What is Shaolin Monk Meditation ? (And how to practice it ?)

This article covers the topic of Shaolin teachings, monks, and the Shaolin way of Meditation and life. It also talks about the history of Shaolin heritage and also includes a few methods to practice Shaolin monk meditation at home.

The Shaolin Monastery is associated with Zen School Buddhism. Being formed during the last decade of the 5th Century, it’s history spans over fifteen hundred years. These monasteries became a great place to discover ancient wisdom still valid as of the present. The Shaolin Meditation was combined along with Kung Fu to attain a calm, stable sense of mind and mindfulness. Shaolin’s most prominent aspect – Chan (禅) is given credit for helping attain patience, optimism and a way of life which is meaningful, wise and compassionate.

So what exactly is Shaolin Monk Meditation ?

Meditation is a very important pillar of Shaolin practice, helping it’s practitioners to get rid of negative thoughts and explore inner psyche strength. Shaolin Monks practice mediation as a lifestyle rather than a separate act. By incorporating meditation into their simple routine, monks follow the philosophy of Shaolin which is a combination of Taoism(also known as Daoism) and Mahayana Buddhism. 

Daruma, an Indian priest introduced meditation to the Shaolin monks along with callisthenics or basic exercises requiring focus on body weight. These exercises evolved into Kung Fu later on. Monks practiced meditation through a lifestyle of :

  • Waking up early
  • Practicing meditation
  • Training
  • Eating
  • Training
  • Meditating
  • Sleep 

What are the main pillars of Shaolin Meditation ?

Shaolin monks practice their lifestyle away from today’s world and away from the busy city life and it’s constant dilemmas. The main things Shaolin Monks keep in mind to cultivate their lifestyle involves – 

Taking out time for yourself 

Meditation’s main aim is to allow you to spend time with yourself, to catch up with the mind and to help it to stay calm and stable. This is very important for everyone in general. Taking breaks from the work environment, social circles and media is scientifically proven to be helpful. Utilising these breaks to bond and relax with your inner mind helps to improve both your physical and mental health.

Taking care of the body  

Shaolin monks treat the body as a vessel which supports their mind. As most of their focus is on strengthening the mind, taking care of the body becomes equally important. To pursue the stableness and calmness which Shaolin Mediation promises, it is important to treat the body right by giving it proper care.

Shaolin Monks do this through:

  • Nutrition – Consumption of healthy food, 
  • Exercise – Practicing Kung Fu
  • Recovery – Maintaining a strict sleep schedule 

Understanding and accepting change

Shaolin teachings emphasise letting go of the past and being in the present. It is a universal fact that everything around us keeps changing. HOlding on to the past affects daily lifestyle. We also associate negative emotions to these changes, therefore limiting the growth of our own mind. Shaolin meditation conditions us to carefully introspect and move on, therefore allowing us to broaden our perspective.

How to practice meditation like the Shaolin Monks ?

To practice meditation like Shaolin monks, it is important to establish a proper environment and follow the routine regularly. 

Starting off, a quiet place without many distractions is important. Once ensuring that, remove any other distractions from your space like your mobile phone. 

Meditation is all about comfort. Sit on the floor in the lotus position with a straight back. Keep your eyes closed and relax your mind. An important part of meditation is your posture. In fact, posture constitutes one of the five factors of life according to the Buddhist Scripture – The Path of Purification. Though it is hard to achieve proper form, pay focus on maintaining a good posture. 

Start the meditation by now focusing on your breathing. Try to clear your mind and breathe deeply from the stomach. Make sure that on breathing, your stomach expands and later contracts when you breathe out. 

Count your breaths whenever your mind starts to wander off. Count your breath to 10 and then backwards. Repeat the procedure if your mind gets distracted again.

Practice meditation for at least half an hour before and after martial arts training or any other form of exercise. Martial Arts requires a calm and focused mind, which meditation helps to acquire.  

Practice meditation whenever required. It is advised to practice meditation whenever the mind is conflicted, stressed or frustrated. Meditating before sleep also allows the body to have a relaxed sleep and is a practice adopted by Shaolin monks too. 

Lastly, patience is important to cultivate while practicing Shaolin Monk Meditation. It will take time for you to gain control over your mind and its thoughts. Don’t hurry through the process and practice it daily. 

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Conclusion

 Interest in Shaolin monk meditation should be followed by an attempt to gain proper understanding of Shaolin teachings through history, objectives, principles and goals. Considering Buddhism is a minority way of life, both Buddhists and non – Buddhists should respect Shaolin teachings to help the promotion of the Buddhist culture. 

Shaolin monks teach the science of meditation helping us to gain  therapeutic effects, a healthy, long life, and harmony. They teach meditation as a way of life, helping us to integrate its teachings to the philosophy of life and for religious practice. The end goal of Shaolin monk meditation is liberation or self actualization, the highest state of realisation and appreciation for life. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) : What is Shaolin Monk Meditation ?

How long do Shaolin monks meditate for?

Based on a rough guide, Shaolin monks follow a structured routine which follows the following pattern – Waking up at 5:50 a.m, Practicing Martial Arts for an hour, followed by morning training till noon. Afternoon Training begins after 2:00 p.m, and continues till 6:00 p.m till dinner. 

What kind of meditation do monks use?

Anapanasati, which is practicing mindfulness of breathing, is a core meditation practice in the Chan traditions of Buddhism and is also a part of many mindfulness programs. Both in old and modern times, anapanasati by itself is likely the most widely used Buddhist method for contemplating bodily phenomena. This concept of breathing follows a pattern of deep breathing originating from the lower part of the abdomen, in an effort to use the body’s internal strength also known as Chi.

How many hours a day do monks meditate?

Shaolin teachings require monks to wake up early and meditate for 1 to 3 hours and then follow the same procedure before sleeping. This kind of meditation helps to energise and relax the brain allowing Shaolin Monks optimal time for focus on Martial arts.

How many hours do Shaolin monks train?

Shaolin Monks usually train for 8 hours.. In between their training sessions, they have breaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a little free time between training to relax and rejuvenate. After dinner, monks are required to practice their acupuncture massage and other activities. 

What happens if you meditate too long?

Surprisingly, meditation or mindfulness may also cause negative side effects to its practitioners. In a study conducted, 6% of participants who practiced meditational techniques for long periods of time reported negative side effects that lasted for more than a month. These effects can disrupt social relationships, sense of self, and physical health.

How long is Shaolin training?

Shaolin Monk training is available in the form of many courses of various time periods ranging from a week to five years. Students ranging from the age of 3 to 70 are eligible to join Shaolin Monk training as it is suitable to learn for all age groups.  

References

Shader, Richard I. MD*; Taylor, Susan PhD† Some Reflections on Meditation and Mindfulness, Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: February 2017 – Volume 37 – Issue 1 – p 2-5

doi: 10.1097/JCP.0000000000000644

Mahatthanadull, Sanu & 少林功夫隱藏的禪修實踐科學, ~. (2018). The Science of Meditation Practice Hidden in Shaolin Kung Fu. Proceeding Report, Shaolin Monastery Publication, (July 2018). 312-326.

https://medium.com/a-little-bit-better/5-useful-habits-i-learned-from-the-shaolin-monks-df367568d6aa
https://healthfully.com/how-to-begin-shaolin-meditation-8059581.html
https://viewonbuddhism.org/meditation_theory.html
https://ideapod.com/10-buddhist-monk-habits-hard-to-adopt-but-life-changing-when-you-do/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_meditation
https://www.chineseshaolins.com/training-plan.html
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