“Taoist Meditation”

 

“Close your eyes and you will see clearly. Cease to listen and you will hear Truth.

Be silent and your heart will sing.  Seek no contacts and you will find union.

Be still and you will move forward on the tide of the spirit.

Be gentle and you will need no strength.  Be patient and you will achieve all things.

Be humble and you will remain entire. Stop thinking and you will end problems.” 

 

The 12 Days of Meditation

(sung to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’)

On my first day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Cultivating a calm and peaceful mind.

On my second day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Developing awareness and awakening to my true nature.

On my third day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Reducing stress and managing pain.

On my fourth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Practicing patience and understanding the nature of my anger.

On my fifth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Opening my heart and clearing away the clouds of confusion.

On my sixth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Cultivating loving-kindness and compassion without attachment.

On my seventh day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Connecting with others who share my sense of wonder.

On my eighth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Freeing my heart from hatred and freeing my mind from worry.

On my ninth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

Working with my heart and mind to experience true happiness.

On my tenth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

The preciousness of human life and the feeling of gratitude.

On my eleventh day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

The Law of Karma – what comes around, goes around.

On my twelfth day of meditation, the Buddha enlightened me about

The reality that life is very brief and the nature of impermanence.

 

For Buddhists, meditation is the central religious practice.  Many would say that they meditate to understand the truth about the nature of reality, or “the way things are,” which is one way of translating the term “dharma.”

As they come to understand this truth, they develop harmony with it.  They compare people’s minds to pools of water that have been stirred up and clouded with troubling thoughts and feelings.  The stillness that meditation brings  helps the mud to settle down so that the meditator can see deep down and understand what is there, underneath the activity.  Through meditation, Buddhists seek to awaken the source of spiritual power or what some call the Buddha-Nature.

So, the purpose of meditation, with the attentive quietness it brings, is to make meditators more alert to what is going on in their hearts and minds and also to the needs of the world around them.  Images of the Buddha show him meditating while standing, sitting, walking, or lying down — indicating that it is possible to meditate at any time and in any of these positions.

Underlying all meditation is basic mindfulness, which means being totally aware of the present moment.  Once this is well established, it can be practiced when standing, sitting, walking or lying down.  Chan Buddhism  particularly emphasizes that meditation can be performed while carrying out the most basic activities of life, such as “chopping wood and drawing water.”

More and more people are becoming interested in the peaceful philosophy of Buddhism and Taoism, especially there is a very deep interest in learning how to meditate. Meditation is calming, and can change your way of thinking.  Those changes may affect your personality, eventually changing the world around you.  Indeed, meditation can help you overcome stress and anxiety, deepen your spiritual experience and bring you the inner peace.

Calming The Mind

Meditation is a journey one takes to reach peace and to achieve a new level of spiritual awareness.  It is the vehicle, but not the destination.  Although the final destination is peace, the journey is a rewarding experience for personal growth, self-discovery, and healing of one’s heart.

Formal meditation requires sitting still and allowing one’s mind to be restful. A sound, clear, and rested mind is essential if we are to fully enjoy the many blessings that life offers us.  Such a tranquil mind can be realized through meditation.  With meditation, we can help the mind to calm down and get a good rest.

Posture

When you practice sitting meditation, the way you sit often affects the quality of awareness.  Sit with your back as erect as possible and draw the chin in slightly.  Keep your palms on your lap with the right palm on the left.  Sitting this way helps you to stay alert.  Breathing should always be normal, not forced.

If you are a beginner, I suggest you to try different ways to sit in order to find the most comfortable position for yourself.  While sitting cross-legged is the position favored by most meditators, it is very important to choose a position that is comfortable for you, one you can maintain for the duration of the meditation.  At the same time, it must be a position that keeps you alert and does not lull you into drowsiness or sleep.

In the beginning, you might feel some discomfort with your position.  Be patient until you get used to it.   Change your posture if it becomes unbearable while meditating.  Do it mindfully and patiently.

Place

To help your mind to focus and your body to relax, choose a quiet place for your meditation.  If you meditate regularly, set up a special place in your house and create a pleasant environment.  It should be a special and private space.  Keep it simple and make it pleasant.

Time

What is the best time to meditate?  It depends on your habits, commiments, and lifestyle.  The time when you are least distracted but alert is the ideal time for meditation.

Many meditators find the perfect time for meditation to be immediately after waking.  Upon awakening, you feel rested, mentally less distracted, and the brain usually works at a slower pace, which helps with the meditation.  Another advantage to meditating first thing in the morning is that it is usually easier to spare fifteen or twenty minutes before other activities begin to compete your time.

The other most convenient time is when you retire to bed.  Just before lying down, you sit for ten or fifteen minutes.  Ending the day by reflecting on the day’s events and having a few moments of peace with yourself helps you to sleep better.

Distractions

There are distracting sounds and noises around us most of the time.  It is not possible for most of us to find a place completely free of noise.  Actually, when you meditate, nothing is supposed to be considered a “distraction,” unless it is unbearable.  Learn to allow any experience of the moment to be part of your meditation.

It is not the sounds that you have to worry about, but what the mind does with the experience of sounds.  Let the sounds come and go and watch how your mind reacts to them.  Mastery of that aspect of meditation is a major step forward in your spiritual growth.

Healing for Stress

In modern society, we lead very rushed lives.  Such a lifestyle often results in stress and can cause many mental and physical problems.  How do we manage  a busy life and still  show no signs of stress, maintain the peace of mind, and live a happy life.  The answer is simple: Meditation.

For the beginner, the purpose of meditation is to bring the mind into a restful and relaxed state.  Meditation can heal the body and mind, and it can also be a preventive tool.  If you begin the day with restful meditation, the peace you experience will help you to calmly face the challenges of the day.

Breath Consciousness Meditation

Let us try a simple exercise in the awareness of breathing.  The object of this is to refresh the mind, eliminate stress, and experience inner peace.

It doesn’t matter where you are.  You could be in your office, in your home, sitting in a bus, or formally sitting on a meditating cushion.  It can be practiced at any time of the day, especially when you feel stressed and distracted mentally.

Make sure you are physically comfortable.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths.  As you breathe in, hold the breath briefly.  As you breathe out, slowly release the breath, making sure you are emptying the maximum possible amount of air each time.  This enhanced breathing is done only at the beginning to relax yourself.

Now, begin to breathe normally.  Try to feel the sensation of your breath in the inner lining of your nostrils.  For now, think of the breath as the only thing that exists in the world.  Pay attention to each breath and follow its movement.

Gradually build up full focus on your breath.  As you breathe in, experience peace with your breath.  As you breathe out, let go of your concerns and bodily tensions.

Free yourself from the last moment and free yourself from the next moment.  Let your mind flow with the rhythm of your breath and be in this present moment.

Let the distractions come and go on their own.  Don’t try to push them away or struggle with them.  As your attention on breathing deepens, you will not be distracted by what is going on around you.

Be with your breathing for as long as you wish.  Be fully focused on your breathing.  Let each breath refresh your mind and relax your body.  When you have rested for a while, open your eyes slowly.

Peace Will Come

When you sit to meditate, you should have no expectations of results.  This is because learning to meditate is learning to be free of expectations altogether.  It is only when your mind is free of all expectations that real peace begins to sprout within it.

The expectations could cause anxiety and interfere with the progress of inner stillness.  It is necessary to free your mind from expectations at the time of meditation.

Meditation can help you understand your own mind, transform your mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy.  The entire process takes a lot of patience.

You can not create peace by force or by dwelling on expectations.  The most difficult lesson for meditation is developing patience.  Peace has to come on its own.  The process is similar to the blossoming of a flower.  You can not force a flower to blossom.

Cultivating patience is an important virtue.  Patience will keep your mind free of expectations until it is time for the “flower” of peace to blossom.  In the meantime, when you sit to meditate, stop wishing and expecting.  Pay attention to the present moment and let the moments unfold as live moves on.  Then peace will come.

Practice – Calming the Mind

Find a place where you can sit for a while without many distractions.  Sit comfortably with your back straight.  You may sit on a meditation pillow, a cushion, or a chair.  If you have any difficult with your back, sit against the wall.  Gently rest your hands on your lap.  Keep your shoulders loose and your entire body relaxed.  Close your eyes.

Pay attention to your breathing.  Begin to count each breath as you inhale and exhale.  Breathing in is count one, breathing out is count two, breathing in is count three, and so on.  Just be mindful of your breath as you inhale and exhale.

When you have counted up to ten, go back to one again and repeat the process.  Keep on counting until you can get your mind fully focused on your breath.  Then stop counting so that you can concentrate fully on just the breath, to the exclusion of everything else.

Allow your breathing to conform to its natural rhythm.  Do not control it in any way.

Now introduce a slight enhancement to help you focus on the breath even better.  As you breathe mindfully, notice the beginning, the middle, and the end of each breath.  When you inhale, feel the beginning of the breath in the tip of your nostrils, the middle of the breath in your chest, and the end in your abdomen.  As yu exhale, feel the beginning of the breath in the abdomen, the middle in your chest area, and the end in your nostrils.

At times, you may experience physical discomfort, or different sensations in your body.  When that happens, you can mindfully breathe into that area and relax.  Or you can take your mind away from the breath, pay attention to your body, and make any necessary adjustments, then slowly come back to your breath again.  Continue to breathe naturally, and let your mind slow down into the rhythm of the breath.

Allow yourself at least fifteen or twenty minutes to meditate.  That is how long it normally takes to have a calming experience.  If you can, sit longer. Before opening your eyes, appreciate the blessings of life and of everything in life.

Then gently get up and set about your normal business of the day.  In order to carry the benefits of this meditative experience into the day, try not to rush into things.  Instead, for at least an hour or two immediately following the meditation, try to keep the same level of gentleness that you maintained during the meditation.

In summary, by practicing meditation, we learn to find equanimity by making peace with the moment that exists instead of focusing on what we like and dislike around us.  When we embrace the difficulties as well as the pleasures as essential elements of life, we will be on a path towards a more peaceful and joy-filled existence.

(5/5/2004)