The word 'meditation' has been used and misused in modern times with phrases like, "Meditate in my direction" (from the musical Greece) or "I was just meditating on the idea" etc. We can't meditate on an idea or meditate in someone's direction as meditation is an absence of conscious thought, allowing the inner meaning to come out and fulfil our lives. In meditating we allow ourselves to take a break from consciousness. But unlike when we sleep, more bodily functions are being used, more work is being done to augment the process and we are able to come back to a conscious state quicker and so retain much of what was given. We try to discover our real reason for being.
Learning Meditation: Changing Circumstances
Usually, when we sit or stand in meditation we come up with a few ideas about how things should be done in order to change our circumstances. Sometimes we feel that there needs to be a change and sometimes we do not. So it is the meditation that lets us know what is to be done to expedite the change or we are told by our own inner self to not change and to leave things as they are.
Learning Meditation: THINK, FAST and WAIT
These words come from the book, 'Sidarthur' and nothing is more true. We make use of our internal energy or Qi, to make things change and in order to allow this energy to work for us we need to direct it to the correct path. If for instance our mind is in constant conscious thought, much energy (Qi) is being used for this purpose so we need to stop this thought. By the same token if we have just had a big meal, much Qi is needed to digest that food, the same applies to sex. The greatest amount of Qi is required to procreate and so it is useless meditation after a heavy love making session.
Learning Meditation: Times to Meditate
Usually, the morning is the best time to meditate as this is when there is no food being converted and we have our supply of Qi built up from the evening's sleep. All we have to watch out for is conscious thought as this is the time when this activity is at its highest.
In order for us to make the optimum use of meditation and the changes that it can bring, we must be able to carry the tranquil effect and peace of mind with us into the street and into daily life. It's all very well to be able to sit in a calming coloured room with some incense burning and while looking at a beautiful mantra on the wall. But when we finish this sitting meditation we usually go back to being affected by daily tension.
So there has to be some way of training our meditation to stay with us in all situations, and there is. In Chinese meditation we are given five levels whereby we are led from the easier sitting mediation right up to performing vigorous movement while still keeping the meditative state.
Learning Meditation: The First Level
This level is that which most people recognize as being meditation. We sit calmly in a cross legged position, lotus or half lotus if this can be achieved, and clear the mind of all conscious thought. The eyes are usually closed slightly but not completely, with a slit of light allowed to come through. The gaze is so that we look to a spot about fifteen feet in front of us on the floor. A slightly downward gaze.
Learning Meditation: Breathing
We have four main breathing techniques for meditation. Natural, Reverse, Prenatal and Tortoise. A brief explanation will suffice here.
Natural breath is when we breathe in and the lower abdomen expands like a balloon and contracts upon exhalation.
Reverse breath is when we breathe in and the lower abdomen contracts while upon exhalation it expands.
Prenatal breath is when the lower abdomen and upper abdomen do reciprocal movements. I.e.; Upon inhalation, the lower abdomen is contracted while the upper is expanded and visa-versa.
Tortoise breath is the same only the breath is held in for some time before exhaling to allow the outer and inner Qi's to mix. It is important not to try the last three breathing techniques too soon, at least three years should pass on each technique before going on to the next.
Learning Meditation: The Tongue
The tongue is always pressed lightly to the upper palate just above the tooth line for all of the meditation techniques. The chin is pulled in lightly but not forced. If saliva forms, swallow it and breathe out to 'send the golden elixir' to the tan tien, an electrical point about three inches below the navel.
Learning Meditation: Alpha State
This first meditation technique is not too difficult and allows us to bring the mind down to what is known as an 'alpha state'. This is where the mind puts out alpha waves and is the state that we come down to just before sleep and not quite awake. This is the time when the most internally constructive activity will occur and so it is desirous that we come to this state. The simplest and sometimes most difficult way is to try and clear the mind of all thought but if this is too difficult try thinking of something rolling down your body upon each out breath. Soon you will be brought into an alpha state. A jar of honey poured over your head and slowly covering your whole body is a good game to play.
Learning Meditation: The Second Level
The next area of meditation is to be able to keep this state while doing some work, creating some heat energy. This has the effect of enhancing the meditation by producing the primal Qi of heat and also teaches us to keep the state while working.
For this we have QIGONG, a static stance whereby the legs are doing the work but the body is placed into such a position as to cause every organ and bone to be in or trying to get into it's correct position. This enables the Qi to rise and still have the desired effect. I have covered QIGONG extensively in other articles for this magazine so for now the following explanation will do. For the basic QIGONG. stand with feet parallel and knees bent slightly so that the knees do not come beyond the toes. Hold your palms so that they are as if holding onto a large tree with palms pointing out slightly. Relax the whole upper body so that the shoulders in particular are dropping. Just allow your whole body to sink into the posture. The back should be straight and vertical. Concentrate upon the natural breath. Hold this position for at least fifteen minutes. There will be some discomfort, some shaking and some tension around the shoulders but only stop if it really becomes too much. The shakes go away after about five weeks of performing Qigong morning and night.
Learning Meditation: The Third Level
The third method involves moving. This is where we are able to keep the meditative state while moving around. If we went straight into normal movement, we would not have much chance of learning how to hold the state as normal movement is too jerky so we have some beautiful slow movements which are conducive to meditation. We either have the Chinese Healing/Martial art of T'ai Chi, (also covered in previous articles) or we are able to perform the 'eight essential walks'. As it would be too space using and almost impossible to show the whole of T'ai chi here I will concentrate upon the walks.
Learning Meditation: The Eight Essential Walks
Walk No. 1
While keeping a slow and natural deep breathing pattern, hold your palms above your head. Brush your right foot against your left foot as you take an arcing step forward with knees bent. The walking should be slow and deliberate. The feet should be parallel and back straight and vertical. Take a step with your left foot, brushing it again as you step forward. Keep this stepping motion going until you have walked about ten metres. Now reverse the walking so that you are going backwards back to your starting point.
This involves using the arms to perform some movement, this makes it a little more difficult and increases the build up of Qi. Each walk increases the build up of Qi. The foot movement is the same for each walking method, it never varies in pace or movement so I will not go over that part again. The arms should move independently from the feet. I.e.; they should not move forward for instance as the left foot moves forward every time. There should be different timing between the arms and feet. As you walk, make as if you are rolling a barrel in front of you and then rolling it back.
The feet are the same. The hands move still as if rolling a barrel only now they work in opposition to each other. While one palm is pushing, the other is pulling.
This is an advanced No.3 walk. You drop your body to as low as you can go without hurting yourself and pull your closest palm right back to your ear as the other one pushes out.
For No.5 the palms rotate outward in an arc first to the left and then to the right. Between each rotation they drop down to waist height and circle out to the opposite side.
The palms are lifted out to both sides and then come over and down in front.
The palms do much the same as in the previous walk only as they come down in front, the forward palm turns over to palm up.
The palms move first in a counter clockwise arc from your lower abdomen up and out to the left. They then drop in the same arc and circle out to the opposite side to perform the opposite movement.
Learning Meditation: The Fourth Level
This method involves being able to now include some fast movements in our slow movements. For this we have what is known as the 'PAUCHUI FORM' or Canon fist form from T'ai Chi. Although I'm sure that if you included some extremely fast movements into the above walking exercises it would have the same effect. That effect is teaching the mind to still remain in the meditativestate even when performing faster movements. So we are coming a little closer to daily life and still keeping the calm state. The PAUCHUI form is too long to go into here but it's a little like a slow T'ai chi form with some fast movements thrown in.
Learning Meditation: The Fifth Level
The whole of the Chinese healing arts are based upon the 'Wushu' or war arts. this is because China has always been a warring nation and their whole culture is based upon fighting arts. So it stands to reason that their healing arts should also be based upon the war arts. T'ai Chi is a martial art. So the fifth method of Chinese meditation involves being attacked by another human being and still being able to hold the meditative state while defending ourselves from that attack. In this way we are able to now take our meditation out into the street and no matter what happens to us, the stress does not affect us adversely. It takes years to learn how to use the Chinese healing arts for self defence.