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Dragon Gate Exercises for Self-Cultivation

The deliberate, systematic cultivation of the mind-body organism is the great legacy of the Taoist Complete Reality school. Although it’s easy to get lost in the complexities of the systems, there are plenty of simple ways to put these principles into practice whenever you have a few minutes to spare, or even in the middle of an everyday activity. Jonathan Blank’s book Secrets of Dragon Gate with Dragon Gate sect lineage-holder Dr. Steven Liu provides an accessible overview of some of these exercises:


The following are a few exercises that can help you to become more effective and maximise your potential in everyday life.


Exercise for the Mind

A system of exercises for consciously building up your mind’s inherent abilities is part of the Dragon Gate tradition, and there are some easy preliminary exercises you can practice anytime. Some are related to watchfulness techniques you may already be familiar with through our programs, standing apart from the thought-stream and watching the arising and ending of thoughts. There are also exercises designed to boost attention and memory.

Attention Exercise: This exercise begins in a meditative posture and focuses attention on different senses in turn for one to two minutes. With your eyes closed, reach out with your sense of smell, and note all the different smells you can identify and what they tell you about your environment (this may be best done outdoors). Then the sense of touch- what do you feel? Is there a breeze? Are you warm or cold? What are you sitting on- is it hard or soft? Then the sense of hearing- do you hear cars, birds, insects, the wind in the trees. Finally, open your eyes and take in your surroundings in detail. Notice subtleties of colour and texture, the shapes of plants, the even just the cracks in your wall if you’re indoors.

Memory Exercise: Related to the attention exercise, this memory exercise focuses on a past event that you remember well and have positive associations with. Focus on each of your senses in turn, and try to remember everything that they took in, the small details of your surroundings that you might otherwise have forgotten, just as you did for the attention exercise. This practice can help cultivate powerful observational skills and recall.

Manifesting and Mindset Exercises

The Dragon Gate teaches that the quality of our experiences flows from the way we think about them. As the I Ching says, “The auspicious and the ominous both arise from the same circumstances.” In other words, it is how we respond to our circumstances that most often makes them good or bad. The dualistic practice of assigning judgment to a situation therefore harms us more than it helps us. It is better to “nurture your dreams” with optimism and look for a way to turn a problem into an opportunity. Going along with changes while remaining true to the pattern of the universe is a Taoist paradox that encompasses the dual reality of the cosmos- everything changes, and everything remains the same.

Two specific meditation exercises that are used to aid in manifesting are as follows.

In the first, visualise an empty space in front of you. Then invite whatever you would like to manifest in your life into that space. Observe the manifestation and any thoughts it brings as it is established and ultimately dissolves.

For the second exercise, choose one thing that you have a powerful desire to manifest. Visualise yourself in the state of having manifested what you desire in as much detail as possible. See your surroundings, the clothes you are wearing, the activities you are doing. Employ all of your senses to make it as real as possible. Next, spend several minutes creating a feeling of trust that this manifestation is as real and solid as your everyday world. Focus on the feelings of pleasure you get from having attained your goal. Close out by focusing on a feeling of gratitude for what you are manifesting.

Everyday Intention

Almost any activity can be performed as meditation if you treat it as such, staying mentally present and paying attention to your movements and breathing. Another aspect which Dragon Gate practice introduces is the establishment of proper intention.

For example, when preparing food, breathe deeply and consciously relax your mind and body on the exhale. Set the intention of preparing food that will nourish and sustain you and your family with the nutrients and energy you need to attain your goals. As you prepare the food, focus on your breathing and make an effort to maintain proper abdominal breathing.

A Holistic Approach

While the exercises we have covered relate to only a few areas of self-cultivation, they are part of a larger and deliberate system for enhancing each aspect of the mind-body organism and its relationship with the world, while remaining conscious of the deep interconnections between different aspects. From cultivating energy and absorbing it from the natural world to enhanced perception to all aspects of physical exercise to sexuality, every area of life is encompassed in one way or another in this planned and deliberate approach to life.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger