“When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be.” – Lao Tzu
It’s not easy to let go. Old habits, old relationships, old clothes… they all seem to hang around far longer than we want or need them to. It can be so difficult to break away from the tensions of our lives. The same can be said for those held within our bodies too. In a recent article we discussed how meditation can help let go of stagnant energy and make space for new energy, light and love to take it’s place. But that is much easier said than done!
We all have an idea of what it means to meditate… you sit quietly with your eyes closed for a while right? Don’t think… just breathe. Just RELAX. But how many of us truly know how to do that? It’s hard! So whether you meditate for 10 minutes or 10 hours, there are a few pointers to consider that will help you get the most out of your time.
Consider the following saying; “A Daoist does not meditate to relax, but relaxes to meditate.” To discover the real benefits of meditation, we first have to learn how to relax. And that means we need to create certain conditions within ourselves that will allow tension to be released. First on the list is…
This is the primary condition of true relaxation. But when we talk about safety, we don’t just mean that you need to meditate in an environment where you won’t get mugged. Although that is definitely a factor to consider! What we are addressing here is safety in structure. How you sit. And this is really important, because your posture plays a vital role in the release of tension and the receiving of energy. The correct alignment helps to find the tensions and blocks in your body, so you can begin to feel them. For example, a tension in your chest may pull you forward. Re-aligning yourself will help to identify that, and allow the process of healing that tension to begin.
When contemplating your posture, there are two factors to consider. The Horizontal and the Vertical.
Your Horizontal structure refers to the triangle or tripod shape between your tail bone and both your knees/feet. However you decide to sit, whether you’re super bendy and can do full lotus posture or you prefer to sit on a chair, there must be these three points of contact with the ground. They are your connection to the Earth. They give you stability, grounding, and also provide three clear exit points through which energy can be received and released.
Once you have your Horizontal structure in place, the second factor to consider is the Vertical. This can be a little more tricky.According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we have two sides to our body, the Yin and the Yang. The Yin side is our front, and contains all the vital organs. This area should always remain relaxed. Our strength and stability therefore needs to come from the Yang (or structural) side, which is our back.
This area contains one very important point; the Ming Men, or ‘Gate of Vitality’. An impressive name, and an impressive point!
Located in the lower back between Lumbar 2 and 3, Ming Men is the source of all our power, and an important place to start from when contemplating your Vertical posture. This point is like an ocean of strength. Imagine a deer leaping in the forest, or a high jumper launching himself over the pole… the centre of their power is always the Ming Men. Next time you sit to meditate, imagine your Ming Men opening, almost like a bow being pulled back by an archer. Creating space and awareness in this area will help access your inner strength and stability. Open your Ming Men and the rest of your alignment will slowly follow.
Another factor to consider is the position of your head. In today’s society, we have become used to living life ‘headfirst’. We lead with our thoughts, with our brains, which means energy can often get stuck in this area. As we age, blocked energy starts to stagnate and become apparent in our physical alignment. Poor posture, stooped backs and neck strains are common ailments that result from living life ‘headfirst’. So when we meditate it’s important to slowly re-align the spine, and let the head find its way back up top, instead of sticking out in front.
If you can, take a minute to consider your alignment. Imagine you are a puppet on a string. This string runs from the very top of your head (the Bai Hui point), through your centre and down to your perineum (the Hui Yin point). All your vertebra are like pearls on this string, being pulled from the Ming Men point both upwards and downwards simultaneously. Feel your vertebra almost seperating as they stretch and relax, opening and creating space for each other. This is your Vertical stability, your Central Channel (also referred to as the ‘Taiji Pole’). It is through this channel that you give and receive energy from the matrix. If the pearls aren’t in place, then energy becomes stuck and the flow is compromised.
Allow everything surrounding your Central Channel to relax… your arms, shoulders, ribcage, hips. Just let it go, like seaweed. Your Taiji Pole will support you. Become aware of your chin. Is it sticking out? If so, tuck it in, and feel the vertebra in your neck open. Let your shoulders drop and become round. Relax your chest. Open your solar plexus and breathe deep into your Lower Dantian. You are safe.
It may take a little time to find your structure, and probably a lot more to feel comfortable in it. But when you do, the benefits it will bring to your meditation will be more than worth it. As with everything we practice at Wandering Dao, it is important not to force or try to ‘fix’ your alignment, but rather just allow yourself to feel where the tension lies. Give your body the space to slowly, naturally, open and re-balance. Ultimately all you have to do is feel. As Master Daniel Li Ox says “feeling is healing!”
If you are in the Yangshuo area, why not join us for a meditation class? We practice every day. Click here to contact us for more information.