I was born with a congenital hip dislocation on my left side, so when I started to sit, it was challenging for me to do even half lotus. My Chan teacher, Venerable XX, was very careful to not push me too hard. All she asked was that I sit a little bit longer every day.
And so, that’s what I did. Starting with half lotus, I worked to distract myself so as not to unbuckle. Watching YouTube, listening to music, talking to friends … you name it, I tried it. And ever so slowly I was able to push my half lotus from ten minutes to almost an hour, just by adding a half to full minute every day.
I started to sit because I have a very stressful job in a hospital. Since Covid, the stress only got worse. I tried guided meditation but stopped making progress in a very short time. After a trusted friend told me about Chan, I decided to give it a try. The pain was unexpected. But if I was to really get anything from it, I was going to have to give it my all.
Initially, I couldn’t understand Master’s talks. Yes, he was funny, but I truly had no idea what he was talking about. I knew nothing about Buddhism prior to this. Then one day, struggling with pain, nothing that had helped before was working. Desperate, I found a video of Master and suddenly, I got it! I understood every word he said. “Enduring the pain builds blessings,” he said. “To make progress, you must not quit!”
And just like that, by not quitting, I made progress. I was able to sit in full lotus after just a couple of months. After practicing Chan Buddhism for one and a half years, my new record is four hours!
Does it still hurt? Oh, yes. It hurts like hell. Yet I was able to experience extreme blissfulness after the extreme pain. When I felt I was at my breaking point, unable to continue, BOOM!, the pendulum swung the opposite direction. Plus my energy/ focus/ emotions/ recovery time are the best they’ve ever been in my whole, entire life.
But don’t take my word for it, try it! Check it out. Walk the walk and you will receive your unique Chan “gift.”
Emily's Cultivation Story
“I was planning a trip to California, to visit friends, but also with a mission to visit a Buddhist temple. I sent a message out within my heart and mind asking for help to find a true temple, one with a real Shifu to teach and guide me. I did a search in a Yelp App. The first one listed was Lu Mountain Temple. I felt a deep connection to the name, so I thought to myself, “Okay, let’s go there.” When I went, I told one of the Venerables about finding them on Yelp. She told me that it was fate that brought me there as they don’t advertise on Yelp.
While there, I relayed a story about an experience I had at a friend’s banquet. It was a big celebration with much feasting. My brother passed me a huge plate full of filet mignon. Up till then I’d always enjoyed eating meat. Suddenly I saw a face of a black cow crying and mooing at me. I froze. My heart ached and I felt a lump in my throat. My brother kept calling to me, as if from a distance. I snapped out of my vision and shook my head no, I don’t want it. Venerable told me it was the Compassion Mantra towards lower beings (animals and insects) revealing itself to me. I learned from one of the lay disciples at the temple that in order to be a Buddhist I need to seek refuge.
I’d always thought I was a Buddhist. My parents and relatives were Buddhists, weren’t they? After all, we burnt incense to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas every 1st and 15th of the Lunar Calendar. We made ceremonial food offerings to the deities every Lunar Year; offerings of “dead money,” displays of fruits, even cooked meats! (Actually a Taoist belief, I later learned.)
Lu Mountain Temple brought me to the Chan Teaching of sitting in lotus. As a child, I easily sat in lotus. It was easy and fun! When a Venerable asked a group of us beginners to sit in lotus, I was still able to. But it was definitely not as comfortable or easy as when I was a child. (Here’s a little secret. When I was little, I told my parents I wanted to be a monk and asked them to send me to the Shaolin Temple in China. I was broken-hearted when my dad told me no girls were allowed.) Venerable taught us to sit in the Chan way, to endure the pain, with a goal to reach an hour, one step at a time, adding five minutes each day.
When I returned home to Chicago, I continued to sit in full lotus while reciting the mantras I’d learned. Initially, I was only able to cross my legs for 10-15 minutes before unbuckling. But with determination, I pushed further, to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, before achieving an hour. I bowed in repentance, sitting longer, increasing exponentially as time went by, while attending every Fo Qi and Chan Qi I could. The more afflicted I was, the more difficult the level of pain.
My job is very stressful, with last-minute deadlines, constant interruptions. Daily, I deal with many types of personalities, people in trouble, people riding an emotional roller coaster of problems. My patience and afflictions are constantly being tested.
In almost seven years as a Buddhist disciple practicing Chan I have noticed a huge difference in my life from before and now. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, all I have to do is sit in lotus. Minor colds are instantly dispelled when I focus on my Dan-Tian. Stronger viral flus take longer, up to three hours. The Omicron took even longer, but eventually I learned to repel even stronger strains of variants. Sitting continues to keep me safe and healthy through even the toughest of bugs threatening to invade me.
Here are some other perks from practicing Chan Buddhism.
- I am much better at letting things “go.” It gets easier and easier with time.
- I feel calmer, a sense of contentment for no reason at all.
- I’m able to function better, feel sharper, in even the most stressful situations.
- I’ve developed more patience, which has always been my biggest obstacle to overcome.
- I have learned, through my own experiences, how to sincerely ask the Buddhas for help when it is most needed.
In closing, I can only wish for you the very same gifts bestowed upon me in my continuing studies. I hope you will take the opportunity to enter into a practice of your own. The benefits are without limit.”
Wei Tou Bodhisattva
“I would like to share a story, an experience I had relating to Wei Tou Bodhisattva.
One day, a long time ago, I was sitting on the floor reading, 42 Chapters Sutra, explained by Master YongHua. My back began to hurt so I laid down to rest on the floor for a few minutes. I opened the book to cover my eyes and after a few minutes, I dozed off.
Then, I had a strange and terrible dream. I saw a man wearing an ancient style of clothing and holding a pestle in his hand. He was furious at me, and began to chase me. His scowl was stern, severe. Referring to the book being used to cover my eyes, he admonished me. “How dare you treat the Sutra like that?”
Awakened by his terrible anger, I sat bolt upright. The book fell from my face, opening to an image of Wei Tou Bodhisattva. The image matched exactly as he had appeared to me in my dream. The face, the clothes he wore, the pestle, everything. I had no doubt then, or now, that I had been visited by Wei Tou. I vowed to never disrespect any sacred object again.”
Shared by Kenix
수행자의일기: 이선미 Cultivator’s Diary: Seon-Mi Lee
11월30일달마톡을듣고 November 30, 2019. After listening to Master’s Dharma talk:
It was the last Dharma talk of the FoQi Buddha’s name recitation retreat. When Master said, “Please share your FoQi experience,” many people shared their gratitude. Someone said that it was just a lot of suffering, but there was one Korean cultivator who said that she received homework from Master back in April to sit for 3 1/2 hours. She came to FoQi so she could ask about what is next.
Wow, 3 1/2 hours.
I also want to work hard and get used to sitting for 3 1/2 hours. My vow to meet Master after being able to sit for 3 1/2 hours comfortably has become firmer. One day I want to take an airplane and go to the USA to meet Master so that I can ask what I need to do next.
12월1일 December 1
결가부좌수행1시간57분Full lotus sitting: 1 hour and 57 minutes
호흡관1시간Breathing: 1 hour
능엄신주만트라30분Shurangama Mantra: 30 minutes
아미타불염불12분Amitabha’s name recitation: 12 minutes
능엄신주독송10분Shurangama Mantra: 10 minutes
오늘은 어제의 아쉬움을 만회하고자1시간50분 알람을 맞춰놓고 시작했다. (어제3시좀전에식사를마쳤는데 이후부터 꽁깍지차만 두 컵정도 마시고 오후불식을 해보았다.)
1시간25분 즘 넘어가며 다리부터 떨리기 시작했다.
Today I wanted to do better than yesterday, so I set the alarm for 1 hour and 50 minutes. (Yesterday I finished my meal around 3:00 p.m. and drank two cups of tea only). My legs started to shake after 1 hour and 25 minutes.
My shoulders started to feel sore. I put my palms together, and my palms and shoulders started to shake a little. If I was holding the shaman’s bell, the bell would really shake and make sound. I felt a little scared.
Venerable XianAn already told me that there’s no need to feel afraid and that I should let the shaking happen. Master HsuanHua said that shaking helps shake off the stupidity. While I reminded myself what Venerable XianAn told me, I continued to concentrate on the Shurangama Mantra recitation. After 5 minutes, the shaking of my arms calmed down. Not long after, my hands and head also calmed down.
As the time passed, the pain in the right foot and hip went down, but my left foot was hurting a lot. Because I had fasted since yesterday and resolved to sit longer, I was able to bear this pain longer. Since my left foot has had many problems since childhood, when the pain started there, it was expected. The pain was increasing, but my head was more and more clear and my excessive thoughts were reduced. I felt that I could sit longer if I could bear the left foot pain. I was able to push 7 minutes longer than my original plan.
Today I thought of my parents. I prayed for them to be able to accrue more blessings for the rest of their lives because they have struggled to survive. Na Mo Amitabul Gwan Sae Um Bo Sal (This is Korean pronunciation of Na Mo Emitofou Guanyin Pu Sa)
Liz’s experience of Chan meditation since 2016. How it changed her life and people around her (overcoming depression)
My name is Lizbeth, I'm 38 years old, and I'm Native American from the Yaqui tribe. My mother was born in Sacramento and she's Yaqui and Norwegian and my father is a US citizen born in Mexico, he's descended from Spanish and Huichol (an Indigenous tribe native). He and my mom separated when I was a child. I have a 16 year old son named Takoda and he meditates too.
The difficulties I was trying to overcome, initially, was depression. At that time I was going through a divorce. My mom has bipolar depression and my little sister is handicapped and she was trying to fight us all the time and I take care of both of them. My son is a kind and understanding person but even he was being affected by all that was going on and he was getting lower grades in school. His teachers praised his good manners they just wished he applied himself more to his studies. I was having great difficulties with getting my thoughts and emotional reactions under control. I would cry when I was alone in my car. I didn't like being short tempered and sometimes I was not sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much, taking too many naps and feeling fatigue. I had a knee injury and and low back pain. I was overall unhappy with my life.
I started Chan meditation in 2016. I was walking in the park with my son and saw someone was putting a sign, ‘Chan Meditation in the Park’. I asked how much she would charge for the class. She said “it’s free.”. That’s how everything started!
At first, when I began sitting in full lotus and meditating on Amituofo, I felt the healing in my body. My knee healed up quickly and my lower back didn't hurt as much. A few months later I was sitting for an hour, daily, and I was feeling well rested. Soon my insomnia was gone and I was getting a full night’s sleep. I also didn't need as much sleep to feel well rested. Little by little I began to notice my thoughts were more focused and I wasn't angry or depressed, I was able to think clearly. I no longer react quickly in response to other people’s actions. I'm more patient and tolerant of everyone including myself. My little sister is calmer around me and is easily made peaceful. She doesn't try to fight with me anymore. My mom's bipolar depression isn't as bad as it used to be and she's more open to taking advice from me about her own health. Even my son’s grades in school have improved. I'm more supportive of him and he started meditating too.
My spirituality comes from Native American Traditions. It's not a religion but a way of life. It's very inclusive and tolerant of other people’s faith. I relate many of the spiritual leaders from the past as Holy men and women who were born to teach us something and it is up to us to pick up those teachings and utilize them or not. I choose to utilize Chan as part of my self-care and actually helps me improve the way I take care of others.
Chan mediation helped me improve on so many levels but if I were to choose one thing that it helped me the most with, it would be, with my mind, and the ability to organize my thoughts. I no longer feel so scattered about my choices and decisions. I enrolled in college and got accepted into the Honors Program. I no longer worry about living up to other people’s expectations of me. I see clearly where I've wasted so much time on worrying about things that will most likely never happen. And I'm enjoying life's precious moments on a deeper level than before.