Daoist Meditation


Mindfulness + Awareness + Visualization = Awakening

The mind has two sides. It can create elegant mathematical order, it can compose stunning artwork, it can express compassion to rise above mere animal existence. But it can also, and often does, make us miserable. The tremendous capabilities of the mind can create both happiness and despair. At the core of our being exists an authentic, open, loving, transcendent spirit that strives for unity with people and place. But our essential nature often lies hidden beneath the travails and distractions of daily life, leaving us with a sense of doubt and insecurity.

The ultimate awakening of the spirit happens when we genuinely realize our interdependence with all things on earth and feel a wholehearted intimacy with the world. Meditation can help us discover the peace and fulfillment that lies deep within our minds by learning how to stop restlessness, end discursive thinking, and let go of negativity.

Most meditations in the Daoist tradition have four aspects: mindfulness, awareness, visualization and spiritual awakening. The first three involve innate mental activities that can be used to train the mind the fourth aspect is the motivation for training.

Daoist meditations use mindfulness to focus on one and only one thing at a time. The subject could be the breath cycle, a qigong movement, or anywhere we want to place our full attention. When we immerse ourselves in mindfulness, we become completely absorbed in something without distractions. The mindfulness that we cultivate in meditation becomes applicable to everything else we may do in our lives. As a technique for honing concentration and composure, practicing mindfulness helps control pervasive stress and daily diversions so that we become productive, attentive and efficient.

Both Daoist and Buddhist practitioners regard awareness to be the gist of their practice. Mental awareness observes our immediate world through sensory and cognitive perceptions. While mindfulness operates wholly in the present moment, meditative awareness has a sense of time to it we were being mindful just a moment ago, but awareness notices that now we are not. Awareness notices when we lose concentration and immediately brings our attention back to the object of mindfulness. It keeps us focused on a single task while at the same time it notices – but does not attach to– the streaming internal chatter, fantasies, and sensory details that occupy our mind. Awareness does not make judgments; it only observes how mindfulness ebbs and flows, but does not comment on it.

Mindfulness and awareness are the yin and yang aspects of meditation practice. For example, when we concentrate on the breath cycle, mindfulness only feels the breath coming in and going out. Awareness knows we are breathing but also feels the room temperature, hears the traffic outside, and notices when myriad thoughts have invaded our concentration and then gently brings our attention back to the breath. During a meditation session, the seamless interplay between mindfulness and awareness cultivates a conscious singularity that feels utterly peaceful, spacious and clear.

The Theravada school of Buddhism uses a technique that applies awareness and mindfulness to “feeling tones”. Every perception can be regarded as being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. The practice is to simply label each sensation - a voice, that color, some thought – as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral without grasping onto your reaction to the stimulation. It really helps to calm down and realize the true impermanence of everything you perceive.


Daoist meditation uses intentional imagery to make the connection between body and brain, intensify compassion, and develop spiritual awareness. Sport psychologists know that when we mentally imagine shooting a basketball it stimulates the same brain areas that are responsible for physically shooting the ball. Research physiologists found that when long-term meditators practiced visualizing the dissemination of kindness and compassion to individuals or groups, the regions of the brain related to those emotions actually increased in size. The additional neurons of these regions raise the baseline for happiness in the meditator’s mind which imparts enduring tranquility, contentment, and benevolence.

In qigong practice, visualization entails using specific imagery to circulate qi and blood through the meridian system. There are also special meditations, like Lake and Geyser, that visualize an inner brilliant light rising up through the taiji axis and illuminating each energy center as it ascends to the upper dan tian where it kindles spiritual awakening.


Every person has a natural inclination to realize spiritual awakening. An awakened spirit truly understands interdependence and dwells in benevolence. As energetic beings we live in an ecosystem that begins deep inside the body, connects with the mind and emotions, interacts with natural and man-made phenomena, and extends into the boundless universe. We are born to connect with everything that exists.

Until we realize this universal bond really feel it deep in the bones we will continue living in alienation from our true self. When we have a profound comprehension and respect for our place in this ecology, and a genuine sense of generosity and good will toward all sentient beings, we will live in peace and harmony with the world.

A well functioning body and a tranquil mind are prerequisites for awakening the spirit. We should diligently practice qigong, meditation, and healthy eating to set the stage for waking up. The more you practice meditation, the more skillfully you can create the process that leads to awakening. Just as importantly, moving qigong practice functions as a counterbalance to meditation the yang qi that animates the yin qi of sitting.

Spiritual awakening does not lead to divorcing oneself from society. When you experience enlightenment you do not go away from the world. You remain invested in social engagements so that you can help others experience their true nature. Essentially, spiritual awakening can happen once or it can happen countless times because the joy of living a fully realized life does not depend on time.