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(5 pages total)

Page 3 - Journey To Stillness

Taoist Sitting Meditation: Using the Breath, Vibration, and Ultimately the Mind to Awaken Internal Sensations

In the Taoist water method, as in many other schools of meditation, including Buddhisms Vipassana and Zen traditions and many schools of Chinese chi gung, the first and most commonly used sitting practice is to increase your awareness by following your breath as it enters your body. As you pay close attention to your inhaled breath, you will find that doing so over time will enable you to feel the chi that is moving inside your body. After a period of practice, through contact with the chi, you will feel the quality and movement of your insides, including blood vessels, muscles, joints, glands, internal organs, spinal cord, and brain. For example, if you were to close your eyes (to enhance your concentration) and breathe in through your nose or mouth while at the same time trying to feel energy breathing into your hand from outside your body, then sooner or later you would find that you could feel tiny sensations in your hand that you previously could not. By practicing more, the level and refinement of the sensations become such that you can eventually feel the blood moving through the vessels of your hand. Over time, you then can develop the ability to focus your breath and awareness and control the flow of blood in your hand.

Eventually, after much practice, you will be able to do without the support of your breath and can just use your mind to direct the flow of blood in your hand. This activity will eventually lead to a mind/body fusion, in which by relying purely on your intent you can directly feel and control chi movement within the bodythe foundation on which all Taoist chi practices are based.

Correct Alignment

A second preliminary method used with variations in both the Taoist and some Indian and Tibetan yogic traditions involves emitting a range of both high- and low-pitched sounds to focus vibrations inside the body. Vibrations increase awareness, and the awareness gradually leads to the ability to feel. In the beginning, these sounds need to be done quite loudly, so you can feel the vibrations shaking up your insides beyond a shadow of a doubt. By degrees, the internal vibrations become stronger while the sounds themselves become progressively quieter and ultimately inaudible, causing you to more clearly feel and differentiate ever more subtle sensations. These vibrations agitate the chi inside the body, making it easier to feel your insides. Breath work may be coordinated with the vibrations, or your awareness may focus purely on feeling what the vibrations touch and penetrate. Again, after these vibrations stabilize your ability to feel your insides, thus making your often hidden inner landscape more fully alive and consciously aware, you can next begin to use only your mind/awareness for this purpose.

There are a number of situations in which we can naturally feel the connection between the inside of our body and our external environment: for example, from our nose all the way to our lungs when we breath, from our mouth down our throat and into our stomach when we eat, from our anus during elimination, and from our genitals during urination and sex.4 In the beginning, you can focus either on your breath or on vibrations, or you can alternate between them, depending on which makes it is easier for you to feel inside. After you have gained an initial access to the sensations of your interior world by breathing or vibrating your insides, you can then practice by leaving these preliminary training aids behind and concentrating on using only your minds awareness and intention to penetrate inside yourself. Normally, some people find it takes time (weeks, months, or even years of sustained practice) to penetrate even one inch inside the body. Over time, however, you want to be able to progressively feel every cubic inch of space inside your body.

After practicing this mind-only technique, many delude themselves, certain that they can feel their insides when in fact they cannot. It may help to remember that once you can feel the inside of your body clearly, with some effort you should be able to move any given part of your internal body at will, no matter how slightly. You could simply have someone with sensitive hands give you a reality check as to whether or not your perceptions of your abilities correspond to what is actually happening.

Correct Alignment

In sitting meditation we start from such places in the body where we can feel something, then learn to feel further into the body, ultimately into all the places where we are ordinarily numb. Presented here are four techniques that can be applied to begin the work of going from the outside of the body inward.5

1. Focus attention on your breath or any vibrations you deliberately generate into your nose when you inhale, and feel your physical breath move slowly inside your body. Follow your inhaled breath as far as you can on the inhale, then retrace your path back to your nose on the exhale. Practice this technique for a while until you can do it easily and comfortably with no gaps in your awareness, down your jaw to the base of your throat.

Continuing slowly but surely, over time, with concentrated attention in association with breath, feel whatever subtle sensations naturally arise down into your jaw, neck, arms, fingertips, torso, hips, legs, feet, and below your feet, where you personally connect to the energy of the earth through your etheric body. Do this in clear progressive stages, becoming comfortable at each stage before proceeding on. Next, follow the energies and sensations generated by your breath (pressure, warmth, cold, tingling, etc.) up from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. Afterwards follow the breath upward from your nostrils into your head until you can feel the inside of the skull and brain and feel above your head to the boundary of your etheric body, where you personally connect to the energies of the cosmos.

Next, stop using breath. Progress to relying on only your attention and awareness to feel inside your body, following the same up-and-down procedures. (Some who are psychically sensitive will often find it easier to feel the energy outside their body, rather than the energy inside; others may feel the reverse.)

2. Do the exact same procedures you did with your nose, only now begin the process from the mouth.

3. Next, start the process from your anus. First move your attention down to your genitals, pelvic floor, perineum, legs, feet, to below the floor. Now retrace your steps up from below the floor to your anus. Next, you will want to go from your anus in a generalized way inside your pelvis and torso to the level of your heart and then, simultaneously, move in two branches. The first branch is upward to the neck, brain/skull, crown of the head, and the point above your head where your etheric body ends. The second branch is up your upper back to your shoulders, elbows, wrist, palm, and fingers. Next, simultaneously, retrace your steps back from above your head and fingertips to your anus.

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