Western science has discovered that when people are heavy thinkers, when they worry a lot, when their thoughts dwell on anger, jealousy, hatred, or other negative emotions, their brain activity can consume 80 percent of all their total body energy. The brain is a heavy user of energy and when it begins to use its energy, it doesn't stop unless it is told to. The rest of the body is left with only 20 percent of the energy to use for all the other intricate functions needed for daily activity. It's not hard to imagine why, at the end of the day, most people go home and "veg out" in front of the television. There is not enough energy left in the body to do anything.
One of the things that many religions have tried to do through meditation is to figure out how to stop people from thinking. How do you stop the monkey mind from its constant spinning? All this activity does not even stop at the end of the day but continues on into the night during dreaming. In this chapter, we will introduce you to the concept of monkey mind and how to recognize it when it begins.
Basis of Theory
To begin with, the whole secret of the practice is simply this: just smile down, relax, and picture the eyes like sunlight shining on the water; suddenly you will start to feel something like steam beginning to rise up from your sacrum. You will feel this energy move up and begin to charge the brain. Now, if you expand the mind out and connect with the universe, then bring the energy back and store it in the organs, when that energy is transformed and charged back up to the brain, it will bring the brain functioning to a new level. This energy has been transformed and digested so that the brain can use it effectively. This is very different from storing universal energy in the brain itself. The effort to store undigested universal energy in the brain can actually produce something like an allergic reaction, a kind of "energy indigestion." The brain can have a very strong reaction to this unprocessed energy.
In the Taoist practices, we are always concerned about the lower tan tien (the lower tan tien is in the lower abdomen, at the navel and below the navel). The energy in the lower tan tien is the basis of all the higher practices. Wherever your mind goes, the chi will go; that is where the fire will be burning. So you must always keep your mind on the lower tan tien, or else this fire will burn out. When the fire burns out, the body loses an immense amount of life force. If this happens, the mind then needs to be turned in, after which it can expand out.
Introduction to Monkey Mind
In the West, the common belief is that the brain, the vital organs, the sexual organs, and the energy of the body are all separate. Compounding this mistaken belief, religions make out the sexual function to be sinful. But it should be obvious that it is impossible to suppress the natural instinct to have sex. The problem is that sex has become a very basic drain on everyone, because we approach it in the wrong way. So how do we manage this energy and maintain it?
The sexual energy and the brain energy are the same energy, and their communication with each other is vital for healthy functioning. The obstacle to this communication arises from the fact that our mind is patterned to function continuously without receiving messages or impulses from the rest of the body. The mind will spin, voluntarily and involuntarily, with no direction, simply for the purpose of maintaining itself. With no structure or discipline, this monkey mind will run loose and rampant. In the upcoming chapters, we describe in detail how to begin to manage this monkey mind and connect it down to our sexual organs, turning this generated energy into fuel for the body.
The Inner Smile
The most essential point is to connect all the organs and the brain. So, you might ask, how am I going to make this connection? And I say, it is nothing more than a smile. Nothing more. It took me thirty years to understand this. Even then, it wasn't until all the testing was done that it all became clear.
Our whole goal is to increase the capacity of the brain to hold energy, because the brain is really not very capable of "holding energy." The brain can easily overheat, actually "cooking" the brain. When the brain gets too cooked, there can be detrimental experiences, such as psychological damage. Many people have experienced too much heat in the brain and ended up in the hospital because their heightened experiences brought too much undigested brain food, turning it into sickness rather than nutrition. Smiling into the organs will allow us to filter energy, giving just enough to charge the brain and revitalize the organs.
The Second Brain
In 1996, the New York Times published the article, "Complex and Hidden Brain in the Gut Makes Stomachaches and Butterflies." The entire article is dedicated to explaining to the public how "the gut has a mind of its own, known as the enteric nervous system, located in sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon." Because of its direct relevance to the material we present in this book, this section will quote heavily from the article.
The authors explain that the gut brain is:
"a network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and proteins that zap messages between neurons and support cells like those found in the brain, and a complex circuitry enables it to act independently to send and receive impulses, record experiences, and respond to emotions." Nearly every substance that helps run and control the brain has also been found in the gut.
"Since offspring need to eat and digest food at birth, nature seems to have preserved the enteric nervous system as an independent circuit only loosely connected to the central nervous system. A clump of tissue called the neural crest forms early in embryogenesis; one section turns into the central nervous system, another piece migrates to become the enteric nervous system. Only later are the two nervous systems connected via a cable called the vagus nerve."
"The gut contains 100 million neurons -- more than the spinal cord has. Yet the vagus nerve only sends a couple of thousand nerve fibers to the gut. The brain sends signals to the gut by talking to a small number of ‘command neurons,' which in turn send signals to gut interneurons that carry messages up and down the pipe. Both kinds of neurons are spread throughout two layers of gut tissue called the myenteric plexus and the submuscosal plexus."
"The gut's brain and the head's brain act the same way when they are deprived of input from the outside world. During sleep, the head's brain produces 90-minute cycles of slow-wave sleep punctuated by periods of rapid-eye-movement sleep, in which dreams occur. During the night, when it has no food, the gut's brain produces 90-minute cycles of slow-wave muscle contractions punctuated by short bursts of rapid muscle movements. Such cross talk also explains many drug interactions; psychic drugs that affect the brain are very likely to have an effect on the gut as well."
The gut can think.
For centuries, Taoists have known about this complex and hidden brain in the gut. They have understood and worked with the specific alchemy of the body, and used its simplicity for healing purposes.
We can gain understanding of our human life by reflecting on the natural cycles we see around us. For example, if we consider water and its properties, we can find a reflection of the cycles of human life. The human body is about 90 percent water. Starting with its most rigid state, ice, the ice changes to liquid water, and then the liquid changes to steam or vapor.
This transformation is occurring every day when the sun shines on the water. Without the sun shining on the water, very quickly everything that we know of on Earth would vanish. Without the vapor, there would be no rain. We've had the same water going around in this recycled manner for a hundred million years. The ancient Taoists said that the secret of immortality is to transform all liquids into life force.
Reconnecting Mind, Body, Spirit
Taoism believes that the mind, body, and spirit must work together in the process of generating and storing energy.
1. The sexual organs: The Taoists discovered that although the sexual organs are responsible for generating life-force energy, they cannot store the energy efficiently. Once a certain amount of energy has been generated, some energy has to be released.
2. The brain: The brain can access and generate the higher forces, but again, it is not easy to store this energy in the brain. We need to train the brain to increase its ability and its capacity to store energy. The brain energy, when increased to a certain level, can enable more synapses to grow, and can help convert protein into material the brain cells can use. Taoists believe that with training and practice, we can learn to grow more brain and nerve cells, as well as increase the number of synapses or connections between the nerve cells in the central nervous system.
3. The other organs: The organs of the body can also generate energy, but much less than the sexual organs and the brain. They do, however, have a much greater capacity to store and transform energy.
4. The three tan tiens: The three tan tiens can also store energy as well as transform and supply it to the brain, spinal cord, sexual organs, and other organs.
The aim of the basic Taoist training is to integrate the brain, sexual organs, and internal organs into one system. If the brain generates an excess of energy, the body can store this energy in the organs. The body can also store excess sexual energy in the organs and the three tan tiens. If, in the course of our practice, the brain generates a surplus of the higher-force energy and we are unable to store this energy, we end up having to throw it away. This is like preparing food for one hundred people, and allowing only one person to eat. The rest is wasted. Likewise, when we produce too much sexual energy and we have no practice in how to store it, the energy will be wasted.
Now consider this: even if your brain energy is connected with your sexual energy and this energy rises up into the brain, if you do not have the connection established with the organs, all this energy has no place to be stored. If there is no connection between the brain and the organs, there is no way to store the energy; if you have a lot of energy in the brain, the brain has no alternative but to dump it out. Once you have made the connection between the organs and the brain, when there is excess energy in the brain you just dump it down into the organs and store it there; the organs can store and transform it. Any energy that is excess, the organs can store and transform back into useful energy.
The simple formula is the same one that has been used in the Tao for five thousand years. Empty the mind to the tan tien and fill the tan tien with chi. When you empty the mind to the tan tien, 80 percent of the energy in the brain is returned to the organs, and you have this 80 percent of the energy available to use. The organs will absorb and store the energy, transform it, and return it to the brain in a useful form. When the brain is emptied, it is then ready to be filled by the energy returning to it from the organs. When that transformed energy rises back up and charges into the brain, the memory and functioning of the brain is improved.
The more you empty the brain to the tan tien and the more that energy is transformed and charged back to the brain, the fewer problems you will have.
You simply learn to smile down, you learn to relax, to let go, to empty the mind. It is as if you are pulling a plug, and the water just flows down, down to the abdomen -- and that's it: the brain empties.
This article was excerpted from:
Wisdom Chi Kung: Practices for Enlivening the Brain with Chi Energy
by Mantak Chia.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Destiny Books (Inner Traditions). ©2008. www.InnerTraditions.com.
About the Author
A student of several Taoist masters, Mantak Chia founded the Healing Tao System in North America in 1979 and developed it worldwide as European Tao Yoga and Universal Healing Tao. He has taught and certified tens of thousands of students and instructors from all over the world and tours the United States annually, giving workshops and lectures. He is the director of the Tao Garden Health Spa and the Universal Healing Tao training center in northern Thailand and is the author of over thirty books. For more about this author, visit the website of the Universal Healing Tao.