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Written by Master Dao on Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What is Shaolin Meditation?

Shaolin Meditation is a discipline that stems from a philosophy called Chán 禪 (pronounced 'Ch - ah - n' in Mandarin Chinese with a rising tone). It’s well over 1,500 years old and was initially conceived by an Indian prince named Bodhidharma who first established Chán at the Shaolin Temple in Central North China around 500 AD. Since then, the ideas of Zen have evolved a little differently all over the world.

The word Chán 禪 is more commonly known as Zen and is derived from the word 'dhyāna' in Hinduism and Buddhism. A quick linguistics investigation reveals the word comes from the Sanskrit root word 'dhyai', which means 'to contemplate or meditate'.

Thus you could say the word Chán 禪 is a philosophy that requires the practice of meditation. That is, it's not Chán or Zen without meditation practice.

But when asked what Chán 禪 means, a Chán 禪 Master, would more than likely skirt around a precise definition. That's because its meaning to an individual evolves with time and practice.

That’s also why some Zen Masters may tell you that Chán 禪 means wisdom.

So what is the goal of Shaolin Meditation? How can it help and is it important?

There are two main goals of Shaolin Meditation. The first one is to help people to understand themselves better. I call this Self-Wisdom. The second goal is to provide a path of meditation techniques so that the student can grow.

There are three key components to Self-Wisdom philosophy and they are: 1) Perceptions, 2) Emotions, and 3) the Subconscious.

I teach these components mostly in person and through live streaming. The reason is that I need to know where students’ perceptions are so that I can most directly and clearly transmit a teaching to the student and with the least amount of misunderstanding. To some extent I can describe them in brief through more blogs and articles on here. In time I will indeed write more about these components.

There are many Shaolin techniques that can be used to help students grow. The most obvious one is what I call Silent Sitting Meditation; however, it’s actually not the best place to start for most people. It’s at least worth trying to give you more perspective and experience.

Do you consider yourself emotional? Do you get distracted a lot? Do you find that sitting alone in silence is scary? If so, Silent Sitting Meditation may not be the best technique at this time. What you need is more mental stimulation and thus a form of Moving Meditation is better.

The spectrum of Shaolin Meditation techniques is quite broad. Here is one way that I like to classify them: 

Still Meditation Techniques: Silent Sitting Meditation, Silent Standing Meditation (Lotus Posture or other Still Postures)

Light Moving Meditation Techniques: Walking Meditation, Quiet Contemplation, Sitting or Standing Meditation with Music

Soft Moving Meditation Techniques: Shaolin Qigong such as the Eight Brocades Baduanjin Qigong form

Heavy Moving Meditation Techniques: Shaolin Tai Chi, Shaolin Kung Fu

These all have their own merits. Heavy Moving Meditation requires the most mental and physical effort, which makes it unlikely for you to get distracted by your daily life and problems. In Shaolin tradition, Heavy Moving Meditation techniques are used, and the philosophical ideals of Zen are built-in. For that reason it is one of the best places to start for many students.

Soft Moving Meditation techniques is also a great place to start since it works on breath, qi, and movement. This results in more energy and control of your energy, and is a great way to complement lighter forms of meditation techniques.

Light moving Meditation techniques are commonly found in other Meditation Disciplines. Calm music is used as a way to lightly stimulate the mind and level emotions, preparing one for deeper meditation practice.

Still Meditation Techniques are the toughest and considered the ‘deepest’ forms of meditation techniques because the aim is to have 'no thoughts' entering your mind. It’s beyond the scope of this article to talk about what ‘deepest’ means and why. It’s worth mentioning though that the aim of ‘no thoughts’ is very difficult to achieve, and that it is important to have a teacher to help you understand what that means and how to get there.

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