Qigong and meditation are intricately connected — means to the same end — to feel at peace.
Most meditation is practiced while seated, but for T’ai Chi Ch’uan, we meditate standing up. Standing meditation clears the mind while maintaining a specific physical structure. The mind and body become more cohesive after standing meditation, preparing it for the mind/body integrating experience that is T’ai Chi Ch’uan. There is a checklist that the student goes over while standing. While standing meditation appears motionless, the student is making constant tiny inner adjustments. The body should feel grounded, centered, and free from tension– like T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
Lift the Crown Point
Relax the shoulders
Make arms circular
Hollow the chest
Break at all of the joints
Drop the body weight
Feet parallel and hip width
Tip of tongue behind front teeth on upper palette
Breath lightly through the nose
Eyes gaze outward, ears listen inward
The neck and shoulders are crucial to relaxation. Always coax them down and further, and consciously relax the tissue at the back of the neck to release tension. The dichotomy between the mind and the body can find a spot in this region, and conversely, softening up that triangle of two shoulders and a neck will produce a calming energy stream, and literally can change your thoughts from negative to positive.
The eyes should gaze straight ahead. Some people close them halfway, or even all the way in order to “turn inward.” (to shut out the outer world). You can try all of the eye positions (open, closed and half-open) but make sure they are level with the horizon. Ears listening inward means to check for tension and let it go, and to listen to your thoughts. Some systems of meditation use a repetitive phrase, or mantra to clear the mind. Others rely on the mind to clear itself simply by letting thoughts come and go without trying to do anything. I find this type to be most effective, and very much in line with the concepts in push hands (respond to what is there, don’t avoid it, allow it to pass through), and somatic psychotherapy.
Sometimes, and for some people, seated meditation is preferable to standing – when the individual is weak, sick or tired, or undergoing emotional stress, or as a personal choice to see what effects it might have. Seated chair meditation can be used if sitting on the floor is too uncomfortable. The purpose of meditation is to clear the mind, not to make the body uncomfortable while the mind struggles to disregard it until numbness sets in. It is important to use the edge of the chair to facilitate a straight back that is supported by the sitz, or sitting bones, and not use the chair back for support.
The chair is good for people who don’t feel comfortable sitting on the floor, aged people, people recovering from illness or injury, or people with very stiff legs and hips. The straight back is one of the most important factors. Without a straight back, you will find yourself doing little more than sleeping in a chair, and even potentially hurting yourself if your body collapses in on itself.
The sitz bones act like the feet in T’ai Chi and standing meditation, connecting to gravity. This is true when seated in the chair or on the floor. Lifting the crown point prevents crimping the spine, and thought travels up and down the spine from the head. The position of the spine is very much the same as in kung fu training.
Most people don’t know how to meditate until they are taught a technique. They think they are meditating when they kick back in an easy chair or lay out on the beach. This is a lot like gazing out of the window while entrapped in a boring class or letting your mind wander when it should be “on task” — a good precursor to falling asleep. Resting and relaxation has its time and place, and is extremely important. There can be no Yang without Yin. If one falls asleep during meditation, it is an indication that more sleep is needed at night, or else that the mind is trying to escape from something it is not ready to look at. This having been said, there are no “shoulds” and “should nots” in meditation in the strictest sense. Any attachment to a goal is antithetical to the notion that meditation is a process, not a product or a journey, not a destination. If you go into meditation with a goal or intent, you will detract from its main purpose: to make you more in touch with the infinite.