“The water endlessly flows and fills, up to a certain limit, the corners it is flowing through; the water is not “afraid” of any dangerous place, of any “falling” and there is nothing making it lose its essence. Under all circumstances, it remains equal to its nature.” ~ Richard Wilhelm
The Chinese Watercourse tradition of Taoism uses water, which ‘takes the form of the objects it touches’ as an analogy for our meditation practice and a way of accessing the Tao. Water provides the perfect model for Taoist conduct, and various techniques such as Non-doing and Emptiness continue this analogy as a poetic illustration of how we might live and interact with each other.
The Watercourse Tradition, as most famously written about in Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, gently guides the practitioner from the physical and being rooted in the body, to the emotional – in particular to destructive emotions and how to deal with them – and finally the spiritual; emptiness and our karma, and how we exist in broader dimensions.
I have attempted to group the meditations as such and, although I realize that the complexities of this tradition should be passed down through practice and will never be fully explained here, I use them with the intention that the techniques outlined will inspire your spiritual journey rather than dictate it. Further reading links are available at the end of the article.
The first layer when approaching meditation is to become aware of the body. How we hold stress in our bodies can be reflective of our habits and inspire the selection and release of them. Addressing this vein of Taoist meditation can involve a study of Chinese medicine, Ch’i Kung (also known as Qigong) and Tai Chi. The idea of commencing with the physical, as you might first become aware of the sounds around you and the weight of your body and its subtle shifts as you begin a sitting, is to gently shed the stresses of everyday living.
Gods Meditating in the Clouds:
This technique is essentially Ch’i Kung, but unites Taoist meditations with controlled breathing as you would in South East Asian meditation practices such as Yoga. It is designed to help circulate blood and Chi (life force), strengthen our internal organs and connect us to the Whole.
Apparently it was Taoist Grand Master Liu Hung Chieh’s favourite technique and offers a great way to combine movement with meditation. As with any practice, the more Ch’i Kung is implemented into our daily routine – preferably outside with bare feet on the earth – the more it connects us with our vital life force. In times I have practiced Ch’i Kung, I have felt a warm vibrating energy between my palms, and have felt my energy double within just a few days of practising it.
Clearing the organs:
My guess is that this combines with Chinese medicine in order to first diagnose which organs are depleted and need care and attention. Eating the correct yin or yang foods; to warm or cool the body and also those directly linked to the organs that require strengthening is an integral part of this meditation. The description of this meditation from my online source literally says: Moving Chi into organs that are depleted to recharge them.
The second layer of meditation comes to studying our negative or destructive emotions such as jealousy, anger and hate. In first observing and gradually becoming aware of them, we can then detach from them. The second layer, as I’m interpreting it also bleeds in to a realization of the nature of mind and where our thoughts come from. That they are arising from our subconscious, and even deeper than that, the interdependent Whole or collective consciousness.
Opening Your Central Channel:
In refining and balancing core energies the individual can begin to finish cleansing their physical being and find themselves calmer and more in tune with the etheric body.
Inner dissolving/The Gentle Rain:
I think this quote sums up this technique beautifully: “Like water wears away rock, Taoist Inner Dissolving wears away obstacles to our spiritual growth, leading us gently inward to our being and helping us to fully live our daily lives. The ‘inner dissolving’ process is especially effective for helping individuals to become aware of their hidden motivations and enabling them to change or eliminate those that they no longer find useful, ultimately leading students to balance and harmony with themselves and with the universe around them.” (Source at bottom of page)
In this technique, Taoist philosophy returns to the lesson of being like water. In ‘non-doing’ we actually achieve so much without the burden of stress. Releasing armour built up against others and employing the popular truism ‘letting go’; of habits, of grasping, of resistance to what Is. Water has no external goal and in not in competition with anything; not even itself. It is always busy and never stops, yet it is one of the most life giving and nurturing eco-systems in existence.
In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action (wu-wei) is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering. (Translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English).
The fourth layer we reach during meditation is that of the intuition and psychic influences. This might also encompass our past lives and unresolved karma. In becoming aware of this we are able to actively observe and resolve these aspects of our being through mindful conduct. We are able to learn who we really are and reconnect where once we may have felt cut off.
Cosmic Resonance Meditation:
Moving inward now the petty monkey-mind of the unconscious human is peeling back, the cosmic resonance meditation aids the individual in transforming the energies of the space they are creating (and the mindful selection of the thoughts and words they now choose to speak), the practitioner is able to address their place in the universe as well as their innermost selves.
The true self and its potential is ready there waiting for them and they might begin to listen to the profound silence of the Whole and let it embody them. The individual can begin to merge with the Whole and the true nature of mind; a wide open space where they become the creator.
‘Wu’ or Jump into emptiness.
On Emptiness: “The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space (within), that its use depends. Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation, and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.” (Legge)
Having become at peace with themselves, the individual has peeled back all the layers that meditation can offer and now they only need to use their selves as a guide to work towards enlightenment, the ‘goal’ of meditation. In being like water, the final step is to dissolve that final desire and become enlightened rather than seek it.