Nourishing Life - The Daoist Path to Health
In simple terms Daoist Meditation takes two basic forms. Clarity and Stillness and Energy Circulation.
Energy Circulation. This type of meditation is done with a level of mental focus, on the body's internal landscape, one popular type is designed to encourage the promotion and circulation of energy (Qi) around the body. It can be done in either sitting or standing / walking posture. The first level of this training is known as the Micro Cosmic orbit. This involves using the focused mind to promote the accumulation and then circulation of Qi up the central meridian of the spine and then down the central meridian of the front of the body.
Once the above has been carried out successfully for a period of time it evolves into the Macro Cosmic orbit, this involves Qi extending its circulation throughout the rest of the body to the extremities.
If you have read about Dao Yin elsewhere on the site you will realise that this aspect of meditation is closely linked to Dao Yin, very much the mind's Yang to the body's Yin.
Clarity and Stillness. The Clarity and Stillness method has the ultimate aim of clearing the mind of all random and conditioned thought, this is essentially the same methodology used in Chan / Zen meditation. One of the earliest known written works on Chinese inner cultivation via meditation is known as the Nei Yeh, this work dates back in its current written form to 400BCE. Its written form, in poetic verse, suggests that its origin is based in an oral tradition of greater antiquity. There is an excellent translation in a book called Original Tao by Harold D. Roth.
So this method of meditation dates back to before 400BCE that's over 1000 years before Zen (Chan-na) was first established in China. In fact it probably pre-dates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha). Clarity and stillness meditation at its culmination is an entirely mind focused work, the body is very much disregarded.
The benefits and importance of both methods has been the subject of debate for centuries. Certain schools of Daoism have, over the centuries, chosen to emphasised one method over another. Ultimately it is recognised all practice must move through Vitality and Energy towards Spirit by the stilling of the mind. This is essential to advance through the Spirit aspect of cultivation. Some choose to attempt this straight away, others go through the other two cultivation stages first.
A very common factor in those schools that went for the purely Clarity and Stillness approach is that they tended to be monastic in nature and as such lent themselves to that type of study and often had many young trainees. It was thought that young people in such an environment had fewer, real world distraction to deal with and as such their minds were more easily trained.
Conversely the Vitality / Energy first schools tended to be made up of lay people, of a more informal nature with older practitioners. These people had to function in the normal day to day world with everyday problems to cope with such as work and family commitments.
San Ti Standing Post from XingYi
It is thought that a more gradual training approach, using Dao Yin body energetics, that helped the body restore itself energetically and trained the mind in the process was more appropriate. It is this latter approach I take, both for myself and my students. We have to live in the real world!