Translated variously as ‘inward training,’ ‘self-cultivation,’ and ‘inner development,’ the Nei-yeh is an early Daoist work consisting, according to the translation we have followed, of 26 interconnected verses. Set out in these subtle, beautiful poems is a program concerned with aligning one’s posture, breathing, and mind with the Way of things. Some Daoist scholars, therefore, have come to regard this ‘biospiritual’ text as an important complement to the social and political aspects of the Daodejing as well as to the mystical aspirations of The Inner Chapters.
In contrast with its competitors then and now, Inward Training makes no promises about longevity or eternal life. This is because its aim is not superstitious but more humbly, excellently human: it is to lead the best kind of life a human being can. Though the details of the program are obscure, the rough outline is fairly clear. The practitioner who is diligent and regular in his practice may discover that the substantial force that animates all things is now also animating his life and this more and more. Whatever flows through the cosmos also flows through him; whatever would otherwise tend to depart now remains with him; no longer ‘an obstruction,’ he is a vessel for receiving, his life an example of proper attuning to this higher, all-pervading force. To be sure, as she aligns her breath and calms her mind, the results will be revealed, at least in part, in her countenance, in her easy strength, in the kindness others show her. Moreover, because she has learned proper measure, she may also lead a longer life than those who would recklessly go contrary to the Way. Yet good health, good reputation, and longevity have never been her reasons for following the Way; rather, it is to accord herself with this reality for its own sake.
A word about our procedure. These readings were recorded over a two-week period in late April and early May of 2014. In keeping with Daoist philosophy’s requirement that one come to experiential awareness of its teachings, Aleksandra and I went about learning how to read this work as we learned what it was about: our exploration of diction was to be spiritual exercise in itself. In all of this, however, we make no claims to be Sages nor would we. As is evident, we are but learners nearer to the beginning of the course than to the end.
–Andrew Taggart and Aleksandra Lauro, Southern California, Spring 2014
*Drawing and cover design by Aleksandra Marcella Lauro