Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meditation 101

Unlike zhan zhuang (standing meditation) where there is similar approach to the subject matter (please refer to my "Zhan Zhuang 101" for my training method), meditation as a practice is sometimes (wrongly) perceived as "anything goes". Below is my training method, which is developed principally from Taoist deep meditation and secondarily from tai-chi).
    This is my typical first session on meditation

    1. Practice objectives:
    • Understand the basic folded leg meditation methods
    • Understand the mental conditions required to get into the meditation zone
    • Understand the locations of one's three Dantians (丹田)
    • Able to do point-meditation 
    • Able to do point-joining
    • Able to co-ordinate Dantian points with the hand points
    2. The techniques:
    • The basic pose is sitting with leg folded. The classic pose is full lotus, but half-lotus is just as good for beginning. The half-lotus is first sit on the floor with a cushion, take your right leg and fold it at the knee until your right ankle is high up on your left thigh. Then fold your left leg at the knee but keep it on the floor so that the left ankle touches the right knee.
    • The hands should be stretched with the body being relaxed (點緊身鬆) as explained below. Shoulders should be relaxed.
    • The hands should be placed palms up on one's kness stretched but not stiff (點緊). Hands must not be too stiff - a common slogan being “looks stiff yet not stiff, looks relaxed yet not relaxed” (似緊非緊,似鬆非鬆). This is the Yang side of chi transfer.  Chi connection can be created between middle finger and thumb of each hand.
    • The body should be relaxed but not collapsed (身鬆). This is the Yin side of chi transfer.  As such the spinal should be straight but not being kept straight by one's conscious muscle control, instead the spinal cord should be like a pole being balanced (dangerously!) at the bottom - only one's constant focus can keep the pole from not fallen down in any direction.  The differing force in the two stretched hands can vary to help the pole being balanced.
    • Mental condition: One’s mind should be in the zone, meaning with mind between being asleep and being wake up (if in doubt as to where is the correct mid-point, always choose the more sleepy position that one can manage). When one's mind is in a calm state, one can do point meditation, while still keeping a focus mind (yang) in the zone (yin).
    • Point meditation one: Focus on the third eye or top Dantian (point between the eye-brows) and lower Dantian (point at lower abdomen a few inches inside one's navel, depending on how fat or skinny one is).  Direction of chi: from third eye to lower Dantian, with stretched hands being chi-balancers, as always. The dual objective is to calm one's restless mind and to learn to control one's breathing mechanism with one's subtle mind (i.e. mind in the zone).
    • Point meditation two: Focus on the third eye, lower Dantian and perineum. Visualization: point at lower Dantian being the point able to have slight movement which is being joined upward to the third eye and downward to the perineum.  The objective is to "loosen" (鬆) the perineum and the pelvic joints using the power of abdominal breathing, under the control of one's subtle mind (i.e. mind in the zone).
    • Point meditation three: This is a more advance point-meditation and should be practiced only after some process of one and two above.  Here the points are third eye and Danzhong, position of which please refer to the Breathing page. The objective here is to "loosen"(鬆) one's diaphragm.
    • Chi management: chi should be made to distribute evenly throughout the torso with the balancing effect of the the stretched hands and the balancing spinal cord as a pole.  During point meditation, chi should be made to flow along the meditated points.
    • Breathing: breathe normally and slowly, can be either chest or abdominal breathing, as long as one feels comfortable; and remember not to hold one’s breathe during practice. Doing point meditations, breathing should co-ordinate with the movement the lower Dantian, the perineum (or pelvic floor muscles) or diaphragm.
    • If you find uncomfortable in any way, try to move a bit to make yourself more comfortable.  When you can do good body relaxation with points stretched (點緊身鬆), your body will tell you which part need tuning up, that would of course involve other practice on top of seated meditation.
    3. What next?
    •  Microcosmic circulation (小周天)  for chi-meditation
    • zhan zhuang and tai-chi for better structural alignment

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