I would like to expand on a meditation technique I have adapted.
About a month ago, I gave a brief overview of how I meditate.
From that post, I will expand further on one aspect I touched upon – that is, thinking through the spine.
This will help to explain why I meditate as it relates to my current stretching adventure.
The Background Of My Meditation Technique
What I’m doing while meditating, more often than not, is what I would be focusing on during my Wing Chun training; specifically, the first empty-hand form, Siu Nim Tao.
The name Siu Nim Tao roughly translates to small thought or tiny idea or sense from the brain. It’s a kind of standing meditation technique that encourages correct spinal alignment via increased body awareness and the release of Nim Tao, or thought-force.
Amongst others, the primary directives include:
- To relax all the muscles in the body; and
- To infuse the spine with spirit
These two work off each other.
I have found that thinking through the spine is a better description for my mind to play with. Most Wing Chun practitioners would usually suggest thinking up the spine.
For me, thinking through the spine encourages awareness everywhere up & down the spine all at once, instantaneously, as opposed to a gradual flow like a hose filling up with water from one end to the other.
Whichever way a person prefers to frame it, though, it’s important to maintain that thread of spinal awareness as thinly/finely as possible.
This increases the willingness/ability of muscle tension around it to release.
How To Apply This Meditation Technique
To spark this awareness of the spine, we are encouraged to ever-so-lightly contract the anus, like you’re gently trying to stop yourself from going to the toilet.
At the same time, feeling the deep hip joints and imagining them spinning like tiny, tiny ball-bearings encourages awareness from the tailbone all the way to the top of the head, just behind the crown.
Actually, we are encouraged to think of every joint in the body as a tiny, spinning ball-bearing (regardless of whether there is any actual physical movement or not), especially the vertebrae.
The ‘spinning’ is in all directions, all at once.
While standing and performing the Siu Nim Tau form, thinking soft knees helps to support what I just described.
However, during my lying meditation this soft knees directive isn’t as important because gravity is out of the equation.
Setting up these parameters to create ‘space’ to let the spine subtly decompress helps us to perform the arm movements of the Siu Nim Tao form in the most economical way, allowing us to absorb, redirect and/or generate force.
A Center Of Awareness
The more a practitioner can relax the muscles of the whole body and infuse their spine with spirit, the more they can initiate movements from their center, a point just below the navel called the dan tien.
Most people who have practiced tai chi or most other eastern martial arts would have heard of this, I think, however they might know it by another term.
Increasing awareness of the dan tien like this has aided my ability to relax the belly.
I feel that during stretching I have fairly good control of this.
Now the specific kind of Wing Chun I train has no kicks above the waist (apart from one). And all kicks are done with a slightly bent knee, so flexibility is talked about very little. And in fact, a few times we asked our teacher, a man named Chu Shong Tin, whether increasing our flexibility would help us to relax & generate force.
He always said no, they are two separate kinds of training.
I have been pleased to read occasional posts on the stretch therapy forums essentially mirroring this perspective.
That is, the range of motion a muscle has is separate from the particular quality of texture it has. So someone can be very flexible, even to the point of being able to do the splits easily, but their muscles might still have a lot of tension in them.
Having said that, stretching does seem to help increase awareness to certain areas for me. With that increased awareness I can then spend time actively relaxing.
Why I Use This Meditation Technique
Sigung Chu always recommended to us that if we did any kind of stretching or strengthening/physical exercises that we should then spend an equal amount of time training Siu Nim Tao – or at least focus on the muscles we had just used to actively relax them – immediately afterward to ensure our muscles don’t start to develop unwanted tension.
This is how I see the purpose of my lying meditation technique.
At a deeper level, it also helps with the release of existing chronic tension and, hence, structural integrity of the skeletal system, which usually becomes more apparent during longer sessions, 90-120 minutes.
This awareness of chronic tension arising and releasing, independent of my conscious efforts, reminds me of my experiences during the two Vipassana meditation retreats I have attended, where Goenka talks about sankaras.
However, I wouldn’t say that I am strictly practicing the Vipassana meditation technique, as such, apart from often bringing my awareness back to my breath and noticing sensations in the body.
Not Being Stuck To Any Meditation Technique
I try not to focus on the Wing Chun style approach of focusing on the spine I have described too obsessively.
Sometimes during meditation I am just lying there watching my thoughts pass by, staying detached as possible and, again, watching my breath.