Meditation: A Journey to Discovery Yourself and the World
In Cuong Nhu, each person is on a lifelong journey of ups and downs, searching for truth and new ways of solving problems. While physical training in Cuong Nhu develops the mind and body, meditation fine-tunes the mind and nurtures the spirit and soul. Meditation is a process of self-discovery. It enlightens and deepens your thoughts, and helps you eliminate the troubles in your mind.
Meditation can be active or passive. Passive meditation is used to “turn to a new page,” or refresh yourself. This type of meditation is practiced for a few minutes at the beginning of each Cuong Nhu class. Performed standing in a relaxed posture, touching your fingertips lightly together in front of your chest, it helps you clear your mind and leave the cares and distractions of the day outside the dojo. At the end of class, the same technique enables you to gather strength and a positive attitude to take back into daily life.
While this simple form of meditation can be used outside the dojo to refresh yourself and help you cope with little stresses, a more active meditation can lead to self-discovery, stress management, problem solving and a way to counsel others. During active meditation, your mind acts like a magnifying glass to focus your thoughts into one point. Just as a magnifying glass concentrates enough energy from the sun to burn a hole through paper, active meditation allows you to focus your body, soul and spirit to burn through to the truth about yourself or the solution to your problems.
Meditate in a quiet, private place. A good time is early in the morning when everything is still and fresh. This enhances the quality of your meditation and can make a big difference in your day. Sometimes meditating in an isolated place in nature or at night before you sleep can help clear your mind and help you to focus. At first, choose a time and place that fit your schedule consistently. After long training, you can meditate at any time or place.
As you meditate, be aware of your posture. You can meditate in a standing, sitting or lying position, but keep your head, spine and hips in a straight line. Standing uses minimal energy, but sitting is also comfortable and considered the most spiritual position. Lying is most comfortable, but least likely to produce results because of the tendency to fall asleep.
In the beginning, meditate for about five minutes, gradually increasing the length of your session as your concentration improves. The longer you meditate, the more you can deepen an idea or thought and develop spiritually.
Put all senses aside during meditation, except sight. An inner vision is necessary to discover the balance within yourself. If you practice properly, your heart will be calm and your mind will be at peace.
To sharpen your active meditation technique, master the following five steps:
• Relaxation. Let go of muscular tension. Concentrate on the point one and a half inches below your navel. This point is called the “one point,” the “hara” or the “dan dien.” Focus as you would on a single star in a clear, dark sky.
• Respiration. Breathe slowly and deeply, causing your abdomen to rise and fall.
• Renewal/rejuvenation. Let go of mental tension. Clear your mind and make your heart peaceful. Slit your eyes and focus on a point of light in front of you.
• Reflection. Turn your thoughts inward to discover yourself.
• Realization. Concentrate on solving a problem or accomplishing a goal.
You should be confident in the first three steps before moving on. After clearing your mind and focusing, the next step is reflection. Sharpen your awareness and deepen your thoughts about yourself and everything around you. The key to self-discovery is self-conversation. Analyze yourself. Ask yourself questions. Ponder these three perceptions to find the truth about yourself: what others think you are, but you are not; what you think you are, but you are not; and what you really are.
Once you have discovered what you really are, deepen your inquiries to determine the value of your life and, beyond that, the value of being human. Do not limit your search to goodness in your home or immediate surroundings. Discover your goodness in the world.
Meditation is also a method of stress management. Once you understand yourself and your purpose in the world, you will be able to set realistic goals for improvement and move ahead in your meditation journey.
After you have learned to manage stress in your own life, you can focus your meditation on gaining perspectives that may help others solve their problems, easing their journey and growing more yourself in the process. Keep an objective view. Analyze the situation. Ask yourself how you would handle the same problem.
Each person travels along the road toward enlightenment. Meditation is an endless journey with unlimited goals and continuous growth of mind, body, spirit, soul and ki. In this context, spirit and soul are separate parts of a whole. If spirit is height, then soul is depth. Spirit refers to God, or a higher power that is not under your control. It is faith, perfection and ideals. Soul, on the other hand, is found within yourself.
To continue to grow spiritually, you must make sacrifices and do things that go beyond personal interest and individual gain (for example, fighting for your country or practicing conservation for the sake of future generations). During meditation, you may seek encouragement and strength from above. This is called “upper meditation.”
At other times, you may need “deeper meditation” or soul development, during which you tap into your inner strength and search within yourself for courage to solve your problems. You learn to accept some suffering in order to become stronger.
Between spirit and soul lies ki, which is a balance between the two and an awareness of both. You come to realize that there are some things you can do for yourself and others for which you will turn to God. This balance is a goal to strive for just as you strive to achieve a balance between mind and body. You must be disciplined and consistent to avoid burning out. If you delve too far into the soul, you may lose sight of the spirit (see diagram below).
Meditation is a search for perfection (truth, beauty and goodness), a quest for a meaningful existence or an escape to find freedom in the real world. Meditation trains you to become aware of yourself, others and your environment. You need only listen and conquer yourself from the inside out.
When your mind and heart flow together, a clearer understanding unfolds within, allowing the growth of ideas and virtues. This in turn helps you solve problems that hinder your mental and spiritual development.
When your body, mind, spirit, soul and ki are in unison, life reveals the answers you seek.