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As often stated in the arts, the art begins with someone who knows. It is passed on from generation to generation. Such generational arts become a scientific study over time as students become the classrooms where teachers learn.
Can someone learn from a book, or discover meditation on their own? Yes, and like any other art different people have different gifts which help them through their journey into the world of meditation.
My first teacher had a system of 7 levels of meditation and the journey took an undetermined amount of personal growth and exploration. There are many systems of meditation with different approaches to its effects. Often this journey is only open to advanced students of a system of Kung Fu, Yoga, Qi Qong, and other such systems.
Most meditation systems begin with breathing as a foundation. Although where and how we breathe is controversial. Flowing energy is a second step with many different variations across the meditative schools of thought. Quieting the mind is an important third step.
Breathe deeply into the Tan Tian (Ren 6, only deeper within the belly). Let the air fill the lower abdomen.
Immediately, a large group of people can not do this or get short of breath when they try. If so, breathe into the upper lung and exhale while pushing out at the Tan Tian. This will prepare the body to accept a full breath. It trains the nerves, muscles, and breath to respond in the proper sequence. The body can then transition to breathing deeply in the lower burner. Give the body time to learn the sequence.
Breathe deeply and slowly as if the breath were a whisper. Imagine that a feather by your nose would not be disturbed either by the inhale or the exhale. Count slowly and even out the count from inhale to exhale. Practice once a day at slowly increasing the count.
Imagine your lungs filling up from the bottom first where air would normally remain stagnant. Push the air out of the lungs with the belly first so the entire lung is cleared each time.
The amount of oxygen will increase and effect many different sensations within the body. Stay aware of these heightened actions. Let the calmness of smooth flowing air be a contagious feeling across the skin, inside the muscles, through the nerves, and let it penetrate the mind.
Fill up like a balloon deeply in the lower abdomen. It then fills the lower back and middle abdomen area. Let it continue to fill the chest and upper back area. Exhale from the belly first and empty from the bottom up. Think of a passage way trip from the front to back through all burners.
Use the count to help calm the mind and soothe the spirit. Later the count will disappear as the body begins to find its own rhythm and purpose in meditation.
Use the Tan Tian to begin to feel and move from this area as the center of the body, mind, and spirit. Every move will gain from an action that works from our center outward. It will be felt as a whole body movement with the intention of our being behind it.