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What Is Taoist Meditation?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Taoist meditation is a series of exercises meant primarily to train the mind in the way of Tao, often called Dao, a spelling closer to the correct pronunciation. A meditation of this type usually focuses on controlling the breath, body, and mind to achieve inner cleansing and stillness. Most movement-centered Taoist meditation techniques are associated with Qigong, pronounced like CHEE-gung. Like Tai Chi, Qigong is a series of physical exercises and techniques centered around controlling qi, or chi.

Like Tao itself, Taoist meditations usually center on flow. Often lacking in specifics, they require the practitioner instead to explore and feel out the process of meditation. The most Tao of all Taoist meditations is to simply go with the flow, which can mean the flow of an event or the flow of one's comfort, energy, and attention, allowing the subconscious parts of the body that regulate qi to perform their duties unabated. This means that this type of meditation often lacks specific instructions or required lengths of time, but this is not always the case. Some meditations call for defined physical movements or breathing techniques.

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Breathing exercises are a common method of Taoist meditation. One breath meditation involves taking deep breaths while consciously contemplating the process of drawing and exhaling breath as the process occurs. Another Taoist meditation using breath is called reverse breathing. In this exercise, the practitioner sucks the abdomen in while breathing in, and extends the abdomen, pushing out during the exhale. This is opposite of usual breath mechanics, in which the subject extends the abdomen when breath is drawn and draws in the belly when the breath is exhaled.

Taoist meditation lacks the asanas found in Yoga, and generally involves doing little or no physical work with the body, focusing instead on regulating qi. The goal of Taoist meditation is to control and regulate qi and to achieve internal stillness. Some forms of Taoist meditation involve a repetitive, slow motion with the body.

One method used in Taoist meditation is called Ba Gua Zhang, or circle walking. In Ba Gua Zhang, the practitioner walks in a circle, heel-toe style, at a natural pace. The circle can be small or large. This meditation can be practiced for as little as five minutes or for more than an hour, though it is recommended that beginners start with a short circle walk and gradually work themselves up to longer walks.

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