Internal Alchemy (Nei Dan) in relation to Qigong (Qi Gong)

Sep 8, 2020 | Practices

Some may wonder why I call what I teach Alchemy and not simply Qigong. I base my work on ancient Daoist practices that have been around for millennia. Traditionally these practices were called Internal Alchemy (Nei Dan). In brief, the basic premise of Nei Dan is to cultivate an embodied spiritual reality. As a result, this tangible spiritual reality transforms you, your body and your life. And this is what Inspirit Way Alchemy aims to do.

How do we define Qi Gong?

The term Qi Gong originated in China in the 1980s. At that time, communist authorities had imposed restrictions on traditional Daoist and Buddhist spiritual practices. Thus, using new terminology with no historical association to prohibited methods allowed teachers to continue teaching. In other words, new semantic definitions like Qi Gong, fitness exercises, martial arts or health practices helped teachers avoid persecution. 

For instance, the term Qi Gong means ‘breath practice’ so can be used for a whole range of methods and activities. Today in China, it is used to describe Martial Arts and Tai Qi sequences; breath-based keep-fit exercises; medical practices, vitality and longevity cultivation; energy healing; esoteric cult rituals; and even sorcery!

How we define Internal Alchemy

In Internal Alchemy, actual breath-work is only one of many practices used. Other techniques include physical forms, postures and sequences; spontaneous movements and voice-work; spiritual visualisation, meditation and attunement. Furthermore, Internal Alchemy works with transpersonal processes as well as energy-based and body-centred ones. In particular, its purpose is to bring about spiritual realisation as well as improve our vitality and health. Hence this practice has endured for millennia because it brings many benefits to the individual. These are the reasons I practise and teach it. 

What is Inspirit Way Alchemy?

Another way to describe Inspirit Way Alchemy (Shen Dao Dan) would be as an Internal Qigong. Daoist spiritual and transformational practices have traditionally been called alchemical and internal. They bring the forces of nature, the earth and the universe together with our inner Three Treasures of energy (Qi), essence (Jing) and spirit (Shen). These natural forces of our environment include Yin and Yang and the Five Elements – Fire, Water, Wood, Metal and Earth, 

The term ‘alchemy’ describes the way that this practice infuses and cultivates energies and states in our body, mind and heart. It is this alchemy that brings about genuine physical, personal and spiritual change and development. Hence, we can describe the process as ‘internal and alchemical’. 

Nei Dan creates a spiritual transmutation of baser states into more exalted ones; a ‘purification of dense into fine, turbid into clear, heavy into light, dull into brilliant, disordered into harmonious’. 

If indeed this is what we are practising with Inspirit Way Alchemy, it is time we honour this way, Dao in Chinese, by naming it what it is. Only then can we say that by practising it; realising our spiritual and human potential as those who practised Nei Dan for millennia, we are following The Way/Dao.