Editor's Note: Part one of this article appeared in the October 2007 issue.
Individuals fall out of the amniotic sea and emerge into this world of duality.
We transform from being physically connected to the source while exchanging processed nutrients, to a state where we must commit to processing our own interactions with the world. Yet, if the fetus passes urine or stools into the sea, it faces a dangerous challenge. Physical connection to the source through the umbilical cord obviates the need and the opportunity to maintain the internal environment to support growth. The mother's organs do that work. She gives her essence so the fetus can grow in oneness with her life.
Our lives are propelled into this world, where we must move to survive. Many vital functions rely upon the individual moving to interact with the world outside. Breathing, eating, drinking, digesting and eliminating all require muscular movements to affect their functions. While the lungs and breathing muscles move in utero, there is no air to breath. This movement only prepares the way for individual life, in which the being is not yet ready to engage.
After birth, individuals breathe, eat, drink and digest for themselves. Engaging food and drink requires the individual to differentiate what to keep from what to release back to the world through elimination. We are each propelled on a quest in life to get what we need and want. We have both the opportunity and responsibility to internalize and process physical and experiential input. Desire for certain experiences guides the individual choices of what to engage and internalize (ying).
Any physical or experiential material that is internalized must be processed. The first part of this article discussed the accumulation of unfulfilled life process (qi) in dormancy and its eventual emergence to manifest in progressive and degenerative ailments. While this loss of dormancy is typically a feature of aging, it can occur at any point in an individual's life. When the individual's capacity to contain unresolved pathogenic factors is filled, these factors emerge in overt expression to block the natural flow of vital processes (qi) in one or more of the primary channels.
All input (ying) is processed while we learn to recognize various inputs and develop habituated patterns of activation (wei) to process them. These habituations are then projected into subsequent interactions and facilitate more efficient movement to engage and/or process input. The entraining of an individual's responsiveness (wei) is conveyed in the divergent channels, which also contain unfulfilled, dormant reactions to experience.
People are challenged by the distortions or incompleteness of vital life process (qi) imposed on the present (primary channels) by these habituations. Any unresolved input is suspended and stored for future disposition. Habituated reactions to frequent input provide material for individuals to store. As we age, we accumulate the products of unresolved life processes. Eventually, we can no longer maintain this suspended material, and it "breaks out" from containment in a dormant state, as an overt expression of disease.
Neonatal daoyin is a small collection of gentle, rhythmic movements, practiced while lying down, which brings awareness to habituated muscle contractures and binding in the fascia. These physical holding patterns are an embodiment of unresolved struggle or conflict that can date from early life. Neonatal daoyin dredges the accumulations that form around these holding patterns (attachments), so the individual can release them and the various ailments they create.
While the name "neonatal" might simply refer to the posture of infancy, it goes much deeper. These exercises engage the most deeply embodied patterns of reaction and activation, without having to work through the exertion of upright postural habits that oppose gravity. Neonatal daoyin stimulates individuals to bring conscious awareness to their automatic "com-ing from," which is projected onto all experience.
How do individuals typically grow more aware of habituated projections and holding patterns? By honest introspection and accepting feedback from individuals and "the world." Yet, both of these methods are subject to the individual's unconscious projections. Working directly with the physical (muscular and fascia) holding patterns with conscious awareness and breath can bring unfulfilled experience out to conscious awareness, so it can be reprocessed and resolved.
The primary channels receive their yang (activation) from the sinew channels, and the habituated holding patterns of the sinews are based in the divergent channels. These habituations project the individual's core interpretations concerning the experience of life into the present moment. Thus, the foundation of the activation of present physiological process with the primary channels is based in the accumulations and stagnations of the divergent channels.
Neonatal daoyin is a journey toward the roots of the individually embodied spirit, focusing especially on the divergent channels. Any embodied spirit can benefit from learning and practicing such spiritual process work. Bringing conscious awareness (fire) to the unconscious projection of one's interpretations can facilitate progress toward liberation from the most deeply seated and recurrent struggles and conflicts, which are the internal causes of disease.
Practitioners and students of Chinese medicine can benefit further by enriching their experiential relationship with the channels. These exercises focus especially on the divergent (or distinct) channels, and their relationship with the sinew and primary channels and the extraordinary vessels. Deepening one's experiential relationship with the channels can stimulate creative problem-solving in clinical practice.
Leading neonatal daoyin can further deepen one's relationship with the practice and the channel systems. It is a meditation into the nature and impact of habituated, physical holding patterns and the consistent instruction to release them with the breath. Watching a person practice neonatal daoyin can help the practitioner identify blocks and understand more deeply how to develop acupuncture treatment strategies.
When we focus on the breath and use it to release, it connects our conscious minds with the depths of being. Breathing is associated with the Sea of Yin, through the confluence of the Renmai (Conception Vessel) - Lung 7, yet it depends on active (self-generated) movement. The physical "external" movements, which allow the individual to exchange air with the outside world, are matched by internal movements, as life-preserving oxygen permeates through the being.
Rather than continuing to live out the programming taken on by their embodied spirits, individuals can use neonatal daoyin (and other profound spiritual processes) to face the challenges of aging brought by the accumulation of stagnating factors. Embrace slowing down, as that may be the best way to see and understand what is actually happening. Individuals frequently project previous interpretations onto current events in order to facilitate faster processing. This is meant to allow more experiences, and it also introduces a measure of distortion to our experience, which makes it more about fulfilling our projections than receiving new input.
Neonatal daoyin facilitates individuals in releasing habituations and finding the authentic, truly whole being within. For more information on the neonatal daoyin process, including the new daoyin Leader Training Program, see www.daoistmedicine.com.
Click here for previous articles by Steven Alpern, LAc.