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 Taoist Meditation Methods, Introduction
REBORN
Posted: Aug 24 2006, 09:19 PM


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"No thought enters the mind, no problems arise from the body, no memories grip the spirit. This overwhelming sense of tranquility is really all meditation is about. The neutral stillness of the mind renews the tired soul, and this is regeneration."~ From '365 Tao', Deng Ming Dao



TAOIST MEDITATION METHODS

Taoist meditation methods have many points in common with Hindu and Buddhist systems, but the Taoist way is less abstract and far more down-to-earth than the contemplative traditions which evolved in India. The primary hallmark of Taoist meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of internal energy. Once the meditator has 'achieved energy' (deh-chee), it can be applied to promoting health and longevity, nurturing the 'spiritual embryo' of immortality, martial arts, healing, painting and poetry, sensual self-indulgence, or whatever else the adept wishes to do with it.

The two primary guidelines in Taoist meditation are jing ('quiet, stillness, calm') and ding ('concentration, focus'). The purpose of stillness, both mental and physical, is to turn attention inwards and cut off external sensory input, thereby muzzling the "Five Thieves". Within that silent stillness, one concentrates the mind and focuses attention, usually on the breath, in order to develop what is alled 'one-pointed awareness', a totally undistracted, undisturbed, undifferentiated state of mind which permits intuitive insights to arise spontaneously.

Taoist masters suggest that when you first begin to practice meditation, you will find that your mind is very uncooperative. That's your ego, or 'emotional mind', fighting against its own extinction by the higher forces of spiritual awareness. The last thing your ego and emotions want is to be harnessed: they revel in the day-to-day circus of sensory entertainment and emotional turmoil, even though this game depletes your energy, degenerates your body, and exhausts your spirit. When you catch your mind drifting into fantasy or drawing attention away from internal alchemy to external phenomena, here are six ways you can use to 'catch the monkey', clarify the mind, and re-establish the internal focus:

Shift attention back to the inflow and outflow of air streaming through the nostrils, or energy streaming in and out of a vital point, such as between the brows or any charka points.

Focus attention on the rising and falling of the navel, the expansion and contraction of the abdomen, as you breathe.

With eyes half-closed, focus vision on a candle flame or a mandala (geometric meditation picture). Focus on the center of the flame or picture, but also take in the edges with peripheral vision. The concentration required to do this usually clears all other distractions from the mind. Another effective way is to look at the tip of your nose and focus on your 'third eye', which is in between your eyes.

Practice a few minutes of mantra, the 'sacred syllables' which harmonize energy and focus the mind. (My favorite is "OM MANI PAME HUM"). Though mantras are usually associated with Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist practices, Taoists have also employed them for many millennia. The three most effective syllables are 'Om', which stabilizes the body, 'Ma', which harmonizes energy, and 'hum', which concentrates the spirit. 'Om' vibrates between the brows, 'ah' in the throat, and 'hum' in the heart, and their associated colors are white, red, and blue respectively. Chant the syllables in a deep, low-pitched tone and use long, complete exhalations for each one. Other mantras are equally effective.

Beat the 'Heavenly Drum' as a cool-down energy-collection technique. The vibrations tend to clear discursive thoughts and sensory distractions from the mind.

Visualize a deity or a sacred symbol of personal significance to you shining above the crown of your head or suspended in space before you. When your mind is once again still, stable, and undistracted, let the vision fade away and refocus your mind on whatever meditative technique you were practicing.
Taoist meditation works on all three levels of the 'Three Treasures': essence (body), energy (breath), and spirit (mind).

The first step is to adopt a comfortable posture for the body, balance your weight evenly, straighten the spine, and pay attention to physical sensations such as heat, cold, tingling, trembling, or whatever else arises.

When your body is comfortable and balanced, shift attention to the second level, which is breath and energy. You may focus on the breath itself as it flows in and out of the lungs through the nostrils, or on energy streaming in and out of a particular point in tune with the breath.

The third level is spirit: when the breath is regulated and energy is flowing smoothly through the channels (by now you should feel warm), focus attention on thoughts and feelings forming and dissolving in your mind, awareness expanding and contracting with each breath, insights and inspirations arising spontaneously, visions and images appearing and disappearing. Eventually you may even be rewarded with intuitive flashes of insight regarding the ultimate nature of the mind: open and empty as space; clear and luminous as a cloudless sky at sunrise; infinite and unimpeded.

Just as all the rules of chigong practice can be boiled down to the three Ss - slow, soft, smooth - so the main points of meditation practice may be summed up in the three Cs: calm, cool, clear. As for proper postures for practice, the two positions most frequently used in Taoist meditation are (See the description of postures given elsewhere):
* Sitting cross-legged on the floor in 'half-lotus' position, with the buttocks elevated on a cushion or pad. The advantages of this method are that this position is more stable and encourages energy to flow upwards towards the brain.

* Sitting erect on a low stool or chair, feet parallel and shoulder width apart, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, spine erect. The advantages of sitting on a stool are that the legs do not cramp, the soles of the feet are in direct contact with the energy of the earth, and internal energy tends to flow more freely throughout the lower as well as the upper torso.

Most meditators who follow Taoist Meditation use both methods, depending on conditions. When sitting cross-legged, Western practitioners, whose legs tend to cramp more easily than Asians', are advised to sit on thick firm cushions, perhaps with a phone book or two underneath, in order to elevate the pelvis and take pressure off the legs and knees. This also helps keep the spine straight without straining the lower back.

The way the hands are placed is also important. The most natural and comfortable position is to rest the palms lightly on the thighs, just above the knees. However, some meditators find it more effective to use one of the traditional 'mudras', or hand gestures. Experiment with different combinations of posture and mudra until you find the style that suits you best.

Taoist meditation masters teach three basic ways to control the Fire mind of emotion with the Water mind of intent, so that the adept's goals in meditation may be realized.

The first method is called 'stop and observe'. This involves paying close attention to how thoughts arise and fade in the mind, learning to let them pass like a freight train in the night, without clinging to any particular one. This develops awareness of the basic emptiness of all thought, as well as non-attachment to the rise and fall of emotional impulses. Gradually one learns simply to ignore the intrusion of discursive thoughts, at which point they cease arising for sheer lack of attention.

The second technique is called 'observe and imagine', which refers to visualization. The adept employs intent to visualize an image - such as Buddha, Jesus, a sacred symbol, the moon, a star, or whatever - in order to shift mental focus away from thoughts and emotions and stabilize the mind in one-pointed awareness. You may also visualize a particular energy center in your body, or listen to the real or imagined sound of a bell, gong, or cymbal ringing in your ears. The point of focus is not important: what counts is shifting the focus of your attention away from idle thoughts, conflicting emotions, fantasies, and other distracting antics of the 'monkey mind' and concentrating attention instead on a stable point of focus established by the mind of intent, or 'wisdom mind'.

The third step in cultivating control over your own mind is called 'using the mind of intent to guide energy'. When the emotional mind is calm and the breath is regulated, focus attention on the internal energy. Learn how to guide it through the meridian network in order to energize vital organs, raise energy from the sacrum to the head to nourish the spirit and brain, and exchange stale energy for fresh energy from the external sources of heaven (sky) and earth (ground). Begin by focusing attention on the Lower Elixir Field below the abdomen, then moving energy from there down to the perineum, up through the coccyx, and up along the spinal centers into the head, after which attention shifts to the Upper Elixir Field between the brows. Though this sounds rather vague and esoteric to the uninitiated, a few months of practice, especially in conjunction with chee-gung and proper dietary habits, usually suffices to unveil the swirling world of energy and awareness hidden within our bodies and minds. All you have to do is sit still and shut up long enough for your mind to become aware of it.

It's always a good idea to warm up your body and open your energy channels with some chigong exercises before you sit down to meditate. This facilitates internal energy circulation and enables you to sit for longer periods without getting stiff or numb. After sitting, you should avoid bathing for at least twenty minutes in order to prevent loss of energy through open pores and energy points. If you live in the northern hemisphere, it's best to sit facing south or east, in the general direction of the sun; in the southern hemisphere, sit facing north or east.
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REBORN
Posted: Aug 24 2006, 09:57 PM


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Taoist meditations or values.

These values can be briefly summarized into the following eight points.

1) The sublime Tao is not a being but a state of being that is manifest throughout the cosmos and lies apart from nothing since it is the very essence of all existence. To experience this state of being is to realize our oneness with all of existence and is the experience realized mystics have attained and to which all serious meditators are groping.

2) The real enemy to man's progress along the spiritual path is our propensity to make false distinctions. We cling to this, abhor that, are attached to our desires and possessions, fear loss, poverty death and disgrace. We live in an overly rational world and it is in the nature of the rational mind to make distinctions. It is not through the rational analytic mind that we can gain the experience of being one with the Universe.

3) Yin and Yang All objects in the cosmos are in a state of flux due to the opposing polarities of the yin and yang forces. It is through the varying interaction of yin and yang forces in phenomena that they come to vary from each other. Yin contains the seeds of yang and yang the seeds of yin. The proportions of yin and yang in individual phenomena are in a state of continual flux and this results in the perpetual changes that we see both within and without us. We can therefore infer that the habit of clinging, of aversions and attachments is bound to result in suffering as the desired of object will change or get extinguished and we will be left with our unsatisfied desires.

4) The best attitude to have in the face of the above is a smiling equanimity in the face of the ups and downs of life, regarding gains and losses, life and death with detachment since all is subject to change. The Tao is not concerned with the rise and fall of individuals but with the well being of the whole of the Universe. Hence the Taoist achieves his goals not by imploring the Universe to favor him but by learning to accommodate himself to its harmonious working.

5) Taoism also contains certain practices designed to promote longevity and result in physical deathlessness (or attaining the life of an immortal). This may interest many, but even immortality pales into insignificance when compared to the ultimate experience realization of our ones with the Tao. The experience may be compared with that of a raindrop when it falls and merges with the ocean and loses its separate individual identity. Yet there is a distinction. To experience the Tao is not jus to merge with the Tao but also to become the whole. It is as though the consciousness suddenly expands beyond the normal puny limits to contain the whole cosmos within itself. It is a state of utter bliss and that to which all aspirants are aiming.

6) A popular term in Taoist Meditations is Wu Wei (literally no activity) and is said to be the proper method of cultivation of the way. It may mean activity that is rooted in the nature of the situation it means no wasteful exertion. Lao Tzu was the author of the Tao te Ching and is the founder of Taoism. And nature was Lao Tzu's favorite teacher. Nature is perpetually involved in activity but not of a wasteful kind. Trees and plants bend towards the sunshine, water flows continually to its level, birds build nests, fishes swim and tigers leap. But these are actions in response to need, to the exigencies of the Here and Now. They do not proceed from a desire to impose our will upon the Universe, not from a desire for pre-eminence, nor are they carried to excess. A deer may graze peacefully under the eyes of a tiger if the tiger has had a meal to satisfy him. Man on the other hand has lost his intuitive sense of oneness with existence that is displayed by animals. Hence we see all around us in society, acts of one-upmanship, naked ambition, a desire amongst men and nations to dominate and oppress each other. None of these actions is in the spirit of Wu Wei.

7) The Taoist aims to be string and supple like the bamboo which bends to outward circumstance and yet springs back again with matchless resilience. To be tense, rigid, quick to take offence, to take pride in an ability to swim against the tide is no part of Taoist meditations or values.

8) There is a special affinity between Taoism and flowing water, which is at once the weakest and strongest of elements. Streams are persistent in their attempts to reach their goal, yet they will not batter their way through a hill or a mountain if there is a way to circumvent it. When faced wit an obstacle it cannot get around it will erode it with patience over thousands of years. And it will ultimately succeed. Thus Lao Tzu said The weakest thing in heaven and earth strikes against and overcomes the strongest Thus do I know the value of Wu Wei.
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compassions_sg
Posted: Nov 18 2006, 07:05 PM


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I like to know more. Please guide me with the original version and if possible, a Chinese version. It is all about saving life. Thanks.
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REBORN
Posted: Nov 18 2006, 10:58 PM


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QUOTE (compassions_sg @ Nov 18 2006, 07:05 PM)
I like to know more. Please guide me with the original version and if possible, a Chinese version. It is all about saving life. Thanks.



If it concern saving life, better consult a Taoist or Buddhist High priest.

Meditation is something you practises over a period of time and is a personal journey of discovery and exploration of who and what we are.

Sorry I can't be of any help.
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