This morning my pre-meditation reading was a chapter on Wu-Wei (non-action) in Alan Watt's "Tao: The Watercourse Way." The passage below reminded me of how different my meditation period is now that I've become churchless, unreligious, and dogma shunning.
In a footnote to a preceding paragraph, Watts says that he is a "deplorable heretic" to those Zen practitioners who favor the "aching legs" brand of Buddhism, since to them long periods of meditation are considered to be key to enlightenment.
On the other hand, those who understand the Tao delight, like cats, in just sitting and watching without any goal or result in mind. But when a cat gets tired of sitting, it gets up and goes for a walk or hunts for mice.
It does not punish itself or compete with other cats in an endurance test as to how long it can remain immovable -- unless there is some real reason for being still, such as catching a bird.
Contemplative Taoists will happily sit with yogis and Zennists for as long as is reasonable and comfortable, but when nature tells us that we are "pushing the river" we will get up and do something else, or even go to sleep. More than this is certainly spiritual pride.
Taoists do not look meditation as "practice," except in the sense that a doctor "practices" medicine. They have no desire to subjugate or alter the universe by force or willpower, for their art is entirely to go along with the flow of things in an intelligent way.
...Contemplative Taoists...meditate for the joy of meditation -- the flow of breath, the sound of roosters in the distance, the light on the floor, the susurrus of the wind, the stillness, and, alas, all those things which militant activists of both East and West have, with their frantic purposiveness, learned to disdain.
This is the yin aspect of the Taoist life, and thus does not exclude -- when it becomes timely -- the yang aspect of delighting in vigor, so that the t'ai chi chuan discipline of bodily movement, flowing and swinging, is as much appreciated as sitting in meditation.
Absolutely. I do quite a bit of Tai Chi and find that it truly is a form of moving meditation.
However, I used to think that the only "real" sort of meditation should be done for an hour or two at a stretch, was aimed at withdrawing one's consciousness completely from the outside world, and had the goal of experiencing supernatural phenomena (such as divine light and sound).
I've come a long way from those notions. Some would say that I've embraced a lazy, loose, undisciplined approach to meditation. And to that I reply...
You're absolutely right! That's why I love my morning alone time. It's pleasant and relaxing. No pressure, no right or wrong, no worry if I fail to live up to some standard, because I don't have any.
I get out of bed, make coffee, and walk up our driveway to get the newspapers. After eating some toast and checking what's happening in my Internet world, I head off into my meditation area with the Oregonian sports page in hand.
I read that first. This gets me focused on what's most important in life (though my main athletic interest is collegiate, particularly the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers, so summer months aren't all that interesting for me, sports wise.)
Then I look over the several dozen books that I usually keep piled up in the mostly unused large tiled shower that I've made into a contemplative retreat. Whatever strikes my fancy, I pick up and read.
Could be a science book. Or a Buddhist'y book about mindfulness. I also enjoy reading about neuroscience, how the brain works. Cosmology too. I've got several books about global warming and evolution that I'm half-finished with.
When my coffee cup is about three-quarters drained, that's a signal to me to get my iPhone out, because I have various apps and web sites that I like to check before I meditate.
Email. Local weather. Twitter. Google Reader. NPR and NY TImes news apps. My final iPhone activity is playing a game of solitaire, a sacred gesture that I described in "Klondike solitaire -- a fine philosophy of life."
Then I set my iPhone's timer for 21 minutes. And I meditate for about that long. Sometimes a bit longer, sometimes a bit less. I sit on my cushions however I want to. If I feel like I want to move, I do.
I might focus on my breathing. Or repeat a mantra. I might mix the two. I usually don't stick with a single meditation approach for the entire twenty-some minutes. But sometimes I do. It just depends on how I feel that day.
Wu-wei is is to roll with experiences and feelings as they come and go, like a ball in a mountain stream, though actually there is no ball apart from the convolutions and wiggles of the stream itself. This is called "flowing with the moment," though it can happen only when it is clear that there is nothing else to do, since there is no experience which is not now.