ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (ONE NOTE ON ONE): Shŏuyī 守一 ‘guarding the One’


Shŏuyī 守一 ‘guarding the One’, ‘maintaining Oneness’

“The term shŏuyī (守一), which appears in Taoist literature from an early period, indicates a form of concentrative meditation that focuses all attention upon one point or god in the body. The purpose of this practice is to attain total absorption in the object and thus perceive the oneness of being.” — Livia Kohn, and it sounds wonderful, especially ‘all attention upon one point,’ and the best point which comes to the mind first is ‘breathing’.

Another proof for the usefulness of such kind of meditation is another quotation: “The shift from visualization to mental tranquility continues in the Song dynasty (960-1279), where shŏuyī (守一) appears as a basic exercise in the texts of inner alchemy (neidan), whose purpose is to protect the center of life within and thus allow the transformation of bodily energies into pure spirit and Dao. In all cases, however, the term indicates one-pointedness of mind, which focuses on a single object of meditation.”— L. Kohn, one of my favorite sinologists.

And guess, what? Another quotation for the first two proves for the previous quotation (Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge edition) is the whole chapter of Yoga Sūtra by Patañjali: ‘samādhi pāda’. God bless all people practicing yoga, they deserve it, especially after reading and getting the ‘oneness’ with the whole corpus of sutras.

Of course, I could suggest now a small, collective meditation on these two cultural achievements of China and India to “guard the One,” or “to maintain Oneness” but it will look like a little bit cheap trick. What doesn’t look cheap definitely is your private experience (as well as mine) of meditation on, yes, ‘breathing technique’. For instance, when I have discovered first time that my breathing wave inside my lungs strongly resembles the feeling inside the palms in the famous exercise (you keep your palms ‘face-to-face’ for some time and when you begin move them slowly closing the space,  you feel how air between the palms turns into sort of a spring, or a balloon), and that was so amazing, and I keep the feeling of this air spring every time I meet my yoga mat-à-mat again and again. By the way, you should  really be in the state of deep meditation and somehow 3-5 breathings per minute help to achieve this goal.

In general, shŏuyī (守一 ‘guarding the One’) is what we, linguists, philologists, sinologists, psychologists, and their crazy fans call ‘pure joy.’

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