Harmonizing the Breath
"Harmonizing the Breath" ( 調息 Tiaoxi ) is a term of Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ). It is a rudimental Daoist skill of Nourishing Life ( 養生 Yangsheng ). Just as its name implies, this skill is to adjust the breath. "Breath" is essentially a natural phenomenon. Human beings, like other mammals, exchange gas with the environment through breathing. Breathing has its spontaneous rhythm, but man can alter it through conscious adjustment. Daoist Inner Alchemists take the counteraction of breathing rhythm to the mind into full consideration during their cultivation. According to Daoism, human thoughts are so numerous and complicated, capricious and changeful that if not controlling them, not only one cannot obtain the inner elixir, but even his physical and mental health will be harmed. In order to control the confused state of mind, Daoist practitioners inherited the skill of breath harmonization from the pre-Qin Daoist School ( 道家 Daojia ). They attempt to harmonize the mind and the breath so as to stabilize the mind. Daoism finds there are different states of breathing. In the first stage, breathing has sound. If one concentrates one’s mind on "wind", it will disperse. Second, breathing is soundless but the nose is stuffy and "blows". If one practices the "blowing"skill, his breath will be clogged. Third, breathing is soundless and free, but it causes the body to rise and fall. If one is confined to this "visible" breathing, he will be fatigued. Fourth, breathing is soundless and free. The breath is inhaled and exhaled continuously. One breathes but seems not to be breathing. In this case the spirit and the vital breath are undivided. This is the correct "breathing phase". This way of breathing harmonizes the breath and the mind so that the true vital breath comes and goes. Inner Alchemy practitioners must master this breathing skill.