What is Taoist meditation and how is it different from other meditation practices? In this post, we shall explore this ancient yet transformative meditation practice that started in China many years ago.
Taoist meditation has its roots in Taoism. In fact, this ancient meditation practice was developed to help individuals cultivate inner peace and connect with the Tao. The concept of Tao, which is the heart of Taoism, simply means “the way.”
“The way” – Refers to the natural flow of life, the underlying force that governs the universe. Lao Tzu who is often considered to be the father of Taoism advocates that people can live happier and fulfilling lives if they live in alignment with the natural flow of life.
In ancient times people practiced Taoist Meditation so that they can connect with the Tao. As they continued their practice, they developed a deeper understanding of the world around them and themselves. This helped in aligning their lives closer to the natural rhythms of life.
Why do Taoists meditate?
One of the main reasons Taoists meditate is to balance the energy channels in the body. The body’s vital energy is often referred to as Chi…the more freely Chi
or energy flows within our body, the better we get physically and mentally.
One of the key principles of Taoism mentions the presence of two opposite energies in all of us Yin and Yang. Yin is often associated with feminine passive energy that constitutes softness, coolness, quiet, dark, and stillness. Whereas Yang is associated with masculine active energy constituting heat, light, action, expansion, hardness, and stubbornness at times.
When you are unhappy, worried, frustrated, or angry there is often an imbalance of these energies in your body. Taoist meditation helps to restore the balance of these energies. It helps you to calm your body, empty the mind and sit quietly without thinking.
Do remember this and it goes without saying that you need to practice Taoist meditation regularly to enhance your overall well-being. As you develop a consistent practice, you get clarity and it becomes easier to accept reality instead of fighting with it.
Taoist Meditation for Beginners (Step-by-step guide)
Taoist meditation aims to get rid of the obstacles (blocked energy within you) that prevents you from seeing life directly. It helps you with the most practical and direct approach to connecting with life. Here are the steps to begin the practice of Taoist Meditation.
Step 1: Choose a right place
Before you sit to meditate, find a place that is quiet and comfortable without any distractions or interruptions. It would be nice if the place has natural light however if that’s not possible then use soft lighting to create a calm peaceful ambience.
Ensure the place is clutter free with no noisy gadgets or electronic devices. You can enhance the space by lighting a candle or incense stick. This helps in creating the right, serene environment that can enhance your meditation practice.
Step 2: Designate a specific time for your practice
If you are looking to establish meditation as a daily practice – Then this is the best tip I have for you. Set a schedule and meditate on a specific time during the day. It can be morning, afternoon, or evenings choose the time that best suits you.
Over time, you will notice that your mind and body will start to prepare to naturally settle into daily meditation practice at the desired time.
Step 3: Choose a right posture
You can sit cross-legged on the floor with a cushion or feel free to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Ensure your spine is straight, let your shoulders relax, and rest your arms on your thighs or knees.
Make sure your head, neck, and back are in a straight line. You can close your eyes and allow your body to calm and relax.
Step 4: Focus on your breath
One of the best ways to train your mind to focus is to concentrate on your breath. Your breath has an effect on your mind and body. As you start to focus on your breath, it becomes slower and deeper. You can truly experience a sense of calm and tranquility taking over your mind and body as you maintain your attention on breathing.
Of course, your attention will wander and get carried away by your thoughts and emotions however if you sustain and continue this practice of anchoring your mind to breathe, then you will eventually strengthen your ability to concentrate and be grounded in the present moment.
Step 5: Noticing & becoming aware (Important step)
As you concentrate on your breath, you start to notice any sensations, tension, pressure, or uneasiness in your entire body. Start at the top of your head and gradually come down to the soles of the feet.
This is how you do it – In every inhale, you put your attention on any part of your body, let’s say you start with your head. So, pay attention and notice, if you feel heavy, tensed, or feel any pressure around the area of your forehead. When you exhale, simply let that area around your forehead relax and let everything flow.
The key is observing and becoming aware, not trying to change anything. Simply be aware of any kind of tension, pressure, or tightness, and then at that moment you exhale and relax.
If you do this practice systematically by placing attention and awareness to different parts of the body and then relaxing and letting go in the present moment then you would induce a state of heightened mind-body awareness that would help you manage your health better and make choices that support your overall well-being.
Step 6: Activating energy centers (For advanced practitioners)
If you are a beginner then get comfortable practicing the first five steps. In this step, you would be activating your body’s energy centers by visualizing them.
In Taoist traditions ‘energy centers’ are referred to as Dantian (very similar to chakras according to Indian traditions).
There are three dantian in the human body
- Lower dantian
- Middle dantian
- Upper dantian
Activating lower dantian:
The lower dantian is located approximately two inches below your belly button (navel). In order to activate the lower dantian you put your attention below the navel and imagine a small sphere or a red ball emitting vibrant red light.
As you inhale, guide the breath towards the lower dantian and imagine the red ball expanding and shining brightly. As you exhale, the feel the warmth of the red light relaxing you. Continue this for five breaths, placing your attention on the lower dantian. After this, you move your attention to the middle dantian.
Activating middle dantian:
The middle dantian is located at the center of the body near the heart. In order to activate the middle dantian place your attention at the center of the chest and again imagine a small sphere or a ball emanating calming green light.
As you inhale, guide the breath towards the middle dantian and imagine the green ball expanding and shining brightly. As you exhale, the feel the warmth of the green light relaxing you. Continue this for five breaths, placing your attention on the middle dantian. After this, you move your attention to the upper dantian.
Activating upper dantian:
The upper dantian is positioned at the center of the head, between the eyebrows. In order to activate the upper dantian place your attention slightly above the eyebrows and imagine a small sphere or a ball emanating bright white light.
As you inhale, guide the breath towards the upper dantian and imagine the white ball expanding and shining brightly. As you exhale, the feel the warmth of the white light relaxing you. Continue this for five breaths, placing your attention on the upper dantian.
Step 7: Integrating all the three dantians (energy centers)
The final step would be visualizing all three energy centers altogether. As you breathe in, you imagine all three spheres (red, green, and white) shining brightly. You imagine this soothing upward energy flowing freely from the lower dantian, to the middle dantian and to the upper dantian.
You notice all the sensations, feelings, pressure, and tension and simply relax as you exhale. This visualization of the circulation of energy freely within the energy centers maintains the balance of energy throughout the body.
Why You Should Practice Taoist Meditation
You learned seven steps to practice Taoist meditation. Here are four reasons why should consider practicing Taoist meditation on a regular basis.
(i) Balance of Yin and Yang:
Today a majority of us lack emotional stability and physical vitality. One main of the main reasons for this instability is an imbalance of energies within us. Yin & Yang are two opposite yet interconnected forces that are present in us. Balance of these two forces is paramount for your well-being and it is your responsibility to restore harmony by working on yourself.
(ii) Applying Wu Wei in life:
We try to control our environment and manipulate situations, and people so that life becomes comfortable. However, in our effort to control our lives, we, unfortunately, condition our lives and unknowingly build strong walls of resistance within us.
Wu Wei is a concept that mainly teaches us non-doing or inaction. It does not mean you become lazy and do not take action. It simply means to trust and go according to the Tao, the natural flow of life. Do not struggle and fight with reality.
(iii) Enhancing self-discovery:
You must have heard about the ancient philosopher Socrates who once said: “Know Thyself”. What he meant in the literal sense is enhancing self-awareness by turning inward and observing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations and gaining a deeper understanding of oneself.
Taoist meditation would immensely help you in providing mental clarity through introspection and self-reflection. This often leads to cultivating wisdom, tapping into your innate intuition, and gaining valuable insights.
(iv) Nurtures spiritual growth
Spiritual growth is the inclusion and nourishment of humility, simplicity, and compassion. These are key aspects that you should strive to include in your lives as it truly provides more fulfillment and meaning to your life.
Taoism values and emphasizes modesty, kindness, and simplicity, it encourages everyone to embrace these qualities to live in harmony with all beings.
How is Taoist Meditation Different from other Meditation Practices
Taoist meditation originated in China based on the principles of Taoism. Over time Taoism has evolved and transformed however there are still some key characteristics that distinguish Taoist meditation from other meditation practices. Let’s have a look at them;
The focus is on the body
Taoist meditation’s focus has always been on the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit. It emphasizes Qi (life force) the energy that is within us and regular practice of Taoist meditation helps in restoring the flow and balance of this energy, thereby promoting optimal health.
It also helps in developing a deeper connection to one’s body through heightened awareness of its sensations and tensions.
Use of visualization
Taoist meditation taps into the power of imagination and visualizes the flow of energy through its channels, known as dantian. It uses symbols such as Yin and Yang, the five elements, Lo Pan Compass, and even creatures like dragons to represent deeper principles and energies.
By focusing on such visualization techniques, you can train your mind and develop concentration and mental clarity.
Emphasis on Tao
This is by far the biggest distinguisher as compared to other meditation techniques. Taoist meditation helps you connect to the ultimate reality. It teaches you to experience reality and not find an escape route. It places a lot of importance on living in harmony with the natural flow of life.
By focusing on the Tao, you gradually develop a receptive mind that is more open to life as it unfolds and allow actions to arise naturally. In very simple terms, you stop fighting with reality and align yourself with the natural flow of things.
By now you must have realized Taoist meditation is not just a practice that is confined to a meditation cushion. It is a practice that you can integrate into your daily life and apply in your actions, interactions, and choices.
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