Meditation is central to both Daoism and Zen. In general, there are two types of meditation. Kataphatic meditation focuses the mind through chanting or attending to the sound of a ringing bill. Apophatic meditation involves stopping the runaway train of thoughts and emotions and emptying the mind of all images. Daoism and Zen favor apophatic meditation.
The process is described in various ways: sitting and forgetting (zuo wang – 坐忘); fasting of the heartmind (xin zhai – 心斋); losing oneself (sang wo – 丧我); or simply in terms of jing (tranquility, quietude – 静) and emptiness (xu –虚). The result of the process is enlightenment (wu, satori – 悟): a state of pure consciousness described in the Daode Jing as the uncarved block, a mysterious sameness, the infinite.
Upon leaving the meditative state, one perceives the world with a type of spiritual clarity (shen ming – 神明), is in tune with dao (the way – 道), and acts in an effortless way (wu wei – 无为). The Daoist philosopher Zhuang Zi tells numerous stories of butchers and other tradesmen and craftsmen who are, like Michael Jordan in his heyday, in the zone when carrying out their daily activities. On the best days, everything just flows and time flies by. The process is as important as the outcome: the way (dao) is a path not a destination.