I began the day with a toothy grin because I awakened knowing that today is “Appreciate A Dragon Day”. It’s one of those nerdy, unofficial holidays that I personally love to indulge because dragons are famous in both popular and spiritual social cultures.
In the West, most people associate these mythical beasts with the dark side. Ie., the white knight must slay the fire-breathing dragon and rescue the helpless princess from distress. Or, in contemporary culture, we think of “Dungeons and Dragons”, in which dragons have taken on deeper meaning than the simplistic role of a villain.
The dragons that fill my imagination are those that have been long-celebrated in the East. The dragons I most frequently envision are at home in China, Japan, and especially Tibet.
Several years ago, I visited one of the Tibetan monks I sponsor at Sera Je Monastery in Karnataka State in India. Jigdal is a rascally, fun-loving monk who is active in the “Free Tibet” student movement. He already knew that according to Chinese and Tibetan astrology, that I’m a Dragon so he was eager to teach me Dragon Meditation.
The techniques are not so much arcane than they are ancient and well known in the monastic community. Jigdal stressed that he uses non-physical entities, such as deities in the metaphorical, not the literal sense. He walked me through a simple form of Dragon Meditation that any layperson can use.
The practitioner is to first situate her/himself within the mental environment of formal meditation. That is to sit, and concentrate upon the process of breathing. Simply pay attention to the inflow and outflow of your breathing–not forcing any particular rate nor rhythm of the process.
Once the mind is free of mundane thoughts and just on the verge of losing control to the monkey mind (random, everyday wandering thoughts), focus the attention on a dragon. The dragon can be any dragon you wish. You can conjur up the image of one you like, or contemplate a picture or figurine of a dragon.
Deeply breathe in the “energy” or “aura” of that dragon and play with the dragon in your mind. Imagine it as a wise companion who can assist you in this paradigm-shifting exercise. Place no limits on the possibilities of what can and cannot be done. The dragon will be your guide as you probe past the gateway to inner exploration. If thoughts return to the monkey mind state, utilize the image of the dragon to regain focus.
[To meditators who utilize a candle flame as a tool to maintain focus in formal meditation, the dragon is substituted in place of a candle flame.]
Dragon Meditation has no goals, per se. It is only one of many tools people can utilize to increase concentration skills; release emotional blockages; to observe habits; and enhance compassion for all living beings. It does not require the practitioner to convert to Buddhism nor any other philosophical or religious system of belief or thought.
Jigdal says that the dragon is mainly a way of maintaining “right concentration”. In modern parlance, the dragon is a a spiritual “lifestyle coach”. When you let go of preconceived ideas, you simply play mind games with your dragon–that is all. After awhile, you can even bring the dragon into moments of informal contemplation for more mental play. There are no other special techniques nor is there any dogma to limit one’s imagination.
There are a great number of dragons that are envisioned around the world within various cultural contexts. Aside from the fire-breathing types in fairy tales, there are the multi-headed hydras of ancient lore. Dragons that are symbols of European royalty. The ancient symbol of China is the dragon. The main idea of dragons is to break our minds out of habitual thinking and guide us back into our imaginations.
Today is a good day to think about and to appreciate your favorite dragon.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John Lennon. “I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”