Taoist meditation methods and practices can be grouped into two main categories: Tranquil Sitting and Internal Alchemy.
“Tranquil Sitting relies on the practitioner attaining an utmost Yin condition. Meaning, through gentle natural breathing generated from the lower abdomen and an abstract state of contemplation, the mind experiences the Void. Through this cessation of internal turbidity of the mind and external movement of the body, the practitioner will attain clarity of mind and realize tranquility of the body.
From these conditions of gentle breathing, abstract contemplation, and cessation of mental turbidity and bodily movements, the practitioner can enter the Tao.”
Excerpted from Stuart Olson’s book Clarity & Tranquility: A Guide for Daoist Meditation.
Tranquil Sitting is divided into the practices of Sitting and Forgetting and Contemplation Meditation.
Sitting and Forgetting
In Taoism, the long-term purpose of meditation is clarity and tranquility—simply put, a clear mind and still body. In this state, you forget that you are sitting, and you even forget that you are forgetting. That happens over time with a consistent, dedicated, sincere, long-term meditation practice.
Instructions for Sitting and Forgetting
- Be still and continually correct your meditation posture
- Breathe from your lower abdomen
- Put all your attention (mindfulness) on the lower abdomen, or
- Allow the mind to settle into bare awareness of all sensations, without the filter of the thinking mind
In the short-term, it is best to sit without having an agenda or goal—even towards clarity and tranquility—because that can create inner contention. Instead, bring awareness and compassion to whatever thoughts and feelings arise, and continue to practice the breathing methods, stillness, and meditation posture.
Taoist Contemplation Meditation
This method involves sitting in meditation and contemplating upon a spiritual text, but not in the sense of attempting to understand the text—just listening as though hearing the sounds of nature in the background. This allows one to absorb the teachings unconsciously when there is no rational analysis of what is being said.
For Contemplation Meditation, we have Taoist Scriptures available in our library, and a recording of the Tao De Jing available in the Celestial Immortal Member Area and for purchase through Valley Spirit Arts.
Contemplation meditation can also be done by gazing into nature. Simply contemplating what lies before you and absorbing yourself into that contemplation. It can also be performed while staring at a wall and contemplating certain questions or concepts or things that arise in one’s own mind.
Internal Alchemy is the practice of developing and moving the inner energies of the body: Jing (essence of bodily fluids), Qi (vitality of breath), and Shen (the spirit and will of the mind). At first the movement of energy is the Qi (Fire) and later when cultivating correctly it is the movement of the Elixir (Water).
For more information about Internal Alchemy, see Stuart’s book Refining the Elixir: The Internal Alchemy Teachings of Taoist Immortal Zhang Sanfeng, or become a Celestial Immortal Member to access more Internal Alchemy resources.