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My teacher says that the Buddha said there are four ways to practice Shamata; sitting, walking, standing and lying down. Which one of these produces best are the most effective in you experience?

I also practice Qi Gong every day. Is it an idea to combine (simple) Qi Gong with Shamata? Does anyone have any experience?

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I have experience combining a Korean variety of Qi Gong with (Korean Zen) meditation.

To me, they are both helpful. Qi Gong is basically kayagata-sati in action. As such, it helps you reconnect with your psychosomatic continuum, and through that with your subconscious, and then you can untie the old knots. It also helps with calm abiding (samatha) - it has an overall good conditioning effect.

The risk with Qi Gong IMHO is to objectify it and assume that it is Qi Gong itself that helps. It's not. What helps is attention to the psychosomatic continuum, kayagata-sati. Qi Gong is just a way to focus attention by amplifying the somatic experiences. Another risk is to miss the subtleties if your movements are too coarse.

What's nice about sitting meditation, even though it takes longer, it gets you very deep. Because you are very quiet, your noise level drops - and as a result you can see very subtle things. You also get all kinds of useful side-effects, like the chance to laundry your old memories.

Not sure about walking and lying meditation. We did walking meditation in the Zen temple, in the breaks between sitting. It works well as a supplement to sitting, but can't really stand on its own IMHO. I also tried slow motion meditation - that gets more interesting, but then it almost becomes Qi Gong.

Lying meditation has always been a problem for me. I get too relaxed and fall asleep. If you have good eyesight, I heard there is lying meditation with cloud-gazing or stars-gazing. That should keep one from falling asleep. No first-hand experience with these though.

Overall, I would do both Qi Gong and sitting meditation, as long as Qi Gong is 100% improvisation (no fixed form like in Tai Chi) and the movements are very gentle.

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For samatha, there is absolutely no substitute for sitting meditation. The other forms of practicing it are simply less than ideal alternatives for when you are unable to sit whether from physical exhaustion, pain, or for some other reason.

Just think about the body-mind relationship in each form of practice. In walking meditation, while the body is upright and invigorated, the mind has to engage itself with things like balance, physical obstacles, and the complexity of moving the body forward. Consequently, less mental power is available to direct toward concentration. A moving body is also a moving mind. Deep absorption requires a stable, single point of concentration. You simply can't cultivate that kind of attention when walking. Lastly - and this is important - there is an obvious limit to how far the mind can settle. The motion of the body stirs it up.

Conversely, when we lie down, we are actually too relaxed. A reclining body encourages a reclining mind. It is entirely too easy to fall into sloth and torpor in this position. Personally, I would actually say that lying down is less advantageous to samatha than walking meditation but others may have a different experience.

Sitting meditation - specifically sitting upright on a cushion...not with your back against something - is really the ideal. Your body is stable, stationary, and somewhat relaxed. At the same time, your sitting position encourages your mind to be upright and invigorated. The mind is likewise stable and doesn't have to involve itself in much beyond your object of concentration. Attention can also be applied to a single, unmoving point of concentration. Finally, the mind can also settle almost limitlessly.

As per qi gong - and this really should be a separate question - just apply the same standards! Qi gong is entirely too complicated to allow the mind to settle in the ways necessary to access jhana. While concentration is required for the effective movement of qi, you simply can't become fully absorbed in something that is moving around. Likewise, any movement of the body disturbs concentration in very obvious ways (in fact, that is one of the main reasons why it's best not stir during seated meditation). While it is possible to practice qi gong in a still, standing, sitting, or lying position, many forms, at the very least, require the arms to be held in various upright positions. All of these reasons make it less effective than sitting meditation.

However. If you want to practice qi gong before seated meditation, I say go for it. It will help you hit the ground running. Well, hit the cushion concentrating might be a better way of putting it. ;-)

  • Your answer confirms my own experience. I asked because I think we get sometimes strange advice in class. Thanks, I'll do the Qi Gong before sitting. – Mr. Concept Nov 26 '15 at 6:55

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