Staying Healthy with Taoism – 3 Essential Practices

Anti-aging is a big buzzword these days.  Everyone wants to know the secret of youth. What can I buy, ingest, or do to stay young and healthy?

As a 39-year practitioner of Taoist health and spiritual practices, I am here to tell you that Taoism is the way to go!

Taoist teachings are the root of Chinese Medicine, Feng Shui, Martial Arts, and Astrology. These disciplines are all concerned with Chi (or Qi) – life force energy – its flow, harmony, and balance.

This ancient tradition also developed the practices known as Qigong or Daoyin that emphasize the cultivation of good health with the intention of living a long, productive life. One accomplishes this by finding internal balance and merging with nature, exchanging energy with the universe in a dynamic process, living in the flow between heaven and earth.

When I committed to my Tai Chi practice 39 years ago, I was a professional photographer with a lot of minor health problems related to my profession that threatened to become serious.

Only 27, I was a bit of a mess. My shoulders had crept up to my ears; I had energy congestion between my eyes that came from peering at the world through a camera; and imbalances and compression in my spine from carrying equipment and heavy camera bags. Not to mention stress and anxiety.

Someone mentioned Tai Chi to me and I decided to give it a shot.  After a few classes, I felt an immediate connection with this amazing movement art that is Taoism in motion.

My growing commitment to practicing the Taoist philosophy through the disciplines of Tai Chi and Qigong improved my life enormously, enhanced my health and happiness, and became the context for many of my subsequent life decisions.

In my experience, these practices have proven to be incredibly valuable and perfect for our busy lifestyles.

Although there are many things I could share with you from this vast and varied tradition, here are 3 simple practices rooted in Taoism that I recommend doing on a daily basis to maintain your health and keep you young and energetic:

1. Meditate – Develop a relationship with yourself through meditation. In Tao practice, we begin with The Inner Smile.  Send love, joy, happiness, and intention for healing to your inner organs.  Know their location and make a connection with them.  See your inner organs as a team or family that needs to work harmoniously together in order to support you. Cultivate their happiness and chi.

2. Self-Massage – Stimulate chi flow in your organs by learning Chi Self-Massage.  Start with your sense organs.  They are the doorways to your inner organs and problems there often indicate internal issues. If nothing else, rub your ears every day and massage around your navel center, easing away congestion and stagnant energy and making space for your chi to flow.

3. Gather Universal Chi Through Your Energy Gates – the 2 palm centers, 2 centers in the soles of the feet, mid-eyebrow, and crown center, bringing energy into your body from heaven and earth for nourishment and healing.  Take time to move consciously and if at all possible, do this outdoors and breathe deeply. It’s very easy to use our energy.  Not as easy to conserve it and cultivate it.  Think of yourself as a battery that needs charging and connect every day to the universal forces for nourishment the same way you charge your cellphone.

Remember that Tao practices do not provide a magic pill that changes things all at once. Rather, they are about refining and cultivating your energy for the long-term. Try it and watch the magic happen! For more information about classes, workshops, and private sessions, visit me at


Who is Kuan Yin?

Kuan Yin postacardQuan Yin (sometimes spelled Kuan Yin, Kwan Yin or Guan Yin) is the Bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy and by the Taoists as an Immortal,  one who is spiritually accomplished, a transcendent being, not tied to the material world. A Bodhisattva is an “enlightenment being” pledged to universal liberation and happiness.

Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. “Guan” means to observe, watch, or monitor; “Shi” means the world; “Yin” in this context means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who is the “Hearer of the Cries of the Suffering World”.

Epithets for Quan Yin include The Joyful One, The Pure One, The Light-giver, The Radiant One, Difficult to Conquer, Face to Face with Emptiness, The Far-Going One, The Immovable One, Becoming the Good, and Cloud of the Dharma.

She is considered a gate to the paradise world or “Pure Land”, a clean, bright place full of delight — an oasis, island, mountain, garden or jeweled city that is the source of great rivers and the waters of life. This world is outside of linear time and space and mechanical cause and effect. Souls reborn here are wrapped in a lotus that unfolds to show the truth of their eternal nature and the reality of compassion and joy.

The Pure Land holds Fullness of Being – a flowing abundance of food, life, communication, creativity, space, beauty, intelligence, freedom and spontaneity, along with release from greed, lust, ignorance and compulsion. When aligned with the Body of Light, we exist there, freed from the paradigm of opposites, easily integrating sensuality and spirituality.

The Pure Land is the great enclosure that keeps us safe as we cross what the Buddhists call the Sea of Suffering. We experience the Pure Land from the Hsin (sometimes spelled xin), the Chinese word signifying heart-mind, the uncorrupted, unconditioned thought, spirit and energy of the heart that relates to the “spirit” or divine, sacred capacity of human beings to connect with and manifest the Tao.

Many of us are unable to awaken to this spirit on our own and the figure of the Savior or Redeemer who acts as a bridge or boat that sails the waters between ordinary existence (referred to as the Tomb World) and the Pure Lands is one of humanity’s most powerful archetypes in every religious and mythical tradition.

This is how Quan Yin functions — as a symbolic bridge to the world of the spirit, an experience of the spirit of paradise. She helps us understand ourselves in a new way and redirects our consciousness, freeing us to live compassionately by pointing at the insightful wisdom that reality is actually a symbolic, not a literal experience.

The Chinese word for this is Hsiang. It means “symbolizing”. Hsiang means making images that have the power to connect the visible world of our daily existence to the invisible world of the spirit. We hsiang things by imagining, creating, imitating, acting and acting out, playing, writing, or divining. Qigong and Tai Chi are physical expressions of “Hsiang” (for information about Kuan Yin Standing Qigong, click here).

When we pose a question that expresses a real “cry from the heart”, Quan Yin is there for us. She expresses her compassion through practices, divination, dreams, and visions that affirm the bond between the human realm and the world of what is considered divine. From this connection, flows the experience we call “paradise” or a direct “acquaintance” with the source of reality.

By connecting with Quan Yin in this manner, we acquire what the Taoists called Te This word can be translated as power and virtue, potency, or “Actualizing-Tao”. An ancient word, Te is associated with Tao, as in the Tao-te ching. Te is the power or virtue that allows something to fully exist, a realizing power that can be accumulated, nurtured and acquired by people and objects. In the human world it is the charisma or inner power that makes a ‘great person’ great. Powerful te generates a powerful person; exalted te produces a sage. If we are full of te, we are numinous because we hold the power to realize the way or tao in ourselves. By accumulating and refining te, we both contribute to and partake of paradise.

© Sharon Smith

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Source Material – The Kuan Yin Oracle, the Voice of the Goddess of Compassion by Stephen Karcher