Taoist meditation is a powerful practice that originates from ancient China.
But how does it work?
And how do you begin practicing Taoist meditation?
In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know including techniques, exercises and Tao prayers to expand your practice.
Let’s jump in…
Taoism (also known as Daoism) is followed by millions of people around the world.
It’s recognised as a religion because of it’s following.
However, Taoism is more like a philosophy.
It actually originated from Laozi, an ancient philosopher from China.
This philosophy is about discovering universal truth:
But not just understanding it – you have to live in harmony and accept those universal truths too.
Tao meditations are a practice used alongside Taoism.
This form of meditation has been used for many centuries.
This form of meditation focuses specifically on mindfulness, concentration, visualization, and contemplation.
Sometimes Tao meditations are referred to as “returning to the source” or “embracing the one.”
Although other forms of meditation are similar to Tao meditations, they aren’t the same.
According to Project Meditation, the mild movements used in Taoist meditation are made spiritually as you’re moving physically.
Spiritual grounding is a big component of this practice.
These meditative applications are related to similar meditations used alongside the practice of Buddhism. In fact, guan or “observation” was incorporated into Daoism meditation after being inspired by Tianti Buddhist anapanasati or “mindfulness of breath” in the sixth century.
However, what makes Taoist meditation different from Buddhist meditation is that Taoist meditation focuses more on energy or chi, also sometimes spelt qi.
Taoist meditation techniques also have a close correlation with Chinese martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine.
Through engaging in Taoist meditation regularly, you can gain a higher state of awareness and a stronger understanding of the self.
Likewise, you can gain mental clarity and physical health benefits, like lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan, as a result of engaging in Taoist meditation.
It’s said that by harmonizing with yourself through Tao meditation, you’ll be able to harmonize with others.
In turn, this can help us achieve a more harmonious universe overall.
There are multiple techniques of Taoist meditation depending on the goal you want to obtain.
These power techniques are often divided into three different categories:
Before engaging in Tao meditation, however, it’s important to first understand what this form of meditation entails.
Joining a Tao temple can also help better familiarize yourself with the practice before delving into Tao meditation.
Now here’s some examples of Taoist meditation techniques…
This Taoist meditation technique emphasizes focusing on your inhalation and exhalation breathing patterns.
Breathing meditation is also often used alongside Buddhism and Hinduism.
In Taoism breathing meditation, it’s important to continue until the “breath becomes soft.”
Here’s how to get started:
Tip: If you’re engaging in breathing meditation correctly, you should notice that your stomach moves outwards and inwards more than your chest.
For those dealing with stress, anxiety, or other internal conflicts, emptiness meditation is a great Taoist technique to engage in.
The purpose of this type of meditation is to clear the mind of unwanted concerns, negative emotions, or an overabundance of thoughts or mental images.
Emptiness meditation is a little more complex than other types of meditation.
If you have difficulty with this type of meditation, try visualization or Qigong as an alternative:
In Taoist meditation, visualization is a technique that involves imagining visuals and then connecting those visuals to mental stimuli.
According to the NorthShore University HealthSystem, when one imagines calming visuals, it becomes easier to calm the physical body and tackle stressful thoughts on a mental level.
Visualization alone is a very powerful meditation technique on its own or in combination with other forms of Taoist meditation.
Apart from improving relaxation and decreasing stress, it’s said that it has the power to reduce depression, aid insomnia, improve immunity, and even relieve chronic pain and headaches.
Here’s how to practice this technique:
Through this Taoist meditation technique which has been around since the seventh or eighth century, the goal is to delve into tranquility and peace as you discover your genuine life path.
Nei means “inner” while guan translates to “view.”
Via this meditative practice, you’ll be visualizing both inside your mind as well as within the body.
Specifically, you’ll visualize your thought processes, your organs or “inner deities,” and your vital force or “qi” movements.
Neiguan meditation has correlations with traditional Chinese medicine.
Each of the five main organs that are visualized via Neiguan meditation helps you connect with your body in a deeper way.
Each organ of traditional Chinese medicine is connected to one emotion, one color, and one of five elements in Chinese philosophy.
Through Neiguan meditation, you must be able to join the breath and the body together, which isn’t always easy for beginners meditators.
Tip: Due to its complexity, it’s often best to join a Taoist group, get a personal teacher, and/or read a book for this form of meditation.
It takes significant practice to be able to visualize each of the five organs in the body. Thus, it’s a good idea to study traditional Chinese medicine as well as Neiguan.
Neidan meditation is another complex form of Taoist meditation.
Via this technique, one engages in a combination of visualization, concentration, movement, and breathing exercises.
It’s recommended that you focus on concentration/visualization, movement, and breathing exercises alone before building up to Neidan meditation.
Because of the intricacies involved in this form of meditation, it’s also recommended that you get help from a professional and/or read a book on Nedian meditation.
Breathing techniques are an integral part of many Taoist meditations.
In fact, those who practice Taoism believe proper breathing is essential for good overall health.
However, most people have poor breathing habits:
The purpose of Taoist meditation breathing techniques is to build your qi, induce relaxation, and improve internal organ functioning.
Taoist breathing typically involves four stages: inhalation, retention, exhalation, and pause.
Here’s a few techniques for engaging in Taoist breathing…
Embryonic breathing is sometimes referred to as “stopping the breath.”
However, in this case, stopping the breath isn’t synonymous with holding your breath.
Rather, through this breathing technique, one no longer becomes aware of their breathing because of how natural it occurs.
This technique is especially great for those who tend to focus too much on their breathing, which may result in unintentional and accidental hyperventilation, hypoventilation, or breath-holding.
Holding a feather in front of your nose, you’ll notice that your breath doesn’t make the feather move or may very subtly make it move.
This can help you to learn to breathe more naturally and not focus too much on your breathing itself.
As expected, natural breathing refers to the breathing we engage in daily.
However, many of us still fail to engage in a proper natural breathing technique.
Natural breathing involves contracting your diaphragm as you inhale, pushing out the belly, and inflating your lungs.
The opposite occurs as you exhale.
Breathing via this technique should be slow, deep, fine, and even to ensure you’re inhaling enough oxygen and releasing enough carbon dioxide.
Reverse breathing is essentially the opposite of natural breathing.
It involves inhaling deeply, contracting your abdomen, and letting the air delve into your upper lungs.
As you exhale via this breathing technique, you push your abdomen out.
Via reverse breathing, the air you inhale moves horizontally back and forth in the stomach as you exhale.
Tao yin or Taoist yoga, one of the original forms of Qigong, are different types of exercises practiced by Taoists to ignite qi or inner energy.
These exercises are often done sitting or lying down but in some cases can also be done in standing position.
To goal of Tao yin is to bolster the mind, body, and spirit by creating a balance between internal and external energies.
You can also gain strength and flexibility by engaging in these exercises.
Although Taoists move slowly when engaging in different meditative exercises, you can still gain muscle and tone, lose weight, and boost your strength and endurance.
Here’s some the best Tao Yin exercises you can try at home…
This exercise is ideal if you suffer from constipation, insomnia, bronchitis, diarrhea, obesity, ulcers or stomach pain, or female-related problems.
With the Peacock Looks at Its Tail Tao Yin exercise, you’ll be able to stretch your shoulders, neck, thighs, and thorax.
The Deer Pose in Qigong / Tao Yin, which is related to the water element, can aid with the bladder and kidneys while also improving the body’s connective tissues.
Unlike prayer apart of many other religions, Taoists don’t pray to a specific god or series of gods.
Although many consider Taoism a religion, some state that’s it’s more of a philosophy.
However, prayer still plays a valuable role in the practice of Taoism.
Rather than praying directly to a higher being, Taoists pray in accordance with the Tao as they engage in meditation.
In a sense, Taoists essentially pray “to themselves.”
Prayers in Taoism are often conceived in the form of complex, spiritual poems.
These prayers may gravitate around asking for forgiveness, for blessings or success to come, or for peace and blessings for your loved ones.
When engaging in prayer, Taoists ball their fists with their left fist over their right as their thumbs are tucked, forming a Ying-Yang symbol.
As a sacrifice, incense sticks are often offered with the left hand.
Some titles of specific prayers of Taoism are as follows: