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August 27, 2019 nathanbrine

The Barrier of Sitting

The barrier of sitting (zuoguan) is the first barrier we pass through in Dragon Gate practice. Barriers are obstacles that must be overcome in order to progress. In Chinese the word guan means a mountain pass. There is a way but it is up to each of us to figure out how to get through. The opposite of a guan is a qiao. A qiao is an opening. Once we break through the barrier it becomes an opening. 

To practice Taoist alchemy we cross our legs and sit. This is the first step. Taoist alchemy cannot be practiced without sitting. Standing, moving, and lying help but the core of neidan practice is done in a sitting position. 

But sitting is easy, so what’s all the fuss? The issue is the length of time required. To do the alchemical work we need to sit for long periods of time. Often the longer we can hold the sit without moving the better. In other words more is more. And this can be uncomfortable and even painful. If you are the kind of person who enjoys climbing a mountain three times before breakfast then you might enjoy this part of the training, if not it might be a challenge. 

To pass the barrier of sitting we should be able to sit without moving for four hours. The bar is set pretty high. And I am not going to sugar coat it, getting through this barrier can be tough. But we don’t need to make it through all at once. Think of it as a goal to work towards. We can still get a lot done with neidan even if we can’t sit for four hours. 

I have found with my own students that getting over an hour is good, holding the session for 90 minutes even better. A lot can happen in 90 minutes. However, anything much under an hour does not allow the qi to build up enough to get anything done. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the reason for long sits. 

The best way to understand why the barrier of sitting is a thing, is to go through it. Once you are on the other side it will all make sense. However, if you are the kind of person who likes to know why you are doing something here are a few reasons.

First, qi. the longer we sit the more time we have to build up the qi. Neidan practice is about cultivating qi. Yes, there are some meditative aspects to the practice, but internal alchemy is about energetic transformation. To do it we need qi. 

Second, stillness. Because neidan is a pre-heaven practice we need to be very still in order to find and work with the right kind of energy. Random thoughts distort stillness more than anything else. Figuring out how to sit for long periods of time requires us to deal with our random thoughts. When out conceptual mind is running around like a monkey with its butt on fire it is much harder to manage the discomfort of sitting for so long.

Third, healing. Sitting for long periods of time is actually quite healing on many different levels. It heals our physical body. As qi builds up and circulates through the body tissues heal and bones align. On a deeper level it helps with unresolved emotions. Stuff gets released when sitting through discomfort. And on the deepest level it burns through reincarnation energy. Reincarnation energy is all the super old stuff that we have held on to.

Fourth, improve life. And of course when we heal our life changes for the better.

Fifth, save the world. And when our life gets better we impact the people around us in a positive way. This change then ripples outwards to our broader communities, countries and even the world. That’s right going through the barrier of sitting will save the world.

Reasons not to do it. Discomfort. This is your chance to get out now. Maybe take up some other hobby. I hear golf is fun. 

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