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NATHAN BRINE

Teaching Taoist Alchemy

Welcome

For centuries high in the mountains of China spiritual adepts explored what it was to be human. Known as Taoist alchemists, these practitioners developed and refined systems of energetic practice that allow us to experience our true nature. The knowledge was passed down through chains of transmission called lineages. Now, I would like to share the Dragon Gate Lineage (Longmenpai) of Taoist teacher Wang Liping.

The Dragon Gate Lineage is a complete system of energetic transformation. The core of the practice is internal alchemy (neidan), a form of meditation that focuses on the body and the cultivation and transformation of energy, or qi.

Taoist

Taoist Alchemy

Taoism (Daoism) refers to the constellation of Chinese spiritual teachings focused on returning to the source of our being, or Tao.

Internal alchemy is a tool to help us return to the Tao. It is an esoteric form of Taoist mediation that is often shared privately between teacher and student. Internal alchemy takes the body and its energies as foundation and leads the practitioner on a journey of self knowledge and transformation.

Taoist

Taoist Alchemy

Taoism (Daoism) refers to the constellation of Chinese spiritual teachings focused on returning to the source of our being, or Tao.

Internal alchemy is a tool to help us return to the Tao. It is an esoteric form of Taoist mediation that is often shared privately between teacher and student. Internal alchemy takes the body and its energies as foundation and leads the practitioner on a journey of self knowledge and transformation.

Nathan Brine

Nathan has been teaching Chinese internal arts for over 20 years. He began Taoist practice in 1997, immersing himself in Taoist temple arts, martial arts, meditation, internal work (neigong), energy work (qigong), and internal alchemy. For several years Nathan lived in China and trained full-time with a number of masters, as well as learning Mandarin Chinese. Afterwards, Nathan returned to Canada to pursue academic study of Taoism, where he received an honours degree in Asian Languages and Culture and worked towards an MA at the University of British Columbia, extending his knowledge of Classical Chinese and the Taoist canon.

After meeting Wang Liping, Nathan left graduate school and devoted himself wholly to learning Taoist alchemy. In 2015 Wang Liping authorized Nathan to teach and write a series of books detailing Dragon Gate alchemy. He now leads international workshops, writes, and continues his practice. In 2020 Nathan published his first book: The Taoist Alchemy of Wang Liping, Vol. 1.

Nathan Brine

Nathan has been teaching Chinese internal arts for over 20 years. He began Taoist practice in 1997, immersing himself in Taoist temple arts, martial arts, meditation, internal work (neigong), energy work (qigong), and internal alchemy. For several years Nathan lived in China and trained full-time with a number of masters, as well as learning Mandarin Chinese. Afterwards, Nathan returned to Canada to pursue academic study of Taoism, where he received an honours degree in Asian Languages and Culture and worked towards an MA at the University of British Columbia, extending his knowledge of Classical Chinese and the Taoist canon.

After meeting Wang Liping, Nathan left graduate school and devoted himself wholly to learning Taoist alchemy. In 2015 Wang Liping authorized Nathan to teach and write a series of books detailing Dragon Gate alchemy. He now leads international workshops, writes, and continues his practice. In 2020 Nathan published his first book: The Taoist Alchemy of Wang Liping, Vol. 1.

nathanbrine_headshot_edit

Wang Liping

Wang Liping is responsible for passing on the Dragon Gate Lineage (Longmenpai) to the next generation. Wang Liping’s lineage is a traditional Mountain Taoist lineage (shandao). These Taoists are fully engaged in self transformation and the pursuit of transcendence.

Born in China’s northeast in 1949, Wang Liping was chosen by three masters of the Dragon Gate Lineage to become the 18th heir, holder, and transmitter of the lineage. Wang Liping’s arduous training was described in the book Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard.

In 1985 Wang Liping began teaching publicly. Since then he has trained many students throughout China and abroad. He continues to live in China and teach.

Online Program

The Taoist Alchemy Online Program is now open: Taoist Alchemy Online

Distance training is easily the most common request I receive. Many do not have the time or money to travel and train. The online program is offered as a starting point for training in Taoist alchemy.

The Taoist Alchemy Online program focuses on the basics and first level of neidan training. The Intro Course shows students how to build foundation and develop the basic skills needed for Taoist alchemy. The Intro Course is also a complete package of Taoist meditation in its own right. Level One presents methods to work with the body, and build and transform energy.

Each course is based on a series of video talks and guided sessions. Students also have access to a private Facebook group for questions and guidance from myself and other experienced practitioners. 

Wang Liping

Nathan-Brine

Wang Liping is responsible for passing on the Dragon Gate Lineage (Longmenpai) to the next generation. Wang Liping’s lineage is a traditional Mountain Taoist lineage (shandao). These Taoists are fully engaged in self transformation and the pursuit of transcendence.

Born in China’s northeast in 1949, Wang Liping was chosen by three masters of the Dragon Gate Lineage to become the 18th heir, holder, and transmitter of the lineage. Wang Liping’s arduous training was described in the book Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard.

In 1985 Wang Liping began teaching publicly. Since then he has trained many students throughout China and abroad. He continues to live in China and teach.

Online Program Now Open

The Taoist Alchemy Online program is now open: Taoist Alchemy Online

Distance training is easily the most common request I receive. Many do not have the time or money to travel and train. The online program is offered as a starting point for training in Taoist alchemy.

The Taoist Alchemy Online Program will focus on the basics and first level of neidan training. The Intro Course shows students how to build foundation and develop the basic skills needed for Taoist alchemy. The Intro Course is also a complete package of Taoist meditation in its own right. Level 1a presents methods to work with the body, and build and transform energy.

Each course is based on a series of video talks and guided sessions. Students also have access to a private Facebook group for questions and guidance from myself and other experienced practitioners.

Book Announcement

The Taoist Alchemy of Wang Liping, Vol. 1
by Nathan Brine
Foreword by Wang Liping
Available on Amazon

This book is an introduction and instructional guide to the internal alchemy of my teacher, and is first in a series of books bringing the practices of the Dragon Gate Lineage to the English language. Vol. 1 focuses on foundation, basic techniques, refining jing into qi, and forming the lesser reverted elixir, as well as supplemental practices.

Taoist alchemy is hard to understand. As a system of spiritual practice it is deep, subtle, and highly sophisticated. And just to keep things interesting the practice is often cloaked in a language of mystery. Because of this many of my students and fellow practitioners have been asking for a clearly written guide on neidan practice.

To date all books about Wang Liping’s practice in English are translated texts from Chinese. These books are invaluable resources for our practice, but can lack clarity and the ability to connect with a Western audience. To complement these translations Wang Liping recommended that I write a book from the ground up in English based on my own experience.

So here it is. After countless afternoons spent in my local coffee houses the first volume is finally finished. Available on Amazon.

Taoist

Taoist Alchemy Program

For the online course program visit: Taoist Alchemy Online
Note: all in-person events and workshops are postponed.

The Taoist Alchemy (neidan, internal alchemy) Program is for those wanting to go deep into Taoist practice. Through various workshops and online classes students learn a traditional system of energetic transformation. The Program includes three levels of practice. Each level contains a rich body of material that can take years to master. Each workshop presents a selection of methods and techniques from its level hand picked for that particular group of students.

Internal alchemy is practiced in sitting meditation. Although best results are found with legs crossed, for Level One students are also welcome to try a chair. Before starting Level Two students should be able to sit for 90 minutes with legs crossed. 

Practice of internal alchemy takes us from the physical into the subtle. We apply methods of energetic transformation to change the self. Although the body and mind are involved, the bulk of the work is with energy, or qi. Qi takes many forms. For Taoist alchemists our energy body can be divided into three main categories: jing, qi, and shen.

Shen (spirit) is energy in its finest form.
Qi (energy) is in the middle.
Jing (essence) is energy in its coarsest form.
Each phase of the Internal Alchemy Program focuses on one of these forms of qi.

The goal of internal alchemy is to form the Golden Elixir or the Sacred Embryo. Reaching these goals is a process. Level One to Three include methods and techniques to attain these goals. However, the point of Taoist practice is to return to the Tao, not mastering internal alchemy. Alchemy is merely a tool to help us on the path, it is still up to each of us to walk it.

Lohan-class

LEVEL ONE: Working with Jingqi

Minggong. Locus: inside body. There are no requirements for phase one, however the ability to sit in cross-legged meditation for an hour or more will be very helpful.

The body is the foundation of Taoist practice. Level one focuses on the physical body and cultivation of jing and qi. First, we work to restore ourselves to our original healthy state, repair energetic leakages, and build foundation. Second, we learn to find, move, and transform jing energy.

Practices May Include:

Lower Dantian Practice

Working with our Lower Field is essential to the practice of alchemy. This is where the magic happens. The Lower Field (xiatian) is an energetic space at the centre of the lower abdominal cavity. It is also known as the Lower Dantian. We use this space to hold and transform qi. The Lower Field is home to our jing energy.

Nine Basic Techniques

The nine basic techniques are fundamental skills used throughout the practice of Dragon Gate alchemy. These techniques were hand-picked from the Yinxian Methods. Level One will introduce and train these techniques providing us with a solid technical foundation for later practice.

Stabilize Furnace, Set up Cauldron

This method is used to energetically seal the body and set up space to begin the alchemical work. The furnace and cauldron are metaphors. The cauldron holds the alchemical ingredients. The furnace heats up the cauldron. However, before the real work of cooking the elixir, the furnace and cauldron need to be set up. At this early stage the body is the furnace and the cauldron is the lower abdominal cavity.

Basic Kan and Li

Introduces methods for working with yin and yang energy. Kan and Li practice is for the exchanging, pairing, and returning of yin and yang energy. Basic Kan and Li works with the fire and water energy of the heart and kidneys. Using subtle inner breathing techniques we learn to transport qi between the Middle and Lower Energy Fields.

Single Organ Practice

Organs are an important part of the body’s inner topography and energy anatomy. As Taoist practitioners we work closely with our organs. This practice uses specific techniques to connect, move, and refine the energy of each individual organ.

Five Phase Organ Practice

This method is used to gather and sublimate the five phase energies of our internal organ system. This practice is not only excellent for health and wellbeing but also a key step in the alchemical process.

Neigong Line Practice

A practice to work with the six Neigong Lines inside the body. These lines are not meridians or energy channels, but play an important role in alchemy practice. Four of the lines intersect with the Three Fields (dantians), and working with the lines helps activate these energy centres. 

Celestial Eye Practice: Basic

The basic Celestial Eye Pracice introduces the first technique of the Celestial Eye curriculum: Use Awareness to Transport the Spiritual Illumination. Working with shenguang (light of our spirit) and opening the celestial eye are key components of higher level alchemical practice, however we need to be relatively stable in our practice before we begin this work otherwise problems can arise. The basic practice shows us how to work gently and safely with our shenguang.

Lesser Reverted Elixir

The five element energies along with the two energies of yin and yang, and the precelestial original qi form the internal alchemical ingredients. These eight ingredients are put in the lower energy field and refined to produce the Lesser Reverted Elixir. This energy can then be circulated through the body in different ways, including inner organs, three Energy Fields, or microcosmic and macrocosmic orbits.

Additional Practices Include:
  • Yinxian Methods
  • Wisdom Ability Methods
  • Sleeping Practice
Opening the Celestial Eye

LEVEL TWO: Working with Shenqi

Minggong leads Xinggong. Locus: body and environment.
Requirement- able to sit for 90mins in cross-legged meditation.

Now we begin to move from the physical towards the subtle. In level two we start directing the work with our shen energy, and begin exploring our Inner Nature (xing). We also increase the locus of the work to include our environment. We are more than discreet selves, we exist in a broader energetic context. Level two introduces ways of working energetically with the natural world and the celestial universe.

Practices May Include:

Middle Dantian Practice

Working with our Middle Field extends our practice into more subtle territory. The Middle Field is an energetic space at the centre of the chest cavity. It is also known as the Middle Dantian or Yellow Court. We use this space to hold and transform energy. This is where our emotions, memories, and unprocessed trauma are stored, and work here can bring out all that we want to forget. The Middle Field is home to our qi.

Three Spaces

The Three Spaces practice teaches us to structure the Taoist universe, and is a powerful foundational practice for internal alchemy. The three external spaces are the personal human space, social space, and natural cosmic space. The three internal spaces are lower abdomen space, chest space, and head space. First we occupy and then unify the outer spaces into one space, and then go inside the body and set up the inner spaces and the Inner Cavity. Once we have sealed all this up, the Taoist universe is structured and we are better able to do the alchemical work.

  • External Space Practice
  • Internal Space Practice
  • Inner Cavity Practice
Opening the Celestial Eye

Level Two begins exploring the Celestial Eye Practice in detail. We learn to open our Celestial Eye (Third Eye) and work with the Light of our Spirit (Shenguang). This practice begins the work with our Inner Nature (xinggong).

Techniques include:

  • Use Awareness to Transport the Spiritual Illumination
  • Open the Celestial Eye
  • Exchange of Kan and Li
  • Three Lights Gather Naturally
Mysterious Openings and the Subtle Body

Understanding the relationship between the subtle and physical body is an essential part of our practice. Level Three introduces a suite of techniques for deepening the exploration of our subtle self, the self with form but no substance. At this time we also begin accessing the various mysterious openings (xuan qiao) in our body.

Sound of Heart

Working with the sound of our heart is a fun way to work with shen and qi. With this practice we learn to gently combine shen and qi in our physical heart and then bring it into the middle field. From our middle field we drop the shen and qi down into the lower field and fuse it with jing and qi. This practice is not only good for our heart but also helps us with the inverted transformation of shen qi jing.

Sound of Kidneys

The Sound of Kidneys practice works with the jing of the kidneys and lower field. Heart is fire. Kidneys are water. Working with the energy from our kidneys helps us bring together fire and water and is part of the Kan and Li practice so vital to the alchemical process.

Spinal Stretch

Students learn to extend the spine vertebra by vertebra following a certain breathing pattern. The practice opens up the spine and purifies the Inner Cavity. As the torso is vertically pulled open and closed the Three Energy Fields are separated and turbid qi in the Inner Cavity disperses. Also prepares students for the Nine Times Firing Process.

Nine Times Firing Process

Firing the ingredients to form the elixir is the capstone of the refining jing into qi curriculum. With this powerful practice we learn to ignite the fire and cook the alchemical ingredients to form the elixir. We combine the firing with a bathing and cleansing regime to cool things down and let the elixir fully crystallize.

Techniques include:

  • Nine Times Firing Process
  • Advance the Yang Fire, Withdraw the Yin Talisman
  • Bath and Cleanse
Additional Practices Include:
  • Moon Practice
  • Sun Practice
  • Sleeping Practice
  • Wisdom Ability Methods
  • Yinxian Methods
Mysterious Openings and the Subtle Body (xuan qiao)

LEVEL THREE: Working with Shenyi

Xinggong leads minggong. Requirement- able to sit for 2 hours.

Using shenyi (spirit and awareness) moves our practice into even more subtle dimensions. Once our shen is clear enough we are able to lead our practice with just shen and awareness. We still work with jing, qi and the physical body, but shenyi directs. The power of our awareness alone is enough to affect change. Level three also begins working with the Taoist five arts.

Practices May Include:

Upper Dantian Practice

Working with our Upper Field focuses on our Inner Nature. Here work is the most subtle yet. The Upper Field is an energetic space at the centre of the head cavity. It is also known as the Upper Dantian or Muddy Pellet. We use this space to hold and transform energy. The Upper Field is home to our shen.

Lianji Shouxin

Lianji Shouxin is a traditional Taoist practice that prepares us for the alchemical work. Its name means: refine the self and gather into our centre. The practice works with our shen and yi and takes from 30 to 45 mins to complete. Lianji Shouxin is subtle, powerful, and complex, drawing on and synthesizing many of the techniques used throughout level one and two. Lianji Shouxin training is the base for the methods and techniques of level three. If unable to do Lianji Shouxin properly the student is best served by reviewing phase one and two.

Ancestral Opening Practice

Continues with stages two to four of the Celestial Eye curriculum.

Including:

  • Return the Light and Collect the Ling
  • Rotate the Sun and Moon
  • Unite the Sun and Moon
  • Ling accumulates in the Mysterious Opening
  • Turn Around Observation and Illuminate Interior
  • Gently Nourish the Dragon’s Pearl
Observe the Three Spaces

Continues the Three Spaces practice from Level Two, but this time using shenyi. Using both inner seeing and inner hearing we explore the interior structure of the body, including the Inner Cavity. In level three the Inner Cavity becomes central to our work in the body.

Splitting Yin and Yang

This practice works with yin and yang qi by energetically splitting apart the left and right sides of our body.

Purify the Inner Space

A special practice used to clean out turbid qi from the inner cavity and bath the Inner Courtyard (inside of torso) with light. This practice is often paired with various Huiyin breathing techniques. Purify the Inner Space is part of the Zishi Gong curriculum (Midnight Practice). 

Add Oil to Extend Life

The name refers to the lamp on an altar. The light from the lamp refers to our xing, (Nature, the eternal part of us). The oil is our ming (life force). Adding oil is extending our life. Add Oil to Extend Life refers to a certain kind of practice; the version I teach is an intense Huiyin breathing technique to pull a little bit of Pure Yang into our Lower Field.

Shenguang Illumination

Working with light is essential for higher level alchemical practice. By opening the celestial eye we begin to see the light of our spirit, the shenguang. The practice of Shenguang Illumination takes things a step further. Shenguang illumination teaches us how to integrate the light into our physical and subtle bodies. Through this practice we learn how to purify, protect, and transform the self.

Formation of the Sacred Embryo

When we begin working on the Sacred Embryo metaphors shift. The practice is no longer about cooking an elixir but giving birth to an embryo. Firing the elixir uses heat and pressure to form a dense field of energy called the Golden Elixir. Giving birth to the Sacred Embryo involves gently nourishing a field of energy inside our body and infusing it with our own personal qualities.

Methods include:

  • Form Sacred Embryo
  • Nourish Sacred Embryo
  • Bath and Cleanse Embryo
Finding the True Self

Finding the True Self (Zhenwo) is an essential part of forming the Sacred Embryo. The word True Self is a technical Taoist term indicating the eternal unchanging part of our nature. However, to find the True Self requires sifting through many layers of self. Level three presents methods and techniques to help us on this quest. After the True Self is found we integrate it into the Sacred Embryo.

Techniques include:

  • Recall our Time as Infant
  • Hear our Father, Recall our Mother
  • Recall our Teachers Words
Transcend the Three Realms

The inner cavity, physical body, and subtle body correspond to past, present, and future. These three spaces and times are known as the three realms. Through the method of Transcending the Three Realms we learn how to transcend time and space and merge with the celestial sphere.

Additional Practices Include:
    • External Breathing
    • Moon Practice
    • Sun Practice
    • Sleeping Practice
    • Wisdom Ability Methods
    • Yinxian Methods

Foundation and Supplemental Practices

Building a proper foundation is essential for success with Taoist alchemy. Below are some of the supplemental and foundational practices that will be offered during workshops.

Foundation Work

The Foundation practices with movement and standing postures to change the body and prepare for alchemy training. Tendons will be worked, bones will be realigned.

The Eighteen Lohan Skills is an effective neigong set for opening and strengthening the body. Although this set of movements is not from Wang Liping’s lineage and was originally used for Shaolin Kung Fu training, it works remarkably well in preparing the body for Taoist alchemy. The Lohan set follows a traditional method of opening the tendons and realigning the bones. The movements are compact and straight forward to learn, while at the same time providing opportunity to work the body deeply and thoroughly.

The second part of foundation training is standing post practices (zhanzhuang). The Dragon Gate Lineage contains a rich store of standing practices, including nine postures and various stages of internal training.

Taoist forest walks

Taoist Walking

Taoist walking is an ancient method for exchanging energy with nature. This meditative method progresses through nine stages. Each stage uses Taoist techniques for coordinating our breath, body, mind, spirit, and qi with our brisk walking. While maintaining a vigorous pace we learn to connect into the environment around us in profound new ways. Taoist walking can be practiced alone, or as important supplemental training for internal alchemy.

  • Nose Breathing
  • Lung Breathing
  • Stomach/Spleen Breathing
  • Abdominal Breathing
  • Lower Dantian Breathing
  • Body Pore Breathing
tree-practice

Tree Practice

Working with trees teaches us how to work directly with another energy field. All living things have energy fields. However, trees are easiest to work with because they are big and stationary. The Dragon Gate Lineage uses various methods and movements to set up a relationship with the tree in order to exchange energy and information. The exchange teaches us how to harmonize with another energy field and how to project and draw in qi. The practice is also great for health and leaves us feeling calm and rejuvenated.

EXPLORE THE SITE

Learn Taoist alchemy through the new online program.

Overview of Wang Liping’s system of Taoist alchemy.

The blog is for practitioners of Taoist alchemy. Here I unpack terms and concepts based on my experiences practicing with Wang Liping.