November 2011

As an enthusiast of Mantak Chia’s work, I have to admit to being initially somewhat disoriented by this book. It seemed to demand too much suspension of disbelief and to deal too much in what I felt were unsubstantiated concepts. This should not have pleased someone who often likes to think of himself as a Taoist. Surely, I should have been able to come to terms with a declared “Taoist approach to entering the universal mind.”

It took me 20 years to give meaning to the first two lines of the Taotejing and then that insight changed fundamentally my way of thinking.

In fact, I am still struggling to accommodate myself to the fact Chia is simply doing something that is inherent in any communication of genuine Chinese civilisation – he is challenging fundamentally many of the certainties structuring Western thought and customs.

One is constantly being invited, often in rather discreet ways, to reconceptualise the manner in which one thinks and feels about the world. Gradually, as one responds, it becomes apparent that most of the English speaking world’s certainties are just as idiosyncratic as those of any African or New Guinean tribe.

Of course, the difference is that the English speaking world has spent at least two hundred years “civilising” everyone else. Even with these perceptions, however, I can still find it difficult to accept the challenge when I am asked, as Chia does gently in this book, to retool my sense of who and what I am in order to respond to opportunities that have long existed in the world of Chinese civilisation.

As I worked my way through these conundrums, I began to identify a number of welcome innovations in my approach to my own well-being. The first was the clear identification of my three, not one, minds. These are the observing mind in my head, the consciousness mind around my heart and the awareness mind behind my navel, three nerve centres that are all used to encounter the world.

Called three tan tiens in the Taoist tradition, these are the body’s major energy centres. They “store, transform and supply energy to and from each other.” Chia explores another way of being with these three minds, including the healing energy that derives from fusing the three minds into one – “Yi.”

In outlining the manifestations of “Yi” power, Chia explains there are four levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. He offers images to manifest affirmations on all these levels, designed to encourage forms of meditation that access universal energy to solve problems, address the challenges of the future, mobilise personal energy for action, and clarify one’s life purpose.

At several points, I needed to recall a phrase that Chia has used in his other books to overcome the resistance of those who feel they are being taken into uncharted and troubling territory for which they are not at all prepared. This is the phrase that captures a profound truth about life – “you do it, you get it.”

Normally we see others “doing it and getting it” when they are introduced to new practices in environments familiar and reassuring, such as family, school, sport or clubs. Chia is constantly introducing forms of Taoist wisdom, practiced and proven over millennia, to people who have little prior preparation to make them receptive.

His success, demonstrated in the publication of dozens of books, translated into numerous languages, is a testimony to his capacity to break down barriers to communication that often prove insurmountable.

Chia uses his Taoist meditative practices to bring people together while sensitising them both to themselves and to the universal mind that is their nurturing home.

He succeeds in refocusing attention from the mundane but overwhelming imperatives of business that define so much contemporary life to the essential dynamics of organic life. One aspect of this is the reminder that in concluding the meditation series, “we always come back to the lower tan tien, storing any excess energy there, and then, finally, we rest.”

This reminded me of a Japanese tradition that suggests the true mind is in the region of the lower tan tien and this must be highly cultivated to live fully in this world.

Chia’s final paragraph includes the following: “We now know that the healing process is not simply meant to diagnose and treat, but is a dynamic, holistic process of encountering our whole being and integrating all the disparate parts more fully to achieve a higher state of balance and harmony.”

This language is far from the advanced medicine and processes of contemporary health care. These are proving their failure on a daily basis, whether in iatrogenic deaths, epidemics of degenerative disease or national budgets in the advanced world, where progress and debt have become almost synonymous.

Mantak Chia’s work in bringing Taoist wisdom to a global audience offers a powerful reminder that many of the paradigms of Western medicine, science and technology are inherently limited and frequently destructive.

It is arguable that perhaps the major reward to be gained from following Mantak Chia’s work is the discovery of a world not in conformity with many of the dogmas, stereotypes and certainties of life in the contemporary advanced West.

– Reviewed by Reg Little in New Dawn 129