September 06, 2012

Meditation: Less is More

In meditation, Kung Fu, and Tai Qi as in many other aspects of life less really is more.
  • The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that the frame of a window or door is important, but it is the empty space within the frame that makes it useful.
  • Ancient stone carvings were created by removing some portion of the material to create either a raised or depressed surface in the shape of a letter or word.  In both cases, the meaning - the usefulness is conveyed by what is is not there.
  •  A sculptor will look at a giant slab of rock and will release the figure within by....removing the surrounding (excess) rock.
  • We "read between the lines" because what is not said is often far more meaningful that what is said.
When you mediate - and Kung Fu and Tai Qi are forms of meditation, the meaning and usefulness of the practice lie in what is not there.  What is there for most of us is desire.  Well intentioned, but desire nonetheless - to do something correctly, well, or better.  That desire typically tranlates into an attempt to control the result rather than allowing it to flow naturally.  In meditation, we focus our thoughts on a single mental point or mantra while purging all other thoughts.  In Kung Fu we introduce speed or strength into out form, in Tai Qi we enforce an artifical "softness" into the form.  The result in each of these cases is typically the opposite of what we intend.

There is another way....

In meditation...don't focus your thoughts.  Focus is not a cause, it is a result.  By consciously focusing your thoughts you are damming up a river, allowing only trickle to filter through and then calling it a stream.  It may appear calm and serene but the appearance is artifical because you are restricting the natural flow.  Instead, let your mind go wherever it wants to go.  Ten thousand thoughts, ideas, smells, sounds, memories, emotions are going to rush through.  Don't push them away but don't hold on to them either - just watch them come and go as if you were sitting on a park bench on Saturday afternoon.  At first, the pace will seem unmanageable as each thought or idea approaches, announces itself loudly and demands your attention.  But then, a change.  The thoughts will continue, they will still demand attention - but they will appear do so politely, and quietly.  Eventually, it may seem that they are not demanding attention at at all as they present themselves silently.  In reality the thoughts will remain the same but your perception, and reception of them will have changed.  Your mind, now accustomed to the clamor of thoughts will no longer grasp at each one but will selectively give attention as needed.  Only then will your "stream" of thoughts be truly calm and serene.


  1. Blogs that have quality information like this are as precious as gold. You have given me much to think about in this blog. Thank you.

  2. Thank you very much for your reply. I have not been as diligent as I would like in posting entries but I hope you will continue to check in and comment.

  3. If you don't have the patience to persist in a practice that takes many years to attain success, it makes sense to choose a technique that requires less or no effort.binaural beats

    1. It is not easy or quick. Letting go is the most difficult thing any of us will ever do and if we are lucky we will might get close within our lifetimes. Very, very few ever manage to truly let go. For the rest of us, it is the journey that matters.