Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Many Benefits of Meditation by Master Doug Cook

The following appeared in Warwick Valley Life magazine - September 2013

Meditation is a treasure chest overflowing with the virtues of enhanced focus, increased energy, heightened self-awareness, improved overall health and a greater sense of well-being. Yet, as with any worthwhile endeavor, these rewards do not come easy.
Observing an individual seated quietly in a meditative posture reveals nothing of the extreme effort hidden just below the surface needed to achieve practical results. Nevertheless, with sincere practice, anyone can become proficient in this ancient discipline.

More than ever, clinicians are discovering significant distinctions, both physically and intellectually, in the minds of those who regularly engage in meditation. Recently, the Huffington Post published an article citing the many benefits of frequent practice including stress relief, hypertension reduction and improvement in cognitive functions. But several types exist and it is important to match the style to the intention.  Some forms of meditation are meant to clear the mind and relax the body, others to cultivate internal energy, and still more are aimed at visualization.

One approach I teach students as a preface to a meaningful meditation session consists of sitting cross-legged in a full or half-lotus position supported by a cushion to promote comfort. The hands are then positioned in a gesture known as a mudra - a Sanskrit term referring to a seal of authenticity. There are a variety of mudras, each intended to amplify or authenticate a spiritual concept. The cosmic mudra, where the back of the left hand is placed in the palm of the right, thumbs touching, is a simple and effective mudra to begin with. Strive to articulate a perfect oval rather than permitting the thumbs to create a “peak” or the palms to collapse into a “valley”. Allow the hands to rest gently in the lap. Close the eyes and sit erect with the tip of the nose in line with the navel. Turning responsibility for your meditation over to the breath, slowly inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Invariably, as you meditate, stray thoughts will attempt to intrude on the mind; briefly acknowledge these feelings and permit them to pass through your consciousness just as clouds drift past in the sky, all the while returning to the breath. Assign a single count to each cycle of inhalation/exhalation. Count to ten only, and then return to one. Eventually, with patience and time, you may be able to abandon your counting altogether and simply focus on the breath, utilizing it as a silent mantra or phrase. This basic method of meditation should serve to calm the mind prior to the activities of the day if practiced in the morning, and partially eliminate the distraction of anticipating rather than fully experiencing the constantly changing present.   

Enhancing the flow of internal energy known as ki in Korean and Japanese, or qi in Chinese, throughout the body, is yet another objective of meditation. For instance, in order to promote health, the practitioner of kiatsu, or ki therapy, messages various acupoints along the body to stimulate ki flow; when an abundant amount of ki is present, a sense of well being is experienced, when it is deficient, illness is likely to ensue. This requires long practice but can be addressed through meditation and breathing exercises. While inhaling and exhaling, place your hands on your abdomen. What do you feel? When you breathe in, the abdominal area should expand; likewise, when you exhale, the abdominal area contracts. This process is commonly known as normal or Buddhist Breathing. Now, make a conscious effort to reverse this sequence, allowing the opposite to occur where the area surrounding your tanjun, or ki center, two inches below the navel and one inch in, contracts during inhalation and conversely expands when you exhale. This style of breathing is referred to as reverse or Taoist Breathing and represents an ancient method by which your breathing acts as a pump to move the flow of ki throughout a series of pathways or meridians traversing the body.

Lastly, visualization represents another aspect associated with the meditative process. Visualization can be employed prior to work-related meetings, academic testing and competitions as a precursor to success. In fact, it is not uncommon for the Olympic athlete to mentally see themselves performing flawlessly while meditating before an actual event.

While we may never reach a state of nirvana, oneness or enlightenment, as advanced by the great meditation masters, there is a little bit of the Buddha in each of us and meditation can become the key to a more relaxed and healthy mind, body and spirit.

Master Doug Cook, a 6th degree black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York and an author of four best-selling books focusing on the traditional martial arts. A six-time New York State gold medalist, he has frequently trained in South Korea and is the recipient of many citations and awards presented to him there and in the America. Master Cook can be reached for lectures, workshops or questions at or at




Friday, August 2, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter Archive Volumn #4 August, 2013

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the August, 2013 edition of the
Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter.
There are no lazy days of summer at Chosun this year! As you can see from the information below, this has been one of the busiest and most eventful summers on record. From the long awaited release of
Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo to the Taekwondo Retreat in Southern France, to the recent Mutual Martial Arts Seminar, the life and reach of the Chosun brand is expanding and growing both locally and internationally. We never take this success for granted and continually strive to be true to our ideals by offering our students authentic martial arts training. We are in the middle of the Chosun Summer Program and there are many exciting training opportunities yet to come. Be sure to check the Special Events page on the Chosun website for listings of these programs.

 For highlights of 2012 at Chosun, view the
Chosun Taekwondo Academy 2012 Retrospective.

Patty Cook, Editor
Read entire newsletter...