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.