Breathing in the Light

A complete modern tutorial for the ancient meditation technique, “The Secret Of The Golden Flower, A Chinese Book Of Life”

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” — Victor Hugo

“The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I first came upon the meditation technique known as The Secret of the Golden Flower in my research of Carl Jung and his theories on alchemy. Jung wrote the initial commentary to the German translation published in 1931. The translation was dense, and the commentary was theoretical. I set about trying to put its terms into a methodology I personally could try and practice.


Every act in life is a creative act. This is true whether you are making your breakfast, riding in a car, or speaking with a friend. This meditation, The Secret of the Golden Flower, brings a richer creative energy to your life.

C. S. Jung. (Public domain)

Starting the Meditation

In these instructions, I have tried my very best to stay honorable to the earlier translations and interpretations. I have also done my best to bring the text into the language of the modern world.

Prepare the space

Find a place where you will not be interrupted for fifteen minutes or so. It can be outdoors or indoors. The outdoors can be wonderful, especially if you can be close to nature. It should be as quiet as possible.

Prepare yourself

Spend a moment with yourself. Try and shake off the troubles of the day and the busyness of time. Still your mind. Still the heart. Get silent with yourself. It is said in the ancient tablets, “Have the body like dry wood and the heart like cooled ashes.”

The space beyond the nose

The two founders of Buddhism and Taoism have taught that one should look towards the space just beyond the nose. What does that mean? Your nose serves the eyes as a guiding line. You are focusing your attention at one aim. This does not mean that you should go cross-eyed; rather, you are relaxing into a gaze that is very near.

All illustrations by Eugene Frost | The Closeburn Learning Trust © 2018

Eyelids half closed

Only when the eyelids are sunk properly halfway is the end of the nose seen in just the right way. Allow the Light to stream in itself, without trying to force the Light to stream in by concentrated effort. You are not doing all the work. As it is said, “You only need to allow the Light to circulate.”

The house between the two eyes

The light will begin to travel with the breath. As you relax, observe the “square inch of the house” that rests above the nose and upon your brow between your two eyes.

Release the mind

As you fix your will on the space at the end of your nose to allow the Light to stream through your eyes, begin to release your mind. Let it fall beneath the house where the splendor resides.

Deeper in Meditation: The Circulation of the Light

The plumb line from the eyes to your tailbone

Begin to focus on your rhythmic breathing, for it is carrying both oxygen and Light from your mouth and your brow into your lungs and belly.

You have only to allow the Light to circulate

You have only to allow the Light to circulate. That is so easy. What is more challenging is opening the path to the Light. You open up the path through the active attention of your will. You are clearing the road, as it were, for the smooth riding of that bicycle.

The backward flowing movement

Once you are breathing rhythmically, you will notice an energy build up in the lower belly. It is moving in a clockwise fashion (as seen in the illustrations, if viewed from your left), staying in the belly.

Action in the Non-Action

In the ancient text, it is said that “the hen can hatch her eggs because her heart is always listening.” It explains that the reason the hen can hatch her eggs is because of the power to heat. But the power of the heat can only warm the shells; it cannot penetrate into the interior. With her heart-consciousness, the hen conducts this power inward. This she does with her hearing. In this way, the hen concentrates her whole heart-will. When the heart-will penetrates, the power penetrates, and the chick receives the influence of the mother’s energy and begins to live. Therefore a hen — even when she has left her eggs — always has the attitude of listening with a bent ear. In this way, the concentration of the spirit is not interrupted. Because the concentration of the spirit suffers no interruption, neither does the influence of heat suffer interruption day or night, and the spirit of the chick awakes to life.

The Contemplation of the Light

Fixing contemplation is indispensable. You have given the Light permission. Now you are being attentive for its contemplation. Fixation ensures the strength of the illumination. All aspects of self need to be at rest with the Light. The heart, mind, and body are still. Be still. This is part of such attention. The more quiet it becomes, the less important all is under the power and energy of the Light.

The Production of the Golden Flower

In the ancient art of alchemy, there were two aspirations: 1) to transmute metal to gold, and 2) to become immortal. C.S. Jung looked at alchemy and this form of meditation as a metaphor for the full integration of self into an eternal perfection.

The production of the flower within

Confirmations of the Circulation of the Light

One of the most touching aspects of The Secret of the Golden Flower is the confirmation that you may experience during the work.

West and East Meet in the Blue of the Ocean

The Light in the Everyday World

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

To live in contact with the world and yet in harmony with the Light.

One finds oneself not content with small demands. He or she has risen to the life-set that all living creatures have to be freed. It is not possible to be trivial and irresponsible in the consciousness that this repose with Light provides.

End Notes and Thoughts

Biology of the soul

In the 17th century, Descartes wrote about the pineal gland as “the seat of the soul”. But the small pinecone-like gland between the two halves of the brain has long been associated with enlightenment. In recorded history, it was first viewed in 13th century BC and associated with Hermetic ritual with the pinecone at the top of the staff of Osiris. The pineal gland is the producer of the hormone melatonin.

Candlelight meditation

Candlelight Meditation can be helpful in the first stages of the praxis of The Secret of the Golden Flower. Set a table before you at eye level. Light a candle, and focus your eyes on the flame that flickers at the space at the end of the nose.

My own affirmation

Soon after I started the meditation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, I began to imagine a rolling blue mountain range with the sun setting upon it. Pine trees were growing from the rolling mountains. Soon, I realized, they were not mountains. It was the sea.

East Meets West in the Blue Sea

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Thanks to Terrie Schweitzer

David Paul Kirkpatrick

Written by

Co-founder of MIT Center for Future Storytelling, President of Paramount Pictures, Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios, optimist, author and teacher.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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