The previous level firmly established midline dynamics (neidan in Daoist yoga; awakening of kuṇḍalinī in Hindu yoga; completion stage practice of Tibetan Buddhism). This level expands the midline scope from inner (physical and nearby energy bodies) to outer (spacetime and higher dimensions). This corresponds to a yogi's gradual mastery of the mental plane (energy work can be effectively done simply by mental focus). Now, Vedic astrology focuses on Swarga loka proper (just the D27, Bhāṁśa and D30, Triṁśāṁśa, charts).

Nāda yōga — merging midline and near space with deeper space

Once a practitioner gains facility with coursing awareness into the space in the immediate vicinity of her or his physical body, the next step raises the ante. Here, the aim moves toward a higher (astral) energy body—one that provides access to lucid dreaming and full awareness during all phases of sleep. As this higher energy body switches online, the goal shifts up the ladder one more time—now, everyday awareness becomes the "sleep" that one sees through and gains mastery over.

The References page has some good suggestions for more advanced yogic practices and teachers that can help with this stage of the work. Tools especially helpful now include sound, mantra and phowa, which all can be used to churn the beginnings of an autonomous astral body.

daoist giving and receiving qi with nature

QIgong stands as the great savior of the spiritual path for most folks with ordinary abilities or ordinary karma. It provides the basic fire to fuel beginning practice at the etheric and astral levels of energy. Cultivation of qi begins simply—one just circulates and senses the biological electricity within and just around the body. But over time, the task takes one further afield into more arcane venues: deep inside the physical body and further away from the body into the stratosphere and beyond.

Swapping qi with Plants, Trees and Creatures of Nature is a good first step at this practice. Eventually you work up to bigger and bigger living beings and fields of consciousness and space.

The Daoist model of Heaven — Human — Earth guides the loops of qi circulation into ever more integrated spheres. And within this framework, giving and receiving qi, a core technique used from day one, becomes the sine qua non of all more advanced practice. In terms of the five tattvas of Hindu yoga and Jyotish (Vedic astrology) there are seven main ways to effect this swapping of energy:

  1. Earth (prithvi) — swap qi with the planet itself; use Tibetan and Daoist practices to dissolve the physical body as part of this process

  2. Water (jala) — swap qi with the ocean or a body of water (lake, river)

  3. Fire (agni) — swap qi with the Sun

  4. Wind (vayu) — swap qi with the sky (corresponds to Big Sky practice in Tibetan Buddhism)

  5. Ether (akasha) — swap qi with the moon (lord of the night) and stars at night when it’s dark

  6. Prana (ajna chakra) — swap qi with the astral realm and its beings during sleep

  7. Consciousness (sahasrara chakra) — AFTER you have a stable awareness beyond the physical body, begin to swap qi with higher astral and mental levels of awareness (equivalent to working at the D-9, or navamsha, level of Jyotish).

Work at the D-27 and D-30 level is yet further along the path and relates to the higher mental and causal levels. To march up to and into this realm you need conscious and stable access to nearby out-of-body chakras (especially those within a few feet above your head).

In the Daoist perspective, we are framed by heaven and earth. This means it is simple folly to try and gainsay nature and Spirit by working alone (circulating qi solely from the perspective of being a lone human guppy in the great ocean of Shakti). The only sensible—and successful—way forward invokes the context of nature. Thus, through swapping qi (prana) with elements at these seven levels, a spiritual seeker gradually becomes enfolded in the bosom of Devi, Mother Nature, and therewith finds blessing and support to continue ever-deepening her or his consciousness. It’s the only way at this stage of the show. Really.