“Do you have a Koan?”

That was the first question Korean Zen Master, Venerable Hwasun Yangil Sunim asked me.

I had heard about Koans before – mainly from books. I didn’t really think they were essential for Zen practice.

But here I was, sitting in front of an actual Zen Master and he was asking me if I had a Koan.

The next time I saw him he gave me the Koan, “What am I?”.

And you’d figure I would’ve taken to that Koan like a thirsty man to water. But that wasn’t the case. I didn’t use it at all.

This went on for months.

But then something clicked and I gave it a try.

How do you “do” Koan practice?

You’re Koan needs to take over your mind becoming a magnificent obsession. In all that you do your mind must be fastened to your Koan.

Your Koan becomes the single pointed target that you bring the whole weight of your mind down upon.

Thoughts arise and get sucked into the spinning vortex of your Koan.

Doubts arise and they are burned away by your Koan.

It becomes a fiery ball blazing in your mind consuming all your wayward thoughts, concerns and questions.

My Master Venerable Hwasun Yangil Sunim said that,

“You should watch the “What am I?” koan with your eyes, listen to the sound of the “What am I?” koan with your ears. You have to touch the “What am I?” koan with your hands. When you walk, each step must be on “What am I?” The nose should breathe the “What am I?” koan. You have to chew the “What am I?” koan with your mouth. You always have to be clothed in the “What am I?” koan.”

Throw away all your thoughts and ideas.

Burn your books.

None of that will do you any good where you’re going.