Pop culture shows meditation as a very relaxing and gentle exercise, but Shaolin meditation is different. This particular form is not about relaxation, but instead about strengthening your mind. Discipline of breathing is crucial, and these exercises can feel like you’re drowning; combined with vigorous eye and abdomen exercises, it can actually be quite an ordeal.However, many practitioners swear by it, with anecdotal (and, to a lesser extent, scientific) evidence that Shaolin meditation can reduce pain, symptoms of illness, or even injury. The psychosomatic effect of meditation can help you feel better, which makes it good to use in conjunction with professional medical treatments. And there’s no doubt that it boosts mental faculties and helps keep your mind sharp.
Mental Effects of Shaolin Meditation
For the students and teachers here at Kung Fu for Life, meditation is a wonderful addition to our training. We’ve seen it help so many people with physical or mental limitations, and it can truly make a difference with that last mental or physical hurdle you’ve been experiencing. In stressful times, it can give that little bit of extra bravery or calmness to go down the right path in your life. This definitely applies beyond martial arts: whether you’re asking out someone new, starting an exercise program, or worried about that difficult move, meditation can help you!
That being said, meditation can also be used as an excuse. People can get “in the zone” and overlook simple, logical responses to what is going on in their life. For example, if you have chronic pain or are stuck in a bad relationship, meditation may help but it should not be the only solution. It can disconnect you from the world and your present reality, and in extreme cases you can get into a flow state. This is great for focus, but not so much if it leads to sleeping problems, a lack of appetite, or further bodily harm.
At the core, meditation is simply a very focused mind. It’s easier for children to reach a state like this, especially during play, as adults are usually too bogged down in details or stress, but sometimes it happens. Playing video games, building a toy model, painting, doing kung fu or other sports can all lead to this state of pure focus.
Chi and Meditation
If you’re not familiar with the term chi, it refers to the energy field of our bodies that intersects with all our physical functions – like breathing, pulse, and mental concentration. It does not fit neatly into a “scientific” definition, as it is more abstract than western theories of energy and the body usually describe. But tapping into this energy is the other side of effective meditation.
You are free to make your own conclusions, but many practitioners of meditation swear by their chi as the reason they are able to break concrete blocks, wooden planks, or other seemingly impossible items with their bare hands. Some even claim it allows them to heal quickly, and that they can draw on this energy to have almost superhuman awareness that borders on precognition. Whatever you decide to believe, know that envisioning this energy and its impact is the key to true Shaolin meditation techniques. It drives your focus into a hyperactive state, making you want to go further and achieve more, before it fades away.
Can Meditation Make You Hallucinate?
The mind is a very powerful thing, and many adept students of meditation will tell you about the strange things they have seen in the process – aliens, energy beings, spirits, and so on. This is not something that occurs unless you dive very deeply though, so you shouldn’t expect to encounter anything like that unless you are quite advanced.
In the last stage of meditation that you are taught, you are given ways to control such visions and minimize the chances of a bad interaction – and the nice thing about meditation is that these instances are rather easy to shake off. Often, it takes no more effort than coming out of a daydream when called on by a teacher or coworker. While we do not encourage the dedicated pursuit of this type of meditation, we know it’s impossible to prevent entirely; with that said, such control training is generally reserved for advanced students with many, many hours of meditation on building and circulating their chi.
Sharing Your Meditation Energy
If you’re trying meditation at home and you have built up too much energy, without an appropriate outlet like martial arts or other training, you can try sending the energy to someone you care about. Most people can use injection of good chi these days – think of it as good vibes – so it works both ways: it relieves you of excess energy and helps someone you care about.
How To Meditate for Focus
Step 1: Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor or whatever is comfortable for you, with your back straight. Put your hands on your knees with your palms up.
Step 2: Pick a spot to focus on, either directly in front of you in the distance or on the floor about 6 feet in front of you.
Step 3: Take a deep breath in through the nose, expanding the abdomen as you breathe. Stop at the top and hold your breath in for just a second. Next, slowly breathe out and compress your abdomen, starting from the top; allow it to compress downwards, all the way to the pelvic floor (groin). This should be at least 7 seconds, and as you become more comfortable with meditation, that time should double or triple.
Step 4: Push out the last bit of air, sometimes done with a “T” sound. Relax everything. Breathe in again, expanding the abdomen as you go.
Repeat steps 2-4, and you’re meditating! You’ve just set out on a wonderful journey with plenty of benefits to improve your life. With regular practice, you’ll see the positive impacts in no time at all.