Taoist Meditation

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Taoist Meditation - 魔想 Móxiǎng

Meditation is something that many would like to do, and many travel the world trying to find someone who can give them the key to the answer, so that they can transcend the everyday at any time they wish and reach a point of peace and tranquillity. If this is all that meditation means to you, then give up, for that is just egoism and it has no place in the spiritual world; or, if you are a sceptic about the next world and the part that our own spirit plays within the universe, then don't bother to try and meditate, for your mind and your spirit will not leave your earthbound body, and you will be just wasting your time, for you will drain what little energy you have in other directions, and will not have sufficient vitality to raise the mind beyond the level of your own skull. In any case, the gates of the celestial sphere will be opened only to those who sincerely believe, have managed to conquer their emotions and egoism, and are meditating for the right reasons. The portals of heaven are not open to every Tom, Dick or Harry who wishes to spy or look around for curiosity's sake. The reasons for meditating have got to be real and from the heart, and the person has to believe and acknowledge the Supreme Spirit, and have learnt to abide by the laws of the universe within himself.

Meditation is not just a matter of closing the eyes and then allowing the mind to wander off into space all on its own. You have to be in charge, for you are the driver and it is essential that you are in complete control at all times. In K'ai Men we learn how to drive properly, for we have over twenty ways of meditating, not only with the eyes closed, but also with them open. Complete control means constant concentration — you cannot afford to take your thoughts off the road for one second, or you will not succeed in meditating successfully. All this requires strong self-discipline of mind, body and spirit, and the build-up of the energies and vitalities of the body.

It is no good contemplating a very long journey without ensuring that you have sufficient fuel for the trip. With meditation this means enough for the initial take-off, which is the hardest part, and for the whole of the journey there and back as well. That is why it is a must to develop the vitalities of the body and mind, and it is one of the main reasons why Taoists pay particular attention to the cultivation, harnessing and control of such energies, which are so necessary to the human body in every way. The correct utilization of such energies, and the purpose for which they are used, are of primary importance too.

In addition to the energy centres within the head, there are also psychic centres, which are also developed to a very fine degree. These enable you to become hypersensitive and to feel vibrations and atmosphere more easily, acquiring a deeper insight not only into other people but also into the spiritual world. The senses become very acute and you become more and more aware of the development and growth of your internal true self, as opposed to your external self, which is purely an illusion consisting of pride, emotions, and vanity. The separation of one self from the other is the liberation of the individual, and the true Way becomes apparent, and awareness becomes reality, as the hurdles and barriers of the human self are cleared and swept away.

The first objective of meditating is to become a "no self", where self takes a back seat and illusions are erased from the mind, so that everything about the self becomes completely impersonal, and concentration and contemplation take over control. The mind has to be obedient if you are going to be successful in your meditation, and you have to control and train it and make it abide by the laws of nature, so that it will automatically activate and become steadily stronger as each day goes by. The process admittedly is slow, so regular and constant practice is necessary, to prevent emotional stresses, illusions and so on from permeating the inner mind. Whatever you do, try and take it nice and easy, don't let there be any strain or stress at any time, and don't push yourself in an endeavour to get quick results, for you can work only to the speed at which your mind can adapt. Your greatest enemy will be your own thoughts, for the disturbance that they cause can be most upsetting at times. Many pupils are discouraged by the difficulty they have in putting their mind in order, and therefore lose patience with themselves and give up, though very close to becoming positive in their concentration. A really good teacher is a great asset, for he can advise and help you in your persistent struggle for mastery over yourself, and can give you the guidelines that will enable you to avoid misdirecting your efforts. When you have succeeded in conquering the first stage, you will find that concentration will no longer be necessary, for obedience will be instantaneous, and you will pass through the thin dividing line between concentration and contemplation and find the door to meditation open in front of you.

Additional aids to the success of your meditation can be obtained through a more positive mind when practising the K'ai Men physical exercises, feeling the sensations that your body goes through, the muscle changes that take place, and the flow of your internal energy from one movement to another. These will help you to build up the control and concentration of your physical actions in conjunction with the mind, and will assist in your mental awareness as well.

K'ai Men will assist you to control your mind through thought, hearing, sight, smell and touch, all of which can be brought under strict supervision through constant practice. This will eventually make it possible for you to direct instantly the energies and vitalities of the body, open and close at will the numerous psychic centres, and utilize fully, for the benefit of all, the extensive healing powers of K'ai Men.

There are many ways of meditating in Taoism, and, whilst these can be listed as twenty basic paths, they are much subdivided, making the field of Taoist meditation very large indeed. Yet, because of the balance of Yin and Yang, it is highly contractile as well as enormously expansive, for it allows us both to explore deep within ourselves and others, and to travel from one end of the world to the other, and transcend the astral plane, the celestial sphere, and the heavenly orbit.

Even if you have reached the stage when you can fully meditate at any time that you wish, and in any field that you choose, you may progress yet further by exploring how to meditate with the eyes open. We call this "visual transportation" (Shih Li Yun Shu), in addition to which there is "spiritual transportation" (Ching Shen Yun Shu): both are very advanced stages of deep meditation, and thus very few have ever heard of them.[1]

Although many people have gone to great lengths in an effort to learn how to meditate, and yet have been disappointed, meditation is easy provided that you go into it for the right reasons, and, with the help of a good master or teacher, look into it thoroughly, so that you learn the basics of what is involved, become clear about your own objectives, and then set out under guidance in an effort to achieve them. A good teacher will make sure that you take each step properly, at the right speed for you, and that you develop a proper understanding.

First of all, to get to the spirit you must go through the mind, and to get to the mind you must go along the channels of your earthly body. You must be prepared for a long journey of the spirit, and have ample supplies of the energies required — just as a car or an aeroplane needs fuel. Remember that in meditating you are going to use up an enormous amount of physical, mental and spiritual energy, even though your journey may last only a few minutes as measured by the hands of a clock. For this reason, one of your prime tasks is to build up your energies, helping along the process by eating the Ch'ang Ming way (see Chapter 4) so as to reduce the excess of Yin that other types of diet cause, and open up the internal channels of the body so that your internal energy can flow properly. K'ai Men and the various deep-breathing exercises recommended in Chapter 5 (especially the Yang exercises) help to build up this energy in the Tan T'ien or lower abdomen. As you progress you will be able to utilize this energy and control it at various levels in your body, so developing heightened mental control as well. This leads on to spiritual growth.

After adopting a Ch'ang Ming diet and learning how to cultivate your internal energy, the next step is to learn how to harness and control your macro-cosmic, or external, energy. When your internal and external energy can be harmonized at a point behind your eyes, then you will find consciousness an easy stepping-stone to awareness, and enlightenment will be just round the corner.

There are over twenty forms of Taoist meditation (Mo Hsiang 魔想 Pinyin: Móxiǎng), but to practise them you must be able to direct and control your internal and external energies, which will give you the dynamic power that you need if you want to traverse the universe. This force also has enormous healing powers.

One of the easiest ways of starting to meditate is to sit quietly down — if possible, at the same time each day — in a room where you can expect no disturbance. Have a window slightly open so that fresh air can enter the room, but try to ensure that there are no draughts. You can sit on a chair or cross your legs on the floor, or you can sit in the lotus position, which is the ideal way to meditate as it ensures perfect balance. In what follows it is assumed that you decide to sit cross-legged on the floor.

Loosen your clothes, especially any belts, and then relax your whole body and mind. Sit with your left leg crossed outside, but close to, your right leg — signifying that the Yin is surrounding the Yang. Your left hand should be placed in the palm of your right hand, with the left thumb touching the middle finger of the left hand, and the right thumb laid flat in the centre of the left palm. The palms of both hands should face upward. This ensures that the Yang surrounds the Yin in the upper circle of the body. By sitting this way, you are embracing the eight psychic channels and centres of the body, four in the lower half and four in the upper half of your anatomy. These circles or circuits create a harmony, and a constant flow of energy within their own individual orbits.

Before commencing to meditate make absolutely certain that you have no emotional stress whatsoever, and that you feel completely calm and composed within yourself. Also be certain that you have no aches or pains, as these can upset your concentration. It is not a good thing to set a goal or target for yourself, as this encourages you to try too hard. Try not to be too specific in your reasons for meditating, since this tends to create emotion and upset the nervous system. Many people try to meditate to obtain peace and tranquillity, while others wish to meditate just to escape from this world and the realities of their own lives — forgetting, of course, that on awakening they will be back in the same situations as they had tried to forget or leave behind. Meditation should not be an excuse, but should be a serious endeavour to attain harmony with your own spirit and, through it, with the spiritual world that lies beyond.

There are many ways of meditating with the eyes closed, but you can also meditate with your eyes open. Further, you can meditate not only through the mind but also through the spirit. One form of meditation, visual transportation, enables people to meditate through their eyes, mind and spirit, while they go about their daily work.

A golden rule for beginners to remember is that one should not stare at objects for long periods ("meditation by focusing"). It is much better to concentrate the mind, with the eyes closed, than to stare at a lighted candle, because the latter can not only weaken the eyes and waste energy, which in the preparatory stages you should be trying to conserve, but also mislead the senses into a false sense of achievement.

To begin with, then, sit quietly in the cross-legged position described above, with your tongue against the roof of your mouth and your eyes fractionally open (sufficient to admit a thin film of light) and looking down the bridge of your nose. Next concentrate your mind on whatever object you wish, and, when you have it in focus, keep it in your mind's eye for as long as you can.

Let us suppose that you fix your mind on an old-fashioned sailing ship. Once you have formed the picture, begin examining it in detail. How many masts are there? Is there a figurehead at the prow, and, if so, what is its form? Where is the anchor? Are the hatches battened down?

While you are still at the elementary stage, never meditate for more than five minutes at a time. This is because deep con­centration uses up energy, and it is unwise to burn up a lot of "fuel" while you are still trying to activate and cultivate the energies within you. Once you have managed to focus your mind on one object for five minutes, the next step is to explore other forms of mind control and concentration. Focusing on sound is difficult, but will give you a very strong mind control. If you are sitting quietly you will hear noises and sounds going on around you all the time, and if you concentrate enough you will be able to pick out one of those sounds (the most prominent, say) and hold it in your mind, making all other sounds disappear. Once you have learned to eradicate all other noises, and hold just one in your mind constantly, you will know that your mind is becoming very strong indeed.
Another, and even more difficult, way to meditate is to focus on smell. Bring in a pot of flowers and place them directly in front of you, and then sit quietly in front of them, breathing deeply. Learn to focus on the smell of one particular type of flower, so that other perfumes and smells fade away before it. In this way your concentration will gain enormous strength, and your mind will become extremely tenacious.

Remember that the journey for which you are preparing is a very long one, so it is essential that you prepare properly. Don't forget that correct breathing is essential to your meditation, so learn to breathe through the lower abdomen, as described in Chapter 5. This will help you build up your energies and gain tranquillity.

Everything in nature consists of energy, which in turn creates various wavelengths and vibrations; so to lack energy is in the long run fatal. Lack of energy creates fatigue, which is the basis of all illnesses and sicknesses. Revitalize the organ or section of the body that is fatigued and you eradicate the symptom, allowing the body to cure itself. In meditation, then, you must have the whole body active and full of energy, and all the channels open, so that the energy flow is unrestricted. Then you can really start to meditate seriously, for then the energy power is there to help the mind take full control and prepare for take­off. So get your priorities right and you will find that meditation is within your grasp.

If you happen to be a nervous person or a persistent worrier, then to begin with you should not try to meditate at all. Instead, concentrate on building up your vitality by eating the Ch'ang Ming way and practising deep-breathing exercises, and sit quietly for a few minutes daily, thinking, with your eyes open, of some material object — a door handle, a vase, a chair, or whatever — imagining its shape and contours, its colour, and even how it is made. After only a few weeks you will find that you have made great progress and are ready to focus your mind as suggested earlier.

Everyone who practises properly, should, after a few months, be able to journey into the astral plane, but travelling to the celestial and spiritual levels takes rather longer. Even so, with a good teacher, patience and personal dedication this can be accomplished by all.

Finally, take no notice of people who brag about their own feats of meditation. There is no place in the spiritual world for egoists, and whatever they experienced is unlikely to have been of much consequence.

Good travelling, and perhaps we may meet along the way. [2]

  1. The Taoist Art of K'ai Men pages 26-29
  2. The Taoist Art of K'ai men pages 150-154


The Taoist Art of K'ai Men

by Chee Soo

Copyright ©Seahorse Books 2006 (reproduced with permission)