After many years in Korea, I’m just beginning to break the Korean shell and experience its rich spiritual culture. Korea has much more to offer the world than kimchi and the red devils. I’m like to introduce the world to the Korean form of meditation called Seondo Practice. Doh is the Korean term for Tao, which means the road, the way. It’s more than 5,000 years old and precedes Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and others. The focus is on the “living breath”, which can only be found by focusing on the Dan-jeon spot. Dan-jeon is known as tan-tienin Chinese and hara in Japanese. Yoga uses a chakra to describe the location but doesn’t use methods to store energy there: which is the main point of using the Dan-jeon, located five inches below the navel. The essence of Seondo practice is in concentrating on the breathing point, after having controlled your emotions, practiced muscles exercises, and lowered your consciousness. You’ll find that this is not mindfulness but mindlessness. Masters throughout Asia have searched for correct Dan-jeon breathing, understanding that it’s the origin of all breathing techniques, but many have not had the patience or the correct teacher to learn it. Even now, we receive phone calls from monks from time to time asking how to do the breathing method! Meditation in the lotus position is not emphasized until your breathing point has been found, and it takes six months of lying down breathing just to find the location. No wonder gurus just give up! To use an analogy: regular meditation is like walking to America and meditation with Dan-jeon breathing is like driving a steam engine. Seondo practice trains the body for meditation, for health, and for opening your consciousness. When you lie down, just lie without any tension or any thought and focus on your breathing point, the same breathing point as a baby. But, you’ll find that you can’t do it; you worry about the pain in your legs, twitch your shoulders, and think about your dinner! For this reason, body training is needed. Body training consists of various gentle stretches and meditation postures to open the meridian lines. In oriental medicine, there are 12 lines in the body and each is related to an organ and also connected with a body part. For example, wood energy is the liver and gall bladder. If there’s a blockage in that energy line, you’ll feel a pain in your neck, sides, or joints. Do you feel stiff in the morning? These postures open the blockages as well as reduce emotions such as anger, stress and endless thinking. Dan-jeon breathing is great for health, stress and a complicated mind. One of the first transformations in breathing is the balancing of the fire and water cycle. Heat should be minimized, and coolness maximized. If your shoulders, back and neck are full of heat, or your hands and feet are cold, you’ve lost your body rhythm. Body pains or emotional conflicts are viewed in terms of blockages in the body meridian lines. Inability to make decisions, stress, bad food, pollution, stressful people – all cause toxins or free radicals to invade the body. What can you do? Well, you can visit a pharmacy, get an injection or take acupuncture. The best way is to handle it yourself. Do the exercises yourself and find the origins of these manifestations in the mind. Why am I angry or depressed or bored? What do I really want to be doing? Answers can be easily had through these breathing techniques. Breathing brings balance back to the body and mind. Breathing in Seondo practice is called emptying or casting off. Focus is on breathing out as long as possible. When you breathed out long enough, power is formed and you can raise your consciousness. Just breathing through the nose or abdomen is called relaxation meditation. Breathing with the Dan-jeon is called spiritual evolution. All answers to health and life itself can be found with this traditional Korean meditation method but it is difficult, and was considered a great challenge to Buddhist powers in the past. It was relegated to the mountains for centuries – known only to a select few. Even now, you can see many practicing on the tops of Taebaek or Kyeryong Mountains. Lately, many centers have sprung up within the cities, many of them just imitations of true Dan-jeon centers under the name Dan-jeon. No fear, legitimate centers do exist. Traditional Korean meditation centers all agree that the origin of meditation, breathing, and life itself is rooted in the deepest breathing located at the Dan-jeon spot five inches below the navel. That is Dan-jeon breathing. That is Seondo practice. From Buddha to others, including Jesus and famous Koreans, such as King Sejong, Yi Soon-shin and Korea’s most famous geisha Hwang Jin-yi – all are known to have practiced it. In this way, it is believed that the Seondo tradition includes Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and all other branches of the root. That is because the fundamental point of all has been the original breathing point but has been neglected by the branches in favor of endless preaching. Korea should not neglect its greatest contribution to humanity: breathing, Jeong, Han, love of humankind, nature, and the universe. Dan-jeon breathing is a cultural practice that Korea offers as their legacy to the numerous meditation and well-being movements around the world. You’ve come this far, now, isn’t it time you try it for yourself?
The writer is a senior meditation and director of the Arui Mind, Body & Meditation Center in Insadong.