If we want to have a healthy and harmonious relationship with another, we need to also have a healthy and harmonious relationship with ourselves, which is most easily created by practicing the Taoist
meditation techniques outlined in this article. If we are not centered, not grounded, not trustworthy, then we will not be trusted by another. If we are unhealthy, too self-absorbed, or emotionally unbalanced, then we will not attract a healthy and balanced partner. If we do not know ourselves, we will not be able to know another. And lastly, if we are not developed spiritually, then the challenges of relationship will be too much for us, and we will never be able to achieve sacred union with another.
By practicing Taoist meditation, synonymous with Daoist meditation, we will become more grounded and emotionally and spiritually balanced. Meditation, both formal and informal, will give us valuable tools to use in stressful times. And because meditation is the practice of connecting to and communing with our higher or spiritual self, it will help us to be more objective in our relationships of all types.
Taoist meditation helps us to calm our mind and our emotions so we do not overreact to every bump in the road. Hua-Ching Ni says in his book 8,000 Years of Wisdom, “Usually something unimportant stimulates an emotional response, and then one unconsciously emphasizes the trouble to support being emotional.”
Taoist meditation is often called “Embracing the One” or “Returning to the Source.” There is much about it that is mystical and may at first seem hard to understand for the beginner. It is different from many other forms of Eastern meditation practices because it emphasizes energy practice over mind practice. True, we do use the mind to guide the chi, or internal energy, to quiet the emotions, and to let go of all outside influences — those “external pernicious influences” that stir up the mud of our inner selves. But even when we are sitting still doing nothing (ching-jingwuwei), we are still running energy throughout our body or in what is known as the microcosmic orbit (up the back and down the front) or cooking up healing medicine in the cauldron of our lower dantian.
Most Taoist meditation techniques centers on the lower dantian; however, it is interesting to note that women are often taught to instead put their focus on the middle dantian, the point between the breasts, just above the solar plexus. This point is connected to the heart center, where the shen resides. It is felt that, because of the superior spiritual nature of women, they do not need to do quite so much of the basic foundational energetic work as men do.
From the outside, the meditating individual appears to be sitting quietly, breathing deeply and gently, with a small half smile on his or her lips. On the inside, however, great forces are at work, reshaping and rerouting streams of energy and light. This internal healing energy then begins reshaping the outside. Not only do regular Taoist meditators begin to feel different, they often even look different to others. Worry lines and wrinkles begin to relax and disappear; the body, especially the spine, begins to realign itself and the Taoist meditator’s posture changes. The ability to deal with life’s challenges and pressures improves dramatically, and so one’s entire disposition changes accordingly.
The internal changes of mastering the Taoist meditation techniques are even more dramatic. A greater sense of clarity, both emotional and psychological, begins to suffuse one’s being. As chi pathways begin to unblock and the internal energy of one’s body begins to travel more easily and powerfully through one’s being, old illnesses and old problems begin to lighten, if not disappear entirely.Just how does one enter into this state of absolute quiescence, where the chi can do its work? Lao Tzu says:
“Abide in stillness.
The ten thousand beings rise and flourish
While the sage watches their return.
Though all beings exist in profusion
They all end up returning to their source.
Returning to their source is called tranquility.”
Another traditional name for Tao meditation is “Abiding in Stillness.” Lao Tzu gives us the following advice on stillness practice:
“Go within and retreat from the world.
Blunt your sharpness,
separate your entanglements,
soften your light.”
Preparation of the Body: Basic Meditation Posture
Most people in the West have a difficult time sitting still. They fidget, stretch, make noises, sway back and forth, changing posture over and over. Yet it is impossible to attain inner stillness without first attaining outer stillness. The very first prerequisite for attaining the deep levels of inner stillness and quietude needed for doing deep Tao meditation techniques is being able to sit with the spine straight for at least twenty minutes at a time.
Because Daoist meditation is so difficult for many beginners, the best thing to do is start with a small amount of time — say five minutes. After a time, you can extend that period until you can sit for twenty to thirty minutes at a stretch without having to change posture or move around. Twenty or thirty minutes of tao meditation practice at a time is sufficient for most people. If your goal is to heal a serious health problem or to become an immortal, then much longer periods of sitting will be necessary, but for most people a shorter period will do just fine. Taoist meditators don’t really advocate long uninterrupted hours of sitting for most people. Sitting for a long time is said to cause the inner energy to stagnate in the organs and can actually do more harm than good. I was once told by one of my teachers that too much sitting will make your teeth fall out.
You can sit on the floor with your legs crossed or if you can manage it, in the cross-legged position known as half or full lotus. Or else you can sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Your hands lie in your lap. You can have the left hand lying in your right palm, with the tips of the thumbs touching. Or you can lay your right thumb in the palm of your left hand, close your left fingers and thumb over it, and wrap your right fingers around your left fist. (This second hand position will look like a yin/yang symbol when you look at the sides of the hands.) You can also lay your hands palms up on your thighs.
It is very important in Taoist meditation to keep the spine erect and straight, not as if you were standing at attention, but as if there were a string pulling you up from the top of your head, from the bai hui point at the center of the crown; your chin is slightly pulled in, to elongate the neck. This way the energy coming up the du mai channel, which runs up the back of the spine, can flow evenly and smoothly.
It is important not to slump or fidget while practicing the Tao meditation techniques, but it is equally important not to hold yourself too stiffly.
There is no need to be rigid or dogmatic about posture. The idea is to feel balanced and stable. Deep relaxation is imperative, but you don’t want to be so relaxed that you topple over to one side or the other; neither do you want to sit too stiffly and end up with a sore back.
Correct relaxation is not collapse. It is an energetic, dynamic type of relaxation in which your muscles, tendons, organs, and nervous system get a chance to refresh and re-energize themselves. Many people, if they allow themselves to totally relax, find themselves falling asleep or nodding out. It is very important to reach a state of dynamic relaxation for Taoist meditation or any other type of chi gong practice to be truly effective. There is a great difference between relaxing and going limp.