"Turning the light around" is a phrase used frequently in relation to the practice of Taoist Inner Alchemy and meditation. What does it mean?
When the light is turned around, the energies of heaven and earth, yin and yang, all congeal. This is what is called "refined thought," "pure energy," or "pure thought." When you first put this technique into practice, there is seemingly nonbeing within being. Eventually, when the work is accomplished, and there is a body beyond your body, there is seemingly being within nonbeing.
~ from The Secret of the Golden Flower, translated by Thomas Cleary
In this process of "turning the light around," we reverse the direction in which our attention habitually flows - from being outwardly-focused to being inwardly-focused. There are many techniques to support this "turning-around" process. One of the most powerful is simply to bring our attention to the flow of our breath: following the inhalations and exhalations. We might focus on the rise and fall of our abdomen as we inhale and exhale, or on the sensations of coolness and warmth in our nostrils. Practicing like this for just several minutes a day can bring profound benefits.
In Taoism it is often said: the entire cosmos - the infinity of stars and planets and innumerable galaxies - exists within your own body. How do we find this internal cosmos? By "turning the light around" - shining the light of our awareness onto the contents of our bodymind. Through this process of looking inward, the "external" world is then, paradoxically, once again revealed - in its true form.
To use an analogy from mathematics: our habitual focus on the external world - on reaching and reaching and reaching for things outside of us - is like an infinite series, whose members increase by a factor greater than one. The sum of such a series is itself infinite: there is no end, no sense of completion, ever, to this kind of "external" search. The process of a mind that has "turned the light around," on the other hand, is akin to an infinite series whose members increase by a factor less than one. The sum of this kind of infinite series is actually finite, and can be calculated. It is a kind of infinity which - by becoming ever more subtle, resolves into a tremoring stillness - a non-conceptual, ungraspable "answer" which leaves us feeling sweetly satisfied - content as an infant at its mother's breast.
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