A Mysterious New Year Gift

DOCTOR TAN’S Web Site  

What made me surf the Internet on January 1st, 2016? Why would I search for some  instruction for meditation on such day? I live 26 years in this country and have frequented numerous New Age websites. They use to start with some form of Buddhist meditation. Was I hoping to find something new and exciting in endless instructions scattered here and there all over the Internet?

dr Tan2 Almost immediately I found myself browsing Doctor Tan’s intrinsic web site. It encouraged to download and share given instructions for free. I downloaded Samatha meditation that stood out by exactness and professionalism of instruction.  In a week or two I revisited this web site intending to take advantage of the generous offer to proceed with downloads, but I learned that the site was taken down because of the untimely death of the grand master of acupuncture and teacher Dr. Richard Teh Fu Tan. He died on January 15, 2016. The coincidence that I found his site two weeks before he left the earth plane, invited to share his exclusive instruction that can help many to understand the true nature of meditation.

SAMATHA: ONE-POINTED CONCENTRATION

WITH  MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING AS AN OBJECT

… Sit comfortably with the full intention of meditating. Otherwise the practice could be reduced to a routine chore. Before the start, take a deep sigh to totally relax one’s body. Then ascertain not to allow problems of the office, home or relationships, etc. to intrude during the period of meditation. Now assume the position, either in semi-lotus or sitting on the chair, and rest one’s hands on the lap. … Lastly, gently shut the eyes, and look at the back of the eyelids for a short while. Now take three deep breaths. During these three breaths, one notices that as you breathe in the abdomen moves out; and as you breathe out the abdomen moves in. After this the breathing must be normal for the rest of the session.

Then one should start feeling the sensations of the body. This is an inward journey, so that the mind does not go out externally. Start with the eyelids and then the nostrils. Feel the sensation at these points. What is the feeling at the nostril with the air brushing past it? Then go to the upper lip, and then the teeth inside. Stop for a moment each time to savor the sensation that is present at that location of the body. One can now move down to the neck, thence the shoulders. Are they hard and stiff? Then go down the arms, first the right then the left. The torso is next: the chest, the abdomen, the hips and down the thighs to the knees. Go further down along the legs and feet. Is there any tingling sensation? Are there any thrills or shivers? Then slowly move up to the head at the scalp and then the face. A few minutes are spent going through this process without hurry.

This process is not to relax the muscles, but to center oneself in the body. One need not go through every part of one’s body, but after some practice one will know when he or she has settled down inwardly. The mental and physical restlessness has now ceased. At this point, we stop looking at the feelings of the body. One can now come back to the breathing. At the nostril one feels the air going in and out. One can feel it at the opening of the nostril or at the upper lip. The breathing must be absolutely normal, and no control of the breathing is allowed. Do not count the breathing, as this procedure will dilute the concentration. One is actually feeling the air, and no imagination is involved. In order to prevent restlessness, one should only concentrate at one respiratory cycle at a time. Firstly, follow the inward inspiration ending with a pause. Then let the expiration come out naturally, also ending with a pause. That is all. Your goal is one respiratory cycle at a time and you have achieved it! Then one starts all over again with the next respiratory cycle, and so on until the end of the session.

However, before long, thoughts will start to appear. If one has problems they will surface with the first thoughts. If there are no worries or problems, memories of the past 24 hours or days will turn up. Then planning what to do in the near or distant future will come about. Finally, random associative thoughts may take place as a continuous revelry. All these thoughts must be forcibly stopped by repeatedly coming back to the breath. This is repeated hundreds of time during one meditation session. One must not get upset with one’s own mind, whose function is to think. It is like a mother walking with a toddler on the pavement along a very busy road. On the road many cars, lorries and buses are travelling at varying speeds, and if your toddler child were to be crushed by one of the numerous vehicles it could mean instant death. So it is the mother’s love and duty to repeatedly pull the child back from the road to the pavement. The child is like our concentration, which has to be pulled to the breath time and again. The mother who is shoving the child back to the pavement cannot be upset with the child, because she loves him and the child does not know better. After practicing for many weeks or months, there will come a time when the thoughts will become less and one can stay with the breath for longer periods. Thoughts are either pictures situated at the middle of the forehead or mental chatter at the ear. Either the pictures or the chatter will predominate. To one person mental chatter or commentary is the bugbear; to another, mental pictures are the source of distraction. No matter which type it is, repeatedly coming back to the breath will reduce the thoughts in due course. Just concentrate on one respiratory cycle at a time.

Gradually stillness and silence will start to appear. In stillness, not only is one’s body to be still, but so are one’s thoughts must be still. That means one’s thoughts must not travel anywhere at all, not even to the neighbor sitting next to you. The attention must only be with the breath. This is the true meaning of stillness. Silence means no mental chatter or commentary. The silence is internal. Externally, there may be noises, which should not bother the meditator at this stage of progress.

So with this internal silence and stillness, one’s awareness is greater and sharper. One is more aware of the slightest movement or noise in one’s environment. However, one’s one-pointed concentration is still at the breath.

Before one started the session, the breathing is predominantly from the chest. Then as one goes deeper into alpha and theta states, one’s breathing becomes more and more abdominal. The breathing is also slower: from the normal 20 respiratory cycles per minute, it may slow down to 16 or 14 cycles per minute. Some of the yogis in India who practice pranayama (controlling one’s breath) may even reach 1 or 2 cycles per minute, but we are not practicing pranayama. Our method is anapanasati. As one becomes more one-pointed, happiness, joy, bliss, calmness and tranquility will start to creep in imperceptibly. It will come to a point when the meditator becomes addicted to his meditation. This is a good sign, but even this harmless addiction has to be broken off at a later date, because very little wisdom can accrue from this calm and bliss. Insight (Vipassana) meditation will then have to be practiced.

One final technique in this method is to separate a ‘watcher’ in our consciousness to watch all the activities that are being enacted. The ‘watcher’ is merely the same pure awareness that is behind all our thoughts. It is our true self (soul). It is that silence and stillness without thoughts. Therefore, let this ‘watcher’ keep reminding oneself of the fact that one is sitting here, in this room on the cushion or carpet. Only 10% of the awareness is given to this task. The remaining 90% is used to concentrate on the breathing, and the distraction by thoughts. This ‘watcher’ is separate from the body, the emotions and the thoughts.

With this separation, one’s negativities will affect one less. ‘It is this body that is suffering these emotions and thoughts, not I. I am not my thoughts, I am not my emotions, I am not my body.’ This watcher is not involved; the watcher does not judge, nor reject or accept any thoughts or emotions. It just knows and does not take sides: it is non-dual. With this watcher it is much easier to arrive at stillness, at which stage we are silent, but we are still left with one single thought, namely the breathing. This is one-pointedness. There is now no sadness, no pain or any other form of suffering; there is just the breathing. The meditator and the breathing have become one!

To summarize, one sits in a semi-lotus position or in the chair. Then one heaves a sigh of total relaxation of the whole body in one fell sweep. Take three deep breaths, after which the breathing should be normal throughout the meditation session. Then see that the torso and neck are straight with the head looking straight ahead. Shut the mouth with the tongue pressed against the palate. Then gently close the eyes. Briefly look at the back of the eyelids. Then spend a few minutes feeling the sensations all over the body one area at a time. Feel the tingling and the vibrations. Feel the movement of ‘chi’ at different parts of the body. While one is concentrating on the body, one is at the present moment. Having established some form of calmness, separate a watcher in the consciousness to observe the body and the mind. The technique of this mindfulness of breathing is to merely concentrate on one inspiration and expiration at a time. Thoughts are forcefully pushed away as they arrive. Keep on coming back to the breath repeatedly, until one day, silence and stillness are achieved. Then stick to the one-pointedness as long as one can. This is briefly the practice of Samatha.