The Lotus and the Moon: Daoist Energy Cultivation

Roni Edlund and Damo Mitchell, Daoist Nei Gong for Women: The Art of the Lotus and the Moon. Singing Dragon, 2016.

Even though my approach to energy cultivation is mainly based on Yoga, I enjoy reading a good Nei Gong book every now and then. Nei Gong is a subset of Qi Gong practices explicitly geared towards the transmutation of subtle energies through breathwork, sound, and visualization. Its goal is to increase one’s acquired Jing (sexual energy) and to transform it into into Qi (life force) and eventually Shen (spiritual energy).

Following Daoist principles, Nei Gong posits a close correspondence between human physiology and subtle energy dynamics; as is the case with all esoteric traditions, much of its knowledge has been handed down orally from masters to disciples. Mercifully, some of it is available in written form. Yet much of this literature focuses on energy cultivation in men, and women practitioners have had to make do with information that in most cases, does not apply to their anatomy. Lu K’uan Yü’s fascinating Taoist Yoga: Alchemy and Immortality, for example, provides abundant information on how you can prevent your penis from squandering your vitality. If you are not anatomically male, however, you will be at loss figuring out what to do: not a single word is spent in this book on advising women. This lack is due to the gender politics of knowledge transmission in patriarchal societies: for centuries, men taught men and women taught women. Eventually, men ended up writing books and sharing their knowledge with broader audiences; due to the constraints placed on them, women continued instead to rely on oral instruction and their outreach was much more limited.

Fortunately, in recent years more literature has become available to anglophone audiences that takes into account anatomical differences, thus providing more specific information. Daoist Nei Gong for Women is an excellent example. Written by Western practitioners Roni Edlund and Damo Mitchell, this work addresses energy cultivation for all those who are not anatomically male.

According to Edlund and Mitchell, there are several differences in how women and men process energies. For one, women lose vitality at the time of menstruation, and orgasm has no bearing on this process. The authors also argue that, while men store most of their energy in the lower Dan Tien an inch below the navel, women collect it in the middle Dan Tien, which is located at the “heart” in the center of the chest. This is where, according to the authors, women may lose life force.

Unfortunately, these differences provide Edlund and Mitchell with a platform for the voicing of stereotypes about dissolute men and emotional women. If you are willing to read past these prejudices, however, you will enjoy Daoist Nei Gong for Women’s detailed map of energy dynamics as well as its rich inventory of visualization, breathwork, and sound techniques meant to generate alchemical transformations. Moon gazing is one of my favorites.

Anyone who has worked with moon energies is likely aware of its powerful charge; its energy can create a profound resonance with our own, thus opening up the practitioner for remarkable experiences. Edlund and Mitchell invite their readers to go out and stare at the sky every night for at least a month, placing their awareness on whatever is visible of the moon. If done right, this practice will establish an energetic channel between the practitioner and this celestial body, thus building a connection that may result in an intense expansion of consciousness. Whether this technique should be practiced only by women is for you to decide.

Daoist Nei Gong for Women is a powerful and fascinating book for energy workers at the beginner and intermediate level; it is highly recommended for women who work with subtle energies as well as those men who are not bound by normative gender roles and are willing to experiment. If you enjoy exploring, this is the kind of reference book to which you will keep going back time and again. And if your main practice is esoteric Yoga, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many of the experiences described by Edlund and Mitchell may in fact mirror your own.

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