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Longevity Secrets of the World’s Longest-Lived Cultures

 

What is the key to a long life? Is there one decisive factor, or are there many?

Twin studies have shown that genetics play a relatively small role in longevity, but we also know there are societies in the world that radically outperform us in lifespan. So what is their secret?

It turns out that there is no one distinctive feature that we can point to and say “Aha! That’s the fountain of youth!”  Instead, a constellation of significant factors pervades their ways of life.  A lot of these are familiar, yet unfamiliar.

It’s not about how much you exercise in the Western sense. It is about how much you move. It isn’t about going on a diet as we understand it. It is about what sorts of things you subsist on and how much.

But perhaps more importantly, it’s about a healthy emotional life, enjoying the work you do, having lasting friendships, participating in a community, not getting caught up in anger. It’s about a sense of purpose.

It is also about the difference between our society and the societies that are outperforming us in longevity.  The totality of how they view and engage in life and how they respond to aging embodies a balance that is very difficult for us to master.

 


Taoist Longevity Checklist

Living a long life is one thing; staying healthy and fit with your faculties intact and with the ability to enjoy your life is a much more demanding goal. We know of a number of populations that have or historically have had exceptionally long and vital lives. The video above takes a look at the very long-lived elders of rural Okinawa. But when it comes to looking systematically at the factors behind truly resilient longevity, no medical tradition in history has done so much research over such long time scales as Taoist medicine. An excerpt from Daniel Reid’s excellent introduction to the Taoist approach can be found here.

Here are a few of the most basic elements of the Taoist approach to lasting physical and mental health.

1. Mindset: One thing you’ll notice immediately about the Okinawan elders is their complete lack of worry and neurosis. They take a purposeful, cheerful, even-keeled and optimistic approach to life that many Westerners living in far greater material comfort would envy. This inner discipline is possible for them because their culture supports it. For us, establishing emotional equilibrium may require a more involved process of clearing emotional traumas and their associated energetic blockages from our energy systems. We must also learn the habits that support a positive mindset- meditation, proper breathing, exercise and a healthy diet- everything physical impacts our mental reality.

2. Preserving Jing: Jing, the potential energy which the body uses to create Qi or life energy, can easily be scattered, diminishing our energetic resources. Energy follows attention, and if our attention is taken up by worry, if we focus on the past or the future instead of the present, if we constantly allow our attention to exit through the senses in pursuit of pleasure, we disperse Jing. Learning to recall that attention through the practice of abdominal breathing is the most basic longevity practice. Mental discipline is essential. Beyond that, of course, taking in poor quality foods or neglecting to take in other forms of energy like sunlight or energy from the natural world reduces the quality of our energy supply.

3. Reduce Grains: While Taoists certainly used herbalism extensively for health maintenance (as with all ancient cultures, they recognised that food is medicine), their main dietary longevity practice was the restriction of grain foods. They recognised that grains consumed in quantity have a negative effect on the entire digestive system, putting great pressure on the body. This is confirmed today by the increasing manifestations of gluten allergy and its associated intestinal ailments. We also know that grains raise blood sugar levels and insulin production almost as badly as eating raw sugar. The human body was not set up to live primarily on a grain-based diet.

4. High-Quality Natural Foods: Taoist diets have generally emphasised a majority of plant-based foods, many of them fresh, and a reduction of flavourful but unhealthy foods. Today, of course, we must consider the poor quality of much of our abundant food and choose wisely.

5. Fasting: Periodic fasting to cleanse the system of toxins and allow the body to reset is an important longevity practice.

6. Meditation: The benefits of meditation for maintaining calm and relaxation are only the beginning. Taoist teachings contain many meditative practices especially developed to improve the health of the energy system and the entire mind-body organism. (We teach some of these in our Ocean of Energy program, which you can find at: http://theoceanofenergy.com/special/)
7. Movement: External exercise, vigorous daily physical exertion, is an important part of maintaining vitality, but equally important is taking your body through its full range of motion, stretching all the tissues and improving joint and organ health. (Our Ocean of Energy program gives comprehensive video demonstrations of how to do this: http://theoceanofenergy.com/special/)

8. Energy Work: Directly developing the resilience of the body’s energy system was another important key to longevity. Qigong, the series of systems developed by the Taoist tradition for this purpose, has incredible health benefits. Prisoners held in terrible conditions during China’s civil war and Cultural Revolution periods were able to maintain their health through this practice. (Our Rock Solid Health Qi Gong program takes you through the top 5 Qi Gong systems used for centuries to promote health, immunity and longevity: http://www.rocksolidvitality.com/dvd/)

The Taoist longevity tradition has produced amazing results, and is available to help us live out our lives in superb physical, mental and emotional health, IF we’re willing to invest the effort needed to learn it and live the kind of life that will create these incredible results.


Understand the Diet Fads: A Reasoned Approach to Nutritional Resilience

 

Eat what cave-men ate.  Eat local.  Eat raw.  Cut out carbs.  We live in an era of unlimited dietary choice, and every magazine promises the perfect recipe for a healthy diet.  If, like most people, you have trouble making heads or tails of the dietary fads in circulation, this is the post for you.  We’ll review the principles behind a few of the current favourites and what they’re designed to achieve… and then we’ll give you some tips on a balanced plan to reach your dietary goals.

 

The Ancestral Diet

The Paleo Diet, raw food diets and, to an extent, the Eat Local movement all follow a sort of dietary regression to what (they think) our ancestors ate at a certain time period.  Thus the question, what did our ancestors eat, and was it really healthier?

Well, that’s a loaded question, because people in different climates have always eaten different diets.  The Inuit of northern Canada have such an ancestral history of subsisting on meat protein that it is difficult if not impossible for most of them to adapt to anything else.  Arctic explorers similarly found that a high-fat high-protein diet was essential to maintain energy in that environment.

The diets of peoples living a little farther south, including my Celtic ancestors, ate diets rich in both protein and carbohydrates (no, not as rich or the same kinds as the standard Western diet now) as a hedge against winter scarcity.  When the US Army found itself fighting in tropical climates in World War II, it discovered that its soldiers rapidly fell prey to vitamin deficiency on rations intended for temperate climates.  After the war, American food was introduced to tropical Hawaii on a wide scale, causing an ongoing obesity epidemic.  This is one argument in favour of Eat Local as a dietary principle: you are better off (with some big caveats) eating what people in your climactic area historically ate, in the seasons in which they ate them.

Eat Local, however, is mainly a political movement against the current global food system, and, laudable as it is, it requires at the very least some readjustment of expectations to work well, and preferably an understanding of when to give in.  Every climate zone has its particular nutritional deficiencies, and it’s best to find out what they are before you start.

Paleo and raw food diets both refer back to our hunter-gatherer prehistory, albeit not always accurately.  Likewise, low-carb, high-protein diets like Atkins and South Beach tend to refer back to this primordial period as evidence that humans were built to eat protein more than carbohydrates.

 

A History of Carbs

Unless your ancestors lived in the far north, it is very likely that most of their staple foods were starches, not protein, even before the advent of large-scale farming.  This is the “gathering” part of hunter-gathering.  Gathering was generally the specialty of women.  If your prehistoric ancestors lived in Britain, they probably depended on foods like acorns, grass seeds, nuts, berries and cattail roots as their major sources of energy.  For indigenous peoples living in the Amazon today, the staples include tapioca bread and heart of palm.  For the hunters, being able to find carbohydrates to sustain them on the hunt was and is a valuable skill.  The fact is that there was no time in history when the majority of the human population subsisted primarily on protein.  Those who did so without a climate-based necessity did so for social reasons (“plants are poor people’s food”), as in medieval Europe and some North American aboriginal groups.

This is why low-carb diets fall down, particularly when used for more than short-term weight loss.  Long-term dependence on animal protein for energy is very taxing to digestive systems that weren’t designed for it, and if the meat in question isn’t organic, you’re inviting health problems down the road.

 However, the Paleo Diet does have a point in that grains were a small component of the hunter-gatherer diet relative to roots, nuts, pulses and fruits.  This is where gluten-free diets come in. 

 

Gluten intolerance or gluten allergy is acknowledged to affect about one in thirty-three people in at-risk populations, but in truth this is only the most severe manifestation of gluten-caused digestive disorder.  Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley among other grains, is the substance that makes your pastry and your bread dough stick together.  It also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and promotes constipation.

Undigested gluten causes your immune system to attack your intestines.  Over time, gluten causes a number of nutrient deficiencies, unpleasant physical symptoms and degenerative effects.  Gluten allergy is simply the most pronounced level of your body’s revolt against this interloper.

Research has shown that gluten-intolerance is on the rise relative to past generations, partly because we have created varieties of grain with much higher gluten content, and partly because of the use of high-gluten white flour and the decline of whole-grain and mixed-grain flours.  If you do have the symptoms of gluten allergy, looking at a gluten-free diet is probably a good idea, but reducing grain consumption, and moving to whole grains when you do eat grains, is recommended for everyone.

This is where the Mediterranean Diet fails in the modern world, as all European Mediterranean cultures depend heavily on bread, and have throughout recorded history.  A Roman legion once mutinied because it was given too much meat and too little bread.  ‘Too little’ was a loaf a day!

 

“Our Ancestors Ate Raw and Didn’t Process their Food”

Believe it or not, humans have had fire for awhile.  The kernel of truth in the raw food and whole food movements is that there are nutrients, particularly in vegetables but also in meat, that are lost when exposed to heat or otherwise processed.  This is a good reason to eat raw fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.

However, a healthy diet does not have to mean an exclusively raw diet- Indian cuisine cooks a great deal of its food, but can still be extremely healthy in its native forms.  Even hunter-gatherers cook their meat, and they processed it to last into the future, just as they processed starch and fruit.  “Processed” doesn’t automatically mean bad.  A number of world staple foods like tapioca root are actually poisonous before processing.  The preserved foods of our ancestors may have fewer nutrients than the fresh variety, but they also last longer.  Pickles, preserves and dried foods allowed fruit and vegetable nutrients to be extended through the winter.  Dried and smoked meat allowed a perishable resource to be extended for weeks or months.  What these methods lack are the chemical preservatives, pasteurization an irradiation that make modern methods of preservation so pernicious. 

So long as you reduce your dependence on packaged foods and increase your raw produce intake, there’s no reason why a cooked meal is bad for you unless you put something bad in it.

 

Fat?

Low-fat diets were all the rage a few decades ago, but the truth is that it matters more what kinds of fats you eat than whether you eat them (and your body does need them).  Historically, most diets around the world have incorporated a significant fat component, whether it was coconut or yak butter or, in much of North America, just plain animal fat.

The low-carb diets do have a point- most of your body’s stored fat is unused carbohydrate being saved up for famine or winter, rather than anything you ingested as fat.  What matters is that you have the right Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance (which means giving up vegetable oil and incorporating Omega-3 sources into your diet), that you avoid transfats and reduce animal fat sources, particularly non-organic ones.  We discussed this last week, so we’ll move along.

 

Veg

Vegetarianism or veganism is a dietary choice that in and of itself could mean anything health-wise.  Many people adopt these lifestyles for moral or religious reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that, provided you do it right.  It is true that many people are predisposed to eat meat, and some will suffer malnutrition without it regardless of substitutes, morally inconvenient as that might be.  There are many people who can successfully live on these diets, but the key question is how.  If you make up for a reduction in protein with more carbs, you aren’t doing your health any favors. 

Substitutes are everywhere in vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, but be very careful of the ingredients.  Large amounts of soy are pernicious, as the Taoists discovered long ago, and many other additives can make substitute foods downright bad for you.  Going in, you need to be conscious of every aspect of your nutritional plan, and the more you can do outside the vegetarian-specific section of the grocery store (or the bread section or the pasta section) the better off you’ll be.  Expert guidance and awareness of your individual nutritional type (one size certainly doesn’t fit all) is recommended.

Most of us could do with eating less meat, and certainly the factory-farmed, hormone and antibiotic-fed varieties, but some of the thick rhetoric that attempts to paint moral vegetarianism as a cure for global food inequality deserves a sharp kick in the truth.  Some meat is and always has been a key efficiency in food production, as any traditional Chinese farmer with a pig in the yard will tell you.  There are always things that humans can’t digest that animals can turn into protein and fertilizer.  Animals make otherwise-unlivable climates livable and act as a nutrient recycling system in organic farming economies.  Moral vegetarianism will have to stand on its own.


Organic

We’ve probably flogged this horse to death by now, but if meat is a significant part of your diet and you live in North America, chances are you’re taking in a lot of hormones and antibiotics that were given to the poor beasts, and that they were raised indoors with a minimum of movement and living on corn or soy products rather than their natural diet of forage.  That means that they are starting with nutritional deficiencies which they then pass on to you.  The antibiotics are there to keep them alive while malnourished and confined long enough to make it to your table.  Hungry yet?

Similarly, non-organic produce is grown from nutrient-depleted soil and sustained only by artificial fertilizers, which may be enough to grow the plant, but not to give it a healthy vitamin and mineral content.

If you’re of the food activist persuasion, this is the key pressure point.   All this said, be sure to do your research and balance your budgets – organic food is not always cheap, and not everything labelled organic is created equal.

 

Balancing for You

 Here’s a quick video from Dr. Joseph Mercola with a few suggestions about how to navigate the diet / nutrition maze and find what’s right for YOU:

 

 

How you build your diet depends on a number of factors- your nutritional type, your native (and adoptive) climate and your dietary goals.

If you want to lose weight, calorie-counting and low-carb diets do work in the short term, but the long term question for most people is “How can I find a healthy, balanced diet that keeps me at a healthy weight and that I can live with in the long term?”  (And that’s not even broaching the subject of the emotional component so frequent in weight problems).

The answer of course will vary from person to person, and chances are you won’t find the perfect formula in a book.  But that’s why starting from general principles and working toward the specific is so helpful.  Let’s recap:

  • Eating local and eating seasonally are good ideas, within reason
  • Organic food and especially organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free meat is a good idea.  Reducing factory farmed, chemically contaminated meat is a good idea, as is fresh organic local produce in the summer
  • Whole, non-processed foods, and foods processed in non-pernicious ways are encouraged; packaged foods are discouraged
  • Raw fruits and vegetables are good for you (what a surprise)
  • Reduce (or eliminate) grain intake, and move toward whole grain (or gluten-free) sources
  • Be smart with your fat sources
  • Reduce refined sugar, sodium, cholesterol, etc.- we’ve covered all this before

 

By following these simple steps, you:

  • boost your immune system,
  • reduce your vulnerability to chronic disease and improve your health and vitality

…if you’re eating appropriately for your nutritional type and balancing your caloric intake with your lifestyle, that is.

If you live in a Western country, chances are your government publishes a nutritional guide of some sort.  Ignore it completely!  If it’s anything like the Canada Food Guide, it was written by the agribusiness lobbies, includes too much carbohydrate, dairy and protein and not enough fruit and vegetables.  There is no substitute for educating yourself and experimenting to find a diet that is right for you.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Resilience Secrets of the Shaolin

If an enemy attacks, peace reigns in my soul, my breath is concentrated, I am courageous and brave.  When thoughts and breath are in peace and steadiness, only then Qi, flourishing and powerful, is born.

-Miao Xing

When it comes to personal resilience, few groups have a reputation to match the Shaolin Temple.  In 1934, the secrets of their training were laid out for the first time in the book “Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin.”

Today, we will look at just a few of these methods, and the principles behind them.  While few of us need to be able to throw a punch with unerring accuracy or stop blades with our skin, we can all use the principles that enabled the Shaolin to achieve these feats.  Beyond this, training for physical and mental resilience is built in to their method and we all need that!

Far more importantly, the essence of their method is to develop inner resilience and stability, Gong-fu, which transcends all techniques.

Let’s take a look at a few of the exercises.

Nephrite Belt

This is a method both of cultivating Qi and of making the body capable of ‘rotating, collecting and holding’ large and heavy objects.  The method is as follows:

Find a tree which you can easily put your arms around.  Put your arms around it as tightly as possible and clench your fingers.  Squat pressing both knees into the tree, and try to stand up.  Do this for a long time every day, and in one to two years, you should be able to uproot the tree.  In this way, by training persistently against a great obstacle, anything less seems effortless.

A famous Indian wrestler used this method in the early 20th century by practicing on a tree in his backyard.  Although he was short and not very heavy, he was well known for tossing around much heavier opponents as if they were rag dolls.  When asked if he ever uprooted that tree, he replied, “No, but compared to that tree, a 300 pound opponent is nothing.”

After the description of this method, there follows an injunction warning that this method ought not to be employed for frivolous reasons, but only to improve self-defence.  This is a reminder of what the Shaolin say about those who use their arts for malice or vanity and do not master their anger.  They will not persist in learning, or if they persist, they will not cultivate Gong-fu and thus will come to a bad end.

Pinching a Flower

This is an exercise for the cultivation of Yin energy and what the Shaolin method calls “soft external” hardening.  Begin by placing the middle and index finger on the thumb.  Maintaining pressure, rub the fingers over the thumb in a circular pattern, alternating the same numbers of clockwise and counter-clockwise repetitions.   Do it every day whenever you have time, and within one year of persistent effort, the strength of the fingers will increase many times over.  Aside from the usefulness of strong fingers in everyday life, the purpose of this technique was to make even the most delicate parts of the body deadly in combat.  Similar techniques for strengthening the fingers include pushing on rocks and trees, lightly at first and then with increasing force, or plucking nails from a board.

Golden Bell

A considerable body of the techniques involve striking the body all over, lightly at first and then with increasing strength, using either the fist or a wooden mallet.  This is the technique that hardens the body and builds Qi for the deflection of weapons, something for which the Shaolin are so well-known.  These exercises are related to the “Iron Shirt” Qi Gong methods, further developed later by the Taoists, that not only keep you safe in combat, but also protect you in case of accidents.  Even better, these exercises have enormous health benefits!

The Hanging Object Exercises

Many of the exercises make use of objects suspended from the ceiling with string.  A cotton ball suspended this way is used to train pinpoint-accurate punching, and hanging stones for accurate kicking.  Swinging objects such as beads are used to train the senses, for instance by swinging one in front of and one behind the head, the object being to pay attention by sight and sound to both and to catch each one with a single movement.  These exercises exemplify the simplicity of the Shaolin techniques – a very simple thing repeated again and again is used to amplify a particular skill.

To get a feel for real Shaolin training, check out this excellent video by National Geographic:

Principles

You begin to see the pattern in these methods.  The Shaolin path to mastery is the opposite of what we all learn from a very young age.  Where we tend to learn by doing a lot of things, and adding constantly to what we do, the Shaolin recommend focusing on a very few methods, persisting in them for long periods of time.  Each of these methods is quite simple in and of itself, but that simple exercise plus an investment of time and effort yields a quite disproportionate payoff.  The Yin Fist method, for instance, requires ten years to fully master, punching the air above the water of a well one hundred times per day.  The result, however, is that the practitioner would be able to deliver a punch without touching the target.

Gong-fu

These exercises cannot be separated from the cultivation of Gong-fu, that quality of inner pwer and resilience at the core of the martial arts, to which Master Miao Xing alludes above.  When undertaking these methods, “the main point is peace of mind and concentration.  It is necessary to give up extraneous thoughts.”  There are very detailed requirements for the mindset and way of life of the practitioner, without which health benefits and skills will not materialize.   For many people, simply being able to put oneself in this mindset is a needed boost to resilience.  In other words, if you can take on the mindset of someone who would do these exercises daily for several years, you are half-way there.  Chapter 1.9 also outlines how different habits, activities and states of mind can harm the Qi and internal organs, while the following chapters give specific and quite simple methods for maintaining health while training.

72 Arts on Gong-fu

“The aims of training are to improve health, be strong and sturdy, withstand external forces, eliminate inner diseases, protect oneself against attacks…Training should be treated seriously, don’t be in a hurry. Success should be gradually achieved.”

“The pugilistic arts are like fire, while Gong-fu gives a stable ground for shaping a man.”

“They say if you understand that life and death are false illusions, you can distinguish truth from deception and cultivate knowledge within the heart; then deep meditation will break your bondage to emotions and aspirations.  However, it needs resolution and determination – this is the most important.  It is necessary to give oneself to this cause every day, and not at one’s own will.  Equally, one should be aware of life’s lures and not be a slave of desires.”

“When exercising, one must observe five demands: first, be serious; second, be conscientious; third, the Spirit should conform to the Will; fourth, live a moral life; fifth, strictly follow the methods.”

Health Warnings 

“Looking for a long time harms Jing (vitality), listening for a long time harms Shen (Mind), lying for a long time harms Qi (Energy), sitting for a long time harms the vascular system, standing for a long time harms the bones, wild rage harms the liver, meaningless thoughts harm the spleen, deep sorrow harms the vascular system, gluttony harms the stomach, fear harms the kidneys, excessive socializing is harmful to the marrow, chagrin is harmful to the heart, sadness is harmful to the brain, overwork is harmful to strength.”

What We All Can Learn from the Shaolin

If we take the Shaolin training methods as a whole and look for principles we can apply to our own lives, we can come up with some basic recommendations.  Each of these recommendations is incredibly DEEP IN MEANING.  I could happily talk about each on for an hour and illustrate it further, but we have to stop here for today.  So here they are:

  1. Always know exactly the result you wish to see.
  2. Have complete faith that the result is possible.
  3. Find the very simple practices that will inevitably lead to this result and practice them diligently.
  4. Always master the basics.  The person who masters the basics is a hundred times more effective that the person who dabbles in many practices and masters none of them.
  5. Start every practice with what is easily possible, then do what is just a little bit harder and keep improving incrementally.  If you do this, you will eventually do the impossible with complete ease.
  6. Continually build the resilience of the whole person, not just a part – engage the physical being, the mental focus, the breathing, the movement, the will power.

Take a few minutes and think about how you could apply these principles to your own life.  Think about what the educational system would be like today if it taught these principles.  Think about what your life would be like today if you had been taught these principles from an early age.  It will blow your mind!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


“Opening the Dragon Gate…”

In “Thick Face, Black Heart,” I mentioned the amazing Taoist master Wang Liping.  His biography, Opening the Dragon Gate, is a treasure trove for anyone seeking to understand the path to real personal resilience.

In Northeastern China in 1962, three old men came to the door of the Wang family house asking for food.  Wang Liping, the boy who answered the door, knew immediately that there was something different about them.  They were the three lineage holders of the Dragon Gate sect of Taoism, and for the next several years, Wang Liping would study with them in remote and mountainous places.  Opening the Dragon Gate follows the path of the young disciple as his masters systematically transmit to him the tools of self-mastery.

The book is a spiritual adventure, gripping in style, endlessly fascinating in its details, and uplifting in its view of human potential.  There are any number of useful principles and techniques to pull out, but here are just a few, and they should sound familiar:

Sitting:  Wang Liping’s first prolonged exercise involved sitting for long periods of time and remained the most important kind of exercise.  Sitting in this sense “requires that the mind be still as a mountain all the time, whatever you are doing, in action or repose.”

Stillness: The Taoist teaching of stillness requires not allowing external influences of any kind to disturb the mind.  “Whatever you are doing, always strive to overcome perceptions, cognitions and feelings, and you will have no afflictions.”

Cultivation: Life is something to be cultivated with care and deliberation.  Most people, as the Taoist masters observe, do not know how to do this systematically.  This is the main theme of the book, and so I will encourage you to read it rather than recapitulating the whole thing.

Cultivation ranges from sophisticated energy work through theoretical education to such basics as diet.  One of the first things the three masters do is to teach Wang Liping fasting and eliminate such harmful substances as grains from his diet.  Of course, there are many higher realms of refinement which we will leave to the book.

Everyday Tasks: None of the above effort is any good without exerting the effort to live differently, to clean up the inputs and outputs, as it were, of daily life.  That is where “everyday tasks” come in.

There are two sorts of these tasks.  The “external” tasks include avoiding envy and jealousy, avoiding malice and the desire to overcome others, not watching for other people’s faults, not boasting, and not talking about likes and dislikes.

The “internal” task is basically watchfulness, monitoring your inner state to eliminate doubts, fears and harmful desires to achieve a state of clarity and inner freedom.

Even though these are some of the most basic methods, they are by far the most indispensable.  This is the foundation that allowed Wang Liping to take his studies to the highest levels, and is indispensable for anyone starting out in any authentic tradition.

On first reading the book, I was struck by the changes that come to Wang Liping’s body, mind, and capabilities as his organism is slowly returned to its natural function by the old masters.  All authentic ancient traditions understand that the human organism as we commonly understand it has very little in common with the organism of the fully-realized person in terms of its functions and capabilities.  Wang Liping is taught how to cultivate his faculties for many purposes, ranging from healing remotely by energetic means to altering the weather to subduing threatening wild animals with the power of his voice.  His organism is transformed on every level as it begins to reverse the pollution which enters into human nature.  Even the border between life and death is crossed and re-crossed.

At one point, the three old masters first walk their young apprentice into the ground, and then, pretending to send him on ahead while they rest, greet him already resting ten miles ahead.  The secret was a Taoist walking technique.  Other traditions have also reported phenomena which involve walking long distances in a short time.  At the time, those old masters were around 80 years old!

Wang Liping’s  relationship with the natural world also changes.  We see that events from the past  remain in the Earth’s energetic field and can be reviewed by those who have cultivated sufficient inner power and know how to access the information .  Animals, plants, weather patterns, are all seen in a different light, and interaction with the natural world changes and becomes nuanced.  Human beings are seen as microcosms to the universe’s macrocosm, and it is in this light that the significance of nature for personal cultivation and of personal cultivation for the natural world is examined.  Everything is seen as part of a living system, everything effecting everything else.

The tradition of the Dragon Gate sect is remarkable because it is so obviously a highly developed scientific tradition, with a long legacy of experimentation on the human condition and the natural world on which to draw.  The emphasis of this science is not on a mechanistic understanding, but a holistic one.  It seeks the amazing and under-explored capacities of the human organism and the hidden properties of nature, improving the function of both.

Even though the Dragon Gate had traditionally been sustained in the mountains, the old sages saw that a time was coming when the world would need the resources of their tradition.  That was the destiny of Wang Liping, as it has been for cultivated people from many traditions in recent times.  Wang himself was deeply concerned with the esoteric and concealed nature of many useful teachings, and looks for ways to disseminate them more widely.

This book is highly recommended for anyone looking for sources on personal resilience or self-cultivation.  Enjoy!!

~Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂


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