Nei Gong is the key internal process which all members of our school will engage with to varying degrees. It is the internal foundation upon which all of the Daoist arts are based and the connecting link between martial arts, medicine and meditation with the Daoist tradition.
When studied as a stand-alone subject, Nei Gong is a systematic method of working with the three bodies of man (the phsycial body, the energetic body and the consciousness body) in order to attain good health, psychological well-being and ,at later stages, spiritual elevation. It is the bringing together of the theoretical philosophy of Daoism with an enigmatic energetic process which enables an experiential understanding of the nature of Dao.
In order to understand Nei Gong it is important to understand that it is a process rather than a set of exercises. In order to move through this process we use various tools including Dao Yin and Qi Gong exercises but these are used simply to help guide students through the systematic refinement of internal ‘substances’ required to move towards connection with the congenital self and then ultimately Dao.
Nei Gong is, at its core, connected to the philosophical process of creation as outlined within thin the Daoist tradition. Through a study of this process we are able to more fully comprehend the true nature of Nei Gong training.
In Lotus Nei Gong students spend time working through the Nei Gong process in order to prepare their energetic system and consciousness for the advanced practice of Nei Dan which is a meditative practice more commonly known as ‘Internal Alchemy’ in the west. The process of development through Nei Dan can be difficult and very confusing for those new to the Daoist arts as many of its practices are discussed in arcane metaphorical language and secrecy has surrounded its practice for centuries. In order to help facilitate effective Nei Dan development students are first trained in Nei Gong in order to help them prepare for the sitting meditation of Daoism.
The key to working through these processes effectively and efficiently is through ensuring that at each stage a sufficient foundation is built. First the physical body must be taken to as healthy a state as possible, then the energetic system must be awakened and cleared out, finally the mind must be centred. If a student moves systematically through these three stages then Daoist practices are not actually that difficult; they simply require dedication and sincerity. The process of working with these foundational stages is known as working with the three bodies of man.
In 2011 Damo Mitchell wrote the book: Daoist Nei Gong – Philosophical Art of Change which was released through Singing Dragon. This book covers the basics and intermediate stages of Nei Gong training and gives an overview of the entire system. The internal methods taught within our school follow the process outlined in this book.
This book provides a breakdown of the entire Nei Gong process, and explains in plain English the philosophy which underpins Nei Gong practice. Written by Damo Mitchell in 2011, Daoist Nei Gong has sold over ten thousand copies world-wide and been translated into several languages.
The Process of Creation
Within Daoism, the universe is said to spring from original emptiness or Wuji. Wuji does not contain existence per se; rather, it can be said to contain the potential for existence. It is the blank canvas on which the whole of what we call ‘reality’ is projected. What allows this reality to come into being is Taiji, the catalyst from which the ‘ten thousand things’ spring. In other words, Taiji is the initial spark that triggers the process of creation. It is the point of origin for Yin and Yang—the Liang Yi or twin poles that contain the whole of existence. This process of creation applies to both the universe at large and individual human beings.
Fundamental to the Daoist worldview is the correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm. Understanding how the universe exists on a macrocosmic level should allow us to grasp the process of creation as it unfolds within human beings. At the heart of the philosophy of Daoism is the idea that the universe created itself so it can experience existence. Following from this, it can be said that human beings only created themselves so they could experience existence—their ultimate goal being spiritual elevation. This conjures up a key idea of Daoism, namely that thought always precedes physicality. In other words, whatever comes into being on the plane of matter is always the result of an intention on the plane of consciousness.
When looking at the Daoist process of creation, one of the most basic facts is the notion that everything that exists springs from nothingness (Wuji): ‘something’ always comes from ‘nothing’. While this idea might appear over-simplistic to people living in the modern world, the same people will often find it difficult to grasp its immediate relevance to the creation of human beings. Our societies are governed by a materialistic worldview that takes it for granted that physicality precedes everything else. Daoism, by contrast, states that the physical realm is always a manifestation of an intention that originates on the plane of consciousness or Shen. Thus, every individual is said to spring from a single speck of consciousness—this idea constitutes the root of the Daoist process of individuation.
Every speck of consciousness is an individual manifestation of Wuji (which can be translated as ’without extremities’). This individuated aspect of consciousness is referred to as the Yuan Shen (original consciousness). The Yuan Shen then divides down to form the human mind: this is when the process of creation really starts. This division of consciousness manifests through five lights, which create all the different aspects of our mind. From consciousness springs the energetic realm, which includes the meridian system (Jing Luo). Only then can the physical aspect of man come into being. From this we can see how the modern view of man is completely at odds with older spiritual traditions like Daoism. Every time we have a thought, we repeat this universal process of creation through the body. That is why it is said that every single thought affects the body.
In Daoist terminology, this process can be summarised through the three fundamental categories of Shen, Qi and Jing, which respectively relate to the consciousness, energy and physical bodies. On the macrocosmic level, these match the categories of Heaven, Man and Earth. The most generic aim of Daoism is to get back to the point where thought originates by reversing the process of creation. This illustrates the notion that Daoism always works backwards. Thus, we first work with Jing, then Qi and eventually Shen. Daoism understands that Jing, Qi and Shen are essentially one and the same vibration, only at different levels of frequency. These three categories essentially describe a process of vibrational refinement that takes place in the universe and within our body. By reversing this process, Daoist practices seek to initiate a conversion so we can switch back to our congenital (or pre-heaven) mind—the ultimate goal being to attain transcendent, unmediated comprehension.
What is Nei Gong?
While most people will have heard about Qi Gong, Nei Gong is still a relatively unknown subject on our side of the planet. Qi Gong, meaning ’energy work’, often refers to various sets of exercises with specific aims—e.g. improving health, developing martial power, etc. As the name implies, Qi Gong works with Qi to achieve its aims. Nei Gong (‘internal work’) has a wider scope than Qi Gong. The most fundamental difference between the two is that Nei Gong does not refer to any specific practices or exercises; nor does it have any predetermined aims. Rather, Nei Gong is a process that works with transforming your inner being. While Qi Gong can be taught through exercises—by telling you how to breathe and move, for instance—Nei Gong requires transmission from an experienced teacher who has been through the process themself.
Nei Gong is essentially a tool to awaken our energy system and take us backwards through the process of creation. Thus, we start working with our acquired mind so we can eventually lead it back to its original or congenital state of being. Classically, Nei Gong was the practice that manifested the philosophy of Daoism into something tangible; as such, it provides strong foundations for other practices like internal martial arts (Nei Jia) and Nei Dan Gong (internal alchemy). If we consider it in terms of how far it can take us on our journey from the acquired to the congenital mind, Nei Gong sits halfway between Qi Gong and Nei Dan Gong. Because it contains various elements from both disciplines, Nei Gong can be tricky to define. Also, the fact that it is a process, rather than a defined practice or set of practices, means that it can be taught in very different ways. In a few words, Nei Gong could be defined as the philosophical art of change.
Nei Gong is taught in a very systematic way within Lotus Nei Gong. Damo Mitchell has put together specific sets of Qi Gong and Dao Yin exercises to take beginners through the early stages of the process. These notably include Ji Ben Qi Gong (fundamentals of energy work) and Dragon Dao Yin (pulling and guiding moving sequences) exercises. By triggering reactions similar to Kriya in Yoga, these exercises help the students clear any major energetic and physical blockages. These energetic exercises are only used as tools to facilitate the Nei Gong process. At more advanced stages, the focus progressively shifts towards standing postures and sitting practices. What distinguishes Lotus Nei Gong from most other schools is the extensive use of transmission to help the students through the process. This is how Daoism was taught traditionally and Lotus Nei Gong is committed to this way of teaching.
The Three Bodies of Man
The most crucial tools in the process of conversion initiated by Nei Gong are the three main energy centres referred to as the Dan Tien (which, quite literally, translates as ‘elixir field’). Therefore, many Daoist practices aim at working with those energetic spheres. The lower Dan Tien is the single most important instrument when we start practising as it allows us to start the process of conversion from Jing to Qi. In other words, we can switch our mind from the physical to the energetic realm, which can be described as the first step in the process of refinement we seek to create within our body. The lower Dan Tien can be viewed as a catalyst that triggers this process—it corresponds to the stage of Taiji within the creation of the universe.
Once the lower Dan Tien is active, the frequency we are working with can be further refined. At this stage, we start working with the middle Dan Tien, where the conversion from Qi to Shen can take place. This is when we start working with our emotions and the deeper aspects of ourselves. If we are to move further within the Nei Gong process, it is essential that we balance the emotions. Within Daoism, emotions are viewed as distortions of the mind; they are part of our acquired (or ‘post-heaven’) nature. Unfortunately, these negative aspects of the human psyche are often celebrated in modern societies. Therefore, people find it difficult to accept that emotions stand in the way of balance and spiritual progression.
In Chinese medicine, Jing, Qi and Shen are often viewed as a more or less refined substance or texture—Jing being the closest to physicality. Viewing those categories in terms of a substance can help us understand how they work within the three bodies of man (the physical, energy and consciousness bodies). Jing is generally said to become depleted through excessive sexual activity and overwork. Qi, on the other hand, is affected by the constant interplay of our emotions on the level of the Heart-Mind. The more advanced stages of the Nei Gong process take place in the upper Dan Tien, which is in charge of the conversion from Shen to Dao. When we are working with Shen, our distorted perception of reality is what stands in the way of our progression. Classical Daoist texts often stress the necessity to see beyond the outer forms of the world. In this sense, the biggest obstacle to our spiritual awakening is narrow-mindedness.
Jing, Qi and Shen
Every tradition has its own way of looking at the world and its own vocabulary to explain it. Within Daoism, everything is seen in terms of vibrations or frequencies. What we refer to as ‘reality’, in the vast majority of cases, is the sum of our five-sense perceptions—which represents a rather narrow spectrum of what can be experienced. Daoism invites us to look behind the fake backdrop that we call reality. In this tradition, our sensory experience of the world is viewed as an intricate web of vibrations. All the things we think we experience are the result of frequencies being interpreted by our brain and instantly translated into something that can be understood. This is how the picture of the material world (i.e. what we call reality) is conjured up for us perceiving subjects.
Daoist philosophy divides the realm of human experience into different degrees of vibration. Thus, everything that takes place within the compass of Heaven and Earth is said to vibrate at a specific frequency. This wide spectrum of frequencies gives birth to the ‘myriad things’ or the ‘ten thousand things’, two common ways Daoism refers to the infinite potential of the universe. This way of looking at the world can become quite abstract in the absence of a model. Daoism’s model for discussing the interplay of frequencies that makes up our picture of the world is the yijing, or classic of change. Within yijing theory, different frequencies are represented through mathematical symbols called trigrams and hexagrams. Those symbols consist of different combinations of yin and yang energies, represented by broken and unbroken lines. Different combinations of yin and yang lines correspond to different vibrational qualities.
Just like everything else that can be experienced, human beings are the manifestation of a particular frequency between the poles of heaven (which represents extreme yang) and earth (which represents extreme yin).
Following Daoist philosophy, the microcosmic frequency that exists inside our body has to match the macrocosmic frequency of the universe. If there is an infinity of frequencies on the outside, then the same thing has to be true on the inside. To make things more approachable, Daoism isolated three main vibrations within the human body and called them jing, qi and shen. These three categories are microcosmic reflections of the earth/man/heaven compass.
However, we should always remember that jing, qi and shen in fact refer to one and the same thing, even though they have different names.
When we begin our study of Daoism, it is probably easier to consider jing, qi and shen as separate things.
Eventually, we must understand that they are only signposts that allude to the ever-changing nature of all phenomena. Every occurrence is a process. In fact, we could say that everything is part of the same ongoing process unfolding everywhere, all the time. Jing, qi and shen describe the same basic vibration, only manifested at different degrees of refinement.
This core vibration is the blueprint of the universe, its original matrix. What we call ‘time’ is nothing but the process of vibrational transformation that is constantly taking place within the universe—and so within ourselves too. Being closer to heaven, shen describes a highly refined range of frequency. Shen vibrates faster than qi. Although denser than shen, qi still vibrates faster than jing. The faster the vibration, the more ethereal it will be.
When looking inside the human body, jing is the densest of the three main ‘vibrational moments’ (for lack of a better term) that Daoism talks about. Jing sits at the lower end of the Daoist vibrational compass, which means that it is less refined than both qi and shen. Crucially for our purposes, jing ‘occurs’ right ‘before’ the material world. Although very dense compared to shen and qi, jing is still lighter than pure physicality. A common mistake is to equate jing with physicality when they are actually not the same thing. Physicality is what we experience with our five senses. What we can experience with those senses necessarily belongs to the realm of the manifested. Although relatively close to physicality, jing does not belong to the realm of the manifested. Rather, jing represents the potential for the physical manifestation of something—anything, really. It corresponds to the stage right before something becomes ‘real’, i.e. tangible.
The reason why our common definition of reality is so narrow is because most people are only tuned into their physical body, which severely restricts the field of experience. This is why jing is the most important category to work with when we begin neigong. Considering that most people are disconnected from the energetic realm (qi), it would be pointless trying to work directly with pure consciousness (shen). In the early days, it is only sensible that we spend some time laying the foundations for our practice. This foundational stage corresponds to the level of jing.
Another reason why we must start with jing is that, simply, we must adhere to the way the universe is laid out; otherwise, we’ll be skipping stages, which is never a good idea. A possible definition of the universe according to Daoism would be consciousness experiencing itself. From this perspective, every single manifestation or occurrence in the world is an attempt on consciousness’s part to understand itself. Every time something takes place (which is pretty much all the time, as far as we’re concerned), it is as if consciousness were saying: ‘What am I?’, ‘What do I want?’, ‘What is my purpose?’, ‘Why am I even thinking those things?’, etc. In other words, consciousness is both curious and idiotic at the same time. It doesn’t really seem to know what to do, and yet it keeps exploring itself compulsively. If consciousness is an octopus, we are its tentacles, fumbling about, tentatively searching for answers.
As physically incarnated beings, we are far removed from the origin of consciousness. When we try and look at it, we are confronted with a dark hole oozing a strange jelly-like substance. This is why we must work step by step. Before we can become ‘enlightened’ (if such a thing even exists), we need to learn to breathe properly. On a very obvious level, this means that we must practise a lot. In philosophical terms, this means that we must work our way step by step along the vibrational compass of the universe. Once we understand how the universe unfolds, both theoretically and experientially, we can start reversing this process and go back to the source. Maybe then we’ll manage to make sense of it…
This is why studying the process of creation of the universe is so important in our study of Daoism. Before anything conscious appears, there is emptiness. Consciousness creates the energetic realm, which lays the foundation for physicality. Therefore, we must first rely on our physical body in order to tune into the energetic realm. The closest frequency to physicality is jing. If we can connect with jing (and that is fairly easy for most people), we’ll gradually begin to connect with our qi. It is common for beginners to experience strong feelings of heat during their practice: this is how jing manifests on the physical level.
The most important aspect of our physical body in relation to jing is our Kidneys. The Kidneys are a key organ in neigong because they constitute the root for the process of vibrational refinement which we seek to start inside our body. Like every key vital organ, the Kidneys have both a yin and a yang function. The yin aspect of our Kidneys is in charge of storing the jing, which is our vital essence. On the physical level, jing manifests itself as our bodily fluids. Blood and sexual fluids, for instance are manifestations of our jing. Because the jing is stored in our Kidneys, this means that we must keep this organ as healthy and strong as possible. There are many factors that deplete the essence of our Kidneys, including stress, overwork and excessive sexual activity. We must build a strong foundation of jing in order to elicit the process of internal change with neigong. This is the first step in our practice. If we fail to build up and preserve our jing sufficiently, there will be a glass ceiling keeping us from moving on to more advanced stages. There must be enough essence in the area of our Kidneys so it can be converted into qi by the lower field (xiatian). This is the first level of conversion within the neigong process.
In the early stages, neigong seeks to create a strong movement of expansion inside the human body. The yang aspect of our Kidneys is in charge of fostering this expansion through the minghuo (or ming ‘fire’), located between our two Kidneys. The minghuo heats up the whole body and plays an important part in all the transformational processes that take place within us. If the ming fire is weak, the process of internal refinement will be poor. This is the reason why we wish to warm up mingmen, the point on our body that controls the ming fire.
If the heat is strong in this area of our body, there will be a strong conversion taking place—provided there is enough essence to convert into qi.
Once we can do this, we have succeeded in beginning to reverse the process of creation within our own body. This essentially means that we’re starting to align with the energies of our environment. We begin to be more in line with our ming, or ‘pre-ordained life path’. Life suddenly feels less random and a lot of things start falling into place on their own. At this stage, your life circumstances may change rapidly, in very unpredictable ways. For instance, you may suddenly be provided with all the space and time you need to train for an extended period of time. Maybe you’d been struggling to fit in just a couple of hours of training a day before that. So what happened? You’d been cripplingly depressed for most of your life and suddenly you’re a different person. You can hardly recognise who you used to be, how you used to react to people and situations. Your past starts to fade away and you may even lose many of your memories. Why? It’s very strange indeed. These shifts are difficult to explain; they have to be experienced.
Using our body as an antenna, we tune into the original frequency of the universe; and this can be the beginning of a genuine spiritual journey.
Qi Gong Exercises (Tools)
In order to move through the Nei Gong process we use a series of exercises as ‘tools’. Through static and dynamic Qi Gong and Dao Yin training a person may awaken the various energies required for Nei Gong development. Below is a list of the exercises taught within the Lotus Nei Gong school.
The process of breathing is a basic but very important aspect of our training. The Daoist approach to breathing is to link it with the process of releasing ever-increasing layers of tension. This tension can be physical, energetic or emotional. In all cases the tension is released from the body and this allows a practitioner to move deeper into an awareness of their own being. In the beginning a student learns to simply Sung breathe throughout the entire body but advanced practices allow for targeting of specific areas of the energetic matrix.
Jing Gong is an umbrella term for the various standing postures we use within the Lotus Nei Gong school. These static training methods are different from what many people would know as Zhan Zhuang as they are designed to awaken various parts of a person’s energy body. This type of work forms a large part of our practice and students will encounter Jing Gong from the first day within our school. Different Jing Gong methods are utilised at different stages in a students development.
The Ji Ben Qi Gong are eight simple moving exercises which are primarily designed to teach a person how to move their body in the correct way. They are designed to help a person restructure their form and sink their Qi through relaxation in order to refashion the body for more advanced internal practices. Each exercise is based around unification of the body, breath and awareness in order to circulate Qi through key internal pathways within the body.
The five Wu Xing Qi Gong exercises are simple movements designed to help a person contact the five elemental pulses. These pulses dictate the base health of the five key organs of the body, the Kidneys, the Liver, the Heart, the Spleen and the Lungs. As a person develops their Wu Xing Qi Gong practice they help to nourish these organs. The medical benefits of such a practice are obvious but what is also important is that these pulses dictate the quality of the Qi which flows throughout the rest of the energy body as well.
The five Wu Dao Yin exercises are moving forms of energetic purging. Each exercise is designed to target and open up key energetic centres within the body. As these centres are pulled open they generate enough space within the energy body to help clear stagnant Qi. The movements are then combined with focused awareness and specific breathing methods in order to lead the body towards a state of better health. The exercises are also used within Nei Gong to help clear emotional traumas which have often become trapped within the Jing Jin and meridians of the body.
The four Dragon Dao Yin exercises are a set of short forms which specifically target the spine and associated channels. Through various stretching, twisting and undulating movements, the spinal column is squeezed and stretched in such a manner that it helps to purge pathogens from its length. This helps to generate space within the soft tissues of the body as well as opening up the core congenital networks which run through the torso. The more space that is created, the higher the level of internal energy which the body may conduct along its length. As an added benefit, many students have noticed the strong healing effects of the Dragon Dao Yin exercises upon the spine and other joints of the body.
The Hunyuan Qi Gong exercises are designed to lead a practitioner deeper into their energetic system. They work at developing a higher state of release than most other exercise sets. This skill is of paramount importance if a student is going to move beyond the surface level of their practice. As the Hunyuan exercises develop they help a practitioner to contact the deeper, congenital pathways of the meridian system. These are the channels through which flow the congenital essences which are used extensively in alchemical training.
The Lotus Moon Qi Gong are actually a category if exercises rather than a specific set. This is the umbrella title for women’s Nei Gong exercises which we use within the school. Though women largely use the same tools and go through the same process as men, there are some subtle differences in the nature of their energetic makeup and these exercises are designed for women to take advantage of their gender-specific strengths. They largely revolve around unification with the energy of the moon, balancing the energy of the Uterus and understanding the reverse-cycle for women. There are also practices from the Buddhist tradition for invigorating the energy of the Heart.
Within Lotus Nei Gong we don;t really see Zhan Zhuang as a basic-level exercise. Those who work with Zhan Zhuang without first building a foundation of relaxation and energetic flow more often than not end up being very tense. Tension leads to stagnation and so this can be very detrimental to a person’s internal development. Zhan Zhuang is a dynamos process of reorganising the soft tissues of the body in order to develop enhanced structural integrity, internal conductivity and Qi flow. The second stage of Nei Gong training within our school generally involves a lot of Zhan Zhuang practice.
The Ba Xian Dao Yin are unusual as they utilise the principles of Dao Yin but they are primarily static exercises. These eight exercises are aimed at building up energy within the eight key channels of the congenital energy system. Based upon the legend of the Ba Xian and encompassing the theory of the eight Gua they are a very esoteric aspect of the schools syllabus. Generally only very experienced students study the Ba Xian Dao Yin.
Utilising both vibratory syllables and full Mantra-style chanting; Lotus Nei Gong uses various sound exercises to help awaken various energetic areas of the body. At the most basic level these sounds are used to generate internal vibrations whilst at their more advanced levels, sound practices can lead a practitioner into various altered stages of consciousness. These exercises are generally practiced along with specific hand positions (Mudra’s) and standing postures or else trained in a seated position.
Training Nei Gong
When engaging with an art such as Nei Gong it is wise to understand the various progressive stages which you should move through. Daoism is a very systematic tradition that provides solid instruction on how to develop internally. Each phase of your practice forms the foundation for the next and in this way a practitioner continues to grow through their practice. If a person simply practices some exercises with little regard for an underlying process then they will become lost along the way. Progress will halt and much time will be wasted. It is for this reason that we try to organise our trainings in an efficient and systematic manner.
Three Key Stages
We divide our training courses up into thee key stages of complexity. Each of these stages requires a solid foundation to be built at the previous stage in order for a person to get the most out of their practice. The first stage focuses upon preparing the body, awakening the energy system and purging the body of stagnation. The second phase is concerned with integration of body and energy into one unit, opening of key energetic centres and development of Yang within the core. The third phase is more open and concerned with alchemical development.
You will see by each of our courses there is a level number and you should ensure that you have satisfied the criteria for being eligible for each course before attending.
Stage 1 Training
Very few people come into the internal arts with an adequate physical foundation. The body is the vehicle through which we experience life as well as being the workshop for our training. In the first stage of our practice we must systematically relax, soften, stretch, restructure and open up the body. As well as this we need to nourish the body with earth Qi and purge it of stagnant pathogenic energies. This is all a part of the clearing process which prepares a student for further development. Here emotional debris is removed from the system and a strong flow of Qi throughout the key orbits of the body is developed. The art of prostration is studied along with a number of static and moving exercises which help to cultivate the lower Dan Tien.
The level one courses are taught by Damo Mitchell and his senior students around the world. Anybody with a sincere and open approach to the practice may attend these courses though you should be aware that this is a path which is only really for the adventurous of spirit.
Stage 2 Training
The second stage of a practitioners development looks more closely at the relationship between relaxation, release and conductive expansion. Energetic flow is built through controlled release rather than the forced methods which are so prevalent in the internal arts these days. Centralisation of the Qi flow is developed along with harnessing of the Yang Qi. The lower Dan Tien is joined with the middle Dan Tien and the Jingjin are animated via the integration of Yi and Qi. This is the stage of direct transmission, energetic expansion and environmental work.
The level two courses are currently taught by Damo Mitchell. In order to attend stage 2 courses a student should have met the following criteria:
- Students should have sustained a regular practice of the stage 1 material for a an absolute minimum (but most likely longer) of three years. They should have attended stage 1 training with either Damo Mitchell or his senior students during this time.
- Students need to be proficient in the basic level exercises of our system – Ji Ben Qi Gong, Wu Xing Qi Gong, Wu Dao Yin, Dragon Dao Yin and the various standing postures we utilise in the early stages
- Students need to have been given the ‘okay’ that they may attend our stage 2 training events by either Damo Mitchell, one of the senior teachers or one of our Nei Gong teachers listed on this site.
Stage 3 Training
The third stage of training within our school is based upon more advanced alchemical work utilising congenital substances within the body. this is complex work that requires a deep understanding of the previous stages in order to avoid risk to the practitioner as well as successful progression. Stage 3 training courses are by invite only to very experienced students within our school.
Please visit our events section to see which courses we are running and what stages of training are available at the current time.
Models of Progression
Progression within Nei Gong works through the simple process of body through to energetic system through to spirit. This becomes Jing, Qi to Shen within the internal environment and then congenital conversion by the time a person hits the alchemical stage in their practice. For an overview of the process please refer to Damo’s book: ‘Daoist Nei Gong – Philosophical Art of Change‘ whilst a more detailed methodology from an alchemical perspective can be found in the book: ‘White Moon on the Mountain Peak – The Alchemical Firing Process of Daoism‘.
We teach this process through a combination of physical exercises, internal work, theoretical training and direct transmissions which are given by the teacher. These were all aspects of teaching classically required within Daoist schools if a student was to ‘get’ what they were being taught. When one of these ingredients is missing then progress is slowed or even halted.
Physical exercises (Qi Gong) set up the circumstances, internal work (Nei Gong) provides the engine, theory establishes the Yi and direct transmissions are like the keys which help to open doors. To help with these is the role of the teacher.
Once a person can grasp the nature of the teaching and engages with the practice then entry to the Nei Gong process has been gained.
Please be aware that if you are hoping to train with Lotus Nei Gong you should be aware of what you are letting yourself in for! We are not specifically a medical Qi Gong school and are really not the kind of school where you would go for some gentle rest and relaxation. Instead we teach and practice classical-style arts which can demanding in many ways.
We feel that we should make this abundantly clear so that new students do not walk into a school where they feel a long way out of their depth. The nature of our training in Nei Gong has been captured very well in this piece of writing by one of our senior teachers, Sophie Johnson:
“My advice to anyone undertaking such a study as Nei Gong is to have a honest look at what outcomes are we after. Stress reduction or transformation?
If you are already a practitioner and know that you are looking to go deeper, want an honest, open and kind environment to do it in, with a focus on body/energy techniques (effectively a tantric approach) then the Nei Gong process may suit you, It’s not for the feint of heart, it is often confronting, difficult and uncomfortable.
Pain (physical, emotional, mental) is going to be part of any transformative practice, its an indication of tension/conflict which, when dispersed correctly, is part of the healing process.
In other words don’t go and learn flower arranging when our ultimate goal is to understand the complexity of the soil. If you are after techniques to apply to a stressful period of life, to calm down a little, to improve the quality of the muscle in your bottom, or a new hobby/holiday, then there are many other far more efficient teachers and courses for such things.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for truth, for an uncompromising approach to your inner life, to having a continued and active practice, looking to find a teacher or a course that takes you to your personal edge within an atmosphere of compassionate commitment to truth, then this may be the school for you. For it is only at your edge that you can transform.
It needs to be an approach that makes us uncomfortable, either emotionally and/or physically. Where the teaching and the teacher has an earthed, honest approach with a sense of humour! For safeguards look for a lack of pretentiousness, a lack of focus on money, humility about their attainments, and abundant humour. These are things I have found in the Lotus Nei Gong school.”
Our training is rewarding, transformative and great fun but really only for those who are adventurous of spirit and prepared to text themselves. Our school is full of very dedicated practitioners who put a lot of energy into their training. We feel we should let new students know this because we have had problems in the past with students coming who were used to the usual ‘overly gentle’ approach to the internal arts which you can find elsewhere. We are not really a medical school, you should not come here looking for help with physical ailments. Instead it is better to come to use with a good foundation of health and the mindset of wishing to engage with a deep and classical process. Our courses are always oversubscribed so we would like to make sure we have the right students applying to train with us. Oh yes, don’t forget that a sense of humour is a mandatory requirement too! If you feel that the description of the training is off-putting, or you may be pregnant or you are under 18 then please do not apply for our training as it will not be right for you.
It is important when joining any school that you understand their philosophy or ethos. If you attend a course run by a school whose ethos you are not in alignment with you will find that you have wasted your time. Classical internal training can be presented in many different ways which are largely down to the belief system of the teacher and their teachers before them.
Lotus Nei Gong School of Daoist Arts Philosophy
Please read this before attending any of our events to ensure that we are a school which you may draw benefit from. If these philosophies are not in alignment with your own then you would be best suited to training elsewhere.
- Lotus Nei Gong is a classical school of the internal arts which is based around the arts of Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, Qi Gong, Nei Gong and Nei Dan. Though we teach these arts in the modern world we attempt to teach in a classical manner. This means that there is a heavy focus upon basic skills and drills rather than simply learning countless forms and sequences. There is also a heavy focus upon the principles which underpin the arts in order to ensure that the arts are close to their original theoretical sources.
- Though we teach the martial arts, our prime focus is personal development. We are more interested in guiding a student through a process of inner growth than we are in producing trained killers.
- Lotus Nei Gong does not get involved in the sports world and as such we will never train our students for competitions or any of the arts under competition rules. To be honest none of us would not even know what these competition rules were! Our combative training is based around self defence rather than competitive fighting. If people want to use the martial arts to compete, that is fine, but it is not the aim of any of the teachings within this school.
- We approach the arts in as round and complete a manner as possible. This means that partner training is as large a part of the practice as inner work, movement principles and philosophy. Only those wishing to embrace all aspects of the practice should attend. Of course, this mainly applies to martial arts training with us. Those engaging in Qi Gong, Nei Gong or Nei Dan will not be asked to train in the combative arts! However, those studying martial arts with us will have to study Qi Gong and transformative philosophy as well.
- We are an esoteric school in that we do not believe that modern science has the answers for everything that takes place within the internal arts. Lotus Nei Gong believes that it is slightly patronising to view the ancient beliefs of the people who created these arts through the lens of pure modern thinking. To see the people of the past as primitives who knew little is a mistake and so the more internal and esoteric aspects of the training are engaged in as well as physical training. Those who are 100% against anything which may be deemed a little ‘strange’ are most likely better off training with another school.
- Though we train in practical self defence within our martial arts classes we always put an emphasis first upon the health maintenance aspects of the arts. The reason for this is that probably very few of you reading this are going to be killed in unarmed combat whereas a large proportion of you may at one stage run the risk of dying from a weakness in your health. It is simply a case of training to look after yourself in the wisest possible way. If you are one of those few people who live in such a rough area that you could die at any moment from a violent act; move as quickly as you can to another town! Life is too short to live in constant fear for your safety.
- Though we train in a very dedicated way in this school, we also have fun. Lotus Nei Gong courses tend to take place to the sound of a lot of laughter. If you are a very serious person who is deeply offended by the sound of mirth, please train elsewhere. At the same time, please respect all others in the school. There will be no prejudice against anybody for whatever reason whilst training within Lotus Nei Gong.
This is our school ethos but of course individual teachers who are trained under us may have their own philosophy. It is safe to assume that this all applies to the senior teaching team within Lotus Nei Gong though….
Daoist Internal Alchemy
Anybody who begins to look into any of the Daoist arts will at some point come across the alchemical teachings of this ancient tradition. Based in the tantric methodologies of working with various energetic substances contained within the body, Nei Dan or alchemy has long been the focal point of the majority of Daoist lineages. Though Nei Dan shares some common ground with other forms of eastern meditation, it also has distinct differences which make it a unique form of transformational sitting practice. Unlike many other traditions, Nei Dan sitting practices seamlessly work together with standing and moving energetic exercises such as Dao Yin (導引) and Qi Gong (氣功) to create a dynamic system which encompasses a variety of internal techniques. Health and spirituality are inextricably combined to form a holistic internal process which is both complex and yet, at its core, profoundly simple. Unlike many modern forms of meditation which have been simplified to suit modern lifestyles, Daoist Nei Dan cannot be undertaken by those who do not have the dedication to fully immerse themselves in it. More than just a way to relax the mind and body, Daoist alchemy works to change the very way that a practitioners energetic matrix functions through consistent and continuous practice. It is an advanced practice for those wishing to fully understand the Daost wisdom tradition as well as being only for those who are adventurous of spirit as many of the inner transformations which take place can be powerful with regards to the changes made to a persons outlook on life and perception of the nature of reality.
Nei Dan Characters
Shown above are the Chinese characters for Nei Dan. The first character, Nei, means internal and separates the tradition from the external alchemical methods from which it evolved. Internal alchemy is based upon working with energetic substances contained within the human energetic system which the earlier (but still practiced today) external alchemy is based upon combining various external substances to create a ‘pill’ which is swallowed by the practitioner. The second character, Dan, quite literally means cinnabar, the ore of mercury, which in the case of internal alchemy refers metaphorically to the divine substance which is produced within the conscious ness of the practitioner through diligent and correct practice. Due to difficulties directly translating Chinese terms into English the term ‘internal alchemy’ is generally used when discussing these methods.
Daoist Nei Dan is obviously primarily a form of alchemical meditation as it aims to work directly with the three treasures of Jing (精), Qi (氣) and Shen (神). Rather than aiming to work directly with the mind from the outset, Daoist Nei Dan builds a foundation in the essence and subtle energies of the body. In this way it prepares the way for the more difficult stage of transforming the state of your consciousness. Once this has been achieved to a sufficient level it is time to begin moving towards the state of ‘conscious emptiness’ that many other systems may begin with.
In conclusion, Daoist Nei Dan is the alchemical meditation system of the Daoist tradition. It is primarily a Tantric sitting method which utilises various methods to elevate a persons consciousness. For more information on this esoteric and complex practice please refer to the book ‘White Moon on the Mountain Peak‘ by Damo Mitchell.