Taoism And The Taoist Arts
A Simple Meditation
For those who have never tried meditation, a simple exercise is given here. It requires only a little time each day, or whenever you feel stressed, and can have a beneficial effect in a very short time. All you just need is a comfortable place to relax, some fresh air, and some peace. Simple meditation requires no special technique, just a little time and some patience.
Firstly, lie down on your back and take a few moments to get comfortable and gather your thoughts. Relaxation of mind and body go hand in hand, so begin by relaxing your body as much as possible, which is much more difficult than you might think. Pay special attention to any areas of tension, such as the shoulders or lower back. Here are a few time honoured techniques to help you relax:
If you have a reasonable grasp of the workings of the body, you can go through each muscle in turn, picturing it in your mind as it relaxes and lengthens. Start at the feet and work your way slowly up the whole body until you reach the top of the head. Actually visualise the muscles, tendons and bones and see them relaxing in turn.
If your knowledge of anatomy isn't so good, just work up through the body parts in turn and feel them all relaxing slowly in turn. Just let the tension slip slowly away...
A favourite technique of stage hypnotists to induce hypnotism is to try imagining that your whole body is very heavy or very light. Feel your limbs either sinking into the floor as if made of lead or rising up into the air as if attached to a helium balloon- many people find that this is very relaxing.
Whatever you do, don't worry if its harder than you thought or you don't seem to be getting very far, you'll improve with practice.
Having spent some time relaxing the body it is time to quieten the mind. Don't try to simply 'stop thinking', just take a back seat and detach yourself from your thoughts, be like a spectator, watching them drift through your mind and pay them no heed. Don't worry if you don't seem to be having much success, just relax and see what happens.
One of the best ways to calm the mind is to focus on some repetitive action, this is why mantras (repeated sounds) are used in some systems. Better still is to focus on the breathing, so once you feel relaxed in mind and body, take notice of the way you are breathing. Try to take slower, deeper breaths as low down into your abdomen as possible.
If you have difficulty breathing into the abdomen, place one hand there, and the other on your chest - try and breath so that only your lower hand moves. Every time you slip and discover your mind drifting just gently return your concentration to your breath. Don't scold yourself, don't worry whether or not it's doing anything, just relax as much as you can and enjoy the time to yourself.
You can practice this simple breathing meditation as often as you like, and for as long as you like. Once you feel you have done enough allow yourself to slowly come back into the normal world, allow yourself a little time to notice how you are feeling, and slowly sit up, and then try to carry the relaxation with you into your routine life.
Above all, enjoy it and don't try too hard!