Over the New Year break I was lucky enough to once again travel to the serene highlands of Tasmania for a trek and some quiet time by a beautiful lake. Often in clinic I am asked about meditation, what methods I use, and how to overcome the initial stages of feeling like one can’t simply sit or even be still. When I first started learning meditation methods, I did so through the practice of movement and martial arts. Stillness cultivated through non-stillness. To this day I still practice this way. Walking through the central highlands of Tasmania over tough mountains with a heavy pack, for me, IS the meditation.
After such treks I insure that I have proper down time. This is stillness cultivated through stillness. Sitting and observing still water is one of the essential steps towards innate understanding of self. As I sat looking at the reflections of the water, a fly-fisherman standing statue-like in the water, and watching the subtle changes of the water’s surface I was brought back to some great observations by Laozi and Zhuangzi.
“All things are together in action,
but I look to their non-action.”
Similarly we must look to action to observe non-action as one is unable to exist without the other. Looking to the stillness of water and the gentle movements of the fly-fisherman, Zhuangzi 15 comes to mind. Levels of self-realistion, enlightenment, being, and understanding are discussed at length. Thompson lists them as such:
1. The scholar in the mountain valley who is a sullen social critic.
2. The scholar in society who devotes himself to teaching and learning.
3. The scholar in court and councils who serves his sovereign and state.
4. The scholar of the rivers and seas who withdraws from the world, and idles and fishes.
5. The scholar who devotes himself to practicing yoga and breathing exercises (neigong).
6. The sage who transcends yet subsumes the other levels.
Interestingly it is the fisherman who comes closer to understanding Dao and self than those in study or in society due to the proximity to nature and above all water. Withdrawal from society and inward reflection is best achieved essentially where humans are unable to go. In this way one turns their gaze inwards.
By no means is this easy in today’s world. Most places are already occupied, livings need to made, things accumulated, lives need to be lead, right? Well it is true. So how are we supposed to then find such stillness amidst so much chaos? How are we meant to simply be still, meditate, when so much is needed of us? Laozi 48 says:
“Those who seek learning gain every day
those who seek the Way lose every day
they lose and they lose
until they find nothing to do
nothing to do means nothing not done
those who rule the world aren’t busy
those who are busy
can’t rule the world.”
Step by step reducing daily accumulations allows for a clearer mental state and hence stress free environment. Sure we can study, we can have professions, however, we can also do more with less. Less “things”, less foods, alcohol, sex, drugs, rock and roll and of course, through this we gain. We gain time. We gain peace. And we gain self. Above all, enjoy yourself and have fun :)
In Good Health,
David White Classical Acupuncture