Five Approaches to Ru (Confucian) Meditation

Five major approaches to Ru (Confucian) meditation are described as follows (810 words):

(1) Attention. Technically, focusing upon breathing is, as many traditions have practiced, a very efficient way to start and maintain Ru meditation. This implies that whenever our mind feels distracted, constantly going back to breathing will keep our meditation on the track. Of course, if breathing reaches its own natural, deeply meditative pattern, that is when it becomes very slow, fine, delicate and permeating, our mind is free to be directed to something else for enriching meditative experiences. For adept meditators, however, the time used to reach this natural pattern of breathing tends to be much faster, and its effect is much more guaranteed. For example, after 7 years of uninterrupted practice, whenever I take a nap, go to sleep, or even sit quietly on a train, the feeling of this extraordinary, yet natural pattern of breathing arrives almost as a constant.

(2) Empathy. When the breathed air is permeating within our body, the boundary feeling between our body and the outside world will gradually melt away. This is when the incipient sprout of empathy, which Mencius once talks about in his famous thought experiment of falling baby, is budding and grows. Many philosophers analyze Mencius’ thought as if it intended to construct an ethical theory. However, rarely has any theorist ever noticed that what Mencius really talks about is his meditative practice, and a corresponding Ru way of living. It is in the unitary feeling of ourselves and every creatures in the universe that lies the root of the cardinal virtue of Ruist ethics, i.e., humaneness (仁, Ren).

(3) Problem-solving. This is, without any doubt, the most important and salient part of Ru meditation. The purpose of Ru meditation is not to be an escapist in any sense. Instead, it aims to confront, contemplate, and resolve tangible and touchy issues in ordinary human life without any cringe. For instances, when I need to write a term paper for a better grade in school, I meditate. When I need to complete the process of financing for purchasing my first home, I meditate. When I need to deal with the relationship among family members, colleagues, or anyones I met or will meet on my life journey, I meditate as well. During the process, the Ru meditation enables us to empathetically understand the perspectives of every involved human and cosmic being, and thus, try our best to find a way to harmonize all their needs, including our own.

(4) Therapy. Meditation understood in a Ruist term has its unsurpassable benefits in restoring our continually consumed body, and in certain cases, mitigating or curing diseases. The feeling of deep breath to permeate every nook and cranny of our body is just so therapeutic! The much lowered stress level will therefore create better opportunities to treat our diseases. In my life experience, the diseases that meditation helps to cure or mitigate include: the decade-long insomnia during my young adulthood, occasional seasonal asthma due to the mounting pressure and stress, toothache, and stomachache.

(5) Motivation. No matter how difficult one’s life situation could be, the tiny little spark of lucidity, warmth and energy that reemerge from the depth of our body during meditation will inexorably motivate us to try our every piece of strength to make the world, where we find and live in, be better. This may start from caring our children, spouse, and parents, be manifested via kind conversations with our neighbors, and furthermore, be practiced through fulfilling our duties in the workplaces or as a responsible global citizen. On the one hand, Ruists believe the cosmos renews itself in a daily basis, and hence, it provides an inexhaustible amount of energy necessary for all beings and creatures to grow and thrive. On the other hand, how these cosmic energies are utilized by human beings to build a better family, a more livable country, or a more fulfilled personal lifestyle entirely depend upon humans ourselves. In a Ruist term, the essential meaning of human life can be encapsulated into one singular, cryptic sentence said by Confucius: it is humans that can make the Way of the cosmos extended and enlarged, but it is not the Way of the cosmos that extends and enlarges human beings.

In a nutshell, these five approaches to Ru meditation can be paraphrased by five Ruist terms: meditation of attention is to enhance our capacity of Reverence (敬, jing). Meditation of empathy is to nurture our virtue of Humaneness (仁, ren). Meditation of problem-solving is to find appropriate Pattern (理, li) for us to deal with real issues in human world. And meditation of therapy and motivation provides (養, yang) us with a healthy body to enjoy the irreplaceable opportunity of cultivating ourselves to become fully human (成人, chengren).