Understanding the Energy of Life
An excerpt from Eva Wong's Being Taoist
Laozi said the following: The valley spirit that does not die is the Mysterious Female. The gate of the Mysterious Female is the root of the sky and the earth.
Heshang Gong (202–157 b.c.e.), known as the Sage of the River, added the following: Valley means protection. If we are able to protect the spirit, we will live long and never die. The spirit guards the five viscera. Within the liver is the luminous spirit; within the lungs is the soul; within the kidneys is the generative essence; within the heart is the essence of intelligence; within the spleen is the spirit of feelings and intention. If any of these organs is injured, the guardian of that viscus will leave. As a result, life energy will be harmed, and health will deteriorate.
The key to longevity lies in the Mysterious Female. What is the Mysterious Female? Mysterious refers to the sky. In the senses, it is the nostrils. Female refers to the earth. In the senses, it is the mouth. The vapor of the sky enters through the nostrils and is stored in the heart. This vapor is fresh and subtle. When it enters and resides in the heart, it makes us intelligent and wise. However, when coupled with discursive thought, it gives rise to excitement, anger, desire, fear, and anxiety. The ruler of these feelings is male in nature. Entering through the nostrils, the vapor of the sky interacts with the vapor stored in the heart. Exiting through the nostrils, the vapor of the heart returns to the sky.
The earth provides us with food and is the source of the five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty. The vapor of the earth enters through the mouth and resides in the liver. The five flavors interact with the muscles, the bones, and the blood, and when coupled with feelings give rise to happiness, anger, sorrow, delight, love, and hate. The ruler of these six feelings is female in nature. Entering through the mouth, the vapor of the earth interacts with the vapor stored in the liver. Exiting through the mouth, the vapor of the liver returns to the earth.
The cycles of inhalation and exhalation are intimately tied to the interactive exchange between the vapors of the sky and the earth and the vapors of the body. The nostrils and the mouth are the orifices where the primordial vapors of the sky and the earth enter the human body. Primordial vapor enters the body as the subtle breath, which is soft and elusive. To absorb the vapors of the sky and the earth, inhalation and exhalation must be natural and not forced. Only in this way can the vapors of the sky and the earth enter the body to nourish the internal organs.
Distance yourself from desire, and you will live a long and healthy life. Let desire run your life, and the spirit will lose its brightness. When the spirit loses its luminosity, the production of the generative essence will be compromised. When the generative essence is low, the body will weaken. With the continued weakening of the spirit and the body, there will be no alternative but early death.