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Page 2 - Journey To Stillness
The Lying-Down Practices
The lying-down practices are the most difficult of the five styles of meditation. To have your mind, chi, and spirit stay fully conscious and to practice for hours on end while your body is totally relaxed is not easy. In fact, you may become so relaxed that you and others become aware of your bodys snoring. However, you are not dreaming, but remain wide-awake. Ordinarily, the lying-down practices are not recommended until after a person has had substantial experience with the standing, moving, and sitting styles. Consequently, the lying-down style is considered an advanced practice.
The ideal state when practicing lying-down meditation is to have your body be completely motionless. Since you may be lying completely still for more than one hour, it is best to lie on a surface that you find extremely comfortable, one that is neither too soft nor too hard. An overly hard or soft sleeping surface will most likely prevent your body from relaxing completely. Overly soft surfaces will cause your body to sag, putting pressure from internal body weight on your bones, muscles, nerves, and internal organs. These pressures can easily cause irritation that requires physical adjustment for relief. Overly hard surfaces can cause pain, which will again make you want to move. Sofas and beds with sufficient and well-constructed springs or thick futons placed on the floor usually work quite well. Once you are relaxed enough internally after some lying-down practice has been accomplished, hard surfaces are preferred, because internal relaxation is optimal when there is a strong counterpoint to the bodys innate softness. Remember that this practice has been done for millennia on cave floors and in rough mountain hermitages, as well as in comfortable homes with well-designed furniture.
The author, B.K. Frantzis, in meditation.
For this style of meditation, you may assume any lying-down position. Most people, however, prefer to lie on the left or right side of the body rather than on belly or back. When lying on your stomach make sure your pillows are arranged in such a way that you have plenty of air. When on your back, place pillows around your head, neck, buttocks, and backs of your knees so you feel no strain whatsoever on your back, neck, or hips.
If you opt for a sideways position (Fig.8.1), it is best to choose your right side so the weight of your body does not compress your heart and impede the blood circulation. You may cross your left knee over your right knee. If your back or hip is weak or injured, you may want to place a pillow between your knees or around your hips or neck for support. As in the third method of sitting in a chair, it is important for the same reasons to adjust your body in such a way as to lightly stretch, rather than compress, your spinal cord.
How to Practice
Begin every lying-down session by closing your eyes, relaxing your body, and establishing your breathing. Lying down with eyes closed, let go of as much tension as you can, using your awareness to scan internally down from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, progressively releasing all tension you encounter.
Next, still lying down, practice Taoist internal breathing to relax the inside of your body and mind to the maximum extent possible, until eventually the whole inside of your body releases fully. At this juncture, your breathing should have become completely soft, long, deep, and silent. At the point when your breathing becomes so soft it has seemed to disappear, you will, when you breathe, begin to feel a sense of energy coming into your body. Continue breathing until you feel your body filling up with a clean, strong sense of energy from head to toe. It is this vibrant sense of energy that will keep your mind totally awake, even if parts of your body fall asleep.
Again, this practice is not easy. It usually takes a beginner three to five hours of continuous breathing without moving to get a complete release without falling asleep. This amount of practice time must be built up gradually, adhering to the 70% Rule to avoid strain. Once you have done this practice daily for a few months, you should be able to reach the release point within five minutes, effortlessly.
The 70% Rule
The 70% Rule means you must take the limits of your concentration only to a maximum capacity of 70% of your capacity. (This is a general rule for all modes of practice.) This guideline allows a comfort zone for your body, central nervous system and ability to remain relaxed while meditating, to reduce rather than increase stress. As you get better and significantly extend your capacity with practice, if you stay within the 70% rule, you will be able to accomplish the meditation in a relaxed, comfortable and effortless state of being.
Reprinted with permission of the author, B.K. Frantzis, from The Great Stillness: The Water Method of Taoist Meditation Series, Vol. 2, Clarity Press, © 1999. This excerpt was published in Qi Journal, Summer 2001 issue
1 This lifting is done so that the weight of the head does not cause any pressure or compression to the uppermost cervical vertebra. This slight head lift allows the back of the brain to remain unimpinged. If there are impingements, the messages to and from the brain will be partially blocked. Such blockage will often cause the sitting meditator to confuse neurological body noise with states of consciousness.
2 A full lotus position is one in which your rear end sits firmly on the floor, both legs are crossed, both knees are touching the floor, your left foot rests on your right thigh, and your right foot rests on your left thigh. In a half lotus, only one leg is on the opposite thigh, with its knee resting on the opposite foot or on the floor.
3 The chair you use for meditation should be one with a flat, unmoving bottom (not a canvas chair) with at least an inch of free space on each side of your hips and a solid, unmoving, straight backrest set perpendicular to the chair bottom. The chair should be the height of your knees, so you can sit with your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at an angle of approximately 90 degrees (Figs. 5 and 5.1).
4 Nine orifices are used in this Taoist practice: the eyes, ears, and nostrils (two of each), and the mouth, anus, and urethra. One other opening is at the crown of the head, at the fontanel, which breathes (opens and closes) in infants, but not in most adults without a period of training.
5 There are separate techniques for each of the nine orifices of the body and the fontanel. Only four are described here for the sake of brevity. Depending on how open an individuals body is, varying results can be achieved in hours, days, months, or even years. It is best to learn directly from a teacher.
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