Reclaiming Your Energy

Interview Notes From The Show:

  • An elder in Pedram’s Taoist Tradition and a doctor in Osteopathic medicine
  • Thomas is a professor at Touro University
  • Found Taoism 15 years before becoming a doctor
  • The practice drives and directs flow of internal energy to increase vitality
  • There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with the Taoist Practice
  • In internal alchemy, we are dealing with 2 different souls that occupy our flesh at the same time
  • The cloud soul is the one that fully occupies every cell of the body for the entire life of the body
  • The soul is the animal soul and drives hunger, lust, rages, joys, operates the liver, etc.
  • These two souls occupy a human body all of your life
  • Their interaction can generate both weakness and strength
  • Once your start doing the practice, you have access to things you couldn’t even imagine
  • Negative stuff comes up when you practice, then you have to deal with it
  • As thoughts arise in meditation, we naturally want to follow them
  • Thomas advises to simply observe thoughts, then let them go
  • one of the greatest things about Taoist practice is that is softens fate
  • In meditation, we try to retroflect our awareness
  • As you develop in your training, your inner radiance grows and brightens

Interview Notes From The Show:

– Hey welcome back to the Urban Monk. I am here with a very special treat today. This doesn’t happen very often, but I actually have an elder from my daoist tradition, Dr. Tom McCombs here who is kind of like my great uncle in our tradition. Studied with my Sifu, or my Kung-Fu master and have since, we’ve obviously run some miles together now. He is an osteopathic physician, also one of the senior students of our grandmaster. Came up in the ranks before my young, scrappy ass even showed up. He’s been doing this for 30 years and has been holding it down. Has been holding down the tradition and helping patients on a daily basis. Still got his hands in the dirt doing the work and we’re going to get into a lot of the esoteric stuff here. Dr. Tom McCombs, welcome to the show.

– Thank you. Thank you Pedram.

-It is great to see you. It looks like it’s cold where you’re at.

– It is, it is. I’m snugged up and warmly dressed for it.

– Great, great. I had the, yesterday I had two back to back shows in studio and our studio gets cold. It gets warm in the summer, cold in the winter. It’s not an insulated, it’s a huge, kind of a warehouse thing. My feet were like blocks of ice by the end of the show. Time for some tea. So I would love to intro you to my audience a little bit just to know how you got into all this stuff. Did you find the daoist stuff before the medical stuff, same time, different order, how’d it go?

– A decade and a half before the medical stuff. I found the daoists in the mid 1970’s when Bill Helm got me to attend a class of John Davidson, one of Sher-Lu’s senior students who was traveling down to San Diego from Las Angeles. I was like “Okay this is it”. “I found it, this is what I want to do”.

– What was it about, what made it, it? How did you do when you walked into a class, talking about some esoteric weird Chinese stuff that this was for you?

– It was the experience of the energy circle. We were all hands above hands in the circle around the room. John was moving the energy, it was like okay this is what I’ve been waiting for. I was feeling an itch that was unscratched in regular martial arts training. I trained with Bill in Ogawa and Sher-Lu and it opened up some parts of my soul that had wanted more ventilation but did not provide that. The daoist Kung-Fu did.

– What is this energy circle? Can you explain what happened that day that kind of rocked your world?

– All the participants are standing or sitting in a circle, each with their left hand palm up and their right hand palm down, hovering with the one next to them, so everybody’s got one hand over another. Then John would move the energy clockwise and counter-clockwise, raise and lower it and it was very palpable, you could feel it. You go this, this guy, this is it.

– Something’s happening here, yeah. Boy did you not know what you were getting into. Years of practice later. So the daoist internal alchemical arts. Very few people know about this stuff. It is A, the cultural revolution in China. Buried a lot of information with people and B, it’s just not really in the popular culture here in America. So what, let’s get into what the daoist’s thinking is and how they go about looking at energy.

– Okay, daoists thinking about energy is that it pre-exists matter. We formed around swirls of energy that were here before us and our physical form has congealed, condensed around an energetic pattern. That’s the thought there. But in daoist internal alchemy, we are going face to face with our inner world and we are engaging the tools of energy to shape our own energy in a very meta-reflective way, that turns your spirit in some nice directions.

– So you have practices that help, drive and direct the flow of your internal energy. Direct and maybe correct if we’re allowing nature to run it’s course. In doing so, what do we start to see?

– Quickly you’ll see increased vitality, especially with daily practice. Within a few months, you’ll see increased attractiveness. People will find you attractive that did not find you attractive before. It’s an odd thing, but as your energy goes, you’re the guy they want to be with. As practice matures, your energy will actually set a tone in the room. One of my students in Colorado withdrew from training when he would walk in to a room at work and everybody’s energy shifted around his. Whatever his agenda was, they were automatically following it, having agreeal in their own, and he got upset at that. He stayed with the Kung-Fu, he stayed with the fighting, but he didn’t want to have that kind of power.

– Well there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with that power and it’s one of clarity, one of agency, and it’s also one of goodwill and intent. Lord knows you can have power without goodwill and do all kinds of things on this planet, but that’s not the type of student we’re trying to train. So it does. The universe around him bended to his energy field and his signal. I would love to get into it because I don’t really get to play in this pool that often with my guests. This is where I hail from, so to me this is super exciting to hang out with you. Let’s talk about what the internal alchemy implies. What happens with this energy, what happens inside of us that then allows for this stuff to start showing up.

– In responding to your question, I want to tie it into the earlier discussion about the facing of the shadow.

– The one we did with Dr. Carl Totton?

– Yes. In internal alchemy, we are dealing with two different souls that occupy our flesh at the same time. In most spiritual traditions they will talk about a higher soul and there is such a thing in classical daoism, an intrusion of spirit into the physical form that fully occupies every cell in the body for the entire life of the body, but that’s not the only thing that’s there. The other information there, the other energy there is the po, in chinese. The po, it’s called the animal soul. I don’t want you to think of the animal soul and the shadow as equivalent terms, they’re not. The po I want you to think of as the operating system that the hardware came with. This is how flesh operates. It has hungers and it has thirsts and it has drives and rages joys and lusts and sorrows and this whole experience and expression right along with operating the liver to turn glycogen into energy. All this stuff is going on and these two birds, the hun and the po, the cloud soul and the animal soul, transliterated. They sit on one branch of the same tree and they occupy you all your life. Their interaction generates all sorts of problems and all sorts of strengths, the interaction of hun and po can generate the shadow. As a person tries to use their spiritual presence and their cognitive abilities to satisfy their craves better, get that lust met sooner, get that hunger satiated more. It is a huge mistake to use the spirit in that way. The animal soul, the po, takes care of the body very, very well, but the biggest problem is the sense of false identity that can come up with their interaction. In daoist internal alchemy, whereafter an interaction that fuses the two together. Otherwise, you simply come to the end of your life, and the two separate at death. The cloud soul ascends to rejoin the spirit it was never separated from. The animal soul simply dissipates into the earth as the flesh does. There are some exceptions to this. If a person dies under intense, excruciating conditions, such as on a battlefield, their animal soul can remain cohesive for years, decades. That’s why a battlefield’s commonly sightings of ghosts. That is the closest thing we would have in our western terminology to this left over animal spirit, would be a ghost. They are not sentient, they’re nothing but a loud echo that is eventually going to dissipate. While it’s dissipating and still hanging around and following the habits of the emotions that used to drive the organism.

We Don't Want To Pass From This Earth Leaving Un-resolved Fate - Thomas Mccombs via @PedramShojai

– The po, or also it’s called the corporeal soul, it will dissipate. Once we’ve passed on, it will dissipate. It will move back into the ground and there’s no eternal connection to the eye behind the eye type of thing. It’s not the part of you that’s meant to live on. It’s the operating system of the hardware that you come in with that is needed while you’re here.

– Yes. And it is often mistaken for the cell. When people ask about reincarnation they are wondering about that. That doesn’t continue. Your particular bag full of likes and dislikes and preferences and prejudices is not going to be handed in in daoist thinking, into another life. It’s going to dissipate, unless you have succeeded at your alchemy. If you have succeeded in your internal alchemy, the cloud soul and the corporeal soul have integrated into something that is going to last centuries, to include the operating of the flesh. The flesh will last centuries and the operating system will last centuries and the spirit stays within it for centuries. To this state the daoists call the immortal. This is a state that has been attained recurrently throughout Chinese history. There’s a lot of people that have trained for it and many have succeeded.

– We have documented cases of people that have been around for a long time that have been practitioners and have, what’s the word, trans-generational eyewitnesses saying “Yeah, the dude was still here”.

– [Tom] Yes.

– There’s a famous eight immortals, which are throughout daoist lore. I’m assuming there’s more. How do we know? Do we have some good verification of this?

– About the same of we do of saints in the Roman Catholic faith in terms of manifestations after a presumed death, in terms of flesh lasting longer than it should, of miracles being performed. People can be taken to the writings that were painted on the wall of the wine shop by the founder of our own tradition, Lu Dung Pin. Does that mean that he’s immortal? Does that prove that he’s immortal, no. The only proof of that is in the tasting of it.

– Once you start doing the practice, there’s something you have access to that most people couldn’t even fathom. Let’s talk about the marriage about the hun and the po and their ability to start to take us out of that iterative process of incarnation and give us some memory to take with us.

– To do that I’m going to use the metaphor of metallurgy. Southeast Asia, Chinese civilizations developed metallurgy millennia ago and so the metaphor of taking raw earth that you have selectively mined and crushing it and sifting it and taking that and heating it up until you can extract a liquid metal from it and you can process this metal even further, that metallurgy can stand in as a metaphor for spiritual growth. You take this raw material, all of us are raw material, and we put it in the daoist alchemical cauldron and we start to metaphorically heat it up, what we want is to extract something out of it that we value and to leave something behind that we don’t. So in metallurgy all the slag floats to the surface. The slag is what we want to get rid of. In the metaphor I’m using, the slag is all the junk of the shadow. All the repressed memories, all the icky issues, all the stuff you couldn’t face. Some of it belongs to you, you earned it fair and square. Some of it is simply handed to you by fate. Here you go. You were born at this moment, you get this issue now.

– Tough deal.

– Way with everybody else. The emphasis in daoist practice, understanding that most of us in the monastery even are not going to attain this exalted fusion. The emphasis is on accomplishing this interaction to the resolution of the fate that we were handed. We do not want to pass from this Earth leaving unresolved fate behind us. That is almost a public nuisance. It’s a bit like the gway, a bit like the ghost left over, left over fate. One of the purpose of the daoist longevity practices is to live long enough to work it out. Another is to work it out on the meditation cushion rather than in the marriage. Work it out in the context that you practice rather than act. Business or in family. To work it out within sacred space, where you join a long line of people that are working out their stuff in sacred space. You can share with them.

– That’s a big thing. It’s a big thing that’s going to be pretty resonant with my community, is stuff comes up. As you start doing this thing called life stuff comes up but as you start doing the practice and your alchemical practice starts to kick up some of the dust or bring the base metals up or whatever metaphor we’re going to use, then it’s in front of us and we have to deal with it. How do we deal with it on the meditation cushion as the yucky stuff comes up? Is there a predefined methodology? Do we just quiet, sit with it? Do the daoists even speak to how we do this? The daoists and the buddhists are going to differ in their approach to this stuff. The buddhist is going to seek the center of their mind by tracking a thought retrograde from where it came from. A daoist is gonna seek to escape from the mind by dropping out, by relaxing so much that it cannot be held onto by any thought. The thing is that as these thoughts arise in mediation, the most natural thing to do is follow them, to let them draw you into a story, to let you go into a dreamy rhetory about how you were wronged and how this shouldn’t have happened and what you’re going to say next time. Then another 10 minutes have passed on the cushion and you have utterly wasted them by being drawn away from your practice. What you have to do is you have to maintain your practice, regard it as it comes up, observe it, and that’s just about it. All you have to do is watch it and relax and fall away from it.

– And as you do so, what happens energetically to the tentacles that have bound you to these memories or this drama or trauma of the past?

– They soften. They soften. One of the very nice things about daoist practice is that they soften fate. You can have a very harsh or bitter fate and daoist practice can take that keen edge off and soften fate for you. The ideal solution is to recognize that that ain’t you. The ideal solution is in meditation, to recognize your original nature as it appears before you and when you see what that is, a lot of the other issues just melt. It’s like you turn the light on and the shadows vanish. I’ve come up with an analogy using athlete’s foot as a metaphor for a troubling condition that won’t go away. Most people when they have this condition are going to self-medicate it first until that no longer works for them and their athlete’s foot gets so disgusting and they see their primary care doctor who prescribes a good, strong anti-fungal that helps for a few weeks maybe, but after a while their fungus is back, the medication’s not working and their doctor sends them to an infectious disease specialist who takes scrapings of that fungus and analyzes it and sees what medications it’s susceptible to and says quite specifically “This is the species “that is afflicting you and this is the drug “that will kill it.” You take that and it works even better than everything else you’ve tried for another month or so, and then you’re back in this same problem. Then you see a different kind of physician who says to you “Look, stop eating sugar “and bathe your feet and sunlight one hour every day. “Come back in a month. “While you’re gone, once a day pour bleach over the floor “of your shower for the next week.” None of those things specifically address the minutia of how that particular thing has infested you but it addresses the background, it addresses the background physiology that invites that fungus to prey upon you. Yes, you shine the light on it and it dries up and dies. That’s what we’re trying to do in meditation, is we’re trying to retroflect our awareness. We’re trying to turn this light around and when it starts glowing within you start recognizing what you really are, a lot of these other issues melt. You become too powerful for them to, afflict you, there we go.

– We’re actually doing a monthly book club with my Urban Monk academy students and this month we’re reading The Secret of the Golden Flower.

– [Tom] Cool.

– And so it’s all about taking the light of awareness and turning it around to observe the internal state. This is a concept that is really foreign to the western mind in a lot of ways because it’s, I’m praying to this god outside of me. Help, help, help. Give me this, give me that.

– [Tom] Yes, it’s very Santa Claus. You must believe and you must pray and you must be good and then you’ll be rewarded.

– Yeah so the distinction there behind a belief-based, faith-based system, and an experiential one, I think is an interesting one. I don’t believe in chi or qigong. I experienced it and it fundamentally transformed my understanding of the universe. I’d love for you to tease that out a little bit and how these internal scientific platorms give us the runway to do that.

– Having been raised Roman Catholic, I was comfortable with the bells and the incense and the candles and all the idols in the various niches around the churches. That made it a very easy thing to transition into daoism. I’m not clearly answering your question. Give me a little more.

– The experience versus the faith. I have to have blind faith in a certain thing. I just have to accept it. Let Jesus into your heart and you’re good versus you standing there and feeling this thing happening for the first time, going “Okay, something just happened, what was that?”, and then exploring that phenomena inside yourself for the next 30, 50 years, right.

– Wouldn’t have it any other way. The faith-based religions lose out. They loose their youth when their youth are exposed to experiential religions. That can even be experiential religions within the christian tradition that promote ecstacy, theolepsy and being godstruck by divine grace. That beats reciting the ten commandments all hollow and it will draw people away from other faiths because of it.

– And so as we start to do this work, we start to feel lighter. We start to feel the progress in our ability to face the shadow. We start to feel the progress as these yucky thoughts come up. Are they gone or are they just less heavy? What do we start to see as we are progressing along this platform here?

– More stuff comes up as you get stronger. At first people don’t understand that. They think “Oh my god, I’m suddenly being afflicted “by all this stuff dumping on me.” It’s only because you have expanded your own capacity to the point where you can now deal with it and it has arisen. I find it intriguing that in another form, a non-daoist philosophy, the thighs were regarded as proportional to the capacity of the individual. Certainly as we train those horse stances, we seriously develop some capacity with our thighs, we do.

– Certainly do.

– Certainly do. So we develop the ability to do painful things and face scary stuff in the training hall. As you are down in horse stance, you are cultivating the same spiritual toughness that you are going to need to face the shadow. As you are facing the senior student who’s overwhelming you and pushing you back, you are going to be able to develop the things you will be able to use to face yourself. This is why martial art training is a recurring theme in eastern mysticism and why I do not recommend higher level alchemical training to anybody who has not put their time in the training hall.

– Well and that–

– It’s just not safe.

– That’s a bit of a quagmire, right? Students now want the flashy, bangy stuff. They want the chi, they want to feel the experience. I can go to a music festival and do iowaska and really trip out man. It’s so untethered from the practice that roots and grounds and anchors it into a reality that we can all agree on, versus one…

– Yes. When our own master, master Lu was in the monastery, he was surrounded by people that shared that agreement 24/7, they had routines, daily routines and daily practices and they were vegetarian, not because eating meat was evil but because eating meat makes you aggressive. A pig farmer will tell you that you feed pigs meat and they will attack each other more. Having a supportive system is much easier than trying to do it on your own, especially when you’re coming from a faith-based tradition that looks to anything outside that tradition as heresy and is gonna punish you for it.

– We seem to be in some very intolerant times with that. There’s been a separation of church and state in America for good reason back in the day. Now there’s a lot of faith being corralled towards political processes and all this kind of stuff. I’ve noticed this on some of the comment threads, just some of the stuff I’ve seen on the internet is people attacking each other in the name of Jesus. We’ve lost the script a lot as well on that. For me, if you’re attacking people in the name of Jesus, you’ve never let Jesus in your heart. I don’t get where you’re coming from but that’s not Jesus. Without faith, what is this Chinese system like? How different is it and how do we then couple our practice with some sense of morality at least to keep people doing the right things and not killing each other?

– Grandmaster Lu had a very interesting expression. “I not believe nothing, I see it. “I not believe nothing”. He had no faith in anything, and yet he dealt with a number of non-physical beings who include the founder of our tradition and has dealings in the spirit world so he’s not approaching it from a matter of belief, he’s approaching it from a matter of experience. Generally, if this is the right path for someone, as soon as they encounter it, they will take to it like a baby seal raised on dry land takes to water. “Okay, I can swim now. This is it, this is what I needed”. Background discipline required for the spiritual journey cannot be attained in taking drugs and getting naked or sitting around in a shaman circle out in the wilderness and evoking powers that are quite real that have no particular interest in your well-being or not. The spirit world is quite real and it requires a warrior’s conditioning to walk into it and endure it and deal with what you bring into it and return with.

Work Things Out On A Meditation Cushion Not In Your Marriage - Thomas Mccombs via @PedramShojai

– Yeah. Not for the weak, not for the faint of heart.

– Which is one of the odd things in China. The daoists are not speaking to a congregation. They are not holding services where everybody is lectured on how they ought to be and are doing all practices together. No, the daoists are living in religious communities or living within the village as a religious person and they are taking care of the energy of the area, but people aren’t coming to weekly services. One thing Chinese people loved when western christianity arrived was weekend services and hymn singing with the family. That was so cool. They ate that up, but daoist practices were not for everybody. It was, unlike the faith-based practices which are being offered to the entire world. You have to believe this, you have to do it this way. Daoism, no I don’t think you should do that. You come back in a few years and we’ll talk about that.

– But do the work.

– Or else there’s nothing

– Yeah, do the work. really to talk about. In the context of shadow work, as we look at this kind of alchemical fusion of hun and po, of the corporeal and ethereal souls, how can we feel that our progress is happening? How do we feel like the practice is furthering us?

– If you practice meditation without visualizations, without mantras, without imagining a ball of light going up your spine, that kind of thing, if you’re just retroflecting, imagine that you are looking at the screen on which the movie of your own life is playing. What color is that screen when the movie’s off? When the story is not being narrated, when the characters are not striding across it, what is the background color of that screen? That is the alchemical journey from lead into gold. From the first time someone looks back there they don’t see that much because there’s not that much to see. As you develop in your training, your inner radiance develops and you start looking backward and you see light and that light brightens. One of the documents of Lu Dun Bin from transchanneling transmitted was that eventually you’re sitting like you’re sitting in gold mesh. That’s the secret of the golden flower, that’s the lead into gold. That’s how you can tell where you are is by retroflecting and by checking it on the inner radiance of the inner world.

– For someone who’s trying to do that right now as we’re sitting here talking about it, how does one, where is the screen of the mind? Is there a location, in my third eye? I want to get a little specific. People are going to try this.

– Yeah, behind the brow, behind the brow. When you close your eyes in meditation and in our sect, you turn your gaze to the tip of the nose as the eyes close. That’s really the first step of retroflection. You’re watching yourself. That motion is gonna help turn everything around. Turn your awareness back into you. Then you have to sit and you have to wait. That’s very difficult for any human being, especially a westerner, to sit and wait. Where’s my show? Where’s the movie, I paid my ticket to get in here, what’s going on? Well you don’t know yet because you haven’t been sitting and watching long enough. If you sit as quietly as a hunter sitting, waiting for a creature to emerge from it’s hole, the creature that’s going to emerge, you sit quietly long enough, is your original nature. There you are, face to face with your original nature. That is the experience of daoism, internal alchemy that I would want everyone to have. I would like everyone to sit long enough to see that.

– Sitting long enough is really the challenge at hand because everyone’s so damn time compressed. How many hours a week do your average Americans spend watching TV and taking the attention and splintering out into a story or a narrative written by someone else for your enjoyment or your entertainment, versus finding your own essential, eternal nature and waking up to who you are. It seems like an obvious choice, that…

– It is and it comes along with a technologic revolution where you didn’t make your own music either. You didn’t tell you’re own, a hundred years ago you had to make your own music and if you’re going to enjoy these things, you had to be involved in their creation, not just in sitting back and letting it flow into you. We’ve lost something there.

– Yeah. So the daoist, Ding Ming Dao has a book called Scholar Warrior. There’s this real interesting concept of the gentleman or female who is so strong in their ability to defend and be a warrior and every part of their life, but is a student of life and a student of every element of everything that comes at them is never giving up. I see that in the elders in my tradition for sure. I think Carl Totton’s retired nine times now. There’s more to learn. There’s more to constantly do. You are actively seeing patients, you are actively working as an osteopath, working with people. A lot of osteopaths just hawk drugs. You’re kicking it old school. Let’s talk about the people in your practice that you teach qigong to versus, the people who do it versus the people who don’t do it. The results that you see and the difference that you see.

– The people that do it glow. They have moist, bright eyes, they have a moist, shiny skin, and they’ve got little belts about them. They’re a little bit upbeat.

– It really fuels recovery doesn’t it? It really does. I’ve noticed the people that took on qigong training were the people that just got well and stayed well for the most part, or at least developed a culture around wellness that then became part of their operating system, versus the people that said “Hey fix me doc. “You’re that guy, right? Fix me”.

– Yeah.

– So in context of the work that we’re doing, because this is a follow-up to the kind of shadow story that we’re unpacking a little bit more. As we start to do this internal work, as we start to sit with ourselves and things come up, the instruction is to retroflect, I love that word by the way.

– [Tom] Thank you.

– Turn it around and sit with it and observe. Is that it? I want to get real specific about what the practice is.

– In retroflection, thoughts arise. They will, if not interacted with, if all you do is watch, the thought will rise and it will fall at about the same pace. Your ability to let go of that thought is crucial to that because the thought is almost a hook, a lure that’s going to pull you out of your retroflection and pull you into the story that it’s wrapped around. You could stay in that story for seconds to minutes and you find yourself and you take a deep breath and you get back to your work. Just the ability to unhook it enough to relax and fall away gives you tremendous power and takes power away from this shadow issue. If it can’t hook you and keep you then what can? You can get away. As you become stronger in who you really are, as you begin the experiences of perceiving your original nature, the shadow issues are almost laughable. Like “That’s bothering me?” Go on. Gotta brush this stuff off.

– But you have to increase your radiance and your glow and your ability to be in that place and cook it in so that you can have a distinction and really be able to separate the light from the darkness and be able to really see that and experience that from a place of consciousness.

– By relaxing.

– [Pedram] By relaxing.

– You have to relax away from the thought. you have to be so cool with it that it can’t stick to you. You fall away from it.

– It’s the ultimate daoist training, is relax into everything right?

– [Tom] Yes.

– Which is so challenging for the westerner, which is why it is such good medicine, is because we are doers, we’re a culture of doers. Everything is action-oriented. Everything is like “Hey what’d you do today?” “What are you doing next week?” So being, what the hell is that?

– The dude abides, yes. It’s been a while. The action of qigong compels the hun and po, the corporeal and the ethereal souls to work together. It compels them to cooperate and they like that. It’s a good thing. The ideal state for your physical health would be that your operating system is going so smoothly, there’s no part of your body fighting any other part of your body at any time. 30 trillion cells are in agreement with each other. No body part has spasmed in order to counterweight against a restriction on the opposite side. There’s no hunching over, any visceral pain because everything’s just operating as naturally as it can.

– And that’s with a practice that is for you. There’s a lot of types of qigong. I’ve been teaching a number of them to our students, there’s different strokes. There’s the wai gong, there’s the qigong, there’s the neigong. Specifically we’re talking here about neigong, presumably the internal alchemical work.

– Internal alchemical work.

– So people will see a lot of qigong out there, which is, it’s great for energy, it’s great for immunity, it’s great for a lot of things, but when we’re talking about this cultivation of awareness and turning the light around, then we’re really talking about the neigong, N-E-I gong. Because a lot of people don’t know the distinction there so I feel like it’s on us to educate a little here.

– And you’re starting to leave behind the world of a civilian practitioner and you’re starting to move into sacred space and sacred inquiry. You’ll be encountering the divine if you keep going in that direction, yes.

– Careful what you ask for.

– Careful what you ask for. It’s been waiting for you to…

– Yeah I love it. We have a number of questions from the audience. I’m going to kick over to Shawn real quick so that we can handle them. For those of you that are new to this format, we’ve moved over to Facebook live so that our audience can actually ask my guests questions and so this is fun.

– So Renee has a question. He says “So the thought wants to enter creation “and tries to pull your consciousness to focus on it “and bring it into the physical. “is that how thought works in this situation?”

– So the thought wants to enter creation and tries to pull your consciousness to focus on it and bring it into the physical. This is a question from Renee. He just wants to make sure he’s understanding the emergence of these thoughts correctly.

– That’s close, yes. The thought arises and the thought is attracted and the thought can lure you into giving the thought, the scenario of the story, all of your energy, all of your attention that should be retroflecting. If you take a candle and you light the candle flame and the light and the heat go out, if you surround that with a reflective, mirrored surface on the inside, where all the light and heat hit that mirror and bounce right back and hit that wick, and make more light and heat to balance out and go right back and hit that wick, now we’re talking retroflection and doaist internal alchemy. But yes, the thoughts will arise. The Dalai Lama says “Thoughts arise. “I still meditate and thoughts arise”. As they arise, you have to be able to watch them and let them go without being drawn into it, without analyzing it, without rehearsing your role in that story, without preparing for the next time you deal with that issue. That’s not what you’re there for.

– [Pendram] That’s great.

– You’re there to free yourself from it

– That metaphor is great. The super reflective wrap around a candle, which then creates a sun, really. That thing will continue to increase in light. I love that.

– M.K. has another question. She’s asking “The things that come up, “do they only do so in meditation “or throughout your everyday life?”

– She says the things that come up, do they do so in meditation or in all our daily living?

– All of daily living, 24/7. They’re the content of your dreams, they’re the content of what you’re fretting about when you get up to pee in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. It’s this, like a bone, your dog’s favorite chew toy and can’t let go of it. It’s always there, it’s always there. Meditation is your first conscious turning around to looking at it rather than the rest of life where we just have this thing going on inside of us and the noise is there. Maybe we’re acting in accordance with it, maybe we’re not, but it’s never letting us alone.

– But that conscious act of sitting there and looking at it will then start to reverse the direction and that retroflection gives us the personal power to wake up to our internal universe, which is–

– Almost like standing up to a bully.

– Interesting, interesting. I like that. You have some good metaphors.

– Any other questions

– Thank you. from the audience?

– Yeah, Darrel has a question. “Where did you study and obtain your daoist training “and how long did you study for, “not including life studies and that stuff.”

– Where did you study your daoist training, who did you study with and how long?

– I started studying in Cher Lu’s tradition in the mid-1970’s and in 1978, no ’76, 1976. 1976 I took ordination with the Daoist Sanctuary of Las Angeles. Mostly I spend through Sher-Lu and Dao Lun Pai. Some work with Kenn Cohen.

– Who’s great. Who’s great as well. Sher-Lu has recently passed. How old was Sher-Lu when he passed?

– He was in his early, mid-90’s I believe.

– [Pedram] He had a–

– Born in 1918, something like that.

– He had an interesting life. They all did. These guys, the Chinese military showed up, killed his elders, imprisoned and tortured. It wasn’t easy being of any religion when it hit the fan then in China. These guys had to escape and get out. He was the first to really openly teach neigong and some of these internal practices to non-Chinese right? It took years to get there.

– And the example of other masters. In San Francisco, Arcui Wong started opening his teaching to non-Chinese and he was such a respected master. I believe Sher-Lu was even teaching out of his studio at one time and that paved the way for him to teach the non-Chinese.

– Interesting. So he saw the merits in teaching this and opening up the book a little bit.

– I think he also saw that China wasn’t going back. The Chinese communist experience wasn’t going to burn itself out and turn around and invite all their elders back to replant the seeds of this ancient wisdom. If it was going to live as a living thing, then it had to be taught to the people that were here.

– And it lives in individual people. That’s very funny, it’s really similar to my lineage. For 30 years my parents thought they were going back to Iran because the revolution would flip. At a certain point everyone has a rude awakening, realizing that I’m sorry, those guys are there to stay. The life you thought you had is over so start your new one now. M.K. is asking how do we find someone to study with locally? That’s a tough question because Dao Tun Pai is so rare.

#QiGong Training Promotes Lifelong Wellness - Thomas Mccombs via @PedramShojai

– Yes, yes. What can a person do that is wanting this type of experience and doesn’t have this kind of access? The closest things that are widely available would be Tai-Chi, Tai-Chi training and zen meditation. Those are fairly well-distributed in our culture and they have the essence of the exercises that are chi sensitive that focus on the breathing that make you turn into your awareness very internally whereas my weight, 60/40 or 70/30. As long as you’re looking on your innards, you’re making progress. Then zen meditation is silent retroflection.

– And zen mediation has a lot of daoist influence from the beginning anyway. Daoism and buddhism met in China and created a baby.

– Excellent. I said they had an affair and that zen is their daughter.

– That’s it. Zen’s done really well. Listen, the Japanese culture, it was easier to accept. They were an ally after the war. A lot of our troops were stationed in Okinawa, a lot of guys came back with Karate so we have a lot more access to the Japanese lineages than we have traditionally the Chinese. So just get it where you can.

– And the other side of it is that the Japanese did not go beyond that. They do not have an internal alchemical tradition with the kind of exercises that we have in the way of the elixir.

– [Pedram] Interesting.

– They just don’t, any more than they have the herbal medicine that we use to condition our hands before iron hand practice.

– Yeah, certain things didn’t make it.

– Certain things didn’t make it. Daoism is a rich, rich tradition. This lineage that we train is in 25, 26 generations now. That’s cool.

– Yeah I know. There’s a lot of responsibility to keep it living in people downstream and keep it going because the temples have been burned, the ones that have been put up on top of them are kind of like Chinese Disneyland. They’re built for tourists, not for the experiential practices that were taught there for thousands of years.

– Yes, they haven’t closed everything down. Bat Woo Dong still has active temples and practitioners. They have sent a missionary to the United States.

– Great.

– But when Bat Woo Dong visits there is always official censorship and supervision to make sure the right things are said and the avid is very gracious to the government to let them come and things like that, yeah.

– Got it, got it. He’s playing by the rules.

– [Tom] Yes, yes he is.

– Exactly. Doc, we’re out of time. I would love to help our audience find you and your work. I love the work that you’re doing. I get to see you once a year, which is obviously never enough but the more the merrier. I’d love to have you on the show more often too.

– [Tom] Happy to.

– Just so we can keep talking about this stuff. Website, your work?

– It’s Bay Area Osteopathic.

– [Pedram] Bay Area Osteopathic.

– That’s us. That’s me and my wife and boss, the good Dr. Susan Cislo.

– Great, great. Dr. Tom McCombs, you’re great. I really appreciate everything that you’ve done.

– Pleasure being with you.

– Always, always, always. Always an honor. Tell me what you think. This is obviously deep, provocative conversation. We’re going to follow up on this and we’ll have the good doctor back in some call soon just because I know there’s going to be follow-up questions to this. I will see you next time. Let me know what you think of the show in the chat thread.


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