Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Year, A New Life.....I'm Back!

I'm back in the saddle again....I'm ready to go! I feel the New Year around the corner and I'm ready to embrace 2010, the Year of the Tiger. For some reason, when I say that, the Rocky theme song, Eye of The Tiger, starts playing in the background of my mind. I think "Tiger" best defines how I feel this year will go. When I think of a Tiger, I think of strength, precision, focus, and beauty.

I didn't feel like a tiger two weeks ago. I felt more like a mole or a bear in hibernation. I just wanted to bury myself in a hole in the ground and remain in it. It wasn't that I was depressed or sad or worried, it's just that I felt the need to let go of outside things and go inside. I needed to feel myself again. I needed to retreat.

I'm coming out of my cave now. On Dec. 9th I went to a 10-day silent meditation course in Onalaska, WA.


I had a room with hardly anything in it and I didn't speak for 10-days.





People may ask, "Well what did you do then?" I meditated...and that's it. No other activities except eating, sleeping, and bathing and responding to calls of nature. I do this at least once a year and I have a daily practice. I find it very beneficial. It's easy for me to get lost in the drama of life otherwise...to be tossed and turned by what is going on around me. A 10-day Vipassana course is not easy, it's rigorous. Many people have an idea that going to meditate for 10 days is like going to the spa....ummm...it couldn't be farther from that idea. It's serious work. It's surgery. The benefits I get from practicing meditation outweigh the benefits I've gotten from anything else in life, so I keep practicing. It's been almost 14 years. I feel clarity, peace of mind on a very deep level, balance, and understanding of the impermanent, changing nature of things.

Before I started meditation, I felt a lot of anger, worry, and self doubt. I don't feel these as much anymore and if they come to pay a visit, they don't stay long. The most amazing thing that has happened since I started meditating is that I find myself exactly where I need to be. There's no second guessing. Things fall into place very easily. I get lined up with the right people, places and things. I feel a connection to those I meet and feel the importance of those who come into my life, whether they be a reader of this blog, an author or fellow blogger on another blog, a yoga student, an ESL student, a neighbor, the postman, a stranger, whomever it may be, I feel the importance of why they are in my life. I'm not saying that things don't go wrong anymore, they do, but I don't seem to have a strong reaction like I did before. I'm able to observe the situation a bit more from a distance. I don't feel so attached.

Another thing I've felt like doing since I started meditation is share with others the things that I have learned or the peace and happiness I feel. There's a lot of negativity in the world these days. If I am not aware, I can follow people right into the hornet's nest of negativity. Realizing that I can't please everyone is a big lesson for me. Some people will not be happy with what I say or do, but if I feel o.k. with it, that's all that's important. My purpose in life, I believe, is to share, open up and extend myself to others. Also, there are times when I need to retreat, gain energy and take care of myself.


When I came back from meditation, I wasn't quite ready to come out of my shell, but Christmas was right around the corner and my family had big plans. We had planned to meet at my father's lake house in Washington. I went from the nothingness of total silence right into the craze of Christmas shopping at Northgate Shopping Center near my house in Seattle. Christmas shopping at peak season, if anything, will shake you from your shell. I was still moving slowly through the hordes of people and had to sit down often.

Christmas with my family was nice. It was nice to see everyone and spend time together. I'm not sure I really had time to get into the "Christmas Spirit". I was kind of thrown into it. When I was young, I celebrated Christmas because my family did. I don't think much has changed. The Christmas I see in America seems to be about spending time with family, buying a Christmas tree, buying presents, decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, watching Christmas specials, listening to Christmas music, etc. Christmas is also about the birth of Christ, but that gets lost sometimes, I feel. I am not a member of any religion and I am member of ALL religions. Maybe it's good to celebrate everything. ..to celebrate life! I was happy to finally be celebrating at this peaceful lake setting with family.

I think I was more excited about the new year.... I already feel things are lining up. While I was meditating, my husband and his friend decided to start a yoga business together and they already found a building in Seattle that they are interested in. I feel that this will happen. The most amazing part of the "possible" yoga school is the atrium.


It has an indoor Eichler-style atrium. I've never seen an older building in Seattle with this feature. It's perfect for a yoga school. I feel like my husband and are I both working towards our goals and dreams simultaneously and they both support the same goal of sharing peace, happiness and joy with others. The creation of his yoga school will be a collaborative effort of friends who are painters, gardeners, designers, construction workers. I think it will be so interesting to see this process of so many people coming together to leave a part of themselves for others to enjoy. It's like one big art project. Stay tuned for more information as this project progresses. Happy New Year everyone!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Planting the Seed of Happiness-An Afternoon with Sonam Rinpoche

Twenty three people from eight different countries (Korea, China, Malaysia, Tibet, Russia, Israel and India) gathered in my living room this morning for a talk on Happiness and Compassion by Sonam Rinpoche. "Rinpoche" in Tibetan means "Precious One". There are many Rinpoches who are recognized and appointed by the Dalai Lama. They are usually appointed very young and are believed to be great masters who are reincarnated. I spent the afternoon with my husband and Sonam Rinpoche last weekend, too. What inspired me most was not the Tibetan tradition or exactly what this Rinpoche had to say, it was more his joyfulness. He reminded me of the laughing Buddha in my garden. He has the innocence of a young child and the wisdom of an old man.



The part that was wonderful about today was that I shared the time with people from many different countries and backgrounds who came together with a universal hope for compassion and happiness. Compassion and happiness are qualities that are not owned by any religion. They are basic human needs, like food, water, shelter, etc. The Dalai Lama once said,

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive."

Sonam Rinpoche talked about planting the seed of happiness and helping suffering beings.

Here is a short video of that talk:




I believe that when we surround ourselves with good people and we are also good, this multiplies and spreads in the world. Set all religions aside and what is your intention. Is it to convert people or is it to share good qualities with everyone, regardless of their race, background and religion. Sonam Rinpoche is my Facebook friend. We live in a high-tech world and some may argue that people like Rinpoches should not be on Facebook, but I'm happy he is there. On Facebook under "What is your religion?" the Rinpoche wrote "kindness". Where it says, "What is your political view?" he wrote "selflessness". This made me smile.

People like the Rinpoche give me inspiration to do good things in the world and to make use of this life I have. I am happy for all the people I have met in the blogosphere. Some have given me praise and others have given me criticism. It doesn't matter to me really. My intention is to share, to open, to move towards universal positive qualities like love, peace, happiness and compassion. This is my true hope.

Friday, December 4, 2009

NOVEMBER WAS GOOD TO ME

November was good to me. I started a new collaborative blog called Writers Rising which now has seven authors and 4 open invitations. I also received two blog awards. I am honored and I will pass these awards along as I know there are hundreds of other blogs out there who are worthy of these. The Best Blog award was given to me by Alone in Holyland. I'd like to give this award back to her, but she already received it. Be sure to check her blog out, she's great!
This is what she had to say about my blog, Lessons from the Monk I Married.

We're almost on countdown to Christmas so I think it is time to share with friends presents and awards...


Award goes to:

Her blog is an inspiration for me and her posts, well, sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me laugh and sometimes they make me feel better. Thank you Katherine, this is the least I can do in return for the light you shed on my humble path.

I also want to thank Artisan of the Human Spirit for awarding me another blog award in November:

http://scholastic-scribe.blogspot.com/

I'd like to brighten the holiday season by giving two awards to some of my favorite blogs. For the Superior Scribbler Award, please check the website as there is a list you can add your blog to there.

Since some of my favorite blogs have already received these awards, I'm stretching out here. Here are my top five picks:

1. Chronicles of Sharnia-I love Sharni. She is an Australian gal who lives in a one-horse town with her child and cowboy husband. She used to be a cosmopolitan woman and can't entirely give that side up, hence her wonderful blog which keeps her connected. She is funny, witty, honest, and real. Check her out.

2. Ruby Ramblings-This woman is always dishing out comments on noteable books, blogs, articles, etc. , but she is a wonderful blogger herself. Much of her blog talks about her time in Asia and she is a great observer of all that is around her. If you are looking for a great book or good place to visit, she has all of this on her blog.

3. Lifeworks- More of a website, but I like this woman's view on life. You can read about how she gave everything up to live a simple life in Mexico. Very interesting stories, ideas, and thoughts on how to live a simple and fulfilling life on the planet and have the courage to do it.

4. 24 and so much more- A fellow writer of mine on Woman's World Magazine. She really is exactly what her blog title says. She is a seeker and is searching for answers to life. I like that. She also has helpful information on a variety of subjects on her blog.

5. Bliss Chick-I just started following this blog and I love her attitude and her posts. They are positive and uplifting and I appreciate that.

Thanks for writing such amazing blogs. I hope to read more. Any suggestions of more great blogs to follow???? I'm always looking! By the way, I follow so many great blogs, it was really hard to choose 5. I have many more I LOVE.

Please be sure to post both awards to your site! Peace to you all and happy holidays,
Katherine Jenkins


Friday, November 27, 2009

My Afternoon with a Tibetan Rinpoche

My husband met a Tibetan Rinpoche in the Seattle Public Library. They are friends. Today, the day after Thanksgiving, he drove 30 minutes to Woodinville to pick him up. In the meantime, I went to the supermarket to buy pears, oranges and fragrant lillies. My husband set up the Buddha in front of the fireplace with the soji screen behind. He also placed three bowls in front of the Buddha where I put the oranges, pears, apples and a small rice dish containing almonds. I cut the stems of the lillies and placed them in a large mason jar half-full of water. I set the flowers on a nearby table. The sun coming through the window was so bright. I couldn't believe it was so sunny. It seemed that I had woken up for the past week to a thick layer of gray clouds which would turn in to rain by afternoon. This morning, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I couldn't help but feel it was because the Rinpoche would be our guest today. I lit a stick of Tibetan incense the Rinpoche had given my husband and waved it all around the house. I was quickly transported to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. I clearly remember walking into that temple and that exact smell. Dozens of monks, some as young as 10 and as old as 80, sat together on a platform chanting in the temple where candles seemed to be the only light. The children of Tibet were so shiny. Some of them had nothing, but when they smiled I could clearly see they had everything..everything that is important.

The Rinpoche travels throughout Asia and America and gives talks and leads ceremonies. When people donate money to him, he gives it to an orphanage in Tibet which houses 63 children and now has a school. As Seong Yoon and I walked through the woods with him today, he seemed so filled with delight when he talked about that. The Rinpoche will be giving a talk in our house on December 6th. The topic is happiness and compassion. We decided it would be good to invite him into our home to chant. We felt it would help clear the air and provide a good environment for his talk. Here's a video of that beautiful time:







I couldn't video tape for very long because the energy in the room was so strong. My entire body started to feel very light. I felt a sweet energy, like a soft wind, travel through my body. I felt light, uplifted, happy, peaceful, and grateful. I was sitting in this room with two monks. While my husband is no longer a monk, I can't help but feel he is more a monk than ever before. He seems to draw people to him wherever he goes. I'm not surprised that the Rinpoche and my husband are friends. They possess the same light and gentleness.


After the Rinpoche chanted for 30 minutes, we went out for Korean food. It was fun! During lunch, my husband decided to take the Rinpoche on his favorite walk through Llandover woods near our house. We talked about many subjects. The Rinpoche told us of how he had to hike for a month and 9 days through the Himalayas between Tibet and Nepal to escape the Chinese who had taken over Tibet. He could only hike at night when it was dark so he wouldn't be seen. When he arrived in Nepal, he started a new life. His energy is so joyful, like the laughing Buddha in my garden, I was not surprised to find that he is sought after for his teachings and chantings in Tibet, Hong Kong, Malaysia and now North America.

I asked him, "How do we know what we have to do in this life?" He was very quiet for a long time. We walked and I could hear a bird and I smelled the pine trees which had been touched by an earlier rain and were now spreading their fragrance into the air around us. I looked down and watched our feet step in unison...a Korean, a Tibetan, An American...I couldn't feel these distinctions. I felt we were just there, like the trees and birds, and there was nothing else to do or know. I think the Rinpoche did finally answer the question, but I found the answer in his silence.


Friday, November 20, 2009

New Blog: Writers Rising

I'm very excited to share with you the first chapter of the organization Writers Rising. We started out as three co-workers with a passion for writing. For the past 6 months we've been meeting every other week. These meetings have been so inspirational and are part of why I keep writing my book. We don't just meet and read our writing to each other. We encourage each other, we share information, we make plans of action on where we are going to submit our writing, we collaborate, we do collages, we eat, we laugh and we have a very good time!

This group is not just about writing. It's about empowering each other. When we leave at the end of the meeting we all feel so much energy and inspiration. I was so inspired I decided to create this blog so that other people who are interested in creating  Writers Rising chapters in their community can do the same. It is best if these groups are small. We find that having three people in a group is perfect. It's just enough people to give constructive feedback without feeling our time is too divided with too many things to read.

Another reason why I created this blog is so that other people who have formed Writers Rising groups can contribute to the blog: http://www.writersrising.blogspot.com/. This blog will be for Writers Rising members to share their writing, book samples, short stories, etc. The idea is for each chapter to meet in their community, but to have support for the larger group of Writers Rising members. If you are interested in forming a Writers Rising group, please let me know and I'll send information on what we do. Once you form a Writers Rising group and start having regular meetings, I will add you as contributors to this blog so that we can share our writing here and support each other.

In our last meeting, we decided to do a collage. We didn't have a theme for this collage, but since we did it in the writing group it seemed to depict where we were with our writing and our intentions. This was a stream of consciousness activity where we were using the right side of our brains. In the past, I have done similar collages and put them aside only to discover them later and find that many things I had collaged had actually come true in my life. There was a lot of energy built up while we were in this process. Here are some pictures of our collage activity:


I have to admit that I previewed my stack of magazines before my friends arrived at my house and thought there was nothing interesting for us to create from these. Later when the process started, pictures and images literally jumped out the pages. It was a very interesting process. Here's my collage:



After I completed my collage, I tried not to read too much into it. I hung it in my office and left it alone. I do believe there was something to this and I feel inspiration when I see it. I'm looking forward to sharing more Writers Rising events and happenings with you and we may have some of our groups writing displayed soon. Stay tuned for more...it's only going to get better!!
Check the blog out, become a follower, leave a comment and strart your Writers Rising group today!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Things That Go on in My Living Room

Do not take lightly small good deeds, believing they can hardly help; For drops of water, one by one, in time can fill a giant ocean. -Buddha

My living room has become a meeting place for good things. It's hard to believe, given the size of the place, but it's true.


On December 6th, a Tibetan Rinpoche, who is recognized by the Dalai Lama, will come to my living room to give a talk on happiness and compassion. Here's some information about the Rinpoche: http://www.maha-guru.org/

How did this come about, you ask?...
Well, on Fridays, I usually spend time with my husband, but he informed me today that he planned to hang out with the Tibetan Rinpoche he met in the Seattle Public Library a little over a year ago.

They were both reading books in the same section of the library. That's no surprise to me because I'm sure they have similar interests. The Rinpoche knew right away that my husband used to be a monk. Later, they decided to go on a walk around Greenlake and then to Starbucks for a hot cocoa. The Rinpoche even gave my husband a name-'yoga bliss'.

Today, my husband disappeared for hours and came back beaming. In his hand he held a very colorful and large tanka from Tibet of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisatvva of Compassion. It was given to him by the Rinpoche. As soon as he returned home from his afternoon with the Rinpoche, he hung it on our wall.

























My husband and the Rinpoche went to a Chinese resaurant for lunch and spoke for many hours about how to help people develop happiness and compassion in daily life. The Rinpoche usually resides in Asia, so it's difficult for him to connect with many people here in the states. My husband asked him to give a lecture in our living room to his yoga students and anyone else who is interested. The Rinpoche agreed to give a talk in our living room in early December on the subject of compassion and happiness. So, we have a plan to have him come stay in our house for a few days.

Our house is a small two-bedroom bungalow in North Seattle.


When I tell people about all the events we've had here, they seem surprised. But somehow, it always works!

The day before halloween, we hosted a halloween party in our living room. Over 30 people attended and we had a live jazz band. This is the third time we've had live music.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my husband teaches yoga classes in our living room. Anywhere from 8-10 people usually join. His classes are popular, so some people call ahead and reserve a space.

Every other Monday, my writing group comes to my house. This Monday we are doing an art collage. I'm excited about that.

We had to move some of our furniture into the garage because of all the happenings taking place, but it's worth it. The energy in my living room is so great thanks to all the people who have shared their writing and art, danced, practiced yoga, and meditated here. Every drop counts and when we all come together, that's alot of drops!

(All the pictures in this post are from my house and garden in Seattle. We still have Dahlias blooming and it's November!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Contributor on Woman's World Magazine and a recent guest post on The Lotus Sutra Chronicles

Hello All!...just wanted to let you all know that I'm a new Woman's World Magazine contributor. You can find the link to this site on the side bar. I was also asked to be a guest blogger on The Lotus Sutra Chronicles (link also on side bar) by a blogger who lives in Korea and writes about her observations living there. Having lived in Korea, it's been such a pleasure reading her blog. The piece I wrote is entitled Thank You Korea. I also posted this piece on Woman's World Magazine. You can check it out on the Lotus Sutra Chronicles here:

http://thelotussutrachronicles.blogspot.com/2009/11/thank-you-korea-guest-blogger-
kathy.html

I believe this blogger is doing a series of guest bloggers on the topic of gratitude. Great idea, isn't it? Thanks everyone for reading and for all your wonderful comments...I am very grateful for that! And thanks Marilyn for asking me to be a guest blogger!!!!

Forty and Feelin' Sporty

When I was 13, my sister and I gave my dad a t-shirt that said, "Over 40 and Feelin' Sporty". He never wore that shirt, but threatened to give it to me when I turned 40. Now I'm 40, I'm sure I'll receive a t-shirt in the mail soon.... 40 sounds like a big number to me, but I'm so excited about my 40s.

I spent my 20s wandering the globe in search of who I was. I met my husband, the former monk, when I was 26 and he was 23. We traveled to India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet together that same year and did our first 10 day Vipassana meditation course together. I spent 8 years in Korea and two years in Japan..I did a lot of meditation during that time, but still didn't know where I was headed. I got married at 33 and things started to change a bit. My husband and I opened two yoga schools in Korea and started to share our training and experience with others.

Now, I am 40 and living with my husband in Seattle, Washington. He teaches yoga and I teach English..we haven't changed much from an outside perspective, but I feel very CLEAR about things now. I spent my 20s in a fog....in my 30s, I was waiting for the fog to clear and spent a lot of my time in long periods of silence. I joined 3 30-day silent meditation courses and one 45-day silent course. It was a time of introspection, I feel. I am still doing my meditation and yoga practice, but I feel an opening now that I can't explain. It is time to share and open up to all those around me.

In 2004, while sitting a 30-day silent course in Massachusetts...the title for my book appeared. The entire book with all it's pages flipped opened in front of me. This is different than thinking about something. It appeared and disappeared. It came and went, like all thoughts, emotions and feelings. I didn't hold on to it, but it kept reappearing after that. It was so strong, that I started listening to the messages I was receiving to write this book. I started trusting my intuition more and more. Now, I see that my intuition is guiding me.

I have let go. I feel like an empty vessel in which things flow through. I still get hung up sometimes with life's drama, but I see the bigger picture. There's no turning back now, I can only go forward.

I am excited about my 40s..I feel strong, healthy, lucky to have such wonderful friends and family, grateful for my job and wonderful co-workers, happy to have a husband who is my BRIGHT light, grateful for this blog and all the people I have met here. I feel a lot of gratitude these days...I want to share this gratitude with others and hope that everyone can feel like this! I think we all empower each other. When we are happy, healthy, loving, and friendly-others start to live and feel that way, too. Every moment is important. Every moment is like a grain of sand that adds up the desert of your life....how do you want that desert to look? Do you look at the bright side, or do you tend to see the dark clouds around the corner? Are you excited about now? Do you feel excited about the future? As soon as I get that T-shirt "Over 40 and Feelin' Sporty" in the mail, I think I'll put it on...because I'm feeling just that!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peace on Earth-A Question for YOU!



I am an English as a Second Language teacher in Washington State. In my class, I have students from around the world. They come from different countries, religions, customs, traditions, and backgrounds. I feel so lucky to spend time with the world in my class. Somehow, when we come together each day, we are able to see beyond our differences. Our differences make us unique, but I have found, in my class, that we are more alike than you think. All of us strive to meet our basic human needs of food, water, shelter, safety, etc. Beyond that, most people feel love, peace, happiness, and care for the planet and the things on it are important. This morning I realized that 31 countries have visited my blog. Here they are in order of the number of visitors from each country:

USA, India, Australia, Canada, South Korea, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Austria, Turkey, Israel, Brazil, Italy, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Latvia, Estonia, Mongolia, Kiribati, Taiwan, Philippines, Kenya, Thailand, France, South Africa, Egypt, and Singapore.

Peace, in my mind, means living in harmony with each other and with this earth we live on. By achieving peace, we may have to go beyond boundaries of race, religion, politics, countries, etc.

How are YOU, as a citizen of this world, helping to achieve peace on earth?

This may seem like a very BIG question, but the answer may be quite simple. It may be as simple as how you choose to live on a daily basis.

I'd like to share some of your answers in a blog post. So please leave a comment at the end of this post. Don't be afraid to leave a comment. Your comment may be helpful to many people.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thank You Brazil


This week I was attacked. I felt this heaviness that would not lift. Yesterday, after my first class at the college, I could barely move. My upper jaw and head hurt so bad, I thought my brain would explode. I found myself in my car driving in the direction of home, even though I had one more evening class. I went right to bed. My husband held a yoga class in the other room. Seven people moved silently in my living room, feeling themselves from the inside out. I imagined their bodies moving in unison, connecting to a universal self. I started to feel a sense of relief come over me and a sense of peace. I still felt a slight headache, but I felt I would be o.k.

Lately, Brazil has been in my world. This quarter I have two students from Brazil and both of them are so lovely. I've never had a Brazilian student before, now I have two! One of them is going to bring traditional cake to class today.

I was also deeply touched by Brazilian Paulo Coelho's book The Alchemist. I went to Barnes and Noble Bookstore last weekend to research magazines. I planned to submit some of my writing to a few magazines. The pile of magazines felt heavy in my hands, so I put them back. I wandered upstairs and found my husband in the Religion and Philosophy section of the bookstore. I sat down on a small stool and did nothing. Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw The Alchemist. I had seen this book many times before, but have never been interested in it. This time, as a I held it in my hands, I knew it was my time to read it. As I read it, I felt the book was speaking to me directly.

In the Introduction, Paulo Coelho talks about personal calling. He says, "Whenever we do something that fill us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream." Later, he talks about four obstacles:

1. "We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible."

2. "Love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream."

3. "Fear of defeat" or fear of failure while following our dream.

4. "The fear of realizing our dream for which we fought for all our lives."

The book is about a shepherd boy from Spain who travels all the way to the Egyptian Pyramids in search of his dream. I couldn't put it down. I feel Paulo Coelho followed his personal calling. He achieved the exact things he described in this book. He followed his own legend. His book, an international best seller, sold 65 million copies in 150 countries and has been translated into 60 languages!

Last night, I felt the rhythm of the people doing yoga in the other room. I felt peace. With my headache subsiding, I decided to finish reading The Alchemist. I read the last words and put the book on my bed stand and said, "Thank you Brazil" and closed my eyes.

This morning I woke up to find that over 500 people in more than 28 countries have visited my blog. The most recent visitor??...........You guessed it, Brazil!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bring an Open Mind: An Evening of Song and Dance in Honor of the Kiribati People


Last weekend, I was invited to an interesting event in Seattle on the waterfront by my friend. She invited us to a botaki. I had no idea what that was. She explained that is was an event where we would celebrate with song and dance of the Kiribati (pronounced kiri-bas) people. The Kiribati islands are located in the South Pacific along the equator. My friend's mother and stepfather sail there often. They spend most of their time living on their sailboat or with the Kiribati people in their village. This is very rare. According to my friend, there are very few people who know the Kiribati people intimately. They don't allow many outsiders into their culture. Julie and Tom spent so much time in the Kiribati islands, that they were adopted by several families on the islands. The elders of the islands are dying and so are their traditions. Julie and Tom have been recording the traditions of these people and have been preserving their song and dance. It is beautiful, to me, to see all the love they have for such a far-off land and such a different tradition. They have sacrificed their own comforts to live with these people and to learn from them. All the discomforts they have encountered are unnoticeable. In the botaki, Julie and Tom displayed a tremendous joy. They danced and sang and there was an enormous amount of food for everyone.




We could not help but feel uplifted up by this event. People from Asia, Africa, America, South America and other countries all came together to experience this intimate evening of celebration in a private home in West Seattle overlooking Puget Sound. The full moon was quite appropriate and seemed to symbolize how I felt that evening.....I felt full of all that is good.




When I was invited to the event, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was something I didn't quite understand. At the same time, I was curious and it sounded fun. I asked my friend what I should bring and she said, "Bring an open mind." So that's what I did. Here's the information we received from Julie before the botaki:

Mauri-oo!!

We are very excited that you will be joining us on Saturday for our celebration of unity with the Kiribati Elders and people. The theme for our botaki is E Naaka O.


E Naaka O refers to departure from the known, from routine, from the old, the seen, the everyday, from all you know and impart to others. E Naaka O---it is the wisdom of the Soft Wind blowing, cleansing, purifying, renewing, testing, changing, transforming.

The Elders say we live in the time of the dark moon, but that amid the encroaching darkness there is a tender blossoming that occurs, like the rare Pandanus bloom, the sacred Mataboro— the young, innocent flower that holds its love and promise for us all. It can be seen, felt, and heard in the stillness of your loving heart. It is an opening of great beauty, and the moment is now. (A picture of my husband, Seong Yoon, receiving a fern crown from a dancer)


We will celebrate E Naaka O with the traditional Kiribati dance, called the mwaie. This ancient dance comes from the ancestors of the Kiribati people. The mwaie is sacred and multi-dimensional. It is much more than what you see--an energetic dance in colorful costume. It is a sacred vehicle for journeying into the Beyond, a language that draws Spirit near, and a magic that draws people into unity, strength and happiness.

The dancers have been preparing themselves for many weeks for this day of merging and rising with Spirit. When Spirit comes, it can be very strong. Sometimes, the dancers cry, tremble, shake or scream. This is not nerves. It is the power of the flow passing through. It is different for each dancer, and different every time.




When this happens, you, too, may feel something. This is normal and good. The energies of the mwaie are very healing and uplifting. Take them in. They only bring goodness.


Below is a video of botaki that evening:


PBS Now had this to say about the danger the Kiribati people face:

Week of 12.12.08

Paradise Lost

Just this week, a top UN official predicted that by the middle of this century, the world should expect six million people a year to be displaced by increasingly severe storms and floods caused by climate change. But for many island nations in the South Pacific, climate change is already more than just a theory—it is a pressing, menacing reality. These small, low-lying islands are frighteningly vulnerable to rising temperatures and sea levels that could cause flooding and contaminate their fresh water wells. Within 50 years, some of them could be under water. This week, NOW travels to the nation of Kiribati to see up close how these changes affect residents' daily lives and how they are dealing with the reality that both their land and culture could disappear from the Earth. We also travel to New Zealand to visit an I-Kiribati community that has already left its home, and to the Pacific Island Forum in Niue to see how the rest of the region is coping with the here-and-now crisis of climate change.


According to Julie, my friend's mother, The Kiribati are already dealing with contaminated water. Tom and Julie are trying to bring a water purifying system to the islands, but it is expensive. During the last Tsunami that hit Samoa, the Kiribati were prepared to die. According to my friend, they all gathered in the center part of the village to wait for their death, but when it didn't happen, they just carried on as usual. More horrors of global warming can be expected to hit this part of the world, but the people, who have lived the same way for thousands of years, do not appear to be in fear of this. How sad it is that a people who have only sought to live in harmony with nature are the very ones that will most likely be destroyed by it due to the modern world that continues to pollute it. It seems a bit unfair, in my mind, but these people continue to dance and sing and live in harmony with what remains.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blogs I Follow

Hello everyone-the time is long overdue to share some amazing blogs with you. I'm particulary interested in blogs that describe interesting personal experience, talk about travel, spirituality or blogs that seek to promote positive change in the world. I love stories about people in search of their true selves...this seeking, questioning, wondering and observing and eventually finding is what I also hope to share in my blog. These are blogs I currently follow, but I am always seeking more blogs.

1. Chornicles of Sharnia
A story about an Australian woman who lived a city life in Australia and worked on a major newspaper there, moved to the countryside to help her father, fell in love with a farmer, went to Vietnam to teach English, found out she was pregnant, went back to the countryside with the farmer to raise her son. Sharni is always seeking and I love that! She recently interviewed me on her blog. You can check out the link here:http://chroniclesofsharnia-sharnanigans.blogspot.com/2009/10/lessons-i-learnt-from-lady-married-to.html

2. Wandering Photographer
An Irish photographer who wanders the countryside and camps out for days just to get a beautiful picture. He is also a seeker. He writes about his own observations and questions about life. He is the author of a beautiful photography book entitled Portrait of the Northern Ireland Coast.

3. Mes Joies et Chagrins
An Indian writer. We chatted recently. She is another observer and one of her recent posts talks of the poverty on the streets of India and her own questions of how and why she is so fortunate, while others are not. She prompted me to write my Incredible India diaries on my blog.

4. Woodstock Lily
While I have never talked personally to this amazing writer, I am inspired by her story. She was in a major car accident and still suffers from PTSD. After the car accident, her life changed drastically. She created a whole new persona, started a blog, did art and is working on a book called Six Days to Haight-Ashbury

5. Lotus Sutra Chronicles
O.K.-I love this blog because it's about Korea from an American English Teacher's perspective. I can relate to this and it brings me back to my time there. Often quite humorous!

6. Alone in Holy Land
This blog authors writes about her trials and tribulations of raising a young girl in Israel. She is also a seeker and an insightful observer of what is important in life.

7. Ruby Ramblings
A collections of books, places, pictures and stories. This blog author is also an English teacher in South Korea and has some interesting observations on living there.

Hope you enjoy these great blogs as much as I have. Peace to you all,
Kathy

Saturday, September 12, 2009

WELCOME

Hello. Thanks for stopping by my blog. If you've just happened upon it, WELCOME!!!! Come and stay for awhile, get a drink...maybe a cup of tea.......... Most of my writing is about lessons I've learned while journeying through life with my husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. While I mostly blog about my observations on life, there are three chapters on this blog from my upcoming book by the same title. The title is 'Lessons from the Monk I Married'. To all my fans and followers who have been reading and making comments on this blog, you don't know how much I appreciate it. It is so helpful to me! If you have just happened upon this blog, have browsed through it and like what you see, please follow it and make comments on posts that resonate with you. It is very helpful for me to know who is reading this and what you, the reader, think.

Peace to you all,
Kathy

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

INSPIRATION IS CONTAGIOUS

Look out!!!!! Someone near you might be very inspiring and cause you to want to run off and do inspiring things yourself. I live with one of those people. He's the person I'm writing the book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, about. He can see a vision of his life so clearly. He meets so many people on a regular basis and I feel like that number is growing every day. He gives all his energy to his students and the yoga classes he teaches. He strives to bring out the best in ever single yoga student he meets because he believes that everyone possesses a greatness inside that has yet to be tapped into. He has a way with creating a space where people feel comfortable enough to open up so that they are free to experience this greatness. He has inspired me to write a book, to keep up with my yoga and to keep expanding in my yoga practice. I have felt moved to record him in pictures, words, and videos. This is what I have been doing lately. Here is a video from one of his large classes. His classes seem to be getting larger and larger.



I believe that the people we are surrounded by and the environment in which we live are so important. Are there inspiring people around you? Do you feel invigorated by those near you? Do people you surround yourself with lift you up and make you want to do great things in this world?

I used to be somewhat of a pessimist. I couldn't understand why things wouldn't go my way. Sometimes it felt like I was the only one in the world who was suffering. Later, after lots of meditation, I realized that I choose my life. I choose how I react to whatever life throws my way. I choose who I want to surround myself with and what activities I want to do. It's my choice. There are plenty of people in this world who have suffered great losses or experienced great pain, but it is their choice what they will do with the situation that is given to them.

By choosing to be an optimistic person, I'm finding that more and more positive situations are entering into my life. This optimism is contagious, just as inspiration is contagious. Unfortunately, pessimism, depression and negative emotions are also contagious, but you have
a choice. You don't have to accept these negative emotions as your way of life. You can actually choose to be a happy person, or a giving person, or a kind person, or all of these things.

Like my husband, I'm also a teacher. I teach English as a Second Language at a community college. I have students from all over the world. They come from Iran, Iraq, China, Russia, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Africa, etc. Some of them have experienced the most terrible atrocities that you can imagine. Yet, I'm so amazed to find that my students seem to be such happy people for the most part. They come to my class smiling and enthusiastic. They are kind, grateful and so happy to be learning English.


I am inspired by my students, but I think it's a two-way street. In order to be inspired by someone, we have to have to have that quality within us and be willing to accept that quality as part of us. Inspiration is contagious, just like all other positive emotions. By being great and by putting inspiration out into the world, you will find that it comes back to you. Your life starts to have this very amazing quality to it. You start to receive so many positive benefits and that makes you want to give even more.

Every single one of us has this greatness inside. This greatness is made up of qualities which include love, kindness, peace, understanding, generosity, happiness, etc. These are not qualities we have to look for, they are qualities that we naturally possess. It is in our nature.

Every day you have a choice. It's not that negative emotions are wrong, but it is your own choice on how you will act in this world and what qualities you will display. From my own experience, if you choose to allow anger, pain and negativity to become predominate emotions in your life, you will only attract more situations that will allow you to feel these emotions. If you start to allow love, peace, happiness and generosity into your life, you will attract more situations which will allow you to feel these as well. You will be surprised at how much will change in your life if you just choose to smile at someone or just smile for the sake of smiling. It can make all the difference in the world.

Have you been inspired by anyone lately?

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Belated Thanks

In April, The Ruby Canary awarded me with the Premio Dardos Award. I know this is belated, but I want to thank her for mentioning my blog so many times on her own blog. It is such an honor to be recommended by a fellow blogger who I have yet to meet, but have read a lot about. I highly recommend her blog for interesting books and travel in Korea.

Premio Dardos Award

According to information sited on The Ruby Canary's blog,

“This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.”

She also nominated other blogs, but had this to say about mine,

"A great narrative of a woman who married a South Korean monk she befriended while working overseas."

There are so many fantastic blogs out there and it is hard to find time to read all the posts I'd like to, but I read as many as I can. I am particularly interested in blogs that support a positive change in this world. I'm also interested in blogs about travel and also blogs about Korea, since I spent so much time there. Positive change in this world is not the work of one individual, it is the work of so many. By supporting each other, we acknowledge that all our own personal efforts for instigating change are only effective if there are other like-minded individuals who are also sharing writing, art, music, information and other talents or work with the world.

Here are just a few great blogs by some like-minded individuals. I have had a nice exchange with several of these blog authors:

1. Life Notes-A blog about gratitude and positive observations about life

2. Wandering Photographer- Beautiful photography of Ireland as well as lessons in life

3. Lifeworks Living-Funny, interesting stories about a woman who decided to leave it all behind and live her dream life in Mexico

4. The Lotus Sutra Chronicles-humorous stories and observations on living in South Korea

There are so many others I have just begun to follow, but don't know enough about to recommend yet.

I'm grateful to everyone who has read, become a fan or recommended my blog to others. I write because I feel I have something to share with the world. All of your kind words are what keeps me going and what gives me a reason to keep writing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Greatest Luxury

If you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be? Is it surprising that the things we think we want, never turn out to be the things we need. Humans are always chasing after the next thing. As soon as one desire is fulfilled, there's something else we want. Are we ever satisfied? My meditation teacher, SN Goenka, says this about human desire:


"It's a bottomless pit, you can't fill it."

If we have a car, we want a newer one. If we have a house, we want to remodel it. If we don't have children, we want children. If we have children, sometimes we'd like them to disappear. Most of the people I talk to on a daily basis feel that there simply isn't enough time to do everything they want to do. There isn't enough time? Hmmmmm....let's think about that one.

Actually, there's the same amount of time in every day, so saying that there isn't enough time isn't exactly true. Some people fill up every possible time slot in their appointment books. By the end of the day they are exhausted. Time is only made up of events. Without events like waking up, eating breakfast, taking the kids to school, and going to work, there wouldn't be time. If you tell someone you don't have time, what your are really saying is, "I value another event more than an event with you." Since that is socially unacceptable, we just say, "I don't have time."

If you are feeling worn out, exhausted, sleep deprived, over-worked and underpaid, are you really making good choices about the events you are choosing to fill-up this so called "time?"

In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle says, "it (time) isn't something that has an objective existence "out there." It is a mind-structure needed for sensory perception, indispensable for practical purposes, but the greatest hindrance to knowing yourself." He also says,

"The elimination of time from your consciousness is the elimination of ego. It is the only true spiritual practice."

He goes on to say, "whenever you allow this moment to be as it is, you dissolve time as well as the ego."

We have all had the experience of having expectations built up around an event, only to have everything come crashing down on us. Having expectations about something or someone often leads to disappointment. The most beautiful moments of my life happened when I let go of any ideas or preconceived notions of how an event should unfold. Witnessing each moment as it unfolds naturally leads to complete peace. Allowing each event to unfold on it's own, without trying to control it, brings deep happiness. The more this occurs in our lives the more freedom we will begin to feel.
If you have read this far, perhaps you already know what the "greatest luxury" is and you already possess it. For conventional purposes, we'll call it "time." If you fully understand, you will realize that time doesn't exist. All we ever really have is this moment. How are you spending this moment right now? It is all you have.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Makes Us Happy?

Recently my friend sent me this:

Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 16:22:25 Hi-- I am passing along this article from The Atlantic called "What Makes Us Happy" based on a longterm longitudinal study. It's long, but worth the effort. I'll be curious to hear what you think of it if you read it. Here is the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness


I still haven't had time to read it thoroughly, but I've scanned it several times. It's worth a look. It describes a study on happiness lead by George Valliant at Harvard University. 268 men were participants in this study which began in the 1930's. The study followed the men's lives from the time they entered college until death. The men are referred to by case numbers. Case Number 141 describes a fairy tale beginning with wealth, happiness and harmony in the home. The social worker studying this case could not find any problem. Case 141 continued to shine at Harvard and showed so much promise for success in the future. At age 31, the subject got married and took a posting overseas and then began to drink and smoke. By his mid-thirties, he dropped out of sight. What happened to Case Number 141? You'll have to read the article to find out.

Case Number 141 was also quoted as saying, "In the early years I used to pride myself in not having any (hostilities). This was probably because they were buried too deeply and I was afraid to face them." I think this describes the mass of society right now. There is a shift happening, but very few people are involved. Eckhart Tolle talks of that shift in his book The New Earth. The problem lies in where we place importance. So much importance has been given to the outside. We say, "Look at me! I have a nice body, a wonderful partner, intelligent children, a good job, a nice car, a this and a that." We are like children trying to get approval from society for something on the outside. There is so much stress in society these days. The world is getting faster with technology. As the world gets faster, we realize we can do more, so we add more to our plates. We want to have it all: a happy marriage/relationship, children, a good job, a nice car, a big house, a new this and a new that. We are so busy trying to get the next thing that we have to hire dog walkers, nannies, house cleaners, a masseuse, etc., etc. There's no time for happiness. Think about your life right now. Have you heard yourself recently say, "If I just had _______ I'd be so happy!" I have big news for you. NOTHING on the outside can make you happy. Everything on the outside is temporary. If you're depending on something from the outside to make you happy, what happens when that person, place or thing is gone? What happens when that person, place, or thing doesn't do what we want it to do or doesn't live up to our expectations?

True happiness is a state of being that is unaffected by what happens outside. Some call this a feeling of "inner peace". This feeling of "inner peace" happens when we clear a space and just be.


In that empty space of "just being", we enter into the present moment. There is no past or future in this space. We are able to witness and accept things as they are. Everything is perfect as it is in each moment. As we learn to accept things as they are from moment to moment, we open up a space within us. We start to feel our breath, hear birds sing, feel our feet in our shoes walking on the earth, feel our fingers grip the steering wheel when we are driving. Many people live in fear of that empty space because there is so much garbage buried deep inside. We fear what we might see if we allow ourselves to just be. If we allow whatever is buried deep within to just come up, if we don't try to bury it again, we start to become free from it.

I honestly believe, from my own experience, that deep meditation is needed to unwind all the knots we have tied within us. The behavior patterns that are deeply rooted do not disappear, they are stuck with us. When we go inside for extended lengths, we can see those patterns at a very deep level. We learn to face what comes up for us. Emotions, pain, memories and thoughts, that we have been carrying within us, are released by the very act of accepting them and letting them be. I explained in a recent blog about Ken Wilber's idea that the stages of human development can be used to describe emotional/spiritual development. It is necessary to go through those stages for our own evolution, I believe. Otherwise, we may be able to show that many things are going great on the outside (family, fame, fortune, activism, service), but these mean very little if we are stuck on the inside. This is where I believe all depression, mental illness, and other social problems come from.

If you think meditation or finding time to "just be" is too difficult for you or that you "don't have time", you are probably the person who needs these things the most. What makes us happy, I believe, depends on our inner state. It can never come from anything outside. Whatever pleasure we get from something outside, is temporary. If we have developed ourselves from the inside out, happiness becomes part of our nature and does not depend on the ever changing outside world.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Religion vs. Spirituality

I don't think of myself as a religious person, but I love anything that will expand my conscious
ness. Last weekend my husband went out for sushi in Seattle with Dr. Wayne. My friend Chaya, the acupuncturist, called and said, "Dr. Wayne Dyer??!" I had the same initial response. My husband's funny that way. He often says surprising or bizarre things very matter of factly. I can remember when he came home one evening and said, "I had a nice time at Starbucks with the Rinpoche." I had to ask, "And which Rinpoche might that be?" and he said, "The one I met in the library." I guess he met a holy Tibetan Lama in the Seattle Public Library and took him out for hot cocoa at Starbucks and a walk around Greenlake. When Seong Yoon came home from his evening out with Dr. Wayne, he had an armful of reading material that we have been devouring ever since. He hardly noticed our mailbox that lay in pieces across the street in front of our house. While he was dining on sushi and discussing psychology and religion with Dr. Wayne, I was picking up mailbox pieces and talking to police officers. It was the second time there was a car accident in front of our house since we've lived here. The neighbors claim it has happened more than 10 times in the same spot. Perhaps the culprit is a spirit, a black hole or maybe it's just a blind intersection which needs a stop or yield sign. So, anyway, one of the books he brought back from his dinner out is titled Introducing Ken Wilber: Concepts for an Evolving World. Wilber describes how all people grow upward along a spiral of development. There are different stages along this spiral just as there are stages of human development starting from the infant stage and continuing on to old age. Humans often get stuck in a particular stage of development and live out there entire life in this stage. Wilber uses colors to denote the stages. The color blue describes people who are stuck in the 6-11 year age bracket. Under the color blue are the words traditional, conformist, ethnocentric and agrarian. According to Wilber, 40 percent of the world's population live in this stage. If you are stuck in this stage, it will be difficult to understand the other stages of development because you have yet to pass through them. At the top of the spiral, which is represented by the color Turquoise, the words holarchial, integral, mature, worldcentric and informational are written. People who have passed through all stages of development can see the value of earlier stages. However, people stuck in earlier stages, will disregard anything that doesn't fit into their picture of the world. I find this very fascinating.





Recently, one of my colleagues at the college asked me to be on a panel on a discussion about "religion" and "spirituality" in her Cultural Issues class. The panel included one Muslim, one Christian and one Buddhist. I was the Buddhist, although I don't think of myself as a Buddhist. I am just a person who practices meditation. The goal was not to strike up an argument, but to find the commonality amongst all religions. The first question for the panel was What do the words "religion" and "spirituality" mean to you? We all agreed that the word "religion" may be the cause of separatism amongst groups of people. We can ask the question "What's your religion?" and from the answer we are given, we have already drawn a picture in our minds of this person. So, if you say you are a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Christian, you are, in effect, identifying yourself with a title. The definition of that title varies from person to person. Spirituality, we decided, is very different from religion. Spirituality describes a "oneness". It is something all of us can have. This word doesn't seem to discriminate. Spirituality is a quality that is in every human being's nature. Whether or not one chooses to develop it is up to that individual. It is a personal thing but, once developed, includes all things. This is where Wilber's idea of the spirit being something that we develop makes sense. The last question for the panel was What do you think is common or shared across all religious or spiritual practices? Our panel came up with many answers along a similar vein. One is that we as humans have a goodness inside of us. Also, that many people feel a sense of happiness or peacefulness when practicing their given faith. Last, if people are truly following their religion or spiritual practice, love, compassion, peace and wisdom should arise.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

$5,000 on my Front Doorstep: Seeing Abundance Everywhere

Which part of my title caught your attention. Recently, my status update on Facebook
mentioned that I returned from a walk to find $5,000 on my front doorstep. While this is true, I was surprised at the response to my update. I received more comments on this than any other status update. I have concluded that most people, whether consciously or unconsciously, are drawn to money. What is it about money that takes hold of people? Do you believe that money will give you freedom, make your life easier, make you happy, give you status, or make you popular among friends? Perhaps you think of money as the cause of all evil. Maybe you believe that you are a very philanthropic person and money should be given to help those less fortunate or that you are a very spiritual person and should live without money like a monk or a nun. Or are you a person that always complains about being broke? What is your relationship to money? Obviously, it must have some hold on me, because I was surprised to find it on my doorstep.

So here's the story:

Seong Yoon and I went for a walk and returned to find a check for $5,000 written out to Seong Yoon on our front doorstep. Seong Yoon did not tell me, but he knew the check would be there. I asked him what it was for and he told me it was for a yoga class. A man in Virginia wrote a very touching letter, which I read later, about how he lost his wife. His daughter had recently taken an interest in yoga and the man wanted to give his daughter in Seattle the gift of private classes to help with her loss. Recently, Seong Yoon has been getting requests for private classes, so I was not surprised by the letter because I know from my own experience with Seong Yoon that he possesses an inner quality that attracts people. His presence is very strong and people feel it. I'm also his yoga student and attend his classes which have anywhere from 20-40 people. Many of these people have been coming to these classes since they started. While I know that he is a special teacher, $5,000 seemed like an awful lot for a yoga class. It turns out that there was an extra "0" added to this check by mistake. The check was supposed to be written for $500 for a series of private classes. The man in Virginia asked us to send back the extra money, which we did. While meditating, Seong Yoon felt there was something wrong. It turned out that it was a scam and Seong Yoon reported it to the bank. He did not feel anger, he felt very sorry for this man who must have been so desperate.

Before yoga class today, Seong Yoon told me that the lesson he learned is that you cannot be hurt by anyone if you have good merits. His intention, first and foremost, is to share his merits (good qualities) with others. If you have ever taken a class with Seong Yoon, you know this.

Over the years I have been with Seong Yoon, I have felt tremendous abundance. This is different than being rich, in the traditional sense. Abundance comes from the inside out. It is an inner quality. It shines from inside to outside. What you see on the outside is reflected from what is inside. You may have a nice car, house, wife, boyfriend, or job. Maybe you go to church, meditate, travel to holy places, practice yoga, or are an activist, philanthropist or lover of peace. These all mean nothing if you feel something inside yourself is missing or not right. If this is the case, you are just going through the motions of being someone or of fitting into society. This is very tricky because we identify so much with outward images. When you are alone with only yourself, how do you feel? Is there an inner joy and peace most of the time? Even when you are angry, do you feel space around that anger? Is there an understanding there of what it is? Only you can answer these questions.

I don't believe it is wrong to have a nice car, house, wife, boyfriend or job. Good for you if you go to church, meditate, travel to holy places, practice yoga or are an activist, philanthropist or lover of peace. But it doesn't matter what I believe. How you feel is all that's important.

I see abundance everywhere these days. I see it when I walk with my husband through the Broadview neighborhood along Puget Sound, I see it in the Camellia tree that is blooming in our front yard right now, I see it in a cup of tea, I see it in the sporty car next to me, I see it in a person practicing yoga or meditating, I see it in the $5,000 on my doorstep, I see it in a fancy house, I see it in the innocent faces of my friend's baby twins, I see it in the organic strawberries I had for breakfast, I see it in dirt, I see it in grass, I see it in three leaf clovers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Unplugging for 45 days

Can you imagine cutting off all your communication for 45 days? That means no TV, cell phone, computer, or Blackberry. But it also means no written or spoken forms of communication. We are so plugged in these days with Facebook, blogs, Myspace, etc. To pull the plug seems so scary or you may even think, "Why would I do that?" My dear friends, I'm pulling the plug for 45 days. From January 27-March 15th I'm heading to Massachusetts to attend a 45-day silent meditation retreat (http://www.dhamma.org/). I have been practicing vipassana meditation taught by S.N. Goenka from India since 1996, when I sat my first course with Seong Yoon (then monk) in Nepal. Being a writer and a person who loves to tell a good story, it was hard to imagine stopping everything to sit in silence. We are a society that lives by status updates. By a click of a button we can find out what everyone we know is doing. I've actually found this to be quite phenomenal and I am so happy for the friends I have reconnected with and the new friends I have made. I am fascinated to read about the amazing things people are doing in the world. But I'm going to let it all go. I know, I know-I'm writing a book, how can I pull the plug just like that? While I am fascinated by all this new technology, I also realize that there is a need for balance. It seems that our world is moving at a rapid pace. We just keep adding more and more to the pile. We have become a society that focuses outward and it has left us sleep deprived. Many people go to bed with thoughts swarming around in their heads and find themselves up at all hours of the night. For fear of silence, some sleep with the TV or radio in the background. If this sounds like you, I have a simple answer. Pull the plug. What would happen if you were completely silent for one day? Could you arrange it? Come to think of it, has there ever been a day in your life when you didn't speak for 24 hours? O.K., maybe when you were born. That doesn't count. Some people ask me, "Why would you do that?" or "Are you crazy?" We haven't been taught to go inside. It hasn't been part of our education. In other parts of the world, like India, yoga and meditation are part of the curriculum in many schools. I guess it would be equivalent to "nap time" in kindergarten for this country. Have you ever stopped to feel your breath? Have you ever witnessed a time when all your thoughts stopped? When you were just there in that moment? It's a remarkable thing, to go inside. When I did my first 10-day course in Nepal with my husband, I was so ready to be quiet. I had this idea that it would be easy and I would be completely peaceful for 10 whole days. Oh, no. While I felt initial peace, other emotions started to emerge. Things that I had pushed deep down inside started coming to the surface. There were memories, pain, agitation, anger. I thought, "This is not what I came here for." By the end of 10-days, I wanted to run far from that place. I thought for sure that it was "the place" that made me feel that way. After the course, as I walked through the streets of Kathmandu, I felt this clarity. Like something had lifted. I felt lightness. I felt a peace I can't describe. So, I kept going. Year after year, I kept meditating. I felt more and more peace and gratitude in my life. I got something. So, I'm going back for another long course. I'll be unplugging myself from this blog. I'll return mid-March (I hope you'll all be eagerly waiting for Lesson 3!!!!) In the meantime, do me one favor, unplug yourselves, even if it is just for an hour (or maybe you'll be inspired to try 10-days). Keep yourselves linked to this site. More is coming soon. Peace to you all for reading this blog and for all your positive feedback. I'll talk to you all when I plug back in mid-March.