by Marion Brandis
Om. Om. Om. I bet you've heard this syllable before. Om is a sacred Sanskrit sound that's been used for centuries to bring the meditative seeker to a state of quiet awareness of the inner Self. Just what is meditation and why would anyone want to do it? Why exactly do we sit cross-legged for myung sang before and after each class at the dojang?

Meditation in its various forms has been used for centuries in both the East and the West as a means to intuitive knowledge and connection to a higher source. Meditation aims for the deepest connectedness with one's true inner Self.

Our other or outer self (small s) is the body we inhabit along with our identification with it, and our desires, sorrows, and even joys and "successes." The self's engine, so to speak, is the ego, which feels certain it is the doer of all things in our life, good and bad. It is therefore the goal of the meditator to gently become aware of the ego's tendencies to "own" everything, to take credit as well as blame. Through meditation comes the ability to simply witness one's own life. Through witnessing comes understanding and through understanding comes growth and transformation.

All this from just sitting for a minute at the beginning and end of each class at the dojang? Well, not exactly. But it's a good start. You might also want to pursue a regular home meditation practice, as I do. Daily meditation for at least 15 to 30 minutes is my goal. I have a special spot in my apartment that I use each time for sitting meditation. I start by lighting a candle and contemplating the meaningful personal objects in front of me on a low table (a crystal, a photograph of someone important to me, etc.). Next, I get into a cross-legged sitting position on a special white wool mat (which is said to best hold the meditation energy) placed on top of a comfortable pillow. I rest my knees on two small cushions, to avoid discomfort in my hip joints. Then I close my eyes and take two or three "cleansing breaths" (breathing in deeply, and breathing out long and slow). I let my mind come to rest on a special mantra and I watch what happens.

Sometimes I see clear images - almost dreamlike in their nature. Other times I see colors swirling around. Frequently, it is difficult to hold my mind steady no matter what I do, and I am aware of the tendency for my mind to wander among the events of the days, especially latching onto anything "negative" that happened. But I have learned that this is all okay. The more I practice meditation, the more I let go of my idea of what is a "successful" meditation. The success lies in simply doing it, over and over again.

Myung sang at the start and finish of class is so meaningful to me: it is the time that my Tae Kwon Do training and my spiritual practices most obviously converge. Each time I enter the dojang I notice the very fine vibration of pure intention, good will, and devotion that we bring with us every time we walk in the door. Myung sang for me, then, is a time to ground myself in these qualities, a reminder of my intention for having Tae Kwon Do in my life.