Origin & Meaning:
Daoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy and religion. This tradition dates back to Lao Tau (Laozi). The primary motive behind this practice is to find balance with Nature, or quite simply Tao. Its main book of teachings is call the Tao Te Ching, which dates back to 6th century BC. There was some dilution of set methods by the infiltration of Buddhist mediation via India, in 8th century CE.
The purpose off this practice is the generation, transformation and circulation of the inner energy. The quieting of the mind and body creates a unification of the two, this leads to inner peace and harmonization of Tao. Certain sects focus primarily on improving health and promoting longevity.
How To Do It:
There are 3 main types of Taoist meditation, these include insight, concentrative and visualization.
Emptiness Meditation — One must sit quietly and empty oneself of all mental sensations, such as thoughts, feelings etc. The focus of this is to “forget everything” and experience inner quiet and emptiness. In this super relaxed state vitality and “spirit” is replenished. One simply allows mental sensation to raise and fall without any consequence. The trick is to not engage or follow any thoughts.
Breathing Meditation — This focus of this exercise is to pay attention to ones breath. The reason for this is to unite the mind and qi into one force. The instructions are as follows, “focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft”. This is done by mindful breath technique that is popular with Buddhists. There are other techniques as well including following certain patterns of exhalation and inhalation, so that one becomes directly aware of the “dynamisms of Heaven and Earth” through the ascending and descending breath.
Neiguan (“inner observation; inner vision”) — Visualizing inside of ones minds and body. This includes paying attention to organs, “inner deities, qi (vital force) movements and thought processes. This is essentially the process of acquainting oneself with the nature of your body. A good book or teacher is recommended for this type of meditation.
All of these practices are often done seated with legs crossed and the spine erect. The eyes are kept half-closed and eyes are to be directed at the tip of ones nose.
Is It For Me? :
People that are in tuned with their body and has a likening for nature may like Taoist meditation. The philosophy behind this practice is interesting and may appeal to readers. People that like martial arts and Tai Chi might appreciate this form of meditation.
Qigong (Chi kung)
Origin & Meaning:
Qigong (chi kung or chi gung) is a Chinese word that means “life energy cultivation”. This is a mind-body exercise that promotes health, meditative stats and martial arts training. It typically uses slow body movements, coupled with inner focus and regulated breathing. It was originally a secretive exercise taught by Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist traditions. In the 20th century Qigong has invigorated the Daoist movement and mainly employs concentrative exercises, it also favours circulation of energy in an inner-alchemical way.
For a deep study on Qigong history, theory, and philosophy, I recommend The Root of Chinese Qigong.
How To Do It:
There are thousands of different Qigong exercises available around the world. Over 80 of these exercises involve just breathing. Some are more directed toward martial arts (to energize and strengthen the body). Other Qigong exercises are used to for health benefits (to nourish bodily functions and cure diseases), some even focus on meditation and spiritual cultivation. The variance of the exercises allows the practitioner to have a wide variety of choices to cultivate qi. Exercises can be done seated, standing or can be done with dynamic set of movements. Exercises that require meditation are typically done in a seated position with the back erect.
But here goes an introductory overview of the practice of seated Qigong meditation:
- Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure your body is balanced and centered.
- Relax your whole body – muscles, nerves, and internal organs
- Regulate your breathing, making it deep, long, and soft.
- Calm your mind
- Place all your attention in the “lower dantien”, which is the center of gravity of the body, two inches below the navel. This will help accumulate and root the qi (vital energy).Where your mind and intention is, there will be your qi. So, by focusing on the dantien, you are gathering energy in this natural reservoir.
- Feel the qi circulating freely through your body.
Other famous Qigong exercises are:
- Small Circulation (also called “microcosmic circulation”)
- Embryonic Breathing
- Eight Pieces of Brocade
- Muscle Tendon Changing (or “Yi Jin Jing”, taught by Bodhidharma)
The first two are seated meditation, while the latter two are dynamic Qigong, integrating body stretches.
Is It For Me? :
Qigong meditation may be more attractive to people that like to work kinaesthetically. If seated meditation is too boring, Qigong exercises might be the best answer to address these problems. There are many different styles to test out and information is readily available for those who look.