My 7 Day Meditation Retreat at MuSangSa

The Saturday I arrived at MuSangSa (Kyeryongsan International Zen Center), marked the last week of Kyol Che (Tight Dharma). This meant I was going to be spending my time with people who had been silent for up to 3 months: silent and unplugged from all things tech. My adventures into the “don’t know” mind began. Here is a basic run down of our daily schedule:

Mornings started off at 3:25am with 108 bows in Meditation Hall (see pictures below), followed by Kido chanting at 4am at the Buddha Hall. We then would walk back down to the Meditation Hall to start sitting meditation at 4:40am until 6am, when we would head to Dinning Hall for our formal breakfast. Then it’s time for working meditation until 7:40am. We break until 9am, where we meet in silence for 2 hours of meditation. Remember, except for the chanting, this is all done in silence. Then it’s a formal lunch. Then break. Then meditation from 1:30 until 4:30. Then a silent informal dinner. Break. Our final chanting of the day begins at 6pm. Once this is over, we return to meditate until 9pm in the Meditation Hall. Lights are out at 9:20pm.

We do it again the next day.

The regiment, the order, the silence, and the community has a fascinating impact on ones thoughts. For once, I got a glimpse into what real clarity might be like.

What did I learn or at least glean from this time? Scroll to the end of the photo gallery to find out.

Learnings to hold on to

– “One of the greatest delusions we have, is the delusion that we think we make decisions.” – Won San Sunim

– We take audio and visual silence for granted. It’s amazing how much one word or one image can trigger the ego.

DanJeon (Tantien) breathing techniques helped keep me focused when meditation got hard.

– Zen sticks are necessary for rigorous meditation. I couldn’t have done without those courteous wake up calls.

Zen Masters are pretty darn cool to talk to in Kong-an interviews or simply over tea.

– “Decide and do.” – Bo Haeng Sunim

– “Have a ‘don’t know’ mind” – Seung Sahn Haeng Won Sunim

– 41.5 hours of meditation in 7 days taught me that I need to meditate a whole lot more.

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19 thoughts on “My 7 Day Meditation Retreat at MuSangSa

  1. This post is so important for many reasons and the more I reflect on it, the more reasons I come up with – but here are a few (in no particular order):

    – This retreat, coupled with BLOGGING about this retreat, fits so well with (the little I know about) the teachings on experiential learning and transformative learning theory that you learned at SIT. As the theory goes, learning is a never-ending process and I think you, Josette, would naturally reflect upon your experiences anyway (that’s just who you are!) but your training at SIT has laid a wonderful ground/framework for you to take your experiences to the next level. Another reason that SIT and blogging is so important and wonderful!

    – Taking time to experience every action in the moment – ironing, cleaning floors, eating, walking – is probably more of a lesson in experiential learning than your entire academic readings were, put together! In the city, everyone is walking while listening to headphones, texting, or talking. Very few people are present in the moment, including me. This is a wake-up call.

    – As synchronicity would have it ;) I have to read articles about experiential learning and transformative learning theory for my final paper for my “Experiential Learning and the Celebration of Diversity” class. Your blog post is bringing my readings into a whole new focus.

    – MuSangSa is incredibly beautiful! I miss the Korean mountains and temples.

    – This is a reminder of how important it is to be conscious and present in all we are doing. If I am not conscious in what I am doing in the moment, then a) I end up being a TOTAL clutz and breaking things and b) my life is only half lived – in the past and in the future, but rarely in the NOW. Teachers like Eckhart Tolle bring these important lessons to the west, but unfortunately once the book is read, we discard it for the newest distraction. I find it hard to sit and meditate, though that only means I need to do it all the more! Yet sometimes I avoid it, so at least I can eat in silence (no podcast or video playing) and cook in silence, and wash dishes in silence. Each day in my life can have moments of silent retreat.

    – Thank you for sharing, both with your words and your photographs, Josette! Both are profound and have provoked a lot of important thoughts and feelings in me and in others as well.

    PEACE! Hailey
    http://www.thanksfortheblues.wordpress.com

    1. Hailey this comment was so thoughtful! I am truly touched that you took the time to write this, but more importantly that you connected your knowledge of me and my experiences to my experience and yours. What a special thing to do. You are a dear friend.

      I’ll just cut and paste my favorites. In no particular order, and also not to demean the rest that you wrote:

      “..fits so well with (the little I know about) the teachings on experiential learning and transformative learning theory that you learned at SIT. As the theory goes, learning is a never-ending process and I think you, Josette, would naturally reflect upon your experiences anyway (that’s just who you are!)”

      “Taking time to experience every action in the moment – ironing, cleaning floors, eating, walking – is probably more of a lesson in experiential learning than your entire academic readings were, put together!”

      “As synchronicity would have it ;) I have …” HAHA! Yes! I love that we use this word in our dialogues! So cool that you are learning about this. And what a cool name for a class!

      Word. “If I am not conscious in what I am doing in the moment, then a) I end up being a TOTAL clutz and breaking things and b) my life is only half lived – in the past and in the future, but rarely in the NOW.”

      Thank you, thank you for sharing Hailey.

      Love & light,
      Josette

  2. wonderful collection of photographs that give a real feel to the retreat. I like the long line of empty cushions. wish i could be on long retreat. . . one day soon! thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I agree Michelinda. I think everyone should get a chance to experience what I experienced. It’s a shame that in many countries (Canada, USA…) that such experiences are almost exclusively for people who have a lot of money. Imagine if it was part of our health care programs! So much healing could happen. Thank you for stopping by!

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