Chapter 5 of the Chung-Lu ch’uan-tao chi is devoted to Time and timing in Cultivation. This chapter follows up on the previous two, Chapter 3 covering Heaven and Earth and Chapter 4 the Sun and Moon. These preceding chapters emphasize the cyclical nature of cosmic phenomenon, and set the stage for the detailed discussion in Chapter 5.
Lu starts with a question about the interaction of the Sun and Moon and Chung responds with a broad answer about the Four Periods of Time. The Day, Month and Year are the obvious observable cycles, while the Time of the Body (personal lifetime) is the primary cycle of the individual. Each has it’s place and importance. The Yearly, Monthly and Daily cycles need little explanation. The life cycle of the human is broken down into four 30 year periods of growth, maturation, aging and decay leaving 120 years for personal cultivation.
The main focus is ON the issue of not wasting the precious time in the body, ‘difficult to hold on to, easiest to loose’. Years and Months ‘Come slowly but pass quickly’. The Days and Hours are ‘swift as lightning and short-lived as the spart of fire from flint”.
So, Lu asks, “Why is the period of time in the body the most precious and the period of time in the day the most valuable?”
The obvious answer is ‘Start when you are young when it’s easy to achieve yourself” but almost no one follows that advice and comes to the Tao only when they have a real problem or see death approaching when it’s almost always too late. Do not be like one who ‘sleeps in wet clothes in a draughty room’. like those who choose to be ill.
The real answer is a little deeper and on a first reading is likely missed. He says “The birth of the spirit and the soul parallels the course of the sun and the moon. Their essences ebb and flow and they copulate once a month“. Then the crux of the conversation, “The moment of convergence occurs once every day and night. If you do not know the time of convergence, if you are unfamiliar with the method of gathering, if you do not know how to replenish what is lost, if you do not gather it when it is plentiful, failing to cultivate yang during the height of yin, and refine yin during the height of yang, and failing to practice every day, each day one day of your life is lost”
So, how does one know the ‘Moment of Convergence’, what are the ‘methods of gathering’, how does one ‘refine yin at the height of yang’ and ‘cultivate yang at the height of yin’ ?
This is the importance of timing in self cultivation. The classics speak often of ‘The Living Hour‘, superficially understood to be the hour of ‘Tzu‘, between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am, when the yang returns, represented by Hexagram 24, Return (Earth over Thunder). The real secret of the ‘living hour’ is much more subtle. The day is divided into twelve 2 hour periods, and the hour of Tzu is the first of these 12. The actual start of Tzu is experienced in solar time, not clock time, so you need to know the time of meridian passage for your location (longitude and latitude). On Energy-Master.com there is a simple widget you can use to calculate this for you. You enter your location (country, city and zipcode if available), the app uses Google geo-coding the calculate your Lat and Lng and hence the time of local noon for your location. With this you now know the actual clock time of the start of each double (or ‘big’) hour. Armed with this you can start to practice ‘the living hour’.