The search for a peaceful mind. The most common purpose of meditation is to train the mind to be relaxed, calm and harmonious. Without meditation, the mind is generally emotionally agitated by surrounding circumstances, being scattered, confused, and excited. Through meditation with deep breathing, we can calm and clear the mind.
Using an EEG (Electroencephalogram), four separate groups of brainwaves (oscillating electrical currents) have been classified according to their frequency bands, with different activities related to each band.
These four categories are:
- Beta activity (above 13 Hz): Occurs in bursts in the anterior part of the brain and is associated with mental activity.
- Alpha activity (8-13 Hz): Relaxation, daydreaming.
- Theta activity (4 to less than 8 Hz): Drowsy or asleep.
- Delta activity (below 4 Hz): Deep sleep and coma.
When we are awake and thinking deeply (Beta), there is a lot of activity, but its amplitude is low. On average, 13 or more thoughts pass through our brain per second. By contrast, in the Alpha state of relaxation, although the signals are still almost as weak, the number of oscillations is significantly reduced. This implies that a calm mind has more clarity and focus. In the Theta state of drowsiness or sleep, the number of oscillations is also reduced, but the thoughts are more irregular. In deep, sound sleep (Delta), the number of oscillations is reduced substantially, while the amplitude is significantly increased. In scientific terms, the power of oscillation is as follows:
P ∞ Frequency2 x Amplitude2
“Power is directly proportional to Frequency squared times Amplitude squared.”
In deep sleep, although your conscious mind is not deeply involved in thought (frequency reduced), the brain cells obtain a large supply of nutrition, oxygen, and Qì nourishment. In this calm state, there is less disturbance in the brain. Under these extremely calm and relaxed conditions, if you can control your consciousness without falling asleep, you can build up a better sensitivity for energy correspondence with the outside world. This is one of the desired states in meditation practice.
In meditation, you try to reach the stage at which the brainwaves are between Theta and Delta. It seems you are sleeping, yet your conscious mind is still governing the being. In this semi-sleeping or self-hypnotic state, the brain’s sensitivity or energy correspondence with other brainwaves or natural vibrations reaches a peak. It is in this state that a meditator seeks the connection between his spiritual being and the spirit of nature.
Improving Health and Healing.
When the mind is relaxed and calm, the body will be too. The more profound meditative state the mind reaches, the deeper the body can relax. When both mind and body relax, the Qì circulates smoothly and naturally. In this way, irregular Qì circulation due to illness or any other reason can be regulated to a healthy state of harmony. This is the main method used in Chinese medicine for healing and maintaining health. During deep meditation and relaxation, mind-body communication is efficient, Qì circulation is stronger, and the healing process faster.
During deep meditation, the breathing will be deep, soft, and slender, which enables you to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide more efficiently. Each brain cell consumes about twelve times as much oxygen as other cells, so a steady oxygen supply is crucial to keep the brain healthy. Deep exhalation of carbon dioxide disposes of waste from remote parts of the body. This is important for replacement of cells in the body.
To find the center of self-being. When you calm down, your mind becomes clearer and your thought process more logical. You must prevent your mind from wandering to memories or into fantasy, called “entering the devil” (Rùmó, 入魔). The best is to pay attention to the breathing and keep the mind honest and truthful.
Four Steps of Spiritual Freedom
There are four steps to reach the final goal of spiritual freedom. The first is self- recognition (Zìshì, 自識), where the mask you wear starts to drop off, allowing you to recognize your spiritual being more clearly. Mistakes you have made and lies you have told are buried in your subconscious and will gradually arise in your conscious awareness. Your subconscious mind is always truthful and associated with the spiritual being. Once you discard the mask you have been wearing, you must face the real you. You encounter the past and analyze it. Not only that, to attain deep emotional balance, you search for ways to release feelings of guilt hidden deep inside. This process makes you humble, helps you understand yourself better, and finally helps you find the center of your being.
The next step is self-awareness (Zìjué, 自覺). By paying attention, you become aware of your spiritual being and the problems existing within yourself. You become more aware of your thinking and behavior, as well as that of others. You analyze your existence, your problems, and the role you should play in society. Through this self-awareness meditation process, you establish a calm and peaceful mind which harmonizes you with others and with nature.
To search for and understand the meaning of our lives. The third stage of cultiva- tion is called self-awakening (Zìxǐng, Zìwù, 自醒.自悟). Through this stage you pay attention, collect information, and understand yourself and your environment. Many people, after this awakening process, see how ugly human nature is and decide to separate from lay society and become hermits or monks. Others build up their self-confidence and make their lives more meaningful.
The search for spiritual freedom. Realizing that we are being abused by political and spiritual leaders, the search begins for freedom from spiritual bondage (Jiětuō, 解脫), known as spiritual independence. When you reach this stage, your spiritual being can be independent and does not need to rely on others.
To comprehend the meaning of the universe. Many non-religious people try through meditation to comprehend the meaning, root, or origin of nature, searching for the truth of the Dào. The first step is to search for the root of our lives (Shēngmìng Zhīběn, 生命之本). Since our lives are a part of nature, from understanding the root of our lives, we comprehend the meaning of nature. To keep and cherish this root is called embracing the origin (Bàoyuán, Bàoyī, 抱元.抱一).
Three Origins of our Lives
The three origins of our lives are Original Essence (Yuánjīng, 元精), Original Qì (Yuánqì, 元氣), and Original Spirit (Yuánshén, 元神). Original spirit is the origin of the others, since it exists before physical life begins. Searching for the spiritual root is the most important cultivation in Chinese society. Daoists say, “Cultivate the Xīn (Emotional Mind) to cultivate the natural being. Keep the center and embrace the origin.” 26 Scholarly society says, “Pay attention to the Xīn to cultivate the natural being. Maintain the center to fully comprehend the origin.”27
By contrast, the Buddhist family says: “Understand the Xīn clearly to grasp human nature. Millions of methods return to one.”28 The medical family says: “Void Xīn (humble mind) to stabilize the human natural being, cherish the origin and keep it.”29
The “one” is explained in a classic entitled the Classic of Great Peace (Tàipíngjīng, 太 平經). It says, “Ponder to keep one, why? What is one? The beginning of the counting numbers. What is one? The Dào of begetting. What is one? The beginning of the raising of the Qì? What is one? The root principle of the universe.”30
The “one” means the very origin of all matter and energy. According to the Book of Changes (Yìjīng, 易經), this “one” means the state of Wújí (無極), of no extremity. The Daoist book, The Complete Book of Principal Contents of Lífe and Human Nature (Xìngmìng Guīzhǐ Quánshū, 性 命圭旨全書) says, “What the scholar means by the one, is to use the original body to understand human nature.”31 It is also said in Daoist family that, “Dào, use the one to understand thoroughly.”32
Even in secular meditation practice, the goals of meditation can be divided into levels ranging from beginner to profound. All of these spiritual regulation processes are also pursued by other Qìgōng groups such as martial artists.
26 道家:修心養性，守中抱一。 27. 儒家:存心養性，執中貫一。
28 佛家:明心見性，萬法歸一。 29. 醫家:虛心定性，抱元守一。
The above is an excerpt from Qigong Meditation Small Circulation Second Edition: The Foundation of Spiritual Enlightenment by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Publication Date November 4, 2022, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN 9781594399176