The most powerful truths are able to survive for centuries, waiting to illuminate the minds of those who embrace them. The ancient art of Shaolin teaches us to harness our balanced nature, banish negative thoughts, and cultivate a mind of strength. Inner harmony paired with physical movement and strength is the foundation of the Shaolin way.
When it comes to meditation these principles carry enormous value. By combining the essence of ancient philosophy with the intentions of modern practice, Shaolin meditation presents us with a fascinating way to integrate balance and deep mental strength with various aspects of our modern life.
The Becoming of Shaolin Meditation Philosophy
Shaolin is a type of martial arts which combines Taoism and Buddhism. In the heart of China, at the foot of the holy mountains, lies the Shaolin Monastery. This is where the Indian monk Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese) is said to have reformed Buddhism more than 1500 years ago–calling this new form of practice ‘Zen’.
When Tamo first arrived at the Shaolin Temple, he found the monks translating Buddhist scripture from Sanskrit to Chinese with the intention of gaining access to the precious teachings and spreading the wisdom among the people.
At first Tamo was rejected entry, but after recognizing his spiritual prowess, the Shaolin monks eventually allowed him in after Tamo had maintained a lengthy meditation in a nearby cave.
It was at this point that Tamo recognized that the monks lacked physical strength and conditioning — especially after being hunched over tables transcribing texts for hours each day. When it came to practicing Buddhism, Tamo concluded that the Shaolin monks were missing the physical and mental stamina needed to perform even the most basic meditations.
In order to counter this weakness and help the monks build strength, Tamo introduced them to moving exercises designed to enhance energy flow and build strength. These movements originated from Indian yoga techniques–this marked the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu.
These teachings survived through the ages and became the mother of all martial arts, which is meant to serve for self-defence and personal discipline; never for aggression. The inner harmony that is obtained from these practices and routines gives root to Shaolin meditation.
Through years of meditation, Tamo explored the eternal laws of nature and developed the discipline of stillness in order to harness the center of this energy. The teachings and practice of Shaolin philosophy are mainly centered on meditation.
There are many different techniques surrounding the practice of Shaolin meditation, here are some easy steps to access the simple nature of body, space, and awareness.
Sit comfortably with your back straight, but not stiff. Don’t worry about perfect posture; just be comfortable and cross your legs if you wish. Close your eyes and allow the energy and circulation to flow freely throughout your body without resistance.
Intentionally surrender to the moment and feel your shoulders sink a little bit. Connect both of your hands with one another facing up. Mind and body become very calm.
Relax the muscles in your body, starting in all areas of your face and flowing through your entire body until you reach your toes. Take your time and do not rush this process.
Focus on breathing slowly through your nose. Become aware of the flow of oxygen in through your nose and deep into your body. Remain aware of this interaction, and imagine the energy of your thoughts beginning to lose traction on your awareness.
Your thoughts now flow freely. Take the necessary time to allow the mind to settle down naturally, without press.
Now you feel at rest, but at the same time you can sense the stability and strength of your energy holding your body within this space. This energy is strong and you feel supported. Feel the gentle pull of gravity. Accept this, and allow any feelings to become natural. Observe and let it be.
Once you have gained contact with the subtle sensations of your body, bring your mind into your body, and allow them to coexist in harmony. Let any thoughts you might have travel to your heart.
Breathe in and out naturally. Remain aware of any sensations. Any thoughts, any pleasant feelings, or any tense, unpleasant feelings; just become aware and let it go, no matter how many thoughts or emotions you have. Allow your thoughts to release naturally through the strength of your body.
You are now free and ready to expand. Relax and breathe. Sink deeper into the moment and expand your awareness to the space surrounding your body. Become aware of any sensations–noise, smell, temperature, body, etc. Sit with this for a few minutes.
Feel the space around you, and allow your awareness to flow freely around the environment in which you occupy. You are fully apart of this natural interaction of mind, body and space.
Allow your awareness to expand as much as it naturally will, bringing you beyond your immediate surroundings. Stay here for a few minutes as you sit comfortably in this space.
When you feel ready, you can open your eyes and slowly bring your awareness back to your body and your surroundings. Allow the mind to be at rest. Notice the razor sharp connection that your mind and body share. Be at rest and appreciate the presence and lightness of this moment.
Stand up and move your body freely. Raise your hands straight up to the air and look upward while bringing in a nice deep breath. Stay their for a few seconds before bringind your arms back down. Feel the energy of your body and allow the movement of your entire body to be fluent.
The purpose of this meditation is to fall in line with the frequency of nature. There is no resistance, just immersion and acceptance.
This is about cultivating the discipline of awareness. It is not about eliminating thoughts or emotions; this meditation is about bringing the mind and body into a state of balanced coherence. This will happen naturally, once you learn how to surrender to the process.
If you want to develop this practice into a strong ritual, start with 15 minutes per day and work your way up to 30 minutes. Take your time and enjoy the process, positive results will come with time and consistency.