Master Cao said, “When attending my daily chores, I will squeeze out time to practice harvesting or mixing my external elixir, in order to gather my original chi out of nothing” (Taoist Yoga by Zhao Bichen, book translated into English by Zen master Charles Luk)
External elixir is a metaphor for breathing air or, better, the act of breathing. How to harvest or mix one’s external elixir? It is by means of focusing on the centre-point inside one’s lower abdomen (dantian 丹田). When focus is thus maintained, one can fine tune one’s breathing so that through the focused point, one’s perineum and surrounding muscles (the pelvic floor muscles) will contract evenly under the mind’s subtle control. If such contraction can be finely created and maintained, chi will be generated in the abdomen. The master said that such fine-tuning and focus shall be practiced in daily life as often as possible, in other words including out of seated meditation sessions.
The bottom muscle-group of the abdomen is a group of almost involuntary muscles and are very difficult to be controlled by one’s mind. For example, after prostate surgery, some patients could suffer from urinary incontinence. One way to tackle this problem is through training a patient’s control of his pelvic floor muscles, in particular the PC muscle, or pubococcygeus. It needs dedicated effort and a focused mind to train one’s pelvic floor muscles both in terms of strength and ability to control. It is so difficult to train one’s PC muscle for this purpose that many doctors simply ignore this treatment option!
It is interesting to note that the Master said a person’s original chi was like to be created out of no where. An observer truly can’t see what a practitioner is doing, except breathing as everybody else has to do! The mechanism works like this: chi is generated through establishing a power-transmission chain starting from the breathing act itself, through the Dantian and finally to the pelvic floor muscles, and ultimately through the action of the pelvic floor muscles, energy is transmitted to the inner subtle parts of the body to release the energy stored there. For details, please refer to my previous post on microcosmic circulation (check here).
External Elixir is one of the essential ingredients for creating the Golden Flower (金華), Inner Pill (Neidan 内丹) or Golden Pill (金丹). Why did the Masters use so many metaphors? Interesting issue to be tackled later…