When I first started teaching, I gathered with my students in a small park in South Korea. Today, my students have much nicer facilities, practicing the exercises and principles I teach in centers around the world, now known in English-speaking countries as Body & Brain Yoga centers. I have struggled sometimes to know what to call the practice, however, because it is both old and new, in many ways like yoga and tai chi, yet in some ways different. It all stems from one main root, however: the ancient Korean practice of Sundo.
Sundo is the oldest Korean Taoist practice, dating back at least 5,000 years to the earliest days of the Korean nation. The word sun refers to an enlightened being, and do means “way” or “study,” equivalent to the word tao, so you might sum up the practice as “the path of enlightenment.” The goal of Sundo is to live in complete harmony with the laws of nature that govern the universe while moving toward completion of one’s soul.
Reuniting with Your Natural Self
Most of the time when we study something, we are gaining skills and information for us to use in our daily lives. In Sundo, while there are certain practices and principles we learn, the intention of the study is the opposite. Instead of gathering, we are letting go, shedding layers of preconception and habit so that we can return to our natural, most authentic state of being. Achieving this is a true state of enlightenment where we have truly become “lighter” and more authentic in our being.
Through the ages, the Sundo masters of many generations lived in the verdant mountains of Korea, living simply and in direct contact with nature. The meridian exercises that are now taught in Body & Brain Yoga centers are modernized adaptations of the daily exercises of these masters, who sought to become one with the energy of nature and the cosmos. The exercises are simple and mild, far less strenuous than most modern gym workouts, but the results can be far more profound because they work directly with the body’s energy system. The goal of this kind of exercise is not to become “ripped” or to develop an athlete’s cardiovascular fitness. Rather, the goal is to open up the energy system and to create energetic balance within the body, which unlocks its natural strength and healing abilities.
A Roadmap to Completion
Awakening of the physical energy system leads naturally to the development of mind and spirit. Just as a Sundo practitioner seeks to live in harmony with the natural energy of the body, he or she also seeks to uncover the True Self, the pure mind and soul that is one’s true identity. In Sundo, achieving this state is called Shin In Hap Il, which means that divine energy and human being have become one.
The exercises of Sundo are meant to take you step-by-step toward this divine state, which is actually our purest, most natural state. On the journey toward completion, there are three “gates” in the body that must be passed through that represent physical, mental, and spiritual completion. Energetically speaking, this means opening and activating the three main energy centers in the body, which are referred to as “palaces” in Sundo tradition. Each center represents one aspect of the human being: physical body, the heart and mind, and the soul or spirit.
The exercises of Sundo, which I have adapted for the five steps of my Brain Education program, work systematically to help the practitioner pass through these gates, and to open up and activate each “palace.”
Awakening the Pineal Gland
Lately, as a teacher, I have turned my attention to the importance of the pineal gland in this process of completion. This is because, as I have explained in my previous Patheos post, this one tiny area of the brain holds a key to reconnection with one’s divine self and the vast energy of the cosmos. My most recent book, Connect, takes the reader through each step of the pineal gland awakening process, the same process followed by Sundo masters for millennia.
The pineal gland is, in short, the brain’s energy sensor, a kind of antenna that can perceive and respond to the unlimited energy of the cosmos. Today, people are often tragically disconnected from its abilities, so they feel disconnected not only from divinity, but from other people, the earth, and even themselves.
Whether you call it Pineal Gland Meditation or not, all meditation involves awakening deeper parts of the brain, and if you are meditating, in that sense, you are stimulating your pineal gland. At the pinnacle of any meditation, you will reach a point where you transcend your individual self and become one with the rhythm of life and the whole universe, or Shin In Hap Il in Sundo’s language. When you feel that in your meditation, know that now your real study lies in how to practice that unity in your everyday life where everything seems disconnected.