Over the years I’ve learned a wide variety of meditation techniques, all of which serve different purposes and have different ranges of effectiveness. If you’re looking for a powerful meditation that will truly center and ground you, I find it helpful to draw on more advanced schools of body mastery such as Wing Chun and Tai Chi rather than basic yoga.
The key to a successful focus meditation is in the breath.
You want to really get absorbed in the rhythm and feeling of your breathwork. To feel the breath is to feel your flow of energy. Once you are able to actually acknowledge the ebbs and flows of breath, it makes body mastery techniques involving the movement of energy that much easier. You might say that you cannot perform one without first mastering the other.
Steps to Meditating With Intense Focus
For this practice we have to do away with the typical trappings of basic meditations. No soft pillows, no lotus position, no guided meditation or ambient soundtrack in the background. This technique will require a bit of legwork (literally) and a careful examination of the breath.
I should note that meditations like this are often practiced before, after, and even during rigorous katas. The mastery of bodily movement, energy movement, and the breath work in concert. Much of the martial arts is in itself a dynamic meditation of a kind.
Before beginning, make sure you are wearing free flowing clothing that won’t get in your way, that you are without distraction, and that you have a little space to move around. Preferably I find that this meditation works best outside and barefoot, but do whatever you can within your means.
- Start by standing with your feet planted shoulder-width apart.
- Form your hands into loose fists and bring them to your side with your elbows bent. Your palms should be facing upwards.
- Check to make sure that your back is straight and that you are not tensing any muscles. Relax your jaw, your face, your neck. Allow any tightness to leave your body.
- Begin taking deep, even breaths, making sure that you are breathing from your diaphragm, not your chest.
- Allow errant thoughts to pass, don’t focus on them.
- Once you spend a few minutes performing deep breaths, begin to visualize that with every breath you are taking in pure energy, or light.
- Relax your right hand while bringing your arm forward and outward, palm facing out. Allow your fingers to relax while doing this.
- When you breath in, visualize energy pouring into through this hand. Focus on the feeling this gives you. Visualize the energy flowing up your arm and into your core.
- Hold the breath in this stance for equal the time it took you to draw it.
- Upon exhale, return your hand to your waist as before, while bringing your left arm out into a similar position.
- Repeat this cycle for some time, focusing on the feeling of full breaths and the energy that accompanies them.
- Once you are in an easy rhythm, you can increase the effectiveness of this meditation by pointing your toes slightly inward at an angle, and bending ever so slightly at the knees.
- This position will charge the body and force you to focus on your core, or otherwise lose focus.
- Continue to perform the hand motions in line with the breaths. Remember to hold the breath after inhaling, and hold your breath after exhaling. The longer you can comfortably sustain these periods of “no breath,” the better. You are strengthening your core and your ability to regulate your own energy flow.
- You will find after a time that your entire body will be warm and at peace. Your mind will be clear, and you will feel unburdened.
This meditation is perfect both as a start to your day, as well as the beginning of a workout session or for training your kata. I have been using variations of it for a decade and it never fails to put me in the right state of both body and mind.
The Science Behind Intense Meditations
There are several reasons why most martial arts, as well as yoga and other systems of body mastery, have some form of meditation that involves deep breathing combined with rhythmic hand gestures.
The purpose is two-fold: to enable you to better know your own body, and to strengthen to diaphragm so as to oxygenate the brain and your muscles.
If you feel lethargic, apathetic, muddled, anxious, or tired, much of this can be attributed to general brain fog, or what happens when your brain simply isn’t getting enough oxygen. Deep breathing encourages a properly oxygenated body, which means mental clarity, sharp focus, fresh muscles ready to react, and the ability to better pace yourself in the heat of the moment.
Over time, the breathwork that meditation teaches can condition you for better muscle recovery time, quicker thinking, and eventually, more advanced techniques.
Likewise, matching your breath to rhythmic hand gestures that fall in line with your martial discipline’s kata, enable you to program your body to perform certain motions during the optimal phases of your breath (thus maximizing effectiveness), as well as get a feel for how your body responds to your breath. This also assists you in learning how to feel your own bodily energy, as well as how to generate more of it.
Too get the most out of this kind of meditation, it should be practiced often, preferably every day. Just like any part of your body, the diaphragm can be trained, and this leads to increased endurance, mental clarity and quickness, muscle response time, muscle recovery time, and overall heart health.
This is one of the “secrets” too the effectiveness of martial arts, and one of the reasons why meditation in and of itself has such powerful health benefits. Most people have degenerated diaphragms, they are weak from not being properly used. This is especially true for anyone who is accustomed to “shallow breathing” or “mouth breathing” their whole life. The diaphragm in this case is very weak, and the body would not be getting optimally oxygenated in this case.
Much of the increased otherworldly endurance and mental speed exhibited by martial artists and yogis can be attributed to a better oxygen economy in the body. It’s that important.
Once you get accustomed to performing this meditation, you can increase its effectiveness by utilizing advanced breathwork. The key is to slow down the speed at which you inhale and exhale for maximum effectiveness. This will encourage a slow, powerful heart rate and a deeply oxygenated body that will have deceptively fast reaction time and a lightning fast, adaptable mind.
Remember to conclude your meditation practice with a feeling of gratitude for the air and energy entering your body. Acknowledge that which you have gained, and then let go of any attachment you may have to it. Let excess energy and tension you may have built up during your training pass out of your body and into the air. A simple and effective way to end your session both physically and mentally.