Studying with Master Bao has been a different experience, not because I'm the only student here, but because his ideas are slightly different to the other masters'. Today is Qi Gong day which means meditation and breathing exercises. The first thing he asked me was;
"What understanding do you have about meditation?"
I was surprised then thought for a moment. My understanding isn't that deep as I mostly use it to relax or sort through problems so I told him the two ideas that Master Peng and Master Ning have taught me. It's a way to clear your mind and a way to feel your surroundings.
Master Bao nodded thoughtfully and began to explain his idea of meditation which, due to my poor Chinese, can only translate to the best of my ability.
Step One ~ Body and Mind
The first step is the "basics" of meditation. Clearing your mind while relaxing your body. In the beginning, your mind will be confused and full of thoughts, instead of going from a lot to nothing. Choose one thought for your meditation and only focus on that thought. Don't go to the thought, let the thought take you. The example he used was something bothering you. When you think of something that bothers you, you get more bothered by it without finding a solution. This is you going to the thought. If you let the thought take you, then you won't be bothered and soon your solution will come to you. You do this in the beginning so that you can learn to control your thoughts. As you get better with meditation you will focus less on thoughts until your mind reaches what the Chinese call 空白 (a blank space).
Your body also must be relaxed for meditation. Starting out, you will feel sore or aching pains. The goal is to get used to your posture and be able to relax when you feel these discomforts. Eventually, you will get used to sitting meditation so that the posture will feel comfortable, almost natural. You should be in a state of half asleep half awake. Master Bao explained that your body should feel like when you lay down to sleep. Every muscle and tendon relaxes, your breathing slows, and your mind quiets. Once your body is completely relaxed and your mind clear can you move to the next "step".
Step Two ~ Feeling
When you are able to comfortably sit in meditation with no thoughts running through your head you may now focus on feeling. When Master Bao spoke of feeling, he specifically meant feeling your surroundings and yourself. At first you might focus on the sounds around you, whether they are passing by cars or the chirping of birds. Focus on the wind and temperature. The idea was that once you have focused on the feelings affecting you, you then could focus on what surrounds you. He said:
"We should be able to see our environment without using our eyes, through this we get a better understanding of what surrounds us."
That is the hard part. Using these feelings to understand what is around us. Example that he had was you could feel the wind on you and that would be it. If you had a deeper understanding maybe you could feel the wind go through the hair on your arms on to your skin. Then, you hear the tree leaves rustle at that very same wind which causes the birds to start chirping. These same birds cause a leaf to fall down to your side... Or you could just feel the wind.
Step Three ~
For this step, I don't want to put a name because this step could be different for everyone. Master Peng once explained that meditation is different for everyone. Some feel heat or energy while others become more relaxed. Master Ning liked to use visualization to reach "emptiness" or "nothing". Master Bao explained his third step in a different way...
He said that when reaching this point beyond relaxing and thinking you should feel as though you don't know your own body. As if you're not in your own body. You don't feel yourself sitting even though you know you are. You no longer feel the wind on your skin as you've gone beyond it but your skin is still there. He began to think really hard at this point and it was testing the limits of my Chinese but he continued. Very carefully he explained it would be as if you were in the middle of a ball. Or think of a big empty room and you are in the middle of it, not on the floor, you are in the middle. This is the state you should be in.
I noticed as he was explaining this to me he was using very practical terms. Avoiding "mystical" or "whimsical" terms like floating, flying, qi, and energy. Which is nice. It shows they are trying to teach something real although not tangible, not physical. You can't hold this third step in your hand. All you can do is try to explain this special state of mind.
Purpose ~ Calm and Controlled
Now, the reason for it all. Meditation's purpose, through the eyes of Master Bao, is to control the thoughts and emotions within you so that your mind is always clear to make the right decision. He explained how through this practice we can apply it to life and not let others affect our emotion.
If someone came up to you full of good news and exciting stories, you too might feel excited or happy. If someone came to you with bad news or a foul mood, you too might feel unhappy or down. Meditation helps to control yourself so you're never too happy or too sad. Your feeling is always in the middle. Calm, quiet, and controlled. A deeper level would be being able to understand or help other's chaotic emotions. Say someone hit you in a bar. The normal reaction is to get angry, shout, or fight back. Someone with this deeper level might be able to see that if someone else was here, they would've been hit. Maybe you see that the person is down or having a bad day. Instead of retaliating, you understand and help.
This is a very deep mindset that would be hard to get towards.
Even though, I'm not sure if meditation helps me I thought this was a good lesson to write down, my thoughts about this week will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy your week everyone!