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Wuwei – Daoist Ideas about Health, Balance, Longevity and Immortality

Photo by Liz Phung

Think of health, balance, longevity and immortality as stages along the same continuum that all living systems are designed to follow. Humans, like all living systems, are designed to seek and find health and balance, and then the Daoists believe, ‘life will unfold before your eyes.’ This is what the ancient Chinese called ‘wuwei’ doing without doing. Our destiny or ‘inner wisdom’ is inside us all and simply needs the right conditions to reveal itself. Let’s explore this further. The Daoist believe human beings are made from two major forms of qi:

  • Heavenly, or prenatal qi, that connects us to the cosmos, the energy we have before we are born.
  • Earthly, or postnatal qi, that is replenished and maintained by breathing, resting, sleeping, exercising and thinking, that helps the body survive in everyday life.

These two complementary forms of qi are necessary for life and are constantly interacting with each other. When the fetus is in the womb, it has complete heavenly qi and earthly qi is minimal, provided through the mother. After birth, we start to lose our pure reliance on heavenly qi when we start to interact with the world. This is life on earth, where breathing, resting, eating, emotional responses and intellectual pursuits affect our earthly qi. When earthly qi is insufficient, we lose communication with heavenly qi along with the guidance and connection to all other things it can provide us.

When we interact with the modern world and increasingly put pressure on our earthly qi our connection to heavenly qi declines: we begin to get sick; encounter misfortune and difficulties in life; experience minor imbalance in physical and mental health that may eventually lead to more serious illness and disease. Our imbalance is a message that we have lost touch to our real power source and we need to heal this imbalance and re-connect to the grid. In Daoism, it is said, ‘tian ren he yi’, which means ‘heaven and man in harmony’.

The way to heal is to start providing the right environment for your body through conscious lifestyle choices with regard to breathing, resting, eating, exercising and thinking. We can also gain greater awareness and understanding of qi-patterns and imbalance through healing techniques like acupuncture, massage, psychology, diet and herbs. This is the starting point for finding balance and getting our connection back to our heavenly qi and along with it comes physical, mental, spiritual wellbeing, good fortune, serendipity, respect, longevity and the ability and resources to you live out your destiny.

Having attained this level of balance and good health, some people may decide to increase their heavenly qi to the level they had at birth or even above it. To do so, they follow the longevity techniques to control their qi-exchange with the environment and cultivate themselves using mind/body practices like qigong and yoga. These practices promote the realization of people’s natural life expectancy and often leads to increased old age and vigour.

Yet at even a higher level of practice, the ultimate goal of Daoism is spiritual immortality. To attain this it is said that all your qi must be transformed to heavenly qi and then refine this qi even further. By using intensive meditation and trance training as well as more radical forms of diet and other longevity practices, this finer qi eventually turns into pure spirit. These people then become transcendent spirit-people with a different type of qi-constellation. The result is super-sensory powers and the ability to reside in ‘wondrous’ spirit worlds along with the ‘immortal’ ability to bypass death, so that when the body dies its has no impact on the continuation of the spirit. There is no fear of death and a complete awareness about death and its transformation.

For further information about reaching greater levels of health, happiness, fulfillment and productivity, come to the Free Discussion on the Saturday 14th May or Thursday 2nd June 10am or join the 5-session workshop Eat Sleep Breathe starting 4th June.