MINDFULNESS: THE CHINESE TRADITION

Today, everyone is talking about mindfulness. The scientific community is learning about its multiple applications and mainstream society is becoming aware of its numerous benefits.

In these times, it is just and necessary to point out the special characteristics of the Chinese tradition of mindfulness and the contributions it can make. In this scenario, the legacy of Bodhidharma play an outstanding role. In effect, Luohan Gong represents one of the strongest tradition of mindfulness in China.

Created by Bodhidharma (Ta Mo for the Chinese), the main figure of Zen Buddhism, Luohan Gong reached us through the Shaolin Temple and most specifically through one of the best known and most popular styles of Kung Fu: Choy Lee Fut.

In the Chinese tradition, the training in mindfulness usually starts with using the body. In Luohan Gong, it is through the form “The Hands of the 18 Luohan”. A true jewel.

This set of movements, which is traditionally considered to have been created by Bodhidharma, was specifically created to help meditators withstand the rigorous training of sitting meditation.

Much like today’s student or professional that spends most of his life sitting, sitting meditators suffer from pains in the back and joints. The Hands of the 18 Luohan is anatomically and physiologically, extremely well-conceived with its powerful postures, breathing and intelligent stretching that strengthens the spine and bodily joints, it drains the energy channel of its practitioners as it teaches relaxation, mental calmness and concentration.

This is extremely important for it is much easier for a beginner to focus on the body and movement than to sit down and breathe or concentrate. It is easier, more acceptable at first to practice concentration, forget the thoughts, relax and live in the present through movements, which at the same time help tune and adjust our physical and energetic body. These intelligent and refined movements prepare the body and spine for sitting meditation and the energy work that follows. This moving meditation also helps to transfer the experience of silence and stillness lived during the practice of this “dance” to everyday life which is precisely that, movement.

That is the “first”* element in the Chinese tradition; that of teaching mindfulness through body movement. The “second”* is sitting meditation or Tai Luohan as it is known in the tradition of Luohan Gong.

The Chinese tradition of mindfulness varies a bit from the mindfulness theory being popularized today. The techniques in Luohan Gong, whether it is moving or sitting meditation, calms the mind and body, and encourages the active movement of blood and energy throughout the organismThis is one of the differences

In the first case, that is in “The Hands of 18 Luohan”, through the “Energy Pump” created by the continuous sequence of Yin/Yang movements. In the second case –Tai Luohan– by the specific techniques and energy points activated. In both methods, the objectives of increasing the quantity and quality of energy and its circulation through the body are attained.

Luohan Gong with its origin and characteristics represents one of the most pure, original and profound systems of Chinese mindfulness practice in existence today. A true treasure.

 

*Note: We have put “first” and “second” in quotations as it does not represent a hierarchical methodology, but rather different and complementary ways, each with its own characteristics, to facilitate a deeper understanding of the practice of mindfulness.