THE OLD MONK RETURNS
“Konnichiwa!” A voice called out a joyous greeting and echoed as if the word had been spoken from the top of a high mountain. I recognized the caller and immediately ran to the entrance to greet my teacher. The Old Monk made good on his promise to return to give me his last teaching. He arrived while I was washing sweet potatoes for the evening meal. In a few hours my hungry brother would be home from the fields.
The Old Monk looked different. He was ghostly, and a powerfully subtle light emanated from his whole body. It seemed each time I encountered him, he grew less and less substantial. He seemed to glide around, and because his robe touched the ground, I could not see his feet. His eyebrows were as white as snow as they had always been but were longer now and swept the sides of his cheeks. His beard, too, had grown and wisped halfway down his chest.
I placed my hands in gassho and bowed deeply.
“You have developed rapidly without any further instruction,” the Old Monk beamed. While some things had shifted with his appearance, he still had those sparkly eyes.
“I have returned to give you the last secret method. It is a series of visualizations that will allow you to birth the True Self.”
I understood why he had chosen not to give me these visualizations previously. If I had gotten them too early, I would not have reaped their full benefit. In fact, without preparation of strong focus in Clear Mind Meditation, most people are not able to hold the images in the visualization meditation strongly enough to profit from them.
As we sat on the birthing room floor together, I had no memory of putting down the potato I was washing or of drying my hands. I had no recollection of making my way into the birthing room, but there I was. I pushed thoughts from my mind and assumed the posture of Full Lotus. I then aligned my breath to sink the energy so that all heaviness of the body settled in my legs while the upper body remained light and agile. Then the visualization meditation began.
The Old Monk instructed me to let go of one section of the body at a time. He mentioned that in Clear Mind Meditation the eyes are slightly open so that one remains connected to the world. In this visualization, the eyes are instead lightly closed with hands gently relaxed on the lap.
“Allow your whole body to relax and sink,” he murmured.
We both entered a state of samadhi. Without a sublime state of mind, it would be impossible to move through the stages that the Old Monk was now leading me. In samadhi I was able to receive the barest of instructions as I intuited them before he spoke.
“All structures and all internal organs sink downward.”
I felt all tension leave me from head to toe. At the same time a subtle energetic thread from the crown of the head held my spine erect, preventing collapse. My vertebrae seemed to naturally stack one on top of the other, and there was no effort to hold up my physical frame. My mind was clear, and my focus sharpened as I settled body and mind. I felt him communicate, “Fall completely into a relaxed state.
“The fetus is beginning to rise. Can you feel it?” The Old Monk’s voice was barely audible.
“The Lower Elixir Field is where the first stage of distillation of fire and water occurs. Your low back and abdomen open with the inhalation and close with the exhalation.
“Observe your breath and use slight effort to open and close the Lower Elixir Field. On the in-breath, the low back expands out as do both sides of the lower rib cage and front of the belly.
“Put just a little more effort on the out-breath, bringing the belly towards the spine and lightly squeeze the area. You are working your sacral pump.”
I knew from our lessons that this method of opening and closing the Lower Field is called “fanning the fire.” The Lower Elixir Field is the main reservoir of the vital life force. Consciously breathing into it strengthens its foundation.