Beginning to Quiet the Mind
I’m happy you’ve made it this far into the Snake & Turtle training sequence. After spending weeks training and getting familiar with the form, we then explored important concepts like dangers to avoid, how to learn, and the nature of qigong. Finally, we have built enough foundation to build new qigong skills and safely add new practices. I’m looking forward to your progress!
Master Zhicheng asks a question that all his students know how to answer,
“What’s the first thing that you do?”
What does that mean? It means that you cannot cultivate positive new skills without first clearing away bad habits. You must empty and clean the glass before filling it.
Let me repeat that: Before you begin anything new, it is essential to stop whatever you were doing before. Find stillness before starting a new journey. Empty your glass to make room for something new. What’s the first thing that you do? You don’t.
How do we learn to let go of old patterns and the momentum of habit?
We start by sitting quietly, remaining present and comfortable. There is no extraordinary imagery or fancy breath practice to learn. Simply sit quietly in a chair for a while. This non-doing is so vital that many masters use it to begin every training session.
What makes this restful practice so special? There is nothing out of the ordinary with feeling peaceful and quiet. It’s our most natural state of being. What is unnatural is the stress and disquiet that many people spend their lives experiencing. Fortunately, the cure is simple and direct, and the first and the last steps are about doing nothing.
When people begin this practice, they often feel agitated, frustrated, or bored. We have spent so many years distracting and pacifying our restless minds that we don’t know how to simply “be.” Frequently, a kind of pressure builds up during mediation practice. Imagine that you are going to open a fizzy drink. Unfortunately, the bottle was shaken thoroughly. What happens when you remove the cap and allow it to decompress? Occasionally the release can be loud and messy. Still, the only option is to go slowly and wait for equilibrium to return. This is what the release may feel like as we decompress our body-mind. And luckily, the technique is the same. Be still, quiet, and open. These feelings will pass.
Another familiar feeling is being clouded, murky, and half-awake. We have so much content swirling around in our mind-body that the world seems blurry and unreal. Imagine throwing a handful of dust into a glass of clear water. What would happen to the clarity of that liquid? How would you make it transparent again? Should I take a spoon and press the dust down? Shake the glass? Pretend that it’s not there? Of course not. The only solution (no pun intended) is to put the glass down and wait for the silt to settle. The only method is stillness: peace and quiet, passing time in that space of serenity.
Remember, when I talk about stillness, I am not recommending that you force yourself to remain unmoving while practicing. Simply stay at rest, shuffle around when you need to adjust, and then soften again into relative motionlessness.
Don’t try to “meditate,” or whatever method of “doing” you think of as meditation. Instead, only “don’t.” Let go and relax.
When you are lying in bed at night, awaiting sleep, what do you do to sleep? Do you try to force yourself to doze? Do you squeeze your sleep powers and compel oblivion? What would happen if you did that? Instead, you let go. You get out of the way. You don’t cause sleep; you “fall” asleep. The noise of your mind is released, the energy within your body settles, and rest enfolds you. The quieter and softer you can become, the more healing you will undergo. This is a principle that remains true no matter the activity. As you sit comfortably and let go of distractions and tension, you simply fall awake.
The Next Step:
Later we will develop other meditation skills, but none are more foundational than softening into stillness. Maintain this quality throughout your future practices, no matter how challenging or intricate.
If you are occasionally too shaken up to sit still, go for a leisurely walk. Return to this practice once you’ve released some excess pressure.
Follow the next guided meditation session until the experience seems intuitive and effortless. Continue until there is a noticeable difference in your level of ease while you sit quietly. Only then move forward and study the basic standing meditation posture.
I recommend sitting like this for 15-minutes daily, particularly just before your qigong training. If you find consistency difficult, use the “5 Second” method we discussed in earlier lessons. Whatever happens each day, spend at least 5 seconds sitting and forgetting your stress. Do it every day for two months, without fail, and you’ll find it becoming more and more enjoyable as a practice.
Please share your experience of developing consistency in the comment section, and be sure to write it down in your journal each time you meditate. Building community and self-awareness about your training will become easier each day!
One individual at a time, we will build a more peaceful world.
Enjoy your practice!
Remember that this is only a tiny part of a more extensive system and sequence of teaching videos. Subscribe to my channel to learn more!
Make sure that you begin your practice at the beginning of the sequence
Ready to train? Follow along with traditional practice sessions
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