Won Buddhism is a Korean-based form of Buddhism founded in the 20th Century. They are big on seated meditation and I had the chance to visit their American Retreat Center and even eat with the monks.
The campus is gorgeous … a generous gift gave them an architectural gem that was even featured in Architectural Digest. The simple buildings hug the landscape and the property is available for group retreats or a self-retreat. Seriously, it’s cool. Check them out.
I do seated meditation daily now. The benefits of meditation are amazing, but the way I sit is propped up in bed with my mala beads, counting out a chant to Ganesha. The Won Buddhists do a seated meditation that is all about Lotus position and cushions and no chanting … you just sit. I personally found it excruciating … my ankle bothered me, my back started to spasm, I had to keep shifting and eventually come out of the position altogether to last for a mere 30 minutes. I had no idea how reliant I was on that back support!
I’m on an Escape to Shape Destination Detox retreat right now, so our seated session sparked quite a conversation. How do you meditate? Is this the best way? What should you do?
Beyond Seated Meditation
You know what? The studies coming out of the research centers these days seem to show that it doesn’t matter much how you meditate, as long as you do it regularly. Things as odd-sounding as needlepoint or knitting even count. What matters is that it works FOR YOU.
Seated, lying, walking, chants, no chants, breathing this way, breathing that way … there are a million different ways to meditate, just like there are a million different ways to exercise or eat healthy. We are diverse, complicated beings and we can never expect one solution to work for everyone.
The Benefits of Seated Meditation
I took a handout from the Won Retreat Center and I wanted to share a little excerpt from “The Principle Book of Won Buddhism, Chapter 4.” The monk who led our group did talk about training your body to do seated meditation well. It’s just like training your body to do other activities. Yes, even sitting properly is something you have to work up to.
Here’s the excerpt:
When one attains the power that comes from long training in sitting meditation, the following ten benefits will result:
- Rash and thoughtless behavior gradually disappear.
- The operation of the six sense organs becomes orderly.
- The suffering of illness decreases, and one’s complexion will brighten.
- Memory improves.
- Patience and endurance grow.
- The attachment to desires diminishes.
- Unwholesome states of mind change into wholesome states of mind.
- The wisdom of one’s true nature shines forth.
- One enjoys Absolute Bliss.
- One is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Pretty cool no? And I would say all of these apply to one degree or another to meditation, no matter what form you do it in. So go, explore, try some variations, see what appeals the most to you, and then try to build a regular practice. They don’t call it practice for nothing! You do have to keep trying, every time you reach for your mat, or your beads, or your cushions.