Very Basic Taoist Meditations
Taoist meditation practices begin with what is known as the three adjustments or the three regulations. The three adjustments are:
1.) The mind must concentrate on something. ( Tiao Xin )
2.) The Body must become deeply relaxed. ( Tiao Shen )
3.) The breath must become slow, long, thin, soft and even. ( Tiao Xi )
The three adjustments are interdependent. As the mind directs the body to relax the breathing will slow. If the breathing slows, the body will relax. When the body is relaxed the mind can concentrate more efficiently.
This is the very first step in Taoist meditations. Mastering these steps may take awhile. Notice how the mind is active doing something and not passive. Compare this with what modern meditation teachers want you to think meditation is.
Here is an example of a non Taoist meditation process that does not use the three adjustments.
“Meditation instructions: Start by sitting down. Do nothing; don’t talk, especially to yourself. Let things rise and fall of their own accord. Notice how thoughts of things arise of themselves, like breath, without needing you to take care of them. They will wait for later. Let them.”
Taoist meditations are active and want you to engage in particular procedures to provide the proper foundation. The three adjustments are key components.
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming says “ Tiao means to adjust or to tune up until it is complete and harmonious with others. It is just like tuning a piano so it can harmonize with others. Tiao means to coordinate, to cooperate, and to harmonize with others by continuing adjustment. That means that all of the five items, body, breathing, mind, Qi, and Shen, need to be regulated until the final harmonious stage is reached.” (Qigong Meditation p.63)
The first three adjustments need to be performed first. For ultimate success in Taoist meditation two more adjustments need to also be made. These final two are:
4) Regulating the Qi. ( Tiao Qi )
5) Regulating the Shen. ( Tiao Shen )
The full Taoist formula is:
Changing grain into Qin, changing Qin into Qi ( Lian Jing Hua Qi (炼精化气) , changing Qi into spirit (Lian Qi Hua Shen (炼气化神)) , returning spirit to nothingness ( Lian Shen Huan Xu (炼神还虚) , and combining nothingness with Tao, Lian Xu He Dao (炼虚合道).
The first three adjustments cannot he hurried or rushed and can always be referred back to in meditation. In Fact they are so important that a popular Chan Buddhism center claims this about how to begin meditation.
FUNDAMENTALS OF ZUO CHAN
Zuo Chan (meditation) was practiced in China long before the appearance of Chan. The earlier masters practiced according to methods in the Hinayana sutras, which emphasized the techniques collectively known as samatha-vipasyana. Generally speaking, these were methods for achieving samadhi through three aspects: regulating one’s body, regulating one’s breathing, and regulating one’s mind.” From http://chancenter.org/cmc/chan-practice/how-to-meditate/
In Taoist meditation we agree with this long history on the importance of the three adjustments and they are the key component of Fang Song Gong or Relaxation Qigong Meditation. Here is how to practice Fang Song Gong Meditation.
Fang Song Gong Meditation
Sit or lie down comfortable. If sitting and not lying down the back is straight and for everyone the tongue is touching the roof of the mouth. *
Begin the meditation practice by telling the hair on your head to relax. Tell the scalp to relax. Tell the two parts of the brain to relax. Tell the forehead to relax and become very smooth. Tell the eyebrows to relax. Tell the eyes to relax and loosen. Tell the cheeks to relax. Tell the nose to relax. Tell the upper lips and teeth to relax. Tell the lower lips and teeth and tongue to relax. Feel the chin relax and allow the mouth to slightly open. Always remembering, keep the tongue touching the roof of the mouth through the whole meditation practice.
Feel the jaw relax back to the ears. Allow the back of the head to relax. Tell the neck to relax all the way down to the shoulders. Feel the shoulders loosen and relax down the arms through the rotator, elbow, wrists and the major joints of the fingers.
Tell the chest and upper back relax. Feel the ribs loosen and the wing bone area relax. Tell the stomach and the middle back to relax. Allow the hips, lower abdomen and the tailbone relax. Feel the inguinal crease at the groan area relax. Tell the thighs and hamstrings relax. Feel the knees open and be loose. Tell the shins and calves to relax. Allow the ankles to loosen. Feel the tops and bottom of the feet relax. Tell the toes to relax and open. Tell the whole body to relax from head to toe.
Repeat 3 x.
After the third pass from head to foot begin practice of Qi Chen Xia Dan Tian. After storing the Qi in the Caldron of the Xia Dan Tian as described in the next section close the practice by keeping mind in the Xia Dan Tian or holding onto the one. During all phases of the practice, work on keeping the breathing slow, long, thin, soft and even.
*The tongue is the connector between the Du Mai channel that runs up the back, over the head and stops below the nose at the upper lip and the Ren Mai channel that runs through the front of the body and ends at the lower lip and begins at the perineum or Hui Yin acupuncture point.
The word Fang Song means to relax or to be like a pine tree. Often times this Fang Song Gong Meditation is practiced with chanting the words Fang Song after telling each part to relax. Here is a sample of this meditation complete with chanting :
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True mastery in Taoist meditation comes from going even further then the three adjustments and onto the fourth and fifth adjustments.
The fourth adjustment is regulating the Qi. ( Tiao Qi ).
How is this done? In order to regulate the qi, the practitioner needs to become aware of the feeling of the qi or the sensation of the qi. What are the sensations of the qi and how to connect with them?
The sensations of the qi can be felt and experienced as hot, cold, itch, jump about, fullness, pressure, insect crawling, distension, electrical or like a floating pain that goes away. These are the same sensations that an acupuncturist looks for during an acupuncture treatment after the placement of needles. These are known as the arrival of qi sensations, the terms of “De qi” and “Qi zhi” or if it is painful Ashi as in Ah Yes there it is.
The first method of connecting with the feeling of the qi is also combined with the practice of storing the qi in the lower Dan Tian about 1.6 inches to 3 inches below the navel, inside the abdomen. The technique is known as Qi Chen Xia Dan Tian. Here is how to practice Qi Chen Xia Dan Tia.
Qi Chen Xia Dan Tian
With the body relaxed and the three adjustments performed very well and the Fang Song Meditation passed three times from top to bottom of the body, move your concentration to the middle of your chest. Become aware of this area and look for sensations of the qi as you breathe in. As you breathe out become aware of the area of the Xia Dan Tian. Look for the feelings of the qi at each area as you breathe in and breathe out. The mind leads the qi but you also must connect with the feelings of the qi. Putting your mind in the center of the chest also leads the qi to this area. Putting your mind in the Xia Dan Tian also leads the qi to that area. After practicing for awhile calmly direct the qi to move from the middle of the chest down the ren mai acupuncture channel to store in the Xia Dan Tian. This is the mind leading the qi, coordinated with breath. Repeat with 10 to 50 breaths.
This practiced can be combined with Reverse or Contrary Breathing.
This practice is designed to use the coordination of the breath and the mind to both connect with the sensations or feelings of the qi and it is also training to lead the qi down to the Xia Dan Tian for storage. Reverse or Contrary Breathing is a abdominal breathing style that uses the technique of drawing in the lower abdomen on the inhale, and bulging the lower abdomen outward on the exhale.
Below the chest, in the center of the body, at the solar plexus is the stomach. For many, the qi becomes stagnant here and cannot pass downward towards the Xia Dan Tian. This is also the area where food qi is being held and transformed into body qi and body nutrients through absorption. Too much food or the wrong kind of food can also lead to stagnation at this area. The practice of Qi Chen Xia Dan Tian is designed to break through this passage and potential blockage. The success of this training depends on the constitution of the person as well as qi sensitivity. Some are highly qi sensitive and others are not. With patient practice everyone can have success. How long will it take is an individual thing. Some can perform this right away; others may take a few years. However with patience and practice everyone can accomplish this.
This is qi and breath training and it accomplishes a great qi storing task. As a person breathes in, the qi flows into the lungs. When a person eats, food qi is stored in the stomach and the small intestine waiting to be broken down and absorbed into the body. In Chinese Medicine, part of the spleens job is to reach up into the stomach and lungs and draw out some qi to convert it into body qi, blood and fluids. The spleen is known as the great administer who wisely distributes needed qi and fluids to needed areas within the body. However, only the Dan Tian can store qi. The practice of Qi Chen Xia Dan Tian is the practice of converting air qi and food qi into body qi. The reverse breathing can help focus the mind in the xia dan tian as well. Remembering, the mind leads the qi.
Learning to coordinate qi movement with breath is like leading a monkey with the promise of a banana. Master Yang Jwing-Ming says:
This banana is in control of breathing. As long as you are able to concentrate your mind on your breathing, sooner or later your emotional mind will be restrained and calm down. (Qigong Meditation P. 80)
Our emotional mind is like an ape and our wisdom mind is like a horse. We need to tame the emotional mind by having it work on particular tasks, like leading the qi. The breath and the mind become working partners. With this partnership the first phase of Taoist Alchemy takes place. The task of changing grain into Qin, changing Qin into Qi ( Lian Jing Hua Qi (炼精化气).
This practice also begins the storing of qi into the caldron of the Xia Dan Tian that will allow enough qi to be stored to enable the circulation of the qi through the small circle, the small heaven, the big heaven and many other qi guiding and leading Taoist Meditations.
“Without jing energy, we cannot live.”
All form contains an aspect of jing. The classic Taoist formula begins with transforming this jing into qi.
The Chinese word ” Lian” is used in the formula as in “( Lian Jing Hua Qi (炼精化气). Lian means to refine or purify and sometimes translated as to train. This classic formula is a descriptive way to explain a meditation practice that is designed to shift the practitioner’s attention away from form (jing) to a greater familiarity of qi. After all, don’t most people immediately reference their individual self with their form or body? That identification with form creates an attachment to form. However the transfer of the attention to the Qi creates another level of identification that is not body or form based. That identification is qi based, and qi is formless. So the first stage in Taoist cultivation prepares us to identify with formlessness and non attachment or Wu Yu.
My Translation of Ch1 of the Tao Te Ching gives a clue to why we practice this.
Tao the absolute becomes perceived as Tao the not absolute.
Names become divided, opposite to everlasting
Names without being named becomes Heaven and Earth.
Its origin begins with the naming of the ten thousand things.
Its mother is constantly without attachment
In order to perceive the minds unchanging True nature
Allow yourself to have desires then recognize the mind’s outer shell
These two are unified, originating together but different
They manifest unity and appear mysterious
yet within this original true nature is the gateway.
This is a translation I have been working on. I believe it is technically correct and might reveal more than the usually standard translation. I am opened to suggestions and suggest the reader look deeply into different renderings of the Tao Te Ching. I have carefully looked at each character and believe it may reveal something that Jung hinted to in one of his commentaries on the Secret of the Golden Flower, and ancient Taoist Text on Internal Alchemy. Jung says :
“If the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining quantity along with the conscious, and if we can live in such a way that conscious and unconscious, or instinctive demands, are given recognition as far as possible, the center of gravity of the total personality shifts its position. It ceases to be in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, and instead is located in a hypothetical point between the conscious and the unconscious, which might be called the true self. ”
(The Secret of the Golden Flower p.124 )
Maybe this true self or original true nature is assessed in Taoism as Jung describes or as Ken Wilber says in his work, The Spectrum of Consciousness. He devotes an entire chapter towards “Two Modes of Knowing.” I believe he is accurately describing the Wu chi and Tai Chi states of consciousness. He states that our consciousness is split from a primary mode of knowing ( wu chi ) into a dualistic ( tai chi ) mode of knowing. He quotes the biophysicist L.L. Whyte as saying man “has created two worlds from one.” Wilber continues:
“It is precisely in the dualism of ‘creating two worlds from one’ that the universe becomes severed, mutilated, and consequently ‘false to itself,’ as G. Spencer Brown pointed out. And the very basis of this ‘creating two worlds from one’ is the dualistic illusion that the subject is fundamentally separate and distinct from the object. As we have seen, this is exactly the insight that these physicists had stumbled upon, the culminating insight of three hundred years of persistent and consistent scientific research. Now this is of the utmost importance, for these scientists could realize the inadequacy of dualistic knowledge only by recognizing (however dimly) the possibility of another mode of knowing Reality, a mode of knowing that does not operate by separating the knower and the known, the subject and the object.”