Taoist Retreat (闭关) and Bi Gu (辟谷)

If we hypothetically do not have a physical heart but have an artificial one installed within us, then the function of our ears will blossom to the fullest. It is the same case with elderly persons who are unable to hear very well outwardly but have a more acute sense of inner hearing. Listening within the heart requires listening with the whole body while at the same time our ears are directed inwardly. The ability to listen within the heart (心内听) is a benchmark of the Bi Gu. Of course, this requirement to listen within the heart is different for everyone. We use our entire body to tune inward to sense the movements, to see if any of the internal organs are able to ‘gasify’, to see whether the Jing can be transformed into Qi after the internal organs have ‘gasified’, to sense whether any sounds are generated during all these movements, to sense whether internal medicine is being generated within. All the grand masters’ students are exceptional. So they already know the existence, location, function and exact characteristics of their own internal organs; how energies are exchanged internally and externally through the organs and how to extract and tap into Cosmic Energies. Therefore there is no need for them to bring the vision back to look within (收视). However, we are all ordinary folks wanting to be able to achieve similar abilities and so we make a conscious effort to look within.

There is no reference to size when we attempt to bring back the Shen (收神) and bring back the body (收身). There is the Shi Shen (识神) and Yuan Shen (元神) and during the Bi Gu, we treat the Yuan Shen as the master and the Shi Shen as the faithful servant. So it is not an easy feat. When we make a conscious decision to fast, we are activating our Shi Shen. The Yuan Shen may not necessarily agree with such a decision. The master says it is difficult to go to bed at night with an empty stomach, so we have to employ our Shi Shen again to make the Yuan Shen sleep. In the morning, the Shi Shen tells the Yuan Shen to move our bowels but there is nothing in the large intestines, so the Yuan Shen again becomes terribly unhappy. So what do we exactly bring back when we talk about bringing back the Shen? Our Yuan Shen is under the control of our Ling. Our Ling has to be clear (灵明) before we can engage in Bi Gu. In other words, if the Ling is not clear, one cannot practise Bi Gu; the Yuan Shen has first to be ‘comforted’ and stabilized (安定), if that were the case. But what is the Yuan Shen? When we are able to (i) bring the body back (收身) to either extremely small or extremely big; (ii) to enter into a state “to look and not look” (视而不见); and (iii) to stabilize the body for the Qi to congeal (身定气凝), then the Yuan Shen will appear. And it is only after the Yuan Shen appears that the Shi Shen will revolve around the Yuan Shen, the true master. Under these conditions, we will get an accurate response from the Yuan Shen whether to eat or not to eat.

It is only when we can successfully stabilize the body for the Qi to congeal (身定气凝) that we can really begin to listen within the heart. At this moment, quickly look within and see whether you can continue with the fast or not. Otherwise, stop the retreat and have some food. The Shi Shen does not behave very well; she wants to eat and yet does not make the necessary preparations. There is a special timing and window (时机) during the Bi Gu that we must look out for. When we fast without awareness and bypass this window then, Lao Tze says, it is like dropping into the bottom of the valley and it will be very difficult to climb back up again.

Bringing back the inner heart (收心) means engaging in a dialogue with our physical heart. If we get the answer to stop and with each idea and thought the heart beat accelerates beyond its normal range, then the answer to our question is clearly presented. But our Shi Shen immediately steps in to say that the entire 7-day process is not completed yet and therefore we cannot stop the fast. However, if there is tightness in the chest or back, then you have to stop the fast and consume something immediately.

Bringing back the Yi (收意) means to treat ourselves properly and well. To starve is to abuse oneself and disrespect the gift of life. Treating oneself well also implies treating others well because then you will not burden others with your health issues.

On Day Two, we begin to do the practices that we have learned previously: to tap into and draw the cosmic energies into our bodies and to further transform these energies into existential energy for the body. For the walking practice, practitioners undergoing Bi Gu will walk differently than normal. During the Bi Gu, practitioners doing the walking practice must hold their breath to allow more time for the cosmic energies to stay within the body. If you do the double holding breath, i.e. inhale – hold breath – exhale – hold breath – repeat, then you will not feel hungry. At night, you can do the Great Dipper Step (七星步) to tap into the external energies then. Also perform the Ba Gua Ball Exercise (八卦意球) to direct the Ling into the Ball; but this will make you more hungry. In short, doing the walking practice and the Great Dipper Step (七星步) will energize you.


6 responses to “Taoist Retreat (闭关) and Bi Gu (辟谷)”

  1. dear person,
    i will be in china from april 21st onwards and would like to study with Taoist Master Wang Liping. Would you kindly send me information on how I may be able to do this. I see he is having a retreat end of December 2013, but would like to know if I could study with him this spring. Please get back to me as soon as you are able to with a schedule of his upcoming events and the possibilty of me meeting with him in China this spring as well. Thank you very much, arya azadi

  2. […] Text tradus din cartea albastra (Jinhua 2012) de B K Wee, si in limba romana de Viorica Mocanu sursa http://longmen.eu/2012/12/taoist-retreat-bi-gu/ […]

  3. Seamus Darcy Avatar
    Seamus Darcy

    Dear Folks,

    Would it be possible to have a healing session with Master Wing?

    How would I go about it?

    1. Richard Avatar

      Hi, master Wang is not performing healing activities. I mean not like a doctor but some healing happens during the practice at the seminar time, still one needs to be in quite good shape to be able to participate. Therefore the basic answer to your question is no, it is not possible.

  4. Seamus Darcy Avatar
    Seamus Darcy

    Thanks Richard,

    Currently i am reading Thomas Cleary’s book. I took up chikung subsequent to an accident several years ago and it has been very beneficial.

    I have progressed to Taichi also. However my overall level of fitness isnt that great.

    Cleary’s book impresses me a lot. Do you think Master Wing’s regime is do-able for a man in his 50s?

    Best Regards


    1. Richard Avatar

      Actually I will be 49 this year so… Master himself is closing to 70 and he still practices. There is always room for better provided that you are willing enough. Of course what you read in the book is not applicable at our age (no rope over legs) master is tuning the practice to fit us all the time.