In the west, we are not yet fully accustomed to many of the eastern traditions and practices that have been used for thousands of years. Phases come and go but these types of practice are set in stone and are known to be effective; hence their longevity.
Taoism is a Chinese set of beliefs and traditions and is deeply rooted in the culture of this nation. The belief system focuses on the Tao, which, roughly translated, means ‘the way’ and is considered to be the creator of the universe.
There are various meditation traditions in Taoism and more and more people in the west are coming to realize their many benefits.
In this article, we are going to be giving you an overview of the Taoist meditation, its benefits, and how to do it.
What Is Taoism?
Taoism is a religion that originates from China and centres around our place in nature. The belief system is based on the writings found in the Tao Te Ching, an ancient text from around 500BC, written by Lao Tzu. Lao tzu ended up leaving China but before he did, he was asked to record his knowledge in a text and this resulted in the Tao Te Ching.
In essence, the text encourages a life of peace and harmony. There are four main principles of Taoism. Going with the flow teaches is to work with the wu wei principle of allowing things to be and letting things unfold as they are meant to.
Secondly, there is living a life of simplicity and not trying to over-complicate things. The third principle relates to letting go and the idea that there is nothing that we have control over, life begins and ends and they are the only certainties, so we may as well let go and just be.
Finally, Taoists follow the principle of harmony and everything living alongside each other in peace. This is based on yin and yang, of which everything embodies. Yin and yang flow and change over time and it is important to have this balanced flow in our own bodies. As such, those following Taoist practices work often with the ren mai, which is a flow of energy relating to reproduction and this energy flow can be used to improve the flow of yin through the body.
The entire system revolves around effortless action, meaning that everything that we do should not be difficult but should be easily incorporated into our life.
What Is Taoist Meditation?
You may sometimes see Taoist meditation being called Daoist meditation, this is not a different thing, but merely an alternative spelling which is more conducive with the English pronunciation of the word.
When you hear about Taoist meditation, this could be referring to several different types of practice. Each of these practices is associated with some form of meditation performed by those in the Taoist religion. However, in order to take part in these Taoist meditation techniques, one does not need to convert to the religion; these meditation practices can be performed as a standalone ritual or as part of other spirituality exercises.
In the main, there are four types of Taoist meditation techniques; visualization, mindfulness, concentration, and contemplation. Each of these has benefits on the body and mind and people all over the world are beginning to understand this, particularly those in the western world.
Taoist meditations put a significant focus on breathing, stillness, and self-reflection. It encourages the practitioner to ground him or herself with the earth and there is a lot of energy work.
In Taoism, energy is referred to as qigong, or simply qi (pronounced chi) and is likely something you have heard about. When working with qigong, the practitioner will combine movement with meditation and this movement is thought to alter and ease the flow of energy.
Other types of Daoist meditation require stillness and this method is closely associated with the Buddhist method of a similar nature.
Benefits Of Taoist Meditation
As with any type of meditation, there are several benefits to the Taoist practice. Whether you are taking part in a movement method or something a little more still, you will notice that things start to become positive rather quickly.
The central purpose of any meditation is to induce calm and relaxation, and this is just one of the advantages of this sort of practice. However, after a lot of research, scientists have learned that working with qigong will help with relieving stress, better sleep, improved focus and higher energy levels.
You might also notice that as you continue the practice, you will experience greater control over your emotions and improved self-awareness. This can also help those who are looking to deepen their spirituality.
Aside from meditation, Taoists also practice Tai Chi which is a type of movement practice and considered to be one of the martial arts, some might compare this to yoga. Yoga comes from the Hindu traditions and is a movement practice based around energy. Where yoga focuses on prana, tai chi focuses on qigong and generating it through movement. The benefits include stretching which is good for the body as well as feelings of being more centred and an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
There is another version of Taoist yoga known as Sun Do which focuses on a balance of opposites, for example, heaven and earth, mind and body or mountain and lake. There are a series of postures that can help to centre your qi and further help you to live with the Tao.
Taoists also place an important focus on what they put into the body. The body will thrive when fed certain foods and people following this belief system try to avoid foods like alcohol, red meat, processed foods and dairy. products. This is another way that you can live with the Tao.
How To Do Taoist Meditation
One of the most simple forms of Taoist meditations is a breathing technique that works with energy or qi. While breathing is a characteristic of many types of meditation, there is a deeper focus on the thought processes and keeping them quiet as you meditate.
To perform this practice, one must simply close the eyes and concentrate on the breath. As you inhale, you breathe in through the nose positive energy and on your exhale, you release any built-up stress and pain. This practice has worked in Chinese traditions for many years and these exercises are simple and easy to do, especially if you are looking for a way to remove a lot of feelings of stress from your life.
The reason that this meditative state works so well is that its purpose is to calm and quiet the mind so that qigong can flow freely through it.
If you want to develop a Taoist meditation practice, there are several meditation methods to choose from. Of course, a breathing meditation, like the one we have discussed is the most simple, but if you want to go a little deeper, why not consider one of the following meditation practices.
Insight Meditation Practice
This is a practice which can help you to understand your inner vision and can help to understand one s body and mind in a much more profound manner. Attention is paid to all parts of the body as well as the thoughts and this type of practice can help us to better understand the nature of the body and the truth behind why we find stillness difficult.
There are times that we may find this method particularly trying but the more you use it, the greater you will benefit.
To perform this technique you must find somewhere quiet to sit, you do not need to be in a specific posture, but being comfortable can help. You can have the eyes closed or simply half closed. Having them half closed is a good way to concentrate without the risk of falling asleep, as is common for many when doing meditation.
There is no special process for this meditation other than sitting with the thoughts as they enter the mind. You are not trying to control the mind but rather observe it as if from the outside. It can be helpful to concentrate on the breathing. When we sit in contemplation of our thoughts this way, we are able to live much more easily with the Tao.
This type of meditation is also sometimes called an alchemy meditation. While we would normally think of alchemy as being more to do with science and less to do with spirituality, in this case, alchemy refers to watching the thoughts and the mind. However, while it may seem easy in theory, alchemy meditation is one of the most challenging to master. Keeping your focus on the breath at all times is the best way to use this method.
Another of the key meditation practices in Taoism is for concentration. This differs slightly as you are going to be focusing on something specific as a way of blocking out the world and going into a deeper meditative state. This enables you to enter into a deep level of contemplation.
This contemplation practice requires you to become centred and find stillness by removing all distractions that are around you. However, while this may appear challenging this is something that is available to anyone; use it at the end of a yoga session or after a long day at work to calm the mind and regain awareness of yourself.
What you focus on is entirely up to you. There are some people who like to focus on an inner vision or image whereas others like to work with the breath. Alternatively, you can keep the eyes open and place your attention on something in the room; as long as you are able to keep the mind from becoming distracted, the technique will work.
One of the main types of Taoist meditation is to visualise and this can be helpful to achieve a deep state of meditation.
The practitioner will need to decide on the source of their focus but many will place their attention on one of the Chinese deities. Alternatively, you can also take these times as an opportunity to focus on the various parts of the body and get a greater understanding of their nature and workings.
As you think of these images, it can be helpful to access spirits to help you gain clarity and understanding. This type of Taoist meditation is thought to be much easier as you have something to focus on but it can be a little difficult if you are new to the Taoist principles.
Tips For Doing Taoist Meditation
If you want to get your meditation down to a T, the first step is to fully understand the meditation and then move on to the intricacies of this.
Taoists work with all kinds of activities such as acupuncture, which is a healing process known to benefit the mind and the body. One of the most powerful points is known as the neiguan and can be used as part of a meditation to improve physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. However, before you begin to understand this, we should look at how to get deep into a meditative state the Taoist way.
When you do a Taoist meditation, it is important that the body is positioned correctly. There is no right or wrong posture but you must keep the spine straight as this allows for an improved flow of qi. We mentioned the renmai and this is one of two main qi flows in the body, the other being the du mai. These two qi flows meet at the upper and lower palette in the mouth and so placing your tongue here during your meditation will connect the two pathways allowing the qigong to move freely. You should also allow a smile to cross your lips, as this should be an enjoyable moment of peace.
The breathing is an important thing to focus on and Taoists believe that with each breath, the saliva is filled with qigong. This is then swallowed and can renew the organs. When people perform this type of meditation, they should accumulate saliva and then swallow it in three parts; one going down the centre of the body into the abdomen, and one going down to the left lower abdomen and then one to the right lower abdomen to evenly distribute the qi.
However, it is also important to focus your mind on the breath and breathe correctly while you meditate. This is because, there is a nerve called the vagus nerve that runs through the diaphragm, a large muscle in the centre of the abdomen. As we breathe deeply through the nose into the lower abdomen, we will have benefits in both the nervous system and the abdominal organs as each breath will massage and stimulate them.
Taoism has been practised by people in China for thousands of years and its benefits for the body and the mind are incredible. There is much more focus on calming the mind and centring the mind in the west and as such, many want to explore the different categories of Taoist meditation.
These meditations can bring clarity, peace, self-awareness and many physical advantages. You can choose a contemplation meditation or visualisation and this overview of how to perform these will give you a great place to start.
Taoism also includes other practices such as martial arts, a specific diet and reading an ancient text which are all excellent if you want to get deeper into the belief system and live with Tao.