The Three Pillars
At the IIT there is a continuously developing curriculum to explore and reveal a new way of being. Students develop a deeper and more profound respect for their subjective experience and innate wisdom.
The approach is holistic but the practice appears to exists as three distinct disciplines or areas of study; the body, energy (or qi), and the mind:
Pillar I: The Body
In order to improve physical health, we can look at the body in terms of action and repose. The standard for repose and action is set by our heredity and society. For the majority of people, the standard is related to the completion of tasks irrespective of the experience of the actions. Experiences such as effortlessness, joy, grace and freedom from pain are often sacrificed. We can emancipate ourselves from standards that diminish our quality of life and define our own ideals. In this way, we can create a life that embodies ideals that we have discovered and feel are representative of the qualities that we wish to manifest in this life.
The subject of movement and repose are limitless in depth and for some become a lifetime study in itself.
Pillar II: Energy or Qi
Within and surrounding the body is a subtle network of energy fields produced by channels and energy centers. For the purposes of this explanation, we will refer to 3 centers and 5 primary channels. All three centers are located along the midline of the body.
The first is just below the navel and it has a profound effect on physical health and vitality. The second penetrates the center of sternum and relates to the experience of bliss, love and perfection. The third is behind the forehead and relates to the development of insight and the experience of space.
Three of the five channels run through the mid-line of the body. The one that follows the path of the spine we call the back channel. The channel in front of the back channel is the central channel and the channel in front of the central channel is the front channel. The other two channels lay to either side of the central channel and are referred to as the left and right channels. Together, these five channels link to create three circulations. The back and front channels create one circulation, the left and right channels another, and the third is generated by the central channel linking to itself through external pathways. These three circulations form an energy field that surrounds and permeates the physical body and are the reservoirs that fill the other channels referred to in chinese medical texts.
Inside the channels there is the experience of movement. In the sutras it speaks of 25 different types of qi flowing through the channels. Our practice focuses on emptying the channels of the bad qi and allowing what remains, the innate wisdom, to permeate the field.
Bad qi is usually experience as either too hot or too cold, itchy, painful, swelling, or aching. It appears to the inner eye as smoky, dark and heavy. Bad qi gives rise to negative emotional and mental states as well as disease.
The absence of bad qi gives rise to light, bright, warm, and empty qualities. It supports good health, bliss, and awareness.
The state of this subtle anatomy determines the qualities experienced as an individual mind-stream. Through emptying the channels and centers of the bad qi, it is possible for the luminous mind to arise.
As the subtle anatomy is further investigated one begins to realize how the external and internal worlds are interrelated and indistinguishable. It is through refining this relationship that we discover how to further cleanse and maintain the body on every level. In this way, the practice addresses longevity from a subtler and equally important point of view.
Pillar III: The mind
Once the channels and centers are cleansed and balanced, an interesting phenomena occurs. We are able to experience a sense of greater awareness and bliss. This provides a foundation for further investigation of the mind.
Through mind training, we examine two fruits of an even more subtle level; that of self-realization and longevity. Even though longevity practice generates physical health, it is also a self-realization practice.
By examining the everyday mind we see that although it is capable of love and happiness it can be characterized as a changeable mind. The luminous-mind however appears as unconditional, pervasive, open, limitless, fearless and formless.
At this point the question of identity comes into focus. Most people do not know the luminous-mind but rather identify with the changeable mind. With the recognition of the luminous-mind, the question, who am i, becomes meaningful. This is not a question that the logical mind can answer but an ever deepening enquiry into ones existence.
As our awareness of the luminous-mind grows we can have the experience of conditioned wisdom and light. When this inner awareness expands outside, light is seen in the apparent objects of experience.This seeing is beyond seeing form; you see everything with full potential and not merely the conditional aspect of yourself. It is as though the inner light which is blissful in nature illuminates and reveals without elaboration.
Through this investigation the opportunity to enter into pure awareness arises.
Here pure awareness is defined as direct experience, free from conditions and thought, liberated.
The wisdom that arises is not calculated or thought through. It does not exist as timeless phrases that one finds in the scriptures or on the tags of a tea bag. It is not about purification or self-improvement. There’s nothing much more I can say about this.
Do you need to understand all of this before beginning the practice?
No. The practice will lead you and over time you will recognize different aspects. There is no order and there is no sense of levels of attainment. Everyday is a new day and must be met as a unique experience.
If everyday we don the hat of beginner then there will be honest and whole hearted engagement.
I hope that in practicing this way you find more benefit than you could ever have dreamt of.