There are many approaches to meditation from traditional to New Age. Some methods focus purely on relaxation and the ability to reduce stress, whereas others seek to encompass the full spectrum of a spiritual path that can ultimately culminate in Enlightenment. The range, depth and focus of meditation is wide and varied, but all traditional forms agree that proficiency in meditation must be developed over time with dedicated and regular practice.
Taoist Approach to Meditation
Taoist meditation builds upon the foundational work of standing and Outer Dissolving, which employs the process of “ice-to-water” and “water-to-gas” to release deeply bound tension and/or contractions in the body and its qi. The ice-to-water phase initiates the release by producing deep relaxation in any specific blockage in the body (i.e. any tight, tense or contracted part of the body and/or its qi energy). The water-to-gas phase completes the release by expanding the energy of the blockage outside the body, where it is neutralised.
In meditation, which uses the Inner Dissolving process, the ice-to-water phase is very similar to although deeper than what is practised in Outer Dissolving. The second phase in Inner Dissolving is “water-to-space”. This is where the softened, relaxed energy from the ice-to-water phase is released internally into the depths of your being. This methodology allows for full resolution of not only the physical and energetic content of the blockage, but also any emotional, mental or spiritual content. This is achieved by following any blockage progressively deeper, right down to the tip of its roots.
How to Meditate: Becoming Present
To begin, you must learn to sit well. You must not shut down the optimal circulation of blood and chi, or you will simply drift off to sleep, space out, or compromise the functioning of your body and mind. In other words, you will create the opposite of what you are trying to achieve: presence, focus and higher spiritual functioning.
Once you have sufficiently developed your “seat” for meditation, the focus shifts to becoming present. The ability to be present is what allows you to live in the moment, and feel what is happening to and around you.
Presence accomplishes three important goals for meditation, which can lead to a healthy and peaceful life. Presence:
- Prevents the mind from wandering through past experiences or making future plans or projects, so you can remain in the here and now;
- Develops awareness, focus and concentration;
- Through the first two phases of development, enables cultivation of deep relaxation through the ice-to-water phase of the Dissolving process.
Ice-to-water is a metaphor used to release any and all specific points of tension you find in your body into a state of deep relaxation. Whole-body breathing aids the ice-to-water phase by both developing a general state of relaxation and generating more energy, which the mind can harness to increase focus and presence. Together, these techniques produce the specific state of being required to commence the exploration of what is deep inside of you.
If you choose to begin this journey, the first port of call is to begin releasing all that binds your body, mind and qi–especially any negative emotions, such as anger, greed, anxiety and fear. Without this initial clearing phase, it is quite impossible to delve deeper into the more subtle aspects of yourself, including opening to your true spiritual path.
Why Meditate for Spiritual Development?
The deeper and more subtle aspects of ourselves are rooted in our subconscious mind, which is the undercurrent that creates both our conscious awareness and subconscious decisions. These deeper aspects of ourselves are largely the result of our conditioning: that is what we were exposed to as we grew from a baby into an adult. Equally, our conditioning affects how we react to the world around us: that is our behaviour, or what each of us contributes to the world, for better or worse.
From a spiritual perspective, we are fully responsible for both that which we put out and what comes our way in life. That is to say what comes to us is the direct or indirect result of that which we put out. From a Taoist point of view, first we must work to clean up our own karma, and if we are lucky enough to achieve reasonable results, we can then apply our effort to helping with the karma of our family, friends, other living beings, social groups, countries, species and the planet.
Everybody has repeating patterns in their lives–experiences that come up time and time again. Many of these experiences are undesirable and most people would like nothing more than to get rid of them! We would like our lives to change for the better, but often times find it incredibly difficult to implement positive change. This is because what binds us to these repeating patterns goes deeper than the conscious mind. Although some people resign themselves to believing that “this is just the way life is”, life can be so much more than only being stuck in a rut of one form or another.
If you develop the techniques associated with the first stage of meditation, you can apply your skill set to developing the second through the water-to-space process of Dissolving, and thereby release your conditioning, negative behaviour patterns and free your spirit. It’s a pragmatic methodology that has been employed for millennia to help people deal with the darkest aspects of their being and become truly free or unbound.
However, if you rush ahead or skip steps, then the desired results from more advanced and lofty meditation practices can remain little more than a hope, mental projection or fleeting moments of personal satisfaction. This is why it is so important to commit to working on the techniques of the first stage of meditation, and seek the guidance and support you need to make your dreams a reality–whatever they may be.
Meditation for Beginners
Currently, I am qualified by my teacher, Taoist Meditation Master Bruce Frantzis, to teach the first stage of meditation with all its subsidiary practices, including developing qi energy, balancing the internal organs, and releasing physical and energetic blockages. I have spent 25 years training this material and developing my practice to open to my spiritual path, which embraces my passion for helping students along their own personal journeys of self-development.
Normally, I teach various aspects of meditation within each course I offer, weaving together threads of internal nei gong content to create results that are far more profound than each can offer individually. Nei gong underpins and supports meditation by developing health and vitality, whereas meditation develops a still, stable and focused mind, which advances and completes nei gong training. Traditionally, these two streams were taught together as one complete system, so I organise my programmes to follow this time-tested and well-established approach.
Accordingly, whether you attend a course with me on breathing, qi gong, tai chi or bagua, you will learn techniques to help you become present and focused and to develop your mind’s ability to concentrate. With this, I hope to provide you with the guidance and support necessary to develop a firm root in the first stage of meditation, so that you can release daily and accumulated stress and tension, and achieve anything to which you set your mind’s intent.