Dao Yin is the traditional method of cultivating awareness practiced by people following a Daoist way of life. For now, let’s just say that Daoism is a way of living life as life naturally lives. Cultivating awareness is the gateway to any spiritual practice, be it religious, shamanistic, altruistic, philosophical or psychological in perspective.
The term Dao Yin generally means to lead, conduct, guide, transmit, attract, and/or lure energy. The Chinese character Dao (see to the right) means an increment of the Universal Dao. This can be helpful to understand because it reminds us that we can only experience an increment or a snapshot of our lives at any given time. The character Yin suggests that life sometimes flows easily and sometimes it can feel like a car accident. This relates to your practice in two ways. First, actually feeling how you feel, deeply and honestly is the only way to begin exploring ways to feel something else, as well as feeling subtle energetic qualities of nature, the seasons and other people. Second, given some practice you can choose to feel anyway you choose, emotionally, energetically and physically.
To help you explore this idea I am going to ask you to imagine an orchestra during a performance. In an orchestra there is a conductor and many musicians performing to an audience. Shared between them all, there is the experience of music. In Dao Yin we say that the Mind leads the Qi, and the Qi leads the bodies movements. During your Dao Yin practice you are the conductor through your ability to focus your attention on the subtle details of each gesture and breath.
In Dao Yin practice we say that the mind and body meet in sensation. It is our investigation into sensation that guides our investigation into wholeness. During your practice you are the musicians and instruments through your audacious expressions of intention and your humble surrender to stillness. In Dao Yin we say that knowing reality is a matter listening to, and observing what is. You are also your own audience, you can be as curious and receptive, as judgmental and negative or as completely free of expectation as you like.
In Dao Yin practice there are many aspects to cultivating awareness, including cultivating awareness of Embodiment, Breath, Mind, Heart, and Spirit.
Cultivating Embodiment includes your posture (the way you relate to gravity), your physicality (the way that you relate to movement, body image and sensuality) and your somato-emotional experience (the way that you hold or hide your present and past emotional turmoil). Dao Yin is traditionally taught to Daoist Lay-priests before any deeper spiritual practices. This is because Daoists believe that a spiritual practice begins with resolving your painful life experiences, otherwise your spiritual practice may become an escape from reality. During this programyou will learn several methods for balancing your posture, embracing and celebrating your physicality and very carefully and deeply exploring and resolving your somato-emotional patterns.
Cultivating your Breath is fundamental to all forms of energy work throughout the world. Your breath is not only a source of energy; it is a reflection of your availability to being open and fulfilled in your life. Paying attention to the breath while co-coordinating movement, relaxation and mental focus can bring you into a profound state of energetic awareness. Dao Yin has several breathing methods designed to release confused and toxic energy as well as gather and store clear and refined energy. There will be an additional handout covering all of these methods in detail.
Cultivating your Mind can be a lot like a hungry puppy chasing its tail. There is an old saying “the eye cannot see itself and a knife can cut everything but itself”. Whether or not the mind can cultivate itself is one of the oldest questions in Daoism. In the modern world our minds are often overwhelmed with problems to solve, comparisons to feel insecure about and adversaries to be in conflict with. These conditions encourage us to see the world through very rational and conditioned minds, making experiences like intuition, trust and even belonging in the natural world (faith) very difficult. In the practice of cultivating awareness you are learning to consciously relate to different aspects of your experience, like gravity, breath, and sensation. In cultivating awareness of your mind you will be learning to consciously relate to your thoughts. In a way, you will be consciously relating to the quality of your consciousness. This aspect of Dao Yin practice is almost entirely about experiencing presence, the experience you are having in this moment.
If, in this moment (or any other), you are uncomfortable with your experience then you have two choices. You may control your experience by distracting yourself in some way (and there are many), or to accept what you are experiencing as the truth. At least the truth about this moment. It has been said, “the heart is like a bag and the mind is the baggage”. During the course you will learn some of the skills used in both Daoism and Buddhism to cultivate your mind, become present and, if necessary, do a little mental house cleaning.
Cultivating your Heart has only one practice, to be open to what is. If, after cultivating mental clarity and presence, you feel a profound joy, compassion and loving kindness for all beings, your heart is open and, perhaps, you are enlightened. If, however, upon becoming mentally and rationally clear, you still feel separate from the rest of life, your heart has probably been wounded and requires some healing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we call this condition Xin Fan, which means Heart Vexation. This is something like being possessed by a demon or being cursed by an enemy. Don’t worry I’m being metaphoric.
Almost everyone has suffered some form of Heart Vexation in their lives. Being hurt in life is just as natural as birth, growth, maturity and death. How you respond to being hurt is really the only question. Dao Yin can be considered a natural response to being hurt in life. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dao Yin is considered to be the most effective treatment for Xin Fan (Heart Vexation), as your progress through the videos on this website we will investigate some of the practices used to release (or exorcise) any wounds and scars from our hearts. These practices usually require some time, patience, a quite sacred space and the willingness to profoundly let go.
Cultivating Spirit is behind or before the mind so it defies description. If you feel compelled to begin a spiritual practice, your best resources are established spiritual traditions and teachers or elders who embody and live a spiritual life. There are many such traditions and few such teachers, so with some reading, a great deal of practice and a little luck you will probably find yourself on the path that is the most natural and profound to you. There is another old saying, “when the student is ready the teacher will come”.