For this week we will learn and practice a Taoist meditation technique. There is a rich and vast amount of philosophy and lineage that goes with the Taoist tradition, with meditation being just one part of that. Not to be disrespectful of these ideals, but we will not be going into depth about these traditions. The reason is simple; this course is designed to expose you to different meditation styles and practices. To dedicate the proper amount of discourse on the deep and vast systems in which these meditations come from would take up more pages than one small course could provide. We always encourage our students to look deeper into what they find on the surface if that is their desire.
Daoism, also spelled “Taoism”, is a Chinese philosophy/religion that includes traditional meditation practices such as concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. Much of these practices have been used in other related traditions too, notably Daoyin and Tai Chi. Daoyin, a set of exercises of cultivating “chi” that served as a precursor to the practice of Qigong. Tai chi, a martial art practiced for the purpose of cultivating inner health and strength as well as outer and inner defense. The biggest take away from this type of meditation is the cultivation, circulation, and charging of Energy. Most people tout the health benefits of this school and the longevity that its practitioners claim. Practice the following exercises for the duration of one week, practicing for 5-15 minutes twice a day.
Week 3 Practical Meditation Exercise: Basic Meditation
This exercise is a simple, but effective breath awareness technique used to cultivate Energy. By using visualization to help keep our focus on breath, you are better able to maintain a steady and healthy tempo. Breathing is focused on promoting a natural breathing pattern; in through the nose, filling, expanding, and contraction of the abdomen and out through the mouth.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair, or lie comfortably on the floor, avoiding your bed or couch (To help from falling asleep). Allow your body to relax completely, from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Feel each part of your body relax as you focus your attention down your head and face, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, hands, fingers, abdomen, groin, thighs, lower legs, feet, and toes.
Step 2: Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose, the tip of your tongue resting on the top palate of your mouth. As you breathe in, breathe in bright light or healing Energy. Let it fill your entire body, going deep within your body.See it filling in every part of your being with your mind’s eye.
Step 3: As you breathe out, allow all the pain, sickness, or stress to leave your body; see it as a dark smoke or mist on each and every exhale. With your inner eye, watch that mist fade off into the air.
Step 4: Maintain a proper tempo for breathing; slow and deep. Keep allowing your body to fill with healing, relaxing Energy and let stress and all other negativity leave you on the out-breath. Start by doing this for at least 5-10 minutes. Feel free to do this for longer periods if need be.
Week 3 Practical Breathing Exercise: Calming Breath
The “Calming Breath” is a very basic, yet powerful, Yogic breathing exercise you can use during meditations and in your everyday life. In stressful situations, it will help provide and maintain focus, calm and clarity.
Stage 1: Lie flat on your back with one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Inhale so that the hand on your stomach rises, while the hand on your chest is still. Exhale so that the hand on your stomach falls and the hand on your chest is still. Repeat for 10 breaths, now inhale so that the hand on your chest rises and the hand on your stomach is still. Exhale so that the hand on your chest falls and the hand on your stomach is still. Repeat for 10 breaths. Practice both breathing techniques until you have mastered them before moving on.
Stage 2: This stage combines the two breathing techniques learned in Stage 1. Lie flat on your back with one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Begin by stomach breathing, when you feel you cannot inhale any more in this manner switch to chest breathing until the upper part of your lungs is filled. Exhale by chest breathing first, progressing to stomach breathing so that you empty the lungs fully. Repeat this process for 5 minutes and breath slowly, if you feel dizzy, slow down you are breathing too fast. If you are out of breath then you are breathing too slowly. Listen to your body, if you have difficulty in distinguishing between chest and stomach breathing then return to Stage 1.
Stage 3: Stand or sit with your back straight, using the calming breathing technique follow this pattern:You will have to count the following 4-4- 4 rhythm in your head.Count to 4 while inhaling, hold your breath and count to 4, and then count to 4 while exhaling. Once you have mastered this then you may use a 4-4-4-4 rhythm if you prefer. This adds an extra step of holding your breath after exhaling to the count of 4. Take care not to hold your breath too long, again listen to your body.
Repeat this for 5 minutes or until you are achieved a state of calm. Practice so that the calming breathing becomes effortless and inaudible. You should breathe no louder than regular breathing, once you have mastered this technique, you will find it an invaluable asset in almost any situation. You should practice this as often as possible to get the most benefit from it. For the sake of practicality, the best time to practice this is when you lay down for bedtime and upon waking up as you first learning and practicing this technique. You should practice this as often as possible to get the most benefit from it. For the sake of practicality, the best time to practice this is when you lay down for bedtime and upon waking up.
Focus on nothing but breathing in this exercise. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations will come about while you are practicing; acknowledge them without judgment and allow them to pass. The goal of this exercise is to practice breathing into your whole system. Eventually, we will work up to the final stage of this practice and you will be able to accomplish calmness, focus, and serenity anywhere.
Week 3 Journal Exercises
- Contemplate the following in your journal.
- What differences have you noticed (if any) from week 1 up until now in your body/mind/spirit?
- Have you been able to keep your meditation schedule?
- After practicing this meditation for a week, which do you prefer thus far?
Continue to write down in your journal your experiences with your meditation practice. Note what is working for you and what is not. Make notes on how and what you have had to change (if any) to make your experiences better with meditation.
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