About twenty-five years ago I made a personal discovery that made a big change in not just my gongfu, but in every part of my life. Back then, I would occasionally get “tension headaches,” where my neck and shoulders would get quite tight. One time I was doing a taijiquan form in an idyllic setting when I noticed a headache coming on. Something didn’t compute. There was no stress from my environment and I was quite relaxed. Why was I getting a headache?
I paused for a while and scanned my body. Why was I feeling tension in my neck? I took my large glasses off and relaxed my neck. It was my glasses! The focal point of my lenses were in the middle, forcing me to lift my chin to see clearly. This immediately “kinked the hose” at the base of my skull. I had been doing it for so long that my neck muscles had shortened.
And it didn’t start with those glasses. I had been sticking my chin out my whole life. The glasses brought it to my attention.
Dropping my chin was met with resistance from those short, tight muscles. But what a change when I consciously lengthened my neck! Immediate relief! I could feel an immediate shift in my whole-body energetic connection. Later, when I applied this idea in push hands, my effective power and rooting dramatically improved.
I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it did get me thinking. I started to reach upward with the top back of my skull to reprogram the bad habit I had been installing for decades. I got new glasses with the focal point at the top 25% so that I could see clearly with my head in this new position. I stood taller and felt better, more vitality. I began showing students how lifting your chin even a little “kinks the hose” at the base of the skull and weakens you immediately. Releasing the “kink” lets the qi flow and connects the whole body. Headaches were GONE.
I started opening the Jade Pillow Gate.
In a recent post (Pointing With Everything), I wrote how opening the Jade Pillow gate by reaching with the martial crown (at the posterior fontanelle) “raises the jingshen, the spirit of vitality.” Practiced over time, this creates “pure hardness” (like a “steel bar wrapped in cotton”).
I was getting glimmers of that “pure hardness” and jingshen just by opening that gate. And the effect was immediate.
At a recent lecture I attended, a woman spoke of the “Alta Major” chakra, AKA “Mouth of God” point, AKA: “The Seat of the Soul,” AKA: the “9th Chakra.” Different names in different esoteric traditions, but all at that same spot, the Jade Pillow Gate. It connects to the reticular formation in the brain (involved in somatic motor control, cardiovascular control, pain modulation, sleep and consciousness, and habituation), the vagus nerve (the main interface for body-mind integration and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system), and the medulla oblongata (called the most important part of the brain because it regulates functions necessary for life).
Paramahansa Yogananda said that the medulla oblongata is the “main switch that controls the entrance, storage, and distribution of life force.”
Various spiritual traditions ascribe important abilities to opening the “Mouth of God.” All seem to corroborate its function as an “energy gate.” We open the Jade Pillow gate by reaching upward with the “martial crown,” called by Master Yang Fukui as the “yang niwan.” (The “yin niwan can be found at the upper dantian, the “Third Eye” point.) It is located at the posterior fontanelle, where the two parietal bones meet the occiput.
Kinking the hose, even a little, dramatically reduces your “spirit of vitality” (jingshen) and limits the good effects of all your other efforts. That neck tension you feel at the base of your skull is not the problem; it is a signal from you body-mind that something is awry. It slows circulation and respiration into the brain and inhibits the flow of cerebralspinal fluid. It tends to round the back and pitch the head forward, requiring more muscular effort to maintain balance. Tension then goes to other parts of the body to compensate.
Opening the Jade Pillow Gate by reaching with the martial crown and dropping the weilu (at the coccyx) lengthens the spine and creates space between the vertebrae, allowing for smoother flow of energy. It unkinks the dural tube, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord and holds the cerebralspinal fluid.
I feel the change immediately. My mind clears. I enter superconsciousness (whole-brain coherence and body-mind-spirit integration). My “spirit of vitality” leaps to a much higher level. I find it much easier to move with jin (internal power) rather than li (muscular force). My body displays “essential hardness” though muscles are relaxed. There is no fear.
Others report similar effects. Try it and let me know if the map I am presenting here works for you. Let me know any difficulties you may be having how I can better explain it.
Here’s a short video for “Opening the Jade Pillow Gate”: