Taoist walking is an ancient method for exchanging energy with nature. This meditative method progresses through six 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 leaves one feeling fresh and clean. It’s like opening the windows of a house that has been shut up for too long. We bring qi from our environment into our body and release any stagnant stuff locked inside. Of course any walk through nature can have the same effect. The thing about Taoist walking is the techniques we use to amplify the effect.
Although Taoist walking can be practiced as a stand alone thing its main purpose is to supplement internal alchemy. Neidan is usually done in sitting meditation. However, we can also practice neidan standing, laying, and walking. Each mode of practice has their own techniques, and are used for different purposes. Taoist walking is used to exchange qi with the natural environment. Actually, in Chinese it is called the Nature Qi Exchange Method 自然換氣法, we only call it Taoist walking in English.
Another use for Taoist walking is to help Taoist practitioners break out of their own bodies. When we start practicing alchemy we seek to seal the physical body, creating a body with no energetic leaks. This is good. It is vital for alchemy. But at a certain point in our training we need to get out of the physical body and energetically connect into the world around us. That’s when it’s Taoist walking time.
I also find the Method helps considerably with our breath work. By coordinating our breath with our stepping we can slow down our breathing. Extending our breath is important for neidan, and I find Taoist walking works super well for this. Also, because we are walking it helps relax the diaphragm, which in turn helps our breathing. Win-win.
I also really like the Method for its shear exercise value. We are walking at a brisk pace for a good hour. Wang Liping recommends 5 to 10 km. Although shorter distances are okay, it takes time each session for the practice to open up, and each session has various stages to progress through. Strength and stamina are very helpful for internal alchemy practice (neidan). In order to sit for long sessions our physical body needs to be in good shape. Especially when we begin forming the elixir. The elixir creates a lot of energetic pressure inside the body that we need to hold. Exercise helps. And why do normal exercise when we can exercise the Taoist way!
There are different ways to do Taoist walking. For the main method a session will progress through six stages. Let’s look at the first stage here. The first stage involves coordinating breathing with our steps as we regulate gentle nose breathing.
Taoist Walking stage 1:
- Look: look afar, both eyes look at a level gaze to the horizon
- Walk: walk at a brisk pace
- Posture: walk like a pregnant woman with belly sticking out a bit, chest open, and arms swinging at sides
- Breathing: coordinate inhale and exhale with our steps by counting to 3, 6, 12, or 24 for each inhale and each exhale.
- Nose: focus on the air going in and out of our nose
- Exchange: pure qi from surrounding natural environment comes into our body with our breath, turbid qi goes out with our breath