8 Tips to Mastering Chan Meditation

Learn how to better your Chan mediation practices. // Photo Credit: OJO Images/Royalty Free/Getty Images

Chan Meditation is one of the most powerful forms of meditation. Chan teaches participants how to increase concentration power, also known as samadhi power. In Chan training, the results are solid and concrete. By increasing samadhi, the mind becomes much more relaxed and peaceful and the body becomes much healthier. 

What is Chan Meditation? It's an ancient meditation that is a central practice of Mahayana Buddhism. Chan utilizes many secret methods, most of which cannot be found in print, especially in English. These techniques have been handed down from Master to disciple in an oral tradition that has existed for more than 2,500 years, since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

Interested in learning Chan meditation, or better developing your practice? Here are a few tips on how to meditate and build a solid foundation to start with.

1. Sitting Posture: The very best posture for meditation is full-lotus, since it is by far the most stable position. To sit in full-lotus, cross your legs with your left foot on your right thigh, and your right foot on top of your left thigh – always in this order. The second best posture is half-lotus (left foot on the right thigh, with the right leg underneath). At first, full lotus may feel awkward and uncomfortable. Your knees might not touch the ground. However, if you keep practicing day after day, you will eventually become more flexible and your knees will naturally lower to touch the floor

2. Sitting flat on the floor is ideal: If you are sitting on a cement or stone floor, you should sit on some kind of mat, because bare stone or concrete will drain all the energy from your body. Do not sit on an elevated meditation cushion. 

3. Vairochana mundra: Rest your hands on your lap in the vairochana mundra. The thumbs touching each other will close an important meridian to aid the flow of your Qi, or the body’s natural energy.

4. Dan Tian: When you meditate, focus on your navel. With time, you will feel something like a ball there or right behind it. That is your dan tian.

5. Techniques: For those who practice a different religion, you could use non-Buddhist techniques, such as reciting the name of your God. But for those who are Buddhist, or who are open-minded about learning Buddhist practices, the primary meditation method that is recommended is reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name. This is an important part of the parallel practice of Chan. Silently repeating the Amitabha name will help clear your mind. In addition, there are many more methods such as breath counting, mantra recitation and others which you can try as other forms of meditation.

6. Pain barrier: Once you sit and meditate, it will not be long before you start feeling pain, especially in your legs. It will start hurting around the ankles, knees and low back. Is that bad? No – you are actually healing yourself. Some people immediately feel very calm inside, even though their legs are hurting. Some people take a little more time to notice the calmness inside. If you keep training yourself to sit longer and longer, your mind will begin to quiet down. The first few days are very hard. That is when most people quit because they cannot take the hardship. Use a countdown timer to train yourself to endure a little longer every day, perhaps in one or two minute increments, instead of trusting your natural inclination to quit. This intense form of training is wonderful, because this is when you can make progress rapidly.

7. The milestone: If you manage to keep increasing your sitting time, the pain will increase correspondingly. Eventually, the Qi flow (or energy flow) builds up and is strong enough that it can break through the bend at the knees. When it does, your blood will naturally flow stronger and will no longer be constricted at your knees. The numbness, pain, and discomfort will suddenly disappear. That is how you break through the first pain barrier. Typically, you can overcome the first pain barrier within 60-90 minutes. If you persist, afterwards you will feel very accomplished.

8. Good Knowing Adviser: Ideally, people should practice under the guidance of a competent instructor, or in Chan Meditation, a Good Knowing Adviser. A good teacher can help you quickly build a solid foundation that can serve you for a lifetime. However, until you find a Good Knowing Advisor, you can use the techniques described here to begin your journey into Chan meditation.

We often associate meditation with relaxation or feeling good. However, if we only seek comfort in our meditation, we will not make progress. Only hard work and consistent effort will produce genuine results in meditation training. The goal in meditation is to be able to develop your concentration power (Samadhi power). No pain, no gain! The Chan method of enduring the leg pain, whether in full or half lotus, will build your concentration faster. The rule of thumb is: the more pain you can endure, the better you can concentrate. The longer you can endure, the more you will understand. That is precisely the secret that the Chan practitioners employ, which people today no longer know about: they use the leg pain to train their concentration power.  This method is not for everyone, but it is very effective for those who sincerely wish to make progress in their meditation and transform their lives.

About the Author: Shana Han is the founder and CEO of Hansderma, Inc. and the creator of HanSkincare brand. She is now a frequent speaker and meditation instructor at various conferences and expos, and in recent years has dedicated her time to practice Chan Meditation and Mahayana Buddhism in order to overcome personal struggles. With her teacher’s help, Dharma Master YongHua, she started to teach Chan Meditation. She received her B.S. and B.A. in microbial engineering and business from Konkuk University in South Korea and studied international business management at UC Irvine.

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