Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Enduring Road to Mindfulness

I believe plants exist within perfect ebb and flow of universal Wu Wei, and I believe most animals exist in a natural state of the perpetual Now. No worry or anxiety for the future. No regret for the past. Only living fully in the Now.

In the simplest terms I know, I think Man's original and innate state of existence is an enlightened and meditative one (not to be confused with contemplative). We're just fallen out of tune with Nature.

So how do we reconnect? How do we heal our spirit? There has to be numerous paths and avenues to do so. I can only speak of my own.

Although my spiritual journey began over 25 years ago, the most recent turn of events begins in an odd and unexpected place. Martial arts.

I had studied Traditional Taekwon-do for over 4 years under Master Florin Fratean (7th degree black belt, and original student of this martial arts' founder, General Choi Hong Hi). Towards the end, what had  caught my attention and intrigued me the most was something called Jungshin Sooyang. It is the philosophy underlying the martial art itself, a moral code if you will, heavily influenced by the Tao Teh Ching (Taoism) with some Buddhism. But you didn't need to be a Black Belt or even practice the martial art to live Jungshin Sooyang. It is a way of life and carried the potential for introspection and growth.

Towards the end of Jungshin Sooyang there is an elusive mention of a practice named Jung Joong Dong, but precious little detail or instruction.

It is difficult to study and pursue this Jung Joong Dong on one's own. There is little to no reference or material online. However, as frustrating as this may be, it is actually not a bad thing. Online information can be deceptive, misleading, and limited in scope. The expression is true that a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing. We all know someone who believes they're an expert of a topic because of online information. (Medical self-diagnosis is a prime example of this).

Google and Wikipedia do not make me an expert of any topic. Information and knowledge are different things. I refer back to my martial arts Master and teacher of Taekwon-do. Although you can find any given technique or pattern (Tul) online (it is only information or data at best), it cannot teach you how to practice it. It must be taught and learned. Knowledge comes from a mentor-protégé relationship.

Research into the term Jung Joong Dong finds little reference. Its translation is "stillness in motion". Research into its English translation reveals mostly Walking Meditation(s). However, I think precaution is needed here. I have experienced Jung Joong Dong while practicing my Tuls (patterns) in Taekwon-do, and patterns are not walking.

Just as all Jucuzzi's are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are Jucuzzi's, so too Walking Meditations are a variation of Jung Joong Dong, but not all Jung Joong Dong are walking meditations.

Jung Joong Dong is mentioned near the end of Jungshin Sooyang, but as it is described by General Choi, its purpose appears to be significantly more like the self-reflection of the Mindfulness Tradition. I had unknowingly experienced this mindfulness during my Black Belt Examination and the experience launched my pursuit, investigation and research into it.

I had begun by not getting bogged down in the minute details of the differences between what Jung Joong Dong might be and what Walking Meditations are, and focused on their purpose as briefly described in Jungshin Sooyang; self-reflection and mindfulness.

Professor Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D. has a course and series of lectures (c. 12 hours) on these topics and issues (a downloadable PDF is also available), entitled Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.


Meditation is a subject of paradoxes. I cringe at using the word Meditation. It's a loaded word. It comes with its own baggage. I could have ten conversations with ten people and all ten will bring their own understanding, definitions (right or wrong) and biases to the conversation, and at no point will anyone question that we are talking about different things but with the same name.

It is probably one of the most private things you can practice, yet its benefits are also for all those around you, for in time they will benefit from it too.

However, although the practical aspect of it is private, the theoretical aspect - the learning of it - is not necessarily.

It can be a difficult and slow go going solo. If you pick up a bad habit chances are it will become deeply ingrained and established within your private practice.  There is a good argument to be made that one should be taught and have some sort of group of peers to reflect, learn, discuss, and share with.

However, having this group of peers or a teacher is different than group meditation.

We all have our own biases and I am no different, so please bear this in mind. Firstly, I think there is a difference between practicing group meditation and teaching a group to meditate.

I have no problem admitting that maybe I totally miss the point of group meditation. I don't see the benefit or purpose of it. Yes, it could build a sense of solidarity or community, but there are better ways to accomplish this, in my opinion. (The simple act of eating with one another - 'breaking bread' - is probably the most effective starting point). Group meditation seems to carry the flavour of fanaticism and cult with it.

Teaching or learning as a group - although it should necessitate some degree of practicing as a group - has a different purpose. It is to share and reinforce and solidify good or productive habits/practices and to correct or 'weed out' poor or hindering habits.

You take the lessons to your private practice. Your practice isn't the group practice.

For over the past year I have been 'going solo'. I have had some informal training. I have used both Buddhist and Taoist discussion forums in place of a peer group, but these online discussion forums are plagued with their own pitfalls. They are not up close and personal. I am not, and never have been, keen on formal organized religions.

I am entering year five of this "research", journey, exploration, call it what you will.
It is time to reach out; to practice and learn and be taught in a somewhat more formal setting. It has been difficult to find meditation being taught without the baggage of religion attached to it, but I think I may have succeeded.

Let's see where this next leg of the journey leads.


Meditation, Contemplation (Reflection) and finally, Action

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