What is Dō Meditation?
Dō Meditation [pronounced: doh med-i-tey-shuh] was originally created as a way for martial art students to discipline their minds. Nowadays, it is generally accepted that anyone can practice Dō Meditation, and more and more non-martial artists are practicing this form of meditation. These individuals are drawn to it not only for the mental discipline, but also as a way to relieve stress and anxiety, improve concentration and awareness, increase alertness, etc. Dō Meditation differs from most meditative systems in that it contains no religious overtones, which allows practitioners religious freedom.
Dō Meditation is taught in five levels and contains 17 meditations that are composed of three elements: A sitting meditation, a walking meditation and an exercising meditation.
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Level 1: Opening the Door Meditation
Level 2: The Eight Trigram Meditations
- Heaven Meditation
- Lake Meditation
- Fire Meditation
- Thunder Meditation
- Wind Meditation
- Water Meditation
- Mountain Meditation
- Earth Meditation
Level 3: The Five Element Meditations
- Wood Meditation
- Fire Meditation
- Earth Meditation
- Metal Meditation
- Water Meditation
Level 4: The Basic Energy Meditations
- Um (Yin) Meditation
- Yang Meditation
Level 5: Closing the Door Meditation
These levels must to be taken sequentially and have various time and participation prerequisites. Each level, except levels 1 & 5, is composed of between 2 and 8 separate meditations.
Unlike most meditation systems that eliminate or minimize all sensory stimuli (e.g., no sight, no sound, no smell, etc.) the meditations of Dō Meditation use sensory stimuli to enhance the level of the practice and help the mind in being able to focus on the meditations. The following story should illustrate this point:
There were two men in their early twenties that wanted to enter a tough man contest. One of the events was rock lifting, that consisted of lifting this huge irregular shaped rock off the ground and holding it for as long as possible. One of the men, Neil, decided to find a rock approximately the same size and shape as the rock in the contest and practice lifting it. Neil would practice on a daily basis. He would reach down, grab the rock and try to lift it to no avail. Weeks went by and he still couldn’t even come close to lifting it off the ground. His trainer kept saying, “Keep practicing!! One day, you will be able to lift it.” Several more weeks went by and Neil started getting very upset and mentally distressed, due to a lack of tangible results. Sometimes he would just not practice. On those days, Neil’s trainer would find out he hadn’t practiced and tell him, “you’ll never be able to lift it without practicing.” Eventually, Neil was able to lift the rock and did very well in the competition. However, most people wouldn’t have ever made it to the point of being able to lift the rock due to all the mental anguish. The other man, Jeff, decided to start lifting smaller rocks first and then build up to larger and larger rocks. Jeff’s trainer liked his idea. However, he suggested that Jeff make handholds in the rock that he was attempting to lift, until he could lift it. That way Jeff was able to work on lifting the weight of the rock without worrying about holding on to the rock. After Jeff could lift a given rock, he would no longer use the handholds. After Jeff could lift the rock without using the handholds, he would move up to a larger rock with handholds. This process continued until he was successfully lifting a rock that was the same weight and shape as the rock in the contest. Jeff was very happy with his training and looked forward to practicing because he could see all the progress he was making. Jeff also did very well in the competition.
Most forms of meditation initially give students a seemingly impossible meditation and tell them, “Keep practicing!! One day, you will be able to do it.” Some of these students will eventually be able to understand the meditation, however, most will stop meditating altogether out of frustration. Dō Meditation starts students with easy meditations (light rocks) and slowly builds up to the more and more difficult meditations (heavy rocks). In addition, as mentioned previously, sensory stimuli (handholds) are used to help the students focus on the meditations (lifting the weight of the rock without worrying about holding on to the rock).
The sitting meditations are all similar in appearance to most eastern forms of sitting meditation. However, that is where the similarities stop. These meditations are all performed in either a cross-legged or kneeling position, on a cushion and in front of a wall. Visual stimulus is usually received through the aid of a colored square located directly in the practitioner’s line of sight or colored lighting. Auditory stimulus is received through the aid of a sound system and olfactory stimulus is received through various aromatic agents.
The walking meditations are mostly practiced in slow walking-like motions in predetermined patterns. Visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli are used, as in the sitting meditations, to enhance the practice. The visual stimulus is received through the aid of colored lighting.
The exercise meditations are performed in either stationary or moving postures and are always physically challenging. As in the sitting and walking meditations, visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli are used to enhance the practice.
Even given the addition of the above-mentioned stimuli, most people would argue that there is really no significant distinction between Dō Meditation and other forms of eastern meditation. The outwardly physical appearance might be the same but the main difference lies in the actual mental practice while meditating. Each of the 17 meditations has a different mental practice but for illustrative purposes, let us take a look at the Fire Meditation of the Eight Trigram Meditations. This is only a level 2 meditation and as such is a very small rock with lots of handholds. While doing the three elements of this meditation (sitting, walking & exercising) a practitioner’s mental practice is to focus on fire. But here is the catch, he can think about anything as long as there is fire. For example, one practitioner could be thinking about camping in the mountains, with a gentle breeze blowing, loons singing off in the distance and a warm campfire warming his body. Another practitioner could be thinking about an upcoming dinner date with her husband to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Their table is in a darkened area of a very fancy restaurant, a waiter stands off in the distance waiting for even a slight indication that they need someone and a small candle burns in the center of the table with its light reflecting off the silverware.
This is where the advantages lie with Dō Meditation. When someone starts meditating, random thoughts are commonplace. Most forms of meditation will encourage the practitioner to completely ignore them, acknowledge them and then push them away, or simply push them away. These practices might work with experienced meditation students but they simply create frustration for beginners. Not only do the thoughts not go away, the act of ignoring them or pushing them creates thoughts of ignoring and pushing. What are they to do then, ignore the ignoring thought or push away the pushing thought? It simply does not work for a beginner and tends to create stress instead of eliminating it.