The Four Primary Skills of Meditation

Paul Meditates atop Montsegur

Emancipation or freedom from slavery and bondage is ultimately what the human spirit craves. From the perspective of your spirit, slavery encompasses how the attachments in your life—such as sex, material items, money, power and all that they bring—prevent you from being free. Bondage has to do with the ways in which your ego (or collection of identities) and your karmic loops bind you into the reality you experience, and thereby limit your human growth.
So the question is:
How can you free your spirit and, in so doing, realise your human potential?

In Taoism, the journey commences by progressively and systematically making the body conscious. This awakening process must be developed to a relatively high degree in order to engage the middle ground of meditation, which makes use of the Inner Dissolving technique. The purpose is to lead the human spirit through non-attachment, unification of self by way of Emptiness and, ultimately, union with the Tao through discovery of the unchanging root of the universe. During every micro-stage of the process, four primary skills form the foundation of all more advanced meditation practices. Each must be continuously honed and refined at each level in order to realise any progress in meditation, especially more lofty pursuits having to do with spiritual development.

The four primary skills that determine the results you experience in meditation are:

  • Presence—being in the here and now;
  • Awareness—being conscious of what is;
  • Focus—guiding and directing your awareness;
  • Concentration—staying on point and thereby generating a continuum.

Your ability to use meditation as a tool to create change is governed by the quality of your practice; and quality is governed by presence. Presence is the underlying structure that supports the higher and far more subtle methods of meditation. When you meditate for one hour, you may actually only be present for five minutes—possibly more, maybe less. Although whatever you are present to in meditation and for how long governs the potential outcome of your effort.

By definition, masters are capable of being continuously present and therefore can very powerfully affect the subject of their attention. Beginners (which we all are to varying degrees unless or until we become masters) drift in and out of consciousness, creating an intermittent, peek-a-boo experience. If we compare this waxing and waning presence to the accelerator of an airplane on the runway, the aircraft would never take flight as the engine revs would not produce enough thrust or speed.

Once your ability to stay present is developed to a reasonable degree, you can become more consistently aware. This awareness creates the momentum necessary to enter into the realms of actually resolving the issues you encounter. Of course, resolving ever-deeper issues is the purpose of all traditional meditation methods.

Through presence, your awareness can grow. When you focus that awareness on your body, you deepen the process of making your body conscious.


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