Internal alchemy is the natural result of cultivating the Three Treasures of jing (essence/body), qi (vital energy/breath), and shen (spirit/mind)— the three components that comprise each of us.
Normally, we dissipate these Three Treasures throughout our lives. For example:
- We can hurt our our body through excessive, unconscious sexual compulsions, by the repression of sexual energy, and through poor eating habits.
- We hurt our qi when we don’t regulate our breath or train it to be low in our abdomen.
- And we hurt our spirit when we allow our minds to be led by ignorance, anger and grasping.
Taoists try to avoid these types of activities that dissipate our internal energies, and instead practice ways of cultivating them:
- Meditation, Ceremony, Scripture Contemplation, and following Taoist philosophy cultivate the spirit.
- Nourishing Life Arts, like Qigong, cultivate the qi/breath.
- And Taoist sexual practices cultivate the essence/body/jing.
As you develop one of the Three Treasures it also feeds and helps develop the other two as well, so it’s a positive cycle.
When we have fully developed, accumulated, and retained these Three Treasures internally, an alchemical process takes place. These natural physiological, psychological, and spiritual responses bring about the experience of absolute clarity and tranquility of body and mind. The mind is then illuminated.
When the spirit is illuminated, the mind is in control. Rather than our spirit reacting to the impulses of our body and breath, which unconsciously control us, the illuminated mind determines the state of being—and is in conscious control of the body and breath. The “elixir” in Internal Alchemy is this illuminated state of mind and spirit.