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The History of Meditation: Part 5 by Orna Ross

Taoism

Religious Taoism is concerned with the pursuit of immortality and acquisition of magical powers but philosophical Taoism is a mystical set of teaching, best represented by  Lao-tzu (The Old Master) legendary author of Tao Te Ching and his follower Chuang-tzu, who together are said to be the founders of this belief system.

Go Creative! History of Meditation

Little is known of the life of Lao-tzu , or even if he actually existed.  He was believed to have been a contemporary of Confucius, in the sixth century BCE, but scholars have since dated his work to the third or fourth century BCE. According to legend, he was custodian of the Imperial archives and lived his life in accordance with the Tao and Te (the supreme way and its expression). The defeat of his emperor meant he had to leave court and travelling west he came to a mountain pass, where he was stopped by the Guardian of the Pass.

On realising who he was, the Guardian asked him Lao-tzu to write a book of enlightenment for him in order to be allowed to pass through the gate. Lao-tzu, in response and in a single sitting, composed the Tao Te Ching, whereupon the gate was opened for him and he passed through and was never heard of again.

The story of its origins reflects the spirit of the book. The Tao is the way and allows us to pass through the gate but the Tao is beyond description and Lao-tzu emphasises that he only calls it this because he has to put a word on it. In the very first lines he insists:

 

The Tao that can be told

Is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named

Is not the eternal Name.

 

The unnameable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin

Of all particular things.

 

Unlike zen, Tao meditation has no rules about what should or should not be done during a session or how to do it. Rather Tao is defined by the application of the principle of rigorously doing nothing. This is the wuwei-principle, wuwei being the complete absence of intentional action in rigorous stillness. This opens a space through which “nature”, or “the universe” or what we are calling in this book “creative consciousness” can freely and spontaneously unfold).

This is a process familiar to all writers and  artists, the sensation of a creative force moving through them and their work flowing of its own accord. Within the Tao are the two polarities it calls yin and yang. Yin, the feminine principle is passive, receptive, dark and soft while yang, the masculine principle, is active, dynamic, light and hard. The intermingling of these complementary principles gives rise to the world in a cycle of flowing into being and ebbing away. All things exist because their opposite exists.

The yin-yang symbol expresses the creative impulse of the universe — a circle for ultimate reality divided into black and white, each containing a smaller circle of the other. Their interaction is one of continual change and transition and the balance between them is the Tao. This creation symbol is often used for Tao meditation.

Although there are no rules, typically Tao meditation is performed in a relaxed, quiet standing position, similar to the tadasana (mountain) pose in yoga.

Next week: Ancient Greece & Rome


Start Your Go Creative! Week: Exercise 16 – 3 Problems

 

Why not make this week a creative one and try our task? 

A Problem Shared…

Go Creative! Exercise 16

Sometimes, life seems to be filled with problems. Whether great or small these are the trials and tribulations sent to test us.

 

Think of 3 problems you have right at this moment. Write each down as a heading on a blank piece of paper.

 

F-R-E-E-Write for 5 minutes about each problem being aware of how writing about the issue impacts you. Does your breathing change? Is your body tense? Does it make you uncomfortable?

 

Take a 5 minute break.

 

Revisit each problem and consider what advice you would give as a third party if a good friend was presenting this problem to you.

 

How does this impact your feeling towards the problem? Do you feel lighter? Can you take your own advice?

 

F-R-E-E-Write without time limit beginning:

 

“Problems are…”

 

Enjoy!

Creating Family by Kira Kenley

Kira Kenley shares her creative dilemmas and decisions every Friday. You can read her ‘story’ here

Go Creative! Weekly Series

 

It is only recently that I have come to really appreciate what this thing called ‘family’ means. Sure, I was born into a family but my family was broken before I recognised what I held in my hand. My mother died at a time when it felt like I needed her most. Then my father fell into a depressed existence and eventually passed away from us too. It was a long seven years. My body did that thing it is so well versed in doing, it adapted and closed down the parts that needed to close down so that I could function in ‘normal’ every day life. The pain was extraordinary and impossible to feel there and then, so it was parked for a future date.

 

When I eventually began to feel this pain it was many years later and to merely function was no longer possible. My body was literally beginning to shut down under the great weight of carrying this burden of unexpressed grief. I got ill and stayed ill for a time. My eventual recovery has led me down the creative path, as instinctively my body knew that to heal I needed to start expressing what was going on, for only by expressing it could I set myself free.

 

Recently, I have watched as a member of my family lost her soulmate to cancer and I have spent precious moments with her, just keeping her company while she tried to get her head around this massive thing that had happened to her. Understandably, her head couldn’t make the leap, for how do you rationalise the situation when your life partner is missing and you are expected to live on, even though in the present moment it feels like your life has stopped.

 

As I sat with her, I came to realise something. This woman, my flesh and blood, felt as close to me as it is possible for another person to feel and as I saw her stripped bare and vulnerable a tremendous energy passed between us. We were family and I felt my own parents there with us, in addition to her soulmate. I can’t quite explain it but we weren’t alone. The ones who loved us, although unseen, were there helping us when we needed them the most.

 

Last June, I married after a lifetime of professing that I would never marry because I didn’t ‘get it’. A short four months on, which feels already like another lifetime in the best possible way, I get it. Finally. Family is a bond that links people together. It is something we create so that we can allow love to flourish despite all the odds. In a society that practises ‘survival of the fittest’ and encourages its component parts to ‘fight for a corner’, there is this haven. A place where we are loved, as if it were the most natural thing, because it is natural and independent of any other thing. It is unconditional.

 

Family is the space where I meet my nearest and dearest, whatever. I love the people in my circle, and this love comes to life in the action I take. As much as anything else, family is my own creation. It is whatever I wish it to be. And as I sit and consider this, I wish it to be a place where my loved ones feel valued and know that I am here for them. No matter what. Not to judge them. Nor tell them how to be. But to simply love them. As they simply love me.

 

To connect with Kira on facebook visit: www.facebook.com/KiraKenley     www.facebook.com/TheSoundOfKira

 

And coming soon…

 www.kirakenley.com

The History of Meditation: Part 4 by Orna Ross

Our meditation series continues…

Go Creative! Meditation

Buddhism

Yoga and Buddhism are sister traditions which evolved in the same culture of ancient India. They use similar terms and follow similar principles and practices. Many people are apt to regard Yoga and Buddhism as more or less the same. The differences that have existed between the two systems historically are less obvious to us than their commonalities.

 

Buddhism is an entire spiritual tradition born from the benefits of meditation. The many forms of the tradition that exist today all grew from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as The Buddha after he attained enlightenment.

Having experienced extremes of worldliness (he was born to the elite) and asceticism (he renounced his background to endure fasting, extreme elements, and illness), he finally accepted that neither teachings, nor asceticism gave him the knowledge he sought. He then sat to mediate under a Bodhi tree where, after being tempted and attacked by demons, he finally attained enlightenment and came to understand the causes of suffering and how to eliminate them

Like yoga, Buddhism is more a way of living than a religion, offering an array of spiritual practices from moral precepts to a wide range of meditation methods. The understanding and practice of meditation is core. The practice of concentration comes first, involving focus on a single object, concept or process such as the breath, a physical sensation, the idea of compassion or any attribute of the Buddha. This prepares the mediator for vipassana (the path of insight) in which the mind is opened out of concentration.

Vipassana involves the moment-by-moment practice of mindfulness, directing attention to the present, to what is. This is a key concept in the linking of meditation and creative consciousness.  Coming into the moment always creates a gap in the stream of thought and also in the stream of time. Nothing truly creative ever comes into this world except through that gap.

Yoga and Buddhism are both meditation traditions devised to help us realize the truth of consciousness. They both see the suffering and impermanence inherent in all birth, whether it is animal, human or god, and seek to alleviate it through developing a higher awareness. Both emphasize the need to dissolve the ego, the conceptual mind, the attachment to “me” and “mine” and enable a connection to a reality that is not limited by such separateness. Both traditions emphasize enlightenment or inner illumination to be realized through meditation. Both systems also recognize dharma, the principle of truths like karma and unity as basic laws of the universe that we must come to understand. And both also share  ethical values like non-violence, truthfulness, non-attachment and non-stealing.

There are differences, however.  Vedic systems are built upon fundamental principles like the Self (atman), the Creator (ishvara), and Godhead (brahman). Buddhism rejects all such as mere creations of the mind itself.  Many scholars see Buddhism as a modification of vedanta, while others see it as a revolt against. Vedanta eventually absorbed Buddhism in India, which by the seventh century had ceased to be a major religion in the country. Vedantic teachers saw  the Buddha as an incarnation (avatara) of Lord Vishnu, like Rama or Krishna, but rejected aspects of Buddhist philosophy, particularly its denial of a creator.

Zen

Zen is form of Buddhism with which we are most familiar in the West. Over the last century it has established a huge following, much as it did several centuries ago in China and Japan. The word “zen” has entered our language to describe a certain minimalist taste and aesthetic.

Today the two main schools of zen are soto and Rinzai, all of which place great emphasis on zazen (sitting meditation). The cornerstones of zazen are posture, breathing and attitude. While the beginner is often encouraged to focus on the breath, pure zazen involves simply sitting in a state of quiet awareness, doing nothing, without purpose or aim. Thoughts and images are allowed to come and go, floating through like clouds in the sky, observed but not owned. Zen is the original of the kind of meditation that scientists call Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM).

Zen has strict rules for meditation and suits those who find freedom in discipline.   Its founder, Bodhidharma, is traditionally depicted as a fierce looking character with protruding eyes, scowling. Legend has it that he was so enraged after falling asleep during meditation that he sliced off his eyelids to about it happening again.  The first tea plant then sprouted where his eyelids fell and ever since zen monks have taken copious cups of tea, to keep them alert during their long hours of meditation.

In keeping with this strictness, zen lays down very specific rules for meditation. The ideal posture is the lotus position, or if this is too difficult, the half-lotus. The trunk is held upright and the chin drawn in, the eyes kept slightly open, looking down about 1m ahead, holding a loose gaze. The hands rest in the lap, left above right, with the tips of the thumbs touching. Correct breathing -– deep, calm and even -– is said to follow naturally from correct posture and from these two flows the correct attitude of mind, which is the opening out of one’s attention to become conscious of whatever is happening internally and externally in the moment, the allowing of all to be without comment or interference.

Zen can only be truly appreciated through practical experience and training.

Next Week: Taoism

Start Your Go Creative! Week: Exercise 15 – Make A Wish


Why not make this week a creative one and try our task? 

Your Wish Is My Command!

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Take a blank piece of paper and write down everything you wish for. Get everything down on the page. All your wishes for yourself and your nearest and dearest. From the greatest to the smallest: ie. from being a millionaire and living in a hot country to reading more and having more sleep.

 

This week make one of these wishes come true. And you don’t need to stop there, if you feel inspired, take on as many as you wish!

 

Enjoy!

Kira’s Creations by Kira Kenley

33 Kira Kenley shares her creative dilemmas and decisions every Friday. You can read her earlier posts here

Kira's Creations Go Creative!

 

This is my last week writing under the heading ‘Kira’s Story’. Next week, my weekly blog will be called ‘Kira’s Creations.’ Although, it will still be my story somehow it feels like my story has moved into another phase.

 

I have written 32 blogs (this is my 33rd) and over this period I have put my struggles and my internal wanderings on the page. The hope is that maybe I have understood this life and my part in it a little bit more by seeing it in black and white each week and that, in addition, I might have written a great deal of my fear away.

 

Imagined fear is such an obstacle and every little creative thing I have done in my life could so easily have been sabotaged by this energy. It still continues although thankfully my awareness means it is less pronounced and not in danger of playing havoc in my daily life as it has done in the past. I keep a watch and somehow, by allowing myself to express this fear fully without censorship or condemnation, it loses it paralysing hold over me and at times it even disappears.

 

Thankfully, these days I habitually create. Be it a song, a story, a meal, a friendship, a family, a tender moment. Life is all about creating, that is the ethos of this blog. In my experience, true creation is only possible when fear is completely absent. Then there is only joy and enjoyment and out of this sacred space comes what is new. Fresh. Alive.

 

The creative process is evident everywhere in my life and I have come to realise that if I mindfully travel I can be involved in my life in a deep and profoundly alive way. It is the way I chose to live for after all there is just this life and each moment is here to be lived. To be made. To be created.

 

Jiddu Krishnamurti (‘K’), whom I believe to be one of the most evolved and beautifully alive human beings to have lived on the planet in the last century, once commented:

 

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.”

 

Writing this blog has allowed me to “understand” the whole of my life a little more and I am ever grateful for the space it allows me every week to ponder on the page. And for those of you who read and ponder alongside me, I appreciate your time and company.

 

We are in this together all of us. So let’s as K advised read, look at the skies, sing, dance, write poems, suffer and understand, together. See you next week as part of ‘Kira’s Creations’ and, in the meantime, have yourself a fantastic week…

 

To connect with Kira on facebook visit: www.facebook.com/KiraKenley     www.facebook.com/TheSoundOfKira

The History of Meditation: Part 3 by Orna Ross

The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God)

Go Creative! Meditation and Yoga

In 1785, A British printer named Charles Wilkins made the first translation of Sanskrit into English when he published a version of the Bhagavad Gita (the Celestial Song). This work, the best known and most influential of all Indian scriptures, portrays a single loving god in the form of Krishna and the warrior prince, Arjuna.  The action takes place somewhere between 1000 and 700 BCE (though it was composed around 500 BCE), in a battlefield not far from present day New Delhi, just before a deadly fight between two sides of the same warring family.

Continue Reading →

Start Your Go Creative! Week. Exercise 14: Making “Sense”

 Why not make this week a creative one and try our task?

A Week of Senses

Go Creative! Exercise 14

There are five senses available to us; sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. We experience our lives automatically using all our senses in order to function and much is perhaps taken for granted.

F-R-E-E-Write for 5 minutes about each sense considering what each one means to you and imagining your life if it were suddenly taken away.

Complete the following in as many words as you like:

“The world makes sense to me when I…”

Taking inspiration from what you have written, go through your week being aware of all your senses and think of ways in which you can indulge each and every one.

Be creative…

…and enjoy yourself!