All yogic and meditation-based traditions implicitly understand that "mind rides on wind (qi, prana, rlung, energy)" as the Tibetan Buddhists say. What most traditions fail to tease out sufficiently is the absolute necessity of cultivating and integrating qigong (pranayama, inner energy work) with meditation. For instance, the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali (a prominent classic compiled before 400 CE), cleanly spells out that only mastery of pranayama gives access to meditation. Yet, if you read the details, most of the pranayama techniques given quickly lapse into increasingly intricate and prolonged patterns of breath retention—something suitable for seriously advanced yogis but not the majority of seekers. 

With some unbiased study, you will find the same pattern in just about all traditions. That is, the ostensible teachings sketch a way forward but barely do justice for how to make the leap from beginner to adept. This stems from the universal need for all seekers to receive personal guidance and supervision from those further along the spiritual path. Spiritual tomes, of all traditions, simply aim to limn what needs to be done. Needed details have always been in the hands of lamas, gurus and teachers who provide first-hand instruction to students. Lacking direct contact with one's teacher, nothing much will ever happen for a spiritual practitioner regardless of how much she or he tries. Why?


In physics and engineering, this relates to a process known as resonance. For instance, when you twang a guitar string or tap a tuning fork, you get a fairly pure sound. If another, similar, guitar string or tuning fork lies in the vicinity it will also start to produce sound of similar pitch and quality. So, if two items are similar in make and fashion then one can trigger or key the other. It's the same in relationships. If two people are like peas in the pod then often one person will respond to the other even without the need for words to be spoken. The two are so comfortable and aware of each other that it's easy to pick up on subtle nuances. The same holds true for hanging out with a spiritual teacher, maven or whiz. In Hinduism, darshan (दर्शन, darśana) refers to the auspicious sighting of a deity or holy person. At heart, the magic of higher spiritual awareness rubs off on the devotee or student much like pixie dust sprinkling gently down from some benevolent fairy or angel. Sound loosey-goosey? Maybe, but the blessing is real and lasting.  


Zhengyi Daoist deities, Dongyue Temple, Beijing

So, genuine progress on the spiritual path requires the supervision and support of a spiritual teacher and, ideally, community of like-minded spiritual practitioners (sangha). This holds for all spiritual traditions. The rub here for most folks in the west stems from the simple dearth of advanced teachers (the ones with the pixie dust). Having ongoing access to such rare birds is even more of a pipe dream. The best most of us can hope for is to contact these teachers occasionally during workshops or retreats. But mostly, the spark of spiritual zeal depends upon association with other spiritual seekers in the local community and most importantly of all, your own personal efforts. Here's where Daoism saves the day.


Laozi (Lao-Tzu) - ancient Chinese philosopher (circa 400 - 600 BCE) and author of Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching)

Daoists recognized long ago (well over two thousand years; some accounts say four to five thousand years ago) that the fundamental quality of health or spiritual cultivation or anything for that matter is energy, which they named qi. Nowadays, qi can be understood as various gradations of biological electricity. At its simplest, this qi can be felt like warmth, tingling, pressure or a similar sensation. This happens just because electricity does affect tissues in the body so there are real, measurable responses as you sweep a hand (which has an electrical charge) over, say, your arm. The key to the entire epic of spiritual growth hinges on developing a felt sense of this qi and then gradually refining your awareness of its relation to your thoughts and consciousness.


From day one on the spiritual motorway to Light, Daoism is all about sensing and cultivating this qi. If you really want to progress and succeed, you should do likewise. Just add in qigong skills to your own spiritual tradition and practices. Get the okay from your teacher but by all means do learn to sense and control qi. Eventually, you learn to correlate qi with the prana of breathing practices and even later you learn to relate both qi and prana to the mind and deeper energies of Reality itself.


fundamental ideas of daoist yoga