for it as well.

After this, add urine, menstrual blood or semen, or prick your finger with the sterile lancet and add as the very last thing a few drops of your blood. You won't need large amounts, blood and semen are considered potent, so few drops will do.

Close the cap or lid and seal the bottle. You can carve symbols of your choice (for example runes, a sigil), being careful not to break the seal. If this happens, remove the wax and start the sealing process again.

If you are going to go to another place to hide the bottle, clean up after yourself especially if there is any chance that somebody else will get to the place where you were building your bottle before you come back from hiding it! If you did cast a circle before starting, take it down. Remember to ground yourself (if you are creating the bottle at the place where you're hiding it, you can do this afterwards).

Travel to the hiding place and hide your Witch-bottle in a suitable manner. Banishing words suit the situation well and if you don't know how or don't want to use traditional banishing spells or something similar, you can even swear like a drunken sailor! You can bury the bottle upside down, putting more nasties in the hole you buried around the bottle before covering it all up. If you are hiding the bottle somewhere inside your home, hide it the right way up.

Wiccan Version

The Wiccan versions of the Witch-bottle which follow are more suitable for the Wiccan view of the world, magick and ethics. They are often intended to capture the negative energies or prevent it from ever arriving and - what's important - prevent it to harm the home and its inhabitants. Many of these Wiccan versions are very much like the basic bottle described above, so it isn't necessary to repeat everything over. However, you can use wine, (apple) vinegar or blessed (salted) water instead or in addition to urine. The nails used may be new, etc.

Many Wiccan Witch-bottles use herbs, with the herbs being chosen according to their magickal qualities. There are sometimes very specific instructions given for the gathering of each herb and other items, including correct phases of the Moon. The herbs and other objects may be put in the bottle the previous day, letting the bottle stand by the witch's bed over the night. In the morning, you can add (morning) urine to the bottle, after which the bottle is closed and sealed utilizing Wiccan rituals. Some instructions state that the bottle will be placed in a cupboard or closet, so you don't necessarily have to carefully hide it.

The following instructions are a basic version of a Wiccan version of the Witch-bottle, using herbs. You can do everything using a longer/more complex or a shorter/simpler route, depending on your own inclinations. You can for example start collecting the necessary items on a given phase of the moon (for example on the day before New Moon) and perform the ritual on the next Dark Moon. Or, you can collect the items when you have time for it and build the bottle at any phase of the moon (with protective spells, you don't always have to wait for the right phase of the moon - you do it when you have to). You can utter a suitable spell with every item added to the bottle, summoning the spirit of the item/accessory and meditate for a while - or you can speak your chosen words after the bottle is filled. You can make the bottle as part of a ritual, or you can construct a ritual especially for this occasion. One reason why I'm being so vague with the instructions is that I'm not Wiccan myself.


  • Bottle or jar, with a tightly closing cap or lid
  • Sea salt
  • Crystal or stone, for example turquoise, obsidian or black onyx.
  • Herbs, for example acasia, aloe, lilies, lime, lotus, agrimony, corn, cayenne and black pepper, dried onion, salvia, frankincense, basil, mint, myrrh, garlic, rosemary, mistletoe, pine needles.
  • A few nails or needles
  • Wine, (apple) vinegar or urine
  • Thread
  • Black candle for sealing
  • The usual tools used in the ritual section

Preliminary Preparations

You can choose the herbs and crystals you are going to use according to their special qualities or use some of those I've listed. You can also use a drop or two of an essential oil instead of a herb. You can choose the number of herbs and solid items in general (in this case, essential oil is counted as "solid") to put in the bottle on numerological grounds either so that the number of all solid items is a specific one, or that you will use a certain number of herbs. Suitable numbers are 7, connected to protection, or 9, connected with the Goddess.

Gather the necessary items. Clean the bottle you are going to use. Wash it with warm soapy water carefully (if you can use a specific soap made for protective purposes, so much the better) and dry it well. You can leave the bottle over night in the light of a full moon to charge it. Choose a place to hide the bottle. For a bottle to be filled as part of a ritual or ritually, it is a good thing to have all the necessary tools at hand, on your alter. You can also construct your ritual and spells and chants beforehand.

The purpose of the crystal (which isn't absolutely necessary, the list is given as an example - including the liquid items) is to use it's magickal qualities, the same goes with the herbs. The salt is there to purify and bless the target of the Witch-bottle (the person(s), home to be protected). The nails and needles ground the negative energy and you can also visualize it being then sent back to its sender, threefold. The thread tangles the negative energy in a knot similar to what you are tangling the thread into and to bend the energies away from the builder of the bottle. You can also visualize the negativity tripping over to the thread. The urine represents the builder of the bottle. When using wine or vinegar you can visualize the negative energies drowning in the liquid, with vinegar acting as a purifying element as well.

The Actual Making of the Bottle

If you're constructing the bottle as part of a ritual, you can perform the ritual opening as usual.

Start filling the bottle with the salt. After the salt, add needles or nails, bent or straight. After this, it's time to add the herbs. The crystals and the thread you've tangled into a "ball" can be added next. If you are adding liquids, that is done after the solid items.

When the bottle is otherwise finished, you can raise energies with a suitable chant (I've seen the traditional "Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna" recommended for this purpose) and directing it into the bottle, after which you close the bottle and seal it with the wax of the candle.

End your ritual as usual and bury the bottle into a suitable place or otherwise hide it. You can burn incense on the hiding place to seal the spell properly.

Witch-Bottle to Show Off

Witch-bottles that are intended to be left out in plain sight are not usually made to that much protect their makers, but to bring the one who has cast this bottled spell something she or he wants. The usual reasons are the reasons so common with other types of spell as well: the wish the gain more love, material gains, happiness, creativity.

I won't give any specific instructions, only basic principles:

Select the bottle or jar used according to its color, shape or the simple fact that it is pleasing to the eye. Go through the magical qualities of herbs, colors, essential oils, metals, crystals etc and choose the ones you'll use in the bottle according to how well they suit your intended purpose. You won't normally use any liquids (except for a few drops of essential oils) in bottles left in the open, they are "dry bottles". Aim for a harmonious whole. That means: don't try to squeeze in your bottle every single herb or crystal associated with, for example, wealth. Too much is too much!

Pick a few suitable herbs or oils, one suitable crystal, one suitable color. To represent the color you can add (silk) ribbon to the bottle or tie a ribbon around it, or paint a symbol representing your goals with the chosen color. You can also make a "hat" to cover the lid of the bottle, making it out of black cloth and painting a symbol on it with fabric paint or magic marker, or use the color of your spell as the color of this "hat". You can use colors as colored sands or salts. Even metals have their own magickal correspondences, so you might want to use metal dust or chips.

If you are following the phases of the moon or other celestial objects in your magick, take them into consideration while constructing the bottle. It is up to the bottle's maker whether to use a formal ritual or not.

As a basic principle, it could be suggested that sands (and metal dust/chips) usually go to the bottom, herbs and oils on the sand and the crystal in with the herbs.

Final Words

You can easily develop a large number of versions of the basic Witch-bottle to suit your (and others') needs and life situations. Even during the time historical Witch-bottles were in use, there were new versions being developed, so why not today?! There is no One True Witch-bottle (even though there probably are people who would like to claim so), only bottles more like the traditional ones and bottles of more modern variety. I have run into all kinds of bottles myself, some being love-raising bottles on the brink of going over the level of good taste and ethics (some actually going overboard) to bottles constructed to bind a given bad person very tightly. The many varieties speaks volumes for how effective this type of spell work can be and how versatile it is.

[1] Oxoniana, vol. i. p. 232, tells how the bottle got its name: "One of the Fellows of Exeter (College), when Dr Prideaux was rector, sent his servitor, after nine o'clock at night, with a large bottle to fetch some ale from the alehouse. When he was coming home with it under his gown the proctor met him, and asked him what he did out so late, and what he had under his gown? The man answered that his master had sent him to the stationers to borrow Bellarmine, which book he had under his arm; and so he went home. Whence a bottle with a big belly is called a Bellarmine to this day, 1667."

Friday, April 13, 2007

If You're Conscious, How Can You Die?

"COHEN: Yes. But one could live next to a chemical plant and get poisoned, or live next to Chernobyl and get cancer from radiation, and that wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with any negative thinking, right?

RAGNAR: It’s a hard question to answer because people get very sensitive when you say anything about personal responsibility. But I think that if I had been living in the Ukraine, there would have been something inside me that said, “Get out of here, boy; get out of here.” You know, whenever a severe storm comes, if you look around here, the animals are gone. They disappear; they know. All you have to do is listen to nature, and it tells you everything and anything you need to know about life. The animals know without knowing all the time. Not some of the time, not part of the time, but all of the time. And we do too.

COHEN: But there were thousands of people who would have had no warning. I mean, that has to be part of the equation, doesn’t it?

RAGNAR: When do we have no warning? I’ve said this so many times, and I know it bugs people. It irritates them when I say, “Look, you never have an accident without being warned at least three times in advance. It’s just that you fail to hear or see or perceive the very warning that’s before you.” Nothing happens to us without us first being told about it. It’s like the tsunami. Where did the animals go? They already knew.

COHEN: Yes, that was amazing.

RAGNAR: Well, we have the same faculty.

COHEN: But let’s say you’re driving through a town where the water has been completely polluted, and you don’t know it. And you happen to go to a diner and drink a cup of tea or something, and then eventually, you get cancer as a result.

RAGNAR: You’d know it. You’d know it ahead of time.

COHEN: But how would you know?

RAGNAR: Are you familiar with behavioral kinesiology, or muscle testing?


RAGNAR: Okay. How is it that certain things weaken us and certain things strengthen us? Our body tells us. Our body sends us a signal, and that signal either weakens or strengthens us. The other day, someone was asking me about some testing equipment for kinesiology. And I said, “I don’t need the testing equipment. I’ve already got it; it’s inside me.” I can look at something or think of something, and I know the feedback loop. I know whether it comes back “this is good” or “this is bad.” It’s the same feedback loop that all animals have.

COHEN: So, in other words, you’re saying that when you become more and more conscious, you become more sensitive to what you should do and what you shouldn’t do, a direction to go in or a direction not to go in, a place to eat or a place you shouldn’t eat, that kind of thing? That your intuition will evolve in leaps and bounds, and you will experience a level of sensitivity and intuitive knowing that most people would ordinarily be unaware of, or wouldn’t even be able to imagine?

RAGNAR: Precisely. Now, I know people will say, “You’re making me feel guilty now. You’re making me feel uncomfortable because I don’t have that.” And I say, “But you can. It’s something that develops in time. It’s all called consciousness.” Some of us have been at it longer, that’s all. Some of us have grown up faster. It’s just a part of our evolution. We grow more conscious if we work at it, and if you make a commitment to work at it, then you have the ultimate protection. You’re always in the right place at the right time for the right reason—you are never not. Nothing can happen to you that you do not designate if you are that conscious.

Now, let’s say my belief is wrong. Okay, we’ll find out. But the neat thing is that your confidence is bolstered once you realize that the process works. It works in little ways, and if one is conscious enough to see it working in little ways, then you will see it working in dramatic ways. I choose to believe that everything works because you are more conscious. If you’re conscious, everything works in your favor. And if you’re unconscious, everything works against you.

COHEN: Is that because if you’re more conscious, you’re at one with the life process? So then the process itself opens up within you and before you and around you?

RAGNAR: I’ll give you an example. The other day, a wild coyote came out of the forest, came right up to me. I was outside, and I opened the door and said, “Do you want to come in?” It said, “Sure.” And it came in. I said, “Let me fix you a meal.” So my wife and I fixed him a meal. I handed him a cookie, and he said, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.” I said, “Well, I appreciate your visit. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Coyote.” And so now Mr. Coyote comes back and forth. But this is the relationship we have with all the animals because I see that as an extension of my own energy. This is life force, just the flow of life force. It’s like I have a kite, and he’s on the other end, and the wind is blowing, so he runs through the forest. And then when I wind up the kite, here he comes again.

We have deer, a whole bunch of deer, and when we walk out there, they come up and nose me. We give them apples. I know the wildlife people in the park would go crazy if they heard me telling this story. But I say, “Hey, they love me, because I love them, and they have nothing stopping them from feeling that.” We have a wild boar—I mean, you ought to see this thing. He’s got a mane like a big black lion and burning red eyes—especially at night—and these big tusks. It would scare the hell out of anybody if they saw him. We call him by name; I call him Rasputin. He comes running up and dances around in a circle on the deck. He loves us. And this thing is totally wild. If a stranger came here, they’d never see this happen. They wouldn’t see a bear, they wouldn’t see a deer, and they certainly wouldn’t see the coyotes. The birds leave, too, when the vibrations are wrong or off.

Now, what does that tell you about life? All life is one, and if you’re in harmony with it, you can walk out into the middle of a forest, walk up to a strange deer, and touch it. The first time a mama bear came, I was out in the woods. I laid down in front of her, and she came over and sniffed me. And I showed her that I was totally surrendered, that I wasn’t going to hurt her. I have not one ounce of fear or negativity about these animals. You know, she was pregnant, and she brought her three cubs. She brought them right to our bedroom door, and we babysat the cubs while she went off and had some free time. This is on a regular basis. I’ve got photographs of this. The cubs would come in the bedroom, and we’d watch them until she came back half an hour later. And then off they’d go with their mama, because there’s no disconnect. There is no separation. It’s all one beautiful picture. However, when people with other energies come—people with fears and apprehensions—they don’t see a thing. The world changes. It’s a different world. And between the two worlds, I choose this one."


Saturday, April 7, 2007

The corporation as magickal entity

The corporation as magickal entity

This article explores the identity of the corporate body and how it can often become an independent entity, outside the control of any singular individual. In magickal terms the corporation can, by virtue of its presence in memespace and its influence over the collective human psyche, become the magickal construct known as an egregore. Much of this can apply to all corporate or cooperative bodies, but the lifestyle providers that dance on our TV's, follow us down the streets and in our cars, and who gently invade our homes and minds, are the most powerful and compelling.

The modern corporation is far more than simply a building full of people that creates a product or manages resources. It exists in physical space, data space, and in aetheric space. It is a collective of intentional will committed to self-preservation, growth, and profit. It wields language and media to establish its presence and identity in the age of global trade. The corporation is unified in its focus, executes on its desires, and manipulates resources in accordance with its intent. It is in many ways an individual composed of many cooperative cells. Like the human body, the corporation maintains its identity and function in spite of the continuous recycling of its cells. The structure persists by its own will and inertia. The corporation is not bound to any one location. It can move, disperse, and distribute through data networks. It behaves with a single will, informed by the will of the corporate collective, bent towards the same end: maintaining the existence & continued growth of the corporate entity.

The genesis of the corporation was as a representation of the shared interests of a group. Soon it evolved to have the legal status roughly equivalent to a person. It has become an independent entity with the same rights as an individual (or more). Its person-hood reinforces its self-identity and the identity it projects to the world. It wants to appear human and be regarded as such. This is the only way to find intimacy with the consumer; the only way the corporation can generate trust and acceptance. This identity begins with the corporate vision but soon moves into the minds of the consumer culture where it can tap into a deeper level of emotional associations. It is at this point that it has evolved from a business entity into a psychic one.

Corporate Sigil

The corporation is recognized by its products - the output of its collective will manifesting in the material plane - and by its image - the constructs it builds up around itself, intentionally & unintentionally, through advertising, marketing, its actions and its transgressions. As the corporate image becomes more and more focused and defined, it is easier to package and deliver to the minds of consumers. While the internal corporate identity may wear one mask, the public persona usually wears another. It is this basic deception which gives power to the emergent egregore and allows it such access to our dreams & desires.

The coporate logo is a sigil used to represent it to the world. The logo is a way to encapsulate a highly complex system in a single, easy to digest image that can be fed to the masses. The better the corporate sigil, the more that people identify with its logo, and the less they look beyond its representation of the corporate ideal. The sigil is a spell cast upon the world to ensnare us in its allure and avert our eyes from its indiscretions. The corporate image employs a vast army of trained psychoengineers hired explicitly to exploit the psychological and perceptual weaknesses of the consumer culture. They distill its carefully crafted identity into emotional aggregates, surgical abstractions designed to re-associate the faceless corporate entity with ideas and images and slogans that appeal to the human animal on a subconscious level.

The corporate logo is then a further abstraction of the crafted image, containing within it the cultural weight of its associations, wrapped in a simple image easily absorbed and remembered. The corporate entity clothes itself in meaning and uses symbolism to represent that meaning. Now the Nike "swoosh" represents far more than just a company that sells shoes. It is athleticism, adventure, competition, endurance, work & struggle. Michael Jordan. Nike Town. Sweatshops and personalization agitprop. When Jonah Peretti ( made international news for trying to personalize a Nike shoe order with the word "sweatshop", the Nike meme expanded to include this as well. (this was an excellent example of a simple magickal assault on a corporate egregore.) And remember when they used the Beatles song "Say you want a revolution" in a TV commercial? This is the egregore clothing itself in pop culture in order to gain greater access to the collective consciousness.

Corporate Egregore

An egregore is a magickal entity that functions with its own will. It is unique from a deity or godform in that it is explicitly a human creation, rather than an inherent archetype or psychic representation. It is given life by the intent of its creator and is initially designed to fulfill a certain goal. This is typically the role of a servitor as a servant to its master. But if the servitor gains enough power it can become an egregore, independent from the will of its creator. It takes on a life of its own. When the Nike execs go home for the evening, the egregore lives on in media, in the minds of consumers, and in its product set behind glass windows, walking the streets, sitting in our homes. Indeed, if successful it will persist through generations, drawing devoted servants into its halls - servants who will work hard to extend its presence in the noosphere.

Satire and cultural appropriation are indicators that a meme has grown beyond the scale of its original intent. As it passes through more and more heads its identity expands further into the global mind. As the egregore yields more of its identity to the mass culture, it grows beyond the control of its servants. They must simply respond and adapt to the consumer climate. There is a subtle feedback loop here. The egregore influences culture, which in turn sets greater demands on the egregore and its product.

Brand association with genres, lifestyles, and cultural identity bring meaning and depth to the inherent soullesness of the corporate egregore. It's power grows as it occupies more bandwidth in memespace, and as it clothes itself in emotional aggregates, feeding on dreams & desire. As pop culture evolves, so too will the masks of the egregore, enlisting celebrities and popular trends to peddle its product. Even after the inevitable demise of its material foundation, the egregore lives on as a relic of antiquity - a memory of pop culture.


With this profile of the corporate egregore - the magickal lifestyle branders - it should be possible to identify points of entry for magickal attacks. If the egregore occupies aetheric space, then it is open to aetheric assault. It must be remembered that it has entered our space and we ultimately make the rules.

One method is reprogramming brand associations. Engage the corporate sigil directly, then methodically re-brand it internally. Make associations with the opposite of its advertising intentions. Re-brand your conception of Nike with weakness, exploitation, plastics, petroleum byproducts, and failure. By changing your own internal aetheric representation of the corporate brand you weaken its hold on the collective psyche.

The sigil can be further re-engineered by altering it to have a satirical or contradictory message. It can then be re-associated in trance & ritual, or printed on t-shirts & bumper stickers. Then send them to the employees. Use agitprop to re-image the corporate meme in a way that is counter-productive to its goals. Reveal it's hidden secret in public satire.

As the corporate egregore expands into memespace and becomes more and more integrated into pop culture, it leaves more and more traces of itself. Logos, ads, product placement, branded wrappers, product carried by consumers, news items, parodies & satire - all of these can be regarded as it's children, like tentacles spreading through the aether. As such, they are potential points of entry... tunnels back to the source. This technique is, of course, dangerous. Putting yourself in a highly suggestive state and then merging into a corporate logo is not recommended. Who's existence is more widely believed? Yours, or DuPont's? But for the bold, there is a potential path here.

Magickal assaults can use these techniques to invoke the egregore, but what do you do once you're there? The fundamental assumption within the corporation is that stuff is important. That goods & services are necessary to human survival and happiness. Conversely, the most terrifying reality of the corporation is that it is impermanent. It's always struggling against market factors, shareholders, and fickle customers; employee negligence & stupidity; corporate watchdogs and bold journalists. Strike with the inner peace of impermanence. Strike with the relentless change of time, who brings down all attempts at order. Strike with hawk-headed gods and egyptian queens. Strike with the legends and myths of humanity, rich with depth and meaning and integrity. Amidst the backdrop of history, the corporation is a fleeting moment. Show it this truth. Plant seeds of aetheric chaos.

The Big Boys

Most of this paper has been oriented towards lifestyle providers and high-profile manufacturers. But what of the dark forces, the archons of war and exploitation? Are magickal assaults on such entities viable? Safe? Bechtel, Halliburton, the Carlysle Group - these are the real powers stalking the planet. These shadowy egregores prefer to keep as low of a profile as possible. You'll not find any corporate sigils lying around like keys to the vault. An effective angle uses good 'ol guerilla journalism. Get the word out. When the profiteering and lies become public knowledge, the dark egregore is exposed and weakens. It can no longer function unfettered. How many people knew what Halliburton was 5 years ago? Now the egregore is under assault. Draw them out of the shadows, then attack with the light.

The best magick is practice. Your money is your voice. Try not to buy corporate products. Buy local and independent. If you're buying designer clothes, don't wear labels. Cut them off or blot them out. There's no way to stop supporting corporations completely. the luxury of the first-world is supported by the cheap labor of the third. But support good businesses, and don't give your money to the bad ones. Educate people about the worst corporations, and strike the egregores in their inevitable moments of weakness.

Finally, never under-estimate the Tibetan Buddhist rituals of compassion. If you gain access to the mainframe of the egregore, feed it your inherent love for the beauty of nature, the mother creator, the genetic link binding us to life and love and light. The ideals and dreams of the human animal are the most powerful weapons we have in our vast arsenal of evolutionary technology. Sigilize your deepest adoration of the earthly kingdom and give it as an offering to the heart of the corporate egregore.


Thursday, April 5, 2007



Daoyin is an ancient Chinese body-mind exercise originally aimed at health care as well as physical and spiritual purification. The ascetics of past time believed it could be used to obtain the "eternal youth" (changsheng bulao). The first historical reference about it appears in Zhuangzi, a Taoist text written between the 4th and 2nd century BC:


Breathing in and out, exhaling and inhaling, they get rid of the old to absorb the new. They swing like bears and stretch like birds - all this they do in order to have long life. They are Daoyin disciples, people who nourish their form seeking for longevity like Pengzu.
(Zhuangzi, Keyi)

The oldest Daoyin picture, a silk paint unearthed in a prince tomb Changsha, Hunan Province (168 BC Han dynasty)Many different interpretations were given to the word "daoyin" during the ages. The following two are the most reliable:

daoqi yinti - guide the qi and stretch the body
daoqi yinliao - guide the qi to obtain a healing effect

Both interpretations describe important aspects of the exercise and are not contradictory to each other. The first describes briefly the technique while the second refers to one goal of the exercise; actually with daoyin we guide the qi and move our body in order to obtain a beneficial effect to our health.

nourishing the Life

China has an ancient and deep tradition of body-mind care. According to historical documents already during the feudal age (770-221 BC) the so-called "life-nourishing ways" (yangsheng zhi dao) gained great importance. They were methods aimed at enhancing a long, healthy and good life, by means of dietetic regime, herbal preparations, gymnastic exercises and spiritual cultivation (such as study, poetry, meditation, etc.).

Han gentlemen in conversation (206-220 a.C.).Many famous thinkers of this time argued heatedly on these issues, proposing their own "ways" and discussing those of their colleagues. Among the various "life-nourishing ways", the physical exercise was almost universally regarded as necessary and very effective. As "physical exercise" we have to think here something much deeper and articulated than what we mean today. It was an exercise involving body and mind in a great potentially unlimited effort of self-purification. The ascetics of that time practiced and taught these techniques in order to reach long life and immortality.



qi circulation within the body channels (jingluo)The concept of "qi" (ch'i - according to Wade-Giles transcription) has no equivalent in today's western culture. In the oldest Chinese sources it is seen as the vital element that generates and unifies all the universe. It is often translated as "energy", "vital energy " or "breath", "vital breath".

According to ancient Chinese physical concepts, the qi pervades and animates all creatures. The whole universe is alive, starting from Heaven and Earth, the parents of all beings. The human being lives, as do all of the other creatures, between Heaven and Earth, and is their evident fruit. Its head is round like the vault of Heaven, its feet are flat like the Earth's surface. The head points to the sky, and the feet hold him up resting on the earth. Among all creatures man is regarded as the most perfect because he bears the symbols of Heaven and Earth, he combines the natures of Heaven and Earth.

Man lives thanks to his inner qi (yuanqi - original vital energy) that he gets from his parents and loses with the death. Zhuangzi describes this concept so:

Man comes into the world by a qi condensing. It is this qi that, when it condenses, gives birth to the life and this same qi that, when it dissipates, brings death.
(Liou Kia-hway. Zhuangzi, Adelphi, 1982)

The human qi gets nourishment and circulates thanks to breathing, eating and physical and mental activity. Through the breathing we absorb the pure qi of the air (qingqi) and expel the dirty qi (zhuoqi). From the food we eat we absorb the nourishing qi of several natural elements.

Beside these "nourishments" coming from outside, the man can help himself in keeping his qi healthy by suitable physical activity that can allow him to avoid blocks and stagnations. Actually the qi is not stationary within the body but it circulates steadily, like the blood and the lymph. If there are blocks, stagnations or if it doesn't circulates in a proper way, we have a pathological situation.

The main meanings of the world qi in Chinese life nourishing and gymnastic techniques are the following:
1. air
2. human vital energy
3. universe vital energy

These meanings are often not separated, on the contrary, most of the time they are present together.


The world "gong" means "ability, work"; "qigong" (ch'i-kung according to Wade-Giles phonetic transcription) is the "work on qi", as well as the ability resulting from this work.

The Chinese also ascribe to qi many uncommon phenomena like Prana therapy, invulnerability to blades, glasses, fire, electric current, or the ability to break bricks, bend iron bars, etc. All of these faculties, and many others, are listed by the Chinese under "qi abilities" rather than qigong.

The oldest traces of the word qigong go back to Tang dynasty (618-905) Taoist books, such as Taiqing tiaoqi jing (Supreme Purity qi regulation Classic), describe breathing, visualization, or meditation techniques, aimed at purifying oneself in an attempt to reach immortality.

Taijiquan: Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981) while performing lanzhayiIn the martial arts qigong - or better said neigong ("inner work") - is used to strengthen the vital energy and, widely the body and the mind. All Chinese traditional martial art schools (wushu) have specific neigong exercises. Some of them, so-called "inner schools" (neijia), have melted together such exercises with the martial technique, originating an integrated whole. The most famous inner schools are Taijiquan, Baguazhang e Xinyiquan.

With reference to health promoting techniques, the term "qigong" seems to appear not earlier than 1910 and only at the end of the 1950's it started to be used on large scale. Today it has a much bigger diffusion than the more correct world daoyin, especially outside China.

The three regulations

Daoyin works on three different but always combined levels.

1. body level yundong daoyin (motor guiding)
guiding the body to the required positions and movements
2. breath level huxi daoyin (breath guiding)
controlling and guiding the respiration according to the required ways and rhythms
3. mind level yinian daoyin (mind guiding)
controlling and guiding the body to the required positions and movements and the respiration according to the required ways and rhythms, by mental focusing. At the same time, focusing the mind also on certain specific points and coordinating all these operations in one single integrated and complete action.

The roots of this triple action are to be found in the so-called 3 regulations (santiao), axe-principle of every traditional daoyin exercise. The "3 regulations" are:

- regulate the body (tiaoshen)
- regulate the breath (tiaoxi)
- regulate the mind (tiaoxin)

According to classical Chinese physiology, body and mind are a whole that cannot be divided. The mind lives thanks to the body and vice versa, both depend on each other. Ruling and cultivating properly the body cannot be done without using the mind, neither could it be possible to rule the mind and obtain the best concentration without a correct use of the body and the respiration. The respiration cannot be controlled without using the correct positions and a proper mind focusing. All the deepest oriental body disciplines acknowledge these principles.

Daoyin yangshenggong

Daoyin yangshenggong (Daoyin life nourishing exercises) is the result of a long and deep research on ancient daoyin techniques carried out by professor Zhang Guangde of Beijing Physical Education University.

Its soft, fluent and harmonious movements are aimed at improving energy circulation within the whole body, to loosen the joints, tone up and oxygenate the muscles and to relax the nervous system.

Several clinical tests made in China and examinations done by medical specialists and researchers from all over the world, have proved Daoyin yangshenggong to be effective in improving the health, preventing and healing many acute and chronic diseases without showing any side effect.

Daoyin doesn't restrict itself to the health aspect. Thanks to its deep and meticulous work on concentration, respiration and movements, daoyin is also a wonderful method for self-cultivation and inner growth. With daoyin we can establish a close connection between body and mind and restore the inner harmony that so often gets damaged in our stressful daily life.

Professor Zhang Guangde

Professor Zhang Guangde while performing "a light boot crossing the smooth river"Zhang Guangde was born in 1932 in Tangshan, Hebei province, the town where in 1955 the first Qigong Clinic was established. Coming from a medical family background, in 1955 Zhang Guangde was enrolled in the Wushu Dept. of the Beijing Institute of Physical Education, where he graduated in 1959 becoming first teacher and then Senior Professor.
In the 70's he devoted himself to
daoyin research, ending with the development of the Daoyin yangshenggong system that today is practised by more than 4 million people spread in all the five continents.
Today Zhang Guangde is Professor and Researcher of Beijing University of Physical Education Wushu Dept, Honorary General Director of "Zhang Guangde's Daoyin Yangshenggong Centre" , Permanent Member and Vice-Secretary of the Chinese Wushu Research Association.
Untiring in his devotion to
daoyin cause, he decided to travel the world in order to introduce daoyin benefits to the greatest number of people. He has been invited to hold classes and seminars in Universities in France, at Oldenburg University (Germany), at Tokyo University and at the Japan Sport University.

Five Natures and Three Hearts

Daoyin yangshenggong is based on the so-called "Five Natures" (wuxing) and "Three Hearts" (sanxin).

The "Five Natures" are:

1. systematic nature xitongxing
2. scientific nature kexuexing
3. effectiveness shixiaoxing
4. artistic expression yishuxing
5. great spread guangfan shiyingxing

The "Three Hearts " are:

1. pure heart zhenxin
2. enthusiastic heart rexin
3. patient heart naixin

The "Five Natures" refer to the criteria that lead to the construction of the exercises.

Daoyin yangshenggong is a complete system of training, it isn't restricted to a single exercise pattern or to a single aim. The construction of every exercise has been carried out in a "systematic" way, considering several aspects. As far as possible nothing has been neglected in building-up the daoyin routines.

It has a "scientific nature" because the creator, by composing the single routines, did not just passively transmit the old tradition but also had a great concern for researching and testing the scientific principles of the exercises.

"Effectiveness" because the exercises formulated by professor Zhang were based upon objective principles that proved to be effective also according to modern scientific knowledge.

"Artistic expression" because the different forms have not only a pragmatic aim but play a significant role as well as an aesthetic and artistic model in spiritual and physical expression.

"Great spread" means that the creator strove to reach a possible compromise between technical, pedagogical and diffusion needs, composing exercises that are not boring, repetitive and complicated but relatively simple, varied, elegant, beautiful, and appropriate in length and intensity.

The "Three Hearts " refer to the mind attitude of Daoyin devotees.

"Pure Heart" means that the practitioner should have a pure and unpolluted approach towards the discipline and the training; he has to get rid of any conditioning, worry, suspect or doubt. This is the best condition to learn. A pure heart and a sincere mind allow for a better life with ourselves and with others, as well the opportunity to absorb quickly the teaching.

"Enthusiastic Heart" means enthusiasm towards study, practice and learning. Enthusiasm is a wonderful motor for learning, it enriches our life and our person making it more active and dynamic, and it helps us to overcome the difficult moments too.

"Patient Heart" is an essential requirement to learn any discipline and even more to learn a demanding art like Daoyin. "Patience" means to be patient with ourselves and with others. Daoyin characteristics force us to cultivate patience, a very necessary and often mistreated virtue in today society.


Daoyin yangshenggong system provides sitting and standing, static and dynamic symmetric exercises, with various degrees of difficulty, to be performed also with specific musical excerpts in order to help concentration and relaxation.
The exercises are aimed towards special goals and have distinctive features, but every single exercise is at the same time quite complete in itself and enough for personal training.