Generic Fundamentals

This concise overview of the internal path is comprised of just a few fundamentals that are curiously both obvious at first glance and contain bedrock depths.  It’s based upon several decades’ experience in the western eastern-influenced internal arts scene (yogic, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, modern American mysticism) yet, I suspect, has universally broad application: it’s generic.  I even have some unhinged hope that this overview is both accessible and of utility across a wide spectrum of atheists ~ agnostics ~ theists.

The ground zero generic fundamental is “breathe and be present”.  Everyone readily relates, no special background required.  And yet the sustained union of breath and awareness is foundational for stillness meditation and integral movement practices in every internal arts tradition.

I’m not trying to convert anyone to any particular school, nor start anything new.  I’m highlighting a few essential mechanics of what’s commonly inherent, where ever you’re walking.

a functional overview of the internal path

The above picture symbolizes three “generic fundamentals”:
1. Opening the Tissues and Channels
2. Centering
3. Vertical Integration

Most folks immediately relate to just that simply stated list. Pretty obvious, even. It’s what we all do naturally, anyway. There are some details that get pretty interesting; here we go.


1. “Opening the Tissues and Channels”  (basis: the body)
Jade is both hard and soft, and so symbolizes being well blended.  The jade ring represents opening and preparing the body, through regular exercise (cardiovascular, etc) as well as through various bodywork and body-wisdom-disciplines.  In bodywork it’s generally understood that trauma of various levels (psychological and other) is often stored physically (and in some energetic layers close to the physical).  In this context I’m using “channels” to refer mostly to the channels described in Chinese medicine (12 regular and 8 extraordinary, not just du and ren), opened through various modalities.

This area is extensively addressed through myriad available resources, secularly and across most traditions. Beyond framing it as an essential category in this little outline, I’ve nothing to add. 🙂


It is individual integration with forces larger than the individual,
in a way that both transcends and supports the individual,
that imbues internal cultivation with long term functional depth.

2. “Centering” (personal basis: deep-center, transpersonal basis: spacious awareness)

People commonly have an immediate kinesthetic sense of the noun/verb, “center”, whether vague or with specific mechanics in mind. Certainly it denotes focus. With just a little bit of experimentation it becomes clear that centering relates to a broad spectrum of inter-related human physicality, psychology, and deepening of awareness related to meditation. While inclusively relevant, my emphasis here is the latter.

The paper represents spacious awareness, the one medicine, the big light, luminous emptiness, sky of mind.  The quiet deep-centers (and related central vessel, sushumna) of the personal have special resonances with the universal: the skillful nexus of drop ~ ocean.  Various refinement, concentration and stillness practices are relevant.

3. “Vertical Integration” (personal basis: myofascial web, transpersonal basis: heaven and earth)

The trigrams above n’ below and the jade ring between symbolize the interplay of the energies of heaven and earth through a person. These energies are neither distant nor abstract, but are kinesthetically felt flowing through the body. “Earth” is felt as heavy, “heaven” as lofty. Lofty and heavy are coursed through the body with increasing skill and depth of integration by practicing relevant internal arts. The myofascial web refers to the continuum of connective tissue: fascia ~ tendon ~ ligament ~ bone. In recent decades, western bodywork therapies and exercise systems have become aware of the importance of the myofascial web. Eastern systems, especially the classic three Taoist internal martial arts (tai chi, xing yi, and bagua zhang) and related systems of qigong, emphasize the development of connective tissue as conduit to the energies of “heaven and earth”.

The flow of earth ~ human ~ heaven is also integral with the centers. Impossible to separate this stuff. 🙂


So, in review.  A functional overview of the internal path, “generic fundamentals”:
0. Breathe and be present
1. Opening the tissues and channels
2. Centering
3. Vertical integration
Brown bag, simple, relatable, startlingly comprehensive, obvious yet integral with inexhaustible depth.
… representing not static accomplishments, but dynamic living process.

The primary purpose of “John Dao Productions” is to clarify fundamentals of theory.  (The few methods I present are chosen in order to illustrate theory.)  With a little resulting familiarity you’ll find that these few “generic fundamentals” are broadly utilitarian across varying terrain, yet fit on a matchbook cover.

I have modest hope, tempered by realism, that this will make some small contribution toward the cause of establishing relatable common ground sans dogma among widely differing paths. Maybe just even among a few friends. 🙂

Finger-Knitting Mudras (part 1 of 2)

Qi Sphere n’ Finger-Knitting: Peas n’ Carrots

My previous essay, “qi sphere: beginning”:
– engaged the energetics of the hands,
– produced palpable results in a jiffy,
– illustrated the “three generic fundamentals”:
1. Opening the tissues & channels,
2. centering
3. vertical integration.

heart’s & hands’ qi spheres,  “vitality” finger-knitting mudra

I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t present “finger-knitting mudras” (FKMs) along with the qi sphere, as this style of mudra is remarkably effective along similar lines as sphere work, yet on a more physical level.  Finger-knitting mudras complement qi sphere work wonderfully.


Finger-knitting mudras also contrast with the qi sphere by being more complex in several ways (understanding theory, initial doing, historical baggage).  My approach here is simplicity so I’ll cut through those jungles as best I can.   🙂


A Little Theory

The basic theory of FKMs is much the same as I described in more detail in the qi sphere essay: The qi flows with increasing dynamics at the ends (arms -> hands -> finger tips, similarly w/ legs) plus the interaction of left~right hands’ polarity triggers centered integration not only to create & work with the hands’ sphere but also by resonance fostering similar effects within the torso, brain, center-line in general.  Get it?  😉  Bottom line: a lot of the right things add up well to make hand energetics effectively spark n’ shine, good results with little effort.

The finger-knitting mudras differ from the qi sphere in that fingers not only physically touch, they cross-weave, much like macrame, with a creativity and variety that you’d never imagine. Deeper physical engagement of the fingers emphasizes opening of denser tissue layers within the body.

“mind seal mudra”, detailed later in this essay

Most of the finger-knitting mudras are pretty safe to get into, but people vary.  Simple caution: don’t ever strain your fingers, hands, wrists.  The mudras should produce a feeling of comfortable flex.  If you feel strain, you’ve gone too far.  Don’t do that. 🙂

As to detailed theory, the specific energetics of each finger and in-depth understandings of what each finger-knitting mudra does, both could be the basis for extensive study and are beyond the scope of this essay.  I find that alignment with general principles and palpably good results are sufficient.  You can feel and judge for yourself.


Getting Started with Finger-Knitting Mudras

Start with learning one or two mudras.  The kuji-in (set of nine mudras, presented in part 2 of this essay) tend to be the most popular and are often presented first.  However, finger-knitting mudras are unusual enough that you’re likely to “whaaaa …???” when first learning.  One or two are plenty to start, lol.

1. Vitality Mudra

video clips used with permission.  thank you! to Sifu Matsuo.  video and ordering information are in the youtube description of the video.


“vitality mudra” (left: from the inside, right: from the outside)

1. left hand held vertically, front and center
2. right wrist over left wrist
3. interlock index, middle, and pinky fingertips
4. ring fingers touch to thumbs

Be patient with yourself as you’re learning your first finger knitting mudras.  I initially found them to be so completely unfamiliar that I felt like quite the deftless idiot trying to sort out how to weave my fingers, “how???!”, and once completed, afterward I’d immediately forget how to do it!  Maybe it’s just me.  The mudras became familiar shortly with a little daily practice.

Once your hands are successfully in the mudra: relax, breathe comfortably deeply, feel what you feel. … for how long?  People often feel some effect within the space of three comfortably deep breaths.  (Yes, they really work that quickly.)  Hang out with it as long as you like, from a few moments to more sustained meditative lengths.

Notice that interlocking fingertips are emphasized, which is common in finger-knitting mudras.  Clever and effective: Chinese medical theory describes the fingertips as places where the qi is very dynamic and acupuncture treatments at the ends tend to activate the whole channel.

2. Mind Seal Mudra


“mind seal mudra”

1. cross pinky fingers to the hilt, opposite thumbtips gently hold ’em in place
2. ring fingers point upward, resting along each other
3. cross middle fingers, opposite index fingertips gently hold ’em in place

This concludes part 1 of “finger-knitting mudras”.  I suggest you become comfortable with one or both of the above mudras, give them time to soak in for days, weeks, as long as you like.  Then, *if* you find that you are hungry for more, part 2 will be published in not-too-long.  🙂



Qi Sphere: Beginning

The hands’ qi sphere is one of those things that is taught in the beginning that then shows up repeatedly, in various ways, throughout intermediate and advanced development. It’s simple, immediately accessible yet has depth.

1. hands as bowls. lights on.

2. press hands’ spheres together …

3. … into one sphere.

While much could later be said about the theory and progression of the sphere, I find that the most important guidelines for beginners are the simplest: 1. Feel it and 2. Enjoy. The benefits are largely built-in and emerge naturally as a result of practice, even while knowing next-to-no theory. Especially for beginners, it’s important not overwhelm your self with many parts. Over time the very simplest gets you a long way.

Sifu Matsuo’s Kuan Yin Magnetic Qigong (KYMQ)

I learned qi sphere work from Sifu Matsuo’s excellent Kuan Yin Magnetic Qigong 1hr20min video. However, there is enough to get you started in a short 2 minute section (from 1m26s through 3m22s) of this 9 minute KYMQ preview video:

While there are too many sphere maneuvers in the full KYMQ video to mention here and, beyond KYMQ, sphere work is applicable throughout Sifu Matsuo’s bagua qigong system … Again, I suggest that you become comfortable with the most simple maneuver described in that small 2 minute section first. (If you are interested in purchasing Sifu Matsuo’s detailed full length KYMQ video, ordering info is in the youtube video description.)

Hands’ Sphere Activates Core

Ok, now for a little bit of “what’s next?”. You’ll find that, as the qi sphere of your hands gets established that it will resonate and activate the spheres (chakras, etc) inherent in your torso along your center-line (aka, “central channel”, “sushumna”, “golden thread”). For instance, alternately expand ~ concentrate your hands’ sphere at the height of your heart center and simply include your heart center in your awareness. Through resonance, if you allow it, your heart center will participate in the cycling of expansion ~ concentration. So, the hands’ sphere becomes a tool to activate and refine all of the torso’s spheres, up and down as far as your hands reach.

There are some standard maps (spine & nerve plexuses, sushumna & chakras, channels & acupoints) that are often presented to guide this kind of work and, while they’re likely useful later, I’d like to temporarily set them aside in favor of three simple ideas about what it feels like on the inside – because that’s mostly how you navigate internally, by feel. So, a kind of tactile map for beginners: 1. center-line, 2. pockets, and 3. knots.

The center-line is of course right through the center of the torso, top to bottom. When working on sections of the center-line by playing with the hands’ sphere in front it you’ll have an increased sensation of the center-line and of the general core of your torso. Physically, emotionally, whatever is there… it’s your own excavation process. As you move the hands’ sphere up or down resonating in parallel along the center-line you’ll occasionally feel a “pocket“, a space along the center-line where the sphere settles in a little. That’s where you want to spend more time expanding ~ concentrating the sphere. Those pockets (aka, “deep-centers”, Hindu: “bindus”, Daoist: “mysterious pass” and other monikers) are keys to gradually deeper centering and harmonization. There are major and minor pockets of varying potency, some will correspond to standard simplified maps, others won’t. Find whatever you find as you travel up and down your own center-line. Explore for yourself. “Knots” I’m using to mean any obstruction of any degree along the center-line, or pain etc around a pocket. Be kind to yourself: spend some extra time with the sphere to dissolve some knots.

Pretty simple: center-line, pockets, knots. Through this process of working with the hands’ sphere and torso’s sphere in tandem, you’re basically harmonizing, centering and integrating yourself vertically.

An example practice session: Create and start working with the hands’ sphere at a level somewhere in the lower torso (anywhere below the belly button). Then slowly work the sphere upwards, feeling into your core, and spending more time at any blockage along the way, and at each pocket you arrive at successively. Once you are up to the level of your solar plexus, move back down to the lower torso, then back up to the level of the heart, then back down to bottom, then again up further to the next mark, and so on. You can work with any variation of this that suits you, along any section of the center-line that feels appropriate. Conclude by pressing the hands’ sphere into your torso.

How Much Practice Time?

As to “how much time to put in practicing?” I’ve an array of answers below, largely based on your own interest level. Higher priority than any set of stock instructions/answers, however, is your feel of how much is appropriate for you at any given time. #1: Listen to your own body.

Practice balance: The lower centers have denser energy and generally need more practice time to refine. Conversely the upper centers naturally have more refined circuitry and, if focused on too much, can be opened excessively out of balance or even temporarily kind of burnt / blown out.
The promotion of centeredness, integration and structural integrity are inherent in sphere qigong. However, if you do go through a destabalizing cathartic episode after a stretch of longer practice sessions then please be kind to yourself and slow down: shorten your practice sessions (or take a break, get some exercise, etc, etc) in order to re-stabalize.

Amongst methods, sphere qigong is relatively easy to access and establish. Typically (assuming some sensitivity, resonance, interest with this method) (and acknowledging that people vary *so* much)… anyway, typically: A student will put in some progressive work (practice most days / week, often twice a day) over 1 – 3 months in order to prompt and establish an initial opening, after which beginning-the-harmonization-process becomes more readily accessible, with little practice time. Once thus established you can then ease off, practice maintenance, progressively cycle deeper … all in your own timing.

An array of practice times, take your pick:

1. 30 seconds

Sphere qigong is often felt as quickly as you can guide someone through the practice. It’s one of the few internal arts practices that is accessible and fun enough to share with others in a social setting, or to access for yourself when you have just a moment. Results: Don’t expect to make any progress beyond initially feeling the hands’ sphere – which people often like immediately, so that’s pretty good for almost nothin’.

2. 5 minutes, 5 minute sets.

You can actually accomplish a little bit with this in 5 minutes. I suggest that you can even practice while watching TV, 5 minutes or longer. Do this off and on during a movie and you could easily put in an accumulative 20 or 30 minutes of practice during that leisure time. Granted that it is not as effective as exclusively focused practice time, but not everyone is that seriously into it, nor need they be. :). And, imho, the more important thing is to get in consistent practice time over the longer term. However you get that done, good on y’.

3. 15-30 minutes, once or twice a day.

Progress becomes more substantial in this territory, even progressive (strongly moving forward).

4. 1 hour per day (for a few days only)

An hour per day is the *maximum* that I suggest that you practice sphere qigong. And, if you practice for 1hr/day then I suggest limiting it to a stretch of just a few days, perhaps 3-10 days. New students often are encouraged to practice a lot in the beginning in order to initially open things up: good idea. However, I’ve seen new students practice variations of sphere qigong for an hour a day for an entire month and it ends up being excessive, way too much to process.

In the long run you’ll experience faster, sounder, stronger results if you limit yourself to moderate digestible amounts of practice on a consistent basis, versus exceeding the speed of harmony out of unwisely applied enthusiasm which typically leads to crash and repair.

Finally, a couple of points of theory:

As to the ends (hands and feet), Chinese medical theory says that the qi goes through especially dynamic changes of quality distal to the elbows and knees (that is, from the knees to the feet, from the elbows to hands) and *especially* at the ends (hands and feet). The acupoints along there (called “shu” or “antique” points) are especially potent and the qi channels that run through the limbs are the same that continue and run deeply through the torso. This means that the energetics of the hands are not only especially effective at refining energy in the sphere itself but also that by working with hand energetics you’re activating channels that run through the torso. Simply put: Over time, hands’ sphere practices open up a kind of ventilation system into the rest of the body.

As to the core, the potent points along sushumna that are the “seeds” (bindus) of the chakras have a latent and inherent connection to the deepest spiritual energies (“Luminous Emptiness” or “The Big Light”). So, working with the chakras in a way that refines, opens, and concentrates into our deepest centers, over time, gradually, connects to our Deepest Nature.

Working with qi spheres does both at once: Activates the ends and connects to the core.

John Dao



1. The qi sphere can be practiced in bed while sitting or lying down (easiest on your back with knees bent, feet flat on bed). This is especially helpful for those who are bedridden or simply lazily experimental.

2.  Foots sphere?  Feet sphere?  Football?
Some tinkering along this line some of you might find useful.






Vision Statement

John Dao Productions is a venture to produce and distribute quality articles that primarily clarify internal arts principles and secondarily provide accessible relevant methods.  While the author is writing from the context of the western eastern-influenced internal arts scene, fundamental principles and dynamics are universally broad.

I’m not trying to promote any specific tradition, school, teacher nor method (though some of that is unavoidable simply because I have to provide examples).  What I am trying to do is clarify just a few rock bottom mechanics that tie everything together.  They are simple but have been hard won.  This will be a short blog of several essays.  Hopefully, I will ‘ve added some clarity, whatever your path.

“John Dao” is a pseudonym chosen to represent the ideal that esoteric principles can be communicated in a way that anyone can understand and apply.

John Dao