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Work It

Tao Down with a Modern Meditation Master

Work It BY courtney conway 08/17/2017

The practice of guided chilling-out—you’ve probably tried it by now, huh? But chances are you’ve mainly been exposed to mindfulness and breathing exercises based on vipassanā. It’s a different sort—Taoist meditation—that enthralled Marta Pia, though, back when she was a teenager (and well before she started making her downright stunning rings and necklaces adorned with onyx and jade eyes). She recently went way official and became a certified Tao instructor—so, naturally, we asked her to break down what’s so om-azing about the practice and how we can get in on it.



“The difficulty of explaining what the Tao is about is actually one of its main features! The word Tao means path or way, and it's not a god or a substance in the conventional sense. The teachings of the Tao were compiled around the third dentury B.C. in a book called the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power), and even though it has been attributed to Lao Tzu, it is, in reality, a collection of proverbs and sayings by many anonymous people over a long period of time. To start, sit in a comfortable place, pick a guided meditation for beginners [Ed note: Suggested books below!], and try to focus on those inner organs for twenty minutes.”



“Taoist meditation is a lot about visualization and training your body and your brain. One of the the main concepts is that all of your organs can harvest both positive and negative emotions, and it’s a bit of a mind trick to be able to assign different parts of your body to a feeling and then address them individually. For example, if you’re harvesting sadness, your lungs may hurt, so you’re going to hold that part of your body in your mind and picture taking those thoughts and expelling them through a breathing exercise. There’s a bunch of different ways to do this, and one of them is trying to smile at the inside of yourself. The Tao is a lot about smiling, positive attitude, and connection to other human beings and the universe.”


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“Think of this time as a gift to yourself, and don’t wait until you’re in desperate need because then it’s going to be really hard, especially when you’re first learning. This isn’t a thing that feels natural or pleasant the first couple of times, and that doesn’t make any of us idiots. A lot of people will feel like they didn’t get anything the first try, but in my mind, it’s like brain gym. The day you go to a new gym, you don’t know where anything is, and you’re going to be sore afterwards. And that might make you feel like a failure and not want to go back. The same thing happens the first time people try meditation because we really get into our own heads. Your brain isn’t trained, so it’s not going to do this thing until it knows how. But it will learn!”




“I could meditate anywhere, but I prefer to sit on a chair. It’s really important that your spine is straight because a big principle in the Tao is imagining the energy of your body like a circuit, orbiting around. If you’re aligned physically, that will tap a little into the chakra, or spiritual energy, without any blockages. Sitting on a chair seems kind of boring, but it’s the easiest way to make sure you’re aligned.”


“It’s good practice to not to need a lot of rituals to get going because chances are you’re going to have to do this in times when you’re not in the mood. I’ve gotten to the point where meditating isn’t really ceremonial—it doesn’t have to be about having a ton of time and being in exactly the right place. The truth is that it’s more of like a lifehack for me—so if I get really frustrated about something, I can either let it ruin my day or stop and take care of it through meditation because I need to work and do other things. So I’ll just pause for five minutes and go into myself.”




“It’s funny because Tao isn’t very westernized, so the way scholars of it communicate the information about it is very different than we as Americans are used to—and some things can get a little lost in translation. But there’s this place called the Omega Institute that’s in upstate New York this is really cool. There’s also this website that I’ve been going to since I was 16 called Universal Tao as well as a famous book called The Tao of Pooh, both of which I’d recommend. I’ll also be teaching a free weekly meditation class in Brooklyn (Ed note: more on that here!).”

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