Sunday, February 14, 2016

Arlene Corwin writes

Three Times S

Silence, Stillness, Solitude


Alone’s creative part,

And what we need.

Loneliness? No. only-ness.

No yearning for support –

Earnings of a sort.

No tears, no fears, if only temporarily.


Willed un-movement;

Body/mind and what we need.

Either/or, or one or both:

Calm and peace,

And what we need.


Without sound; the space between

The hubbub and reverberations

Of the world we live in:

What we need:

Three times S.

 Image result for silence stillness solitude


  1. Arlene is a dedicated yoga instructor, so let's begin with a discussion of yoga meditation. Yoga (“union”) promotes spiritual purification and self-knowledge; its traditions date back to at least 1700 BCE and involves rules of conduct, physical postures, breathing exercises, and contemplative practices. one of the most common forms is Third Eye Meditation, a constant redirection of one's attention to the "ajna chakra" between the eyebrows (the so-called "third eye") in order to silence the mind until the "silent gaps" between thoughts widen and deepen. It may entail "looking" at that spot with eyes closed. Chakra Meditation focuses on any of the seven chakras ("energy centers"), especially the heart, crown, and ajna, while visualizing and chanting a specific mantra for each chakra. Trataka (Gazing Meditation) consists of concentrating on an object, typically a candle, image, or symbol, with eyes open and then closed to train the mind's concentration and visualization powers. Nada Yoga (Sound Meditation) begins with meditating on sounds such as ambient music (perhaps Native American flutes) to relax but evolves into hearing one's "internal sounds." The goal is to hear the "ultimate sound (para nada) which is without vibration. Kundalini Meditation is a very complex system used to awaken the "kundalini energy" that lies dormant on the base of the spine, develop the psychic centers of the body, and attain enlightenment. Tantra contains dozens of different contemplative practices, most of which have nothing to do with ritualized sex (though this was practiced by a minority of lineages). The "Vijnanabhairava Tantra," a central text, lists 108 meditations, including:
    Merge the mind and the senses in the interior space in the spiritual heart.
    When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
    Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
    Fix attention on the inside of the skull. Close eyes.
    Meditate on the occasion of any great delight.
    Meditate on the feeling of pain.
    Dwell on the reality which exists between pain and pleasure.
    Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
    Concentrate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
    Listen to the Anahata [heart chakra] sound.
    Listen to the sound of a musical instrument as it dies away.
    Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
    Concentrate intensely on the idea that the universe is completely void.
    Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.

  2. Kriya Yoga was rediscovered by Mahavatar Babaji and his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya and brought to international awareness by Mahasaya's disciple Paramahansa Yogananda in his "Autobiography of a Yogi;" he claimed that "the indestructible" Kriya Yoga was lost due to "priestly secrecy and man’s indifference," but that when Babaji initiated Mahasaya in 1861 he told him it was "a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples." Yogananda said also that Babaji and Jesus were in continual communion, planning "the spiritual technique of salvation for this age." According to him, "The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment." The system accelerates spiritual development and a profound state of tranquility and divine communion, based on the 196 "Yoga Sūtras," compiled in the 4th or 5th century BCE by Patañjali. The main source of Kriya Yoga is the sutra,
    "Liberation can be attained by that pranayama [breathing practice] which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration." The "Yoga Sūtras" codified the "rāja" (royal or best) yoga practices, presenting them as an eight-limbed system focused on the mind. The second sutra defined yoga as the cessation of all mental fluctuations, when all wandering thoughts cease and the mind is focused on a single thought. At one time it was the most translated ancient Sanskrit text, delineated into about forty Indian languages as well as Old Javanese and Arabic, but it fell into obscurity for nearly 700 years after the 12th century. Patañjali also wrote the "Bhāṣya," a commentary integral to the sutras.

  3. Patañjali was an incarnation of the mythical serpent Ananta, and his name referred to a legend about his birth, in which Śeṣa, the divine serpent-king, fell into the folded hands of a Brahmin. Though he was from Kashmir, some traditions place his birth in the Jambudvipa, the mythical center of the universe. In one popular account, Patañjali was the son of Atri, a bard and scholar who was the son of Brahma, and his chaste wife Anasuya (meaning "one who is free from envy and jealousy"), who attained miraculous powers due to her piety; during the exile of Rama and Sita she gave Sita an ointment to maintain her beauty forever and explained to her the importance of satitva (chastity). Himself a dancing master, at Thillai near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu Patañjali watched Shiva and Kali perform the 108 mystic karanas, the leg, hip, body, and arm movements which form the foundation for the system of Natya Yoga (dance yoga), and he is credited with the "Charana Shrungarahita Stotram" on Nataraja, the depiction of Shiva as the cosmic dancer who performed to destroy the universe in preparation for Brahma's creation of a new one. He has been deified in various yogic traditions, especially among the Shaivite bhakti.(Saivam is one of the four most widely followed Hindu sects, revering Shiva as All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer, and concealer of everything in existence. Bhakti [Sanskrit for "attachment, participation, devotion to, fondness for, homage, faith or love, worship, piety towards"] is a religious movement that arose between the 7th and 10th centuries, possibly in response to the arrival of Islam in India. Shaivites are more attracted to asceticism than adherents of other Hindu sects, and may be found wandering India with ashen faces performing self-purification rituals, but they also worship in temples and practice yoga, striving to be one with the Shiva within.) He was one of the 18 Siddhar (masters) who learned yoga from Nandi, the white bull who bears Shiva on his journeys and acts as the gatekeeper of his house.(For a thousand years, Shilada prayed motionless to Shiva for an immortal child; termites built their nests on his body and consumed everything but his bones. Shiva ultimately restored him and promised him a child, whereupon Shilada prepared a sacrificial fire, from which emerged a boy clad in armor made from diamonds. He was named Nandi [who brings joy]. By the age of seven, he was well versed in the sacred texts, but he neglected his devotions. As a result, Mitra and Varuna predicted the boy would not live beyond his eighth year. Unable to bear his father's sorrow, Nandi payed for forgiveness; Shiva blessed him by adorning him with a necklace and making him immortal, declaring that he would be worshiped along with himself and become his vehicle. Nandi transformed himself into a half bull/half human figure, since nothing other than a bull would have the strength to carry the god, with four hands -- two holding an axe and an antelope, and two clasped together in obeisance -- and went to Shiva's abode with his father. He became the chief of Shiva's attendants, the commander of his troops, and his foremost disciple. From the yogic perspective, Nandi is the mind dedicated to Shiva. the inner guru necessary to understand and absorb divine experience and wisdom.)

  4. Patañjali also is credited with a medical text which may have been a revision of one by Craaka, who included a short treatise on eightfold yoga that was completely different from the practice described in the "Yoga Sutras." For a long time he also thought to have been the author of the seminal "Mahābhāṣya"("great commentary") on Sanskrit grammar and linguistics based on 85 daily lectures he gave that were largely metaphysical, dealing with the correct recitations of the scriptures, maintaining textual purity, and clarifying ambiguity, as well as the pedagogic goal of providing an easier learning mechanism; but that work seems to have been composed not long after 120 BCE, by a man from Gonda in Uttar Pradesh. Nevertheless, in the "Rājamārttanda" commentary on the "Yoga Sūtras," the 11th-century Rajput polymath king Bhoja of Mālwa wrote, "I bow with my hands together to the eminent sage Patañjali, who removed the impurities of the mind through yoga, of speech through grammar, and of the body through medicine." The Kriya Yoga system was given by Krishna to Ravi Vivasvana the sun god, the chief of the nine planetary Navagraha, who gave it to the first man, his son Vaivasvata Manu, who passed it on to his son, the first king, founder of the Ikshavaka solar dynasty which included Rama, who in turn passed it to his wife Sita's father, Seeradhwaj Janaka, a 7th-century BCE rajarshi (philosopher-king) renowned for his patronage of Vedic culture whose court at modern Janakpur in Nepal was an intellectual center for Brahmin sages. The pupil of Yaajnavalkya, whose exposition of Brahman to the king forms a chapter of the "Brihadaranyaka Upanishad," the king was well-versed in the shastras and Vedas. In the "Bhagavad Gita," Krishna cited him as an exemplar of karma yoga, the "discipline of action," a way of acting, thinking, and willing by which one moves toward self-realization by acting in accordance with one's duty (dharma) with no consideration of personal, self-centered desires, likes, or dislikes; one acts without being attached to the results of one's deeds. Krishna explained that work done without selfish expectation purifies one's mind and gradually makes one able to see the value of reason, and that it is not necessary to remain in external solitude, or remain actionless, in order to practice a spiritual life, since the state of action or inaction is primarily determined in the mind. (In light of the physical contortion connected with yoga, the story of one of Janaka's associates will seem quite ironic: Uddalaka, mentioned in the "Chāndogya Upaniṣad," married his daughter Sujātā to his disciple Kahola. She attended their classes so her unborn child could absorb their spirituality and intelligence. As Kahola recited the Vedas, the unborn child squirmed in distress on the eight occasions when his mispronounced a syllable. When the baby was born it was crooked in eight places and thus named Aṣṭāvakra, "one having eight bends." To earn prize money and renown, Kahola went to Janaka's court, where he was drowned in consequence being bested in a scriptural debate with Vandin. When he was 12, Aṣṭāvakra determined to avenge his father by confronting Vandin in argument. The two alternately composed six extempore verses on the numbers one to twelve, but Vandin could only compose the first half of a verse on the number thirteen; Aṣṭāvakra finished the task and demanded that Vandin be drowned in turn, whereupon Vandin revealed himself as the son of Varuṇa, the Lord of all bodies of water; at his request, his father restored those the son had vanquished. Upon returning, Kahola cured Aṣṭāvakra by having him bathe in the Samanga river. Eventually Aṣṭāvakra instructed Janaka about the Self; this discourse is preserved as the "Aṣṭāvakra Gītā.")

  5. Meditation has been a common practice in many religious traditions around the world, relying on countless techniques. But most center on silence, stillness, and solitiude, even though the word is derived from the Latin "meditārī," which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words for meditation: "sîḥâ" (to muse, or rehearse in one's mind) and "hāgâ" (to sigh or murmur); "hāgâ" became translated in Greek as "melete," emphasizing meditation's movement in the depth of the human heart, a reminder that one should never let meditation be a formality. The Latin Bible then translated "hāgâ/melete" into meditatio. The Bible makes about 20 references to meditation, 15 of which are in the Book of Psalms, and almost always in conjunction with obedience. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, St. Gregory of Sinai developed a tradition of prayer called hesychasm (from hesychia -- "stillness, rest, quiet, silence"). It employs special posture and breathing rituals, accompanied by the recitation of the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me") repeated either a set number of times or for a set period of time. In both Eastern and Western Christianity, meditation involves more reflection than vocal prayer but is more structured than contemplative prayer. Unlike the style of meditations performed in Eastern religions, which generally aim at disengaging the mind, Christian meditation seeks to fill the mind with thoughts related to Biblical passages or Christian devotions. Although some Christian mystics have associated meditation with feelings of ecstasy with meditation, that is secondary to the search for wisdom as exemplified in specifically Christian teachings.

  6. In the 16th century St. Teresa of Ávila wrote, "By meditation I mean prolonged reasoning with the understanding, in this way. We begin by thinking of the favor which God bestowed upon us by giving us His only Son; and we do not stop there but proceed to consider the mysteries of His whole glorious life." But she also described numerous ecstatic visions: "I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...." She traced the ascent of the soul in four stages: the Devotion of Heart (mental prayer of devout concentration or contemplation, the withdrawal of the soul from without), the Devotion of Peace (the surrender of human will to God via a charismatic, supernatural state, though memory, reason, imagination, and so forth are still present due to one's repetition of prayers or writing down spiritual thoughts, but the prevailing state is one of quietude), the Devotion of Union (absorption in God, an essentially ecstatic state characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of most of the intellectual faculties other than memory and imagination, or a conscious rapture in the love of God), and the Devotion of Ecstasy (where all consciousness of bodily existence disappears, sense activity ceases, memory and imagination are absorbed in God or intoxicated, and body and spirit are in thrall of a sweet, happy pain that alternates between a fearful fiery glow, complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a feeling of strangulation, sometimes accompanied by such an ecstatic flight that the body levitates; this is followed by a reactionary relaxation and a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties, after which one awakens in tears). She meditated in this way twice a day, for an hour at a time, and compared the four steps to a bucket of water, a water wheel, a spring, and a drenching rain.

  7. In 1989 the papacy issued a letter to all Catholic bishops, warning that euphoric states obtained through Eastern meditation should not be confused with prayer or assumed to be signs of the presence of God, a state that should always result in loving service to others; true meditation should be a flight from the self, not a form of self-absorption. Many of these Eastern practices have become popular in Western nations, but they can be generally classified by the way they focus attention. Focused attention meditation employs a single focal object during the entire process (the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, an external object, etc.) Some examples are: Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, and some forms of Qigong. Open monitoring meditation does not rely on some particular object of focus but holistically monitors all aspects of the experience, objectively recognizing all perceptions (thoughts, feelings, memory, sounds, smells, etc.). Examples are Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana, and some types of Taoist Meditation. Effortless Presence
    meditation (“Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”) does not focus attention on anything in particular but reposes on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted. This is actually the purpose of meditation; all meditative traditions recognize that the object of focus and the process of monitoring are merely means to train the mind so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be discovered and will eventually be discarded when the true self of the practitioner, as "pure presence," can reveal itself. In some techniques, such as the Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, and some forms of Taoist Meditation and Raja Yoga, this is the only focus from the beginning.

  8. Zazen means “seated Zen” or “seated meditation” in Japanese. It has its roots in China's Ch’an Buddhism which derived from the teachings of the 6th century BCE Indian monk Bodhidharma. In the West, its most popular form comes from Dōgen Zenji (1200~1253), the founder of Sōtō Zen in Japan, though similar modalities are practiced in the Rinzai school in Japan and Korea. It is generally practiced seated on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. The most important aspect is keeping the back completely straight from the pelvis to the neck, while the mouth is kept closed and the eyes lowered, gazing on the ground about two or three feet in front. The focus is on breathing through the nose, perhaps while mentally counting each breath backwards from 10 to 1; then resuming from 1o each time 1 is reached or if distracted. Shikantaza ("just sitting") is also practiced; no specific object of meditation is employed, but practitioners remain aware of and observing what passes through their minds and around them without dwelling on anything in particular. Dōgen wrote, "For zazen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. Zazen has nothing whatever to do with sitting or lying down." Zazen is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers (sangha), probably in conjunction with other elements of Buddhist practice such as prostrations, ritualism, chanting, and group readings of the Buddha's teachings, which may create a formal structure for the practice as well as being meditative in themselves.

  9. Vipassanā is a Pali word meaning "insight" or "clear seeing." A traditional Buddhist practice that goes back to the 6th century BCE, the modern version comes from the Theravāda Buddhism that was popularized by the Burmese-Indian teacher S. N. Goenka, who emphasized that the Buddha's path to liberation was non-sectarian, universal, and scientific in character. The method is based on the teachings of the Pāli Canon, a collection of the oldest recorded Buddhist texts, but also includes a rich diversity of traditions and practices that developed over a long history of interactions with many cultures and communities. Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, anapanasati ("mindfulness of breathing") has become widely known as "mindfulness," and most teachers use that technique in the beginning, to stabilize the mind and achieve "access concentration," but they move on to develop "clear insight" on bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them from moment by moment while not clinging to any. Practitioners sit on a chair or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, with or spine erect and not supported. Attention is focused on the movement of the breath or the subtle sensations of the rising and falling movements of the abdomen, or on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the skin on the upper lips. The object of focus is the "primary object." Anything else that arises in the field of perception that attracts your attention or causes desire or aversion (a sound, a smell, an itchiness, a thought, a memory, a feeling) is a "secondary object" that should be briefly "noted" and classified in a general sense. For instance, a sound should be labeled "hearing" rather than "motorcycle" or "voices." Then the focus should be returned to the primary object. When access concentration is achieved, attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. Clear seeing leads to the realization that that observed phenomena are pervaded by the three "marks of existence," impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and emptiness of self, and equanimity, peace, and inner freedom develop in relation to these inputs.
    Mindfulness Meditation is an adaptation of Vipassanā and other traditional Buddhist meditation practices, especially the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism of Thich Nhất Hanh. "Mindfulness" is the common Western translation of "sati." A student of Thich, medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It has been used by hospitals and health clinic to relieve stress, anxiety, pain, and illness. The practice intentionally focuses on the present moment, accepting and paying non-judgmental attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise. Formal practice is much like Vipassanā Meditaion, but "daily life" meditation is also practiced.Instead of being in "automatic mode," an effort is made to pay full attention to what is happening at the moment. If one is speaking, careful attention is given to the words and the manner in which they are spoken; if walking, awareness is given to body movements, the feet touching the ground, and so forth. No Eastern concepts or rites are involved.

  10. Loving Kindness Meditation(Metta Meditation)is derived from Theravāda and Tibetan Buddhism that has been incorporated into a scientific field called "Compassion meditation" that studies the efficacy of metta (a Pali word that means kindness, benevolence, and good will) and related meditative practices. Demonstrated benefits include boosting one’s ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feeling of competence about one’s life; and increased feeling of purpose in life. Buddhist teachers also claim it is useful as an antidote for insomnia, nightmares, and anger issues. Practitioners sit in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generate feelings of kindness and benevolence first towards themselves and then progressively towards a good friend, a “neutral” person, a difficult person, all four of the above equally, and gradually the entire universe. This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the proper attitude, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love to them, or by imagining the state of another being and wishing it happiness and peace.
    Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation) comes from Hindu practices, but Buddhists (especially Tibetan and “Pure Land” traditions), as well as Jains, Sikhs, and Taoists employ mantras. A mantra is a syllable or phoneme, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing one's mind. It can be viewed as a power word with subtle intentions that help connect people to the spiritual source of everything in the universe. Some meditation teachers insist that both the choice of word and its correct pronunciation are important due to the associated "vibration," while others contend that the mantra itself is irrelevant since it is only a tool. It is often referred to as “om" meditation, but that is just one of the mantras that can be used. As with most types of meditation, it is usually practiced sitting with spine erect and eyes closed. The practitioner silently repeats the mantra during the whole session or softly whisper it as an aid to concentration. Sometimes the practice is coupled with being aware of or coordinating with breathing. The meditation may be done for a certain period of time or for a set number of repetitions, traditionally 108 or 1008, in which case prayer beads are typically used to keep count. As the practice deepens, the mantra may continue by itself like the humming of the mind, or it may disappear entirely, leaving the practitionener in a state of deep inner peace. The repetition creates a mental vibration that allows deeper levels of awareness, but the mantra itself becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct until the practitioner reaches the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose. A more devotion-oriented practice is called "japa," and it consists of lovingly repeating sacred sounds (such as the name of God).
    Transcendental Meditation (TM)is a specific form of Mantra Meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1955. It is widely practiced, with over 5 million adherents worldwide, and over 600 scientific papers jave been published, many sponsored by the organization, demonstrating its benefits. It involves 15–20 minutes of sitting with eyes closed twice a day, repeating a generic mantra given to the practitioner based on gender and age. These are Tantric names of Hindu deities rather than meaningless sounds. In 2003 a former TM teacher developed a similar technique called Natural Stress Relief, which
    eliminates the initiation (puja) and some of the other mystical elements.

  11. Self-Enquiry (“I Am”) Meditation was expanded and popularized by Ramana Maharshi (1879~1950); along with the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Papaji, it
    inspired the modern non-duality movement (neo-advaita). "Self-Enquiry" is the English translation of "atma vichara" (meaning to "investigate" one's true nature). The practice is simple but subtle; there is no special position to practice. One's sense of "I" central to one's being, the source of one's thoughts, emotions, memories, and perceptions. With Self-Enquiry, one asks "Who am I?" as a tool to fix one's attention on the subjective feeling of "I" or "I am;" any verbal answers to the question must be rejected. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but a question to bring one's attention to the core element of one's perception and experience. Becoming one with it will reveal the true "I," one's real self as pure consciousness, beyond all limitation. It is not one's personality, but a pure, subjective, feeling of existing, without any images or concepts attached to it. Whenever thoughts or feelings arise, one should ask oneself, "To whom does this arise?" or "Who is aware of this anger, fear, pain, or whatever?" The answer will be, "It’s me!" to which one again asks "Who am I?" to bring the attention back to the subjective feeling of self, of presence. It is pure existence, awareness that is both objectless and choiceless.

  12. Taoist Meditation comes from a Chinese philosophy/religion that emphasizes living in harmony with nature (Tao). It is mainly associated with Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching," dating back to 6th century BCE,but some strands were influenced by Buddhist meditation practices from India, especially in the 8th century. The chief characteristic of this type of meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of inner energy inj order to to quiet the body and mind, unify the body and spirit, find inner peace, and harmonize with the Tao. Some styles are specifically focused on improving health and extending longevity. Taoist meditation is sometimes classified into three methods, "insight," "concentrative," and "visualization." These meditations are done seated cross-legged on the floor, with spine erect, eyes half-closed and fixed on the point of the nose. Emptiness meditation involves sitting quietly and emptying oneself of all mental images (thoughts, feelings, and so on) in order to experience inner quiet and emptiness. In this state, vital force and "spirit" are collected and replenished. This is similar to the Confucian discipline of "heart-mind fasting" and is regarded as "the natural way." One simply allows all thoughts and sensations to arise and fall by themselves, without engaging with any of them. Breathing meditation (Zhuanqi) focuses on the breath to "unite mind and chi (vital forces)". The instruction is, “Focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft." Sometimes this is done by simply quietly observing the breath or by following certain patterns of exhalation and inhalation so that one becomes directly aware of the "dynamisms of Heaven and Earth" through ascending and descending breath (a type of Qigong, similar to Pranayama in Yoga). Neiguan ("inner observation, inner vision") is visualizing inside one’s body and mind, including the organs, "inner deities,: chi movements, and thought processes. It is a process of acquainting oneself with the wisdom of nature within one's body. Liu Sichuan says one should practice by "joining the breath and the mind together," but if thatis too hard he recommends focusing on the lower abdomen.
    Qigong (Chi kung) is a Chinese term for "life energy cultivation" and is a body-mind exercise for health, meditation, and martial arts training. It typically involves slow body movement, inner focus, and regulated breathing, as with Tai Chi. In its modern application it incorporates Taoist meditation, mainly concentrative exercises but also the circulation of energy. Thousands of Qigong exercises have been cataloged, involving over 80 different types of breathing. Some are specific to martial arts (to energize and strengthen the body); others are for health (to nourish body functions or cure diseases); and still others for meditation and spiritual cultivation. Qigong can be practiced in a static position (seated or standing), or through a dynamic set of movements. Those that are done as meditation, however, are normally done sitting down in a comfortable position, and without movement. The body should be balanced and centered. Practitioners relax the entire body – muscles, nerves, and internal organs -- and regulate their breathing, making it deep, long, and soft. Attention is placed on the body's center of gravity, two inches below the navel, to gather energy in this natural reservoir.


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