Thursday, December 30, 2010

365 Lesson-Lesson 364: Words Have Energy

Watch what words you put out there. Everything carries with it a vibration. Some words carry a very low vibration. Ever wonder why, in a yoga class, people chant "om?" This word has a very high-vibrational quality to it. Words like mother, mom, oma, and mama are similar. "Om" is thought of as the sound the universe makes or the "hum" of the universe.

Whatever you say comes back to you in the form of energy. Ever wonder why certain people get attracted to what you write? Those people are a reflection of you. They are the reflection of the energy you send out.

How do you want to be in this world? You get to decide. You make the choice. You are not your past. You don't have to remain stuck where you once were. You are here now. In every single moment, you decide how you want to be and what words you want to use. Every time you say or do something, it will be reflected back to you. If you are sending negativity and harsh words out into the world, this is what you'll get back.

Do you ever see yourself in your children--the words they say, the actions they do? Children are a GREAT mirror of yourself. Are you ever startled by what you see?

When you say or do something, do you have the best interest of yourself and others in mind? This doesn't mean that we cannot tell our stories or that there is no pain in life. Of course there are difficulties and pain or we wouldn't be here. I don't believe we are here to remain stuck forever in pain and misery. I believe we are here to work through it and to learn from it. Everyone has a story, but what is the reason to tell it? Sometimes, while I work on my book, I have to go through pain. I can't hide from it, it was there and I'm writing a memoir. But the point is not to bring everyone to pain with me. The point of my story is to take you on my journey through the pain and beyond it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't want to be the dark tunnel in this world. That is not how I choose to be. I want to be the light at the end of the tunnel. And that's why I'm writing my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married.

So, if you ever wonder, "Why me?" or "Why is my life so miserable?" Look to yourself for your answers. Nothing outside you can cause your misery. Nothing. You decide how you want to be in this world. You decide what words and what actions you are going to put out there. It starts with you. Right here, right now!

I believe we all have something positive to give. I choose to be light and I choose to love myself as I am. What do you choose to be in this world?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 363: Love Is Still The Answer

If I were only allowed to leave you with four words, they'd be "love is the answer." What a cliché, right? But there's a reason it's been said so many times, IT IS TRUE!

This "love" word is so allusive, isn't it? Yet, it's so important. Without love, we cannot live. Love has to start from oneself. It is impossible to give love to others if you have no love for yourself. Everything originates from within and radiates out.

Remembering to love ourselves and be gentle and kind to ourselves "just the way we are" is not always easy to do. Everyone goes through periods of self-loathing in life. Restricting love from flowing to ourselves restricts love from flowing in the world. But how do you give love to yourself if you are not feeling it? This is a very hard question to answer.

One thing that helped me realize how important it is to love myself, was to see that I was also a human being in need of proper care. Sometimes people ask me, "Do you have any children?" Often, I am tempted to say, "Yes, me." I realized that I, just like a baby or any other being, need to be nurtured, cared for, fed, clothed, bathed, exercised, and LOVED!!! This being that I carry around needs to be taken care of just like our children and our family members. If we only love our family, but have little love for ourselves, we are doomed. Everything starts from this person we are with 24-7. This person is YOU. This person is ME.

I used to treat myself terribly when I was younger. I didn't eat properly, I drank too much, I stayed up until all hours of the night, I didn't know how to relax or rest the mind, I had a short temper and was easily angered. And then, on top of it all, I would berate myself for treating myself so poorly.

Eventually, my body and my mind had had enough. I couldn't bare the misery I felt, so I decided it was time for a change. I stopped drinking, started exercising, went to bed at a reasonable hour, took up yoga and meditation, and gave myself all the love and care that this "being" wanted so desperately. It didn't all happen at once, it took YEARS. But I made a decision that it was time to care about myself. That I was important. And, no matter how long it took, I would keep walking in the direction of loving myself.

And I kept walking and walking and walking...and I'm still walking. While I was walking on this path of "love" and "care" for myself, something amazing happened. I didn't feel so miserable anymore. I started to feel GOOD!! I had more energy, I felt healthy. My "being" was in good shape. People started to point out that I looked different. They asked me if I'd changed my hair style or gotten a facial. Nope. None of that.

While caring deeply for myself, I also noticed that I had more than enough energy for me. So, I started radiating all that I had in me outward. It wasn't something I decided to do, I just did it. It was natural, I felt it in me so I let it out. There was more than enough for me, so now I could share it. As soon as I started to radiate this love outward, love started coming back. I wasn't looking for anything. I wasn't searching for someone to love me. I LOVED ME. I gave myself the love I needed and that's how it happened. That's how love started flowing back. More love than I could ever imagine.

Some people might think that loving yourself is selfish. It is not selfish; it is essential for your survival. I'm not talking about inflation of the ego, I AM TALKING ABOUT LOVE. It starts with YOU. Once you decide to really love and care for yourself, then you will find that there is nothing more you need in life.

Love is still the answer. I am sure of this.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 360: Make New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep

Every year, around this time, people start thinking about their New Year's Resolutions. But making resolutions is one thing and keeping them is another. If you don't really plan to keep your resolutions, then why even make them? You have good intentions, but do you really have the follow through? Are you really committed to what you set out to do, come rains, storms, hurricanes, ups and downs in life? The word resolve means to have firmness or fixedness of purpose; determination. Before you set out to make half-hearted resolutions, see if you can REALLY say that you are DETERMINED, come hell or high water, to see your resolutions through. Otherwise, forget it.

One reason many fail to keep their resolutions is because the purpose of what they want to do is not established. It's important to always keep the purpose of your resolutions in mind. This helps you keep your resolutions when times get tough or you feel like quitting. When I set out to write 365 lessons on my blog for 2010, my point was to write lessons I've learned on a daily basis and share these in the form of a blog so that not only I could benefit, but others could as well. By opening up the door to lessons I have learned and inviting you on my journey, it became a shared journey in which you also got to participate and share your own insights. This was so helpful to me to make this public. I was held accountable for sticking to my plan by doing so and when I felt like quitting, many of you encouraged me to stand up and keep going. Making your resolutions publicly known helps you to stay accountable for them. Also, having others as part of your resolutions, helps you to stick to your goals. Here are the resolutions I wrote on my blog last year for January 1, 2010 called Lesson 1: Be Disciplined:


As many of you know, I've been writing a book entitled Lessons from the Monk I Married. This has proved to be no easy feat, but I continue. My first resolution is to have it completed and published this year. My second resolution is to write on this blog 365 lessons I've learned. These lessons I've learned will be written here on a daily basis and I will finish this project on January 1, 2011. My other resolutions include sticking to my daily meditation practice and keeping up a regular yoga practice.

I'm happy to say that I kept all of those resolutions with the exception of getting my book completed and published this year. In retrospect, that was not a very achievable goal. It was more a wish. However, I did get closer to that goal. In 2010, I received agent representation for my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, and my book was acquired by Seal Press/Perseus Books to be published throughout North America in spring 2012! My deadline for completely finishing the book is March 1, 2011. See what amazing things can happen if you really RESOLVE to stick to your resolutions through the thick and thin of it. Even if you don't achieve your goals, at least you get closer to realizing them by making this strong resolve in your life.

Clarity is also important in making resolutions you can keep. Having clarity of purpose and clearly stating what you want to accomplish helps you have focus. If your resolutions aren't focused and clear, they will be hard to achieve. They also need to be achievable within one year. Also, regularly reminding yourself of your resolutions or keeping them pinned on a bulletin board in your office helps you keep focus. Make sure the purpose of your resolutions are clearly stated there as well.

Finally, live from the answer. I wrote a blog post about this entitled Lesson 328: Live from the Answer. Live as if your resolutions have already happened. Since the past, present and future are all connected, in a way, they have. You really have to believe in what you are doing and, more importantly, who you are. If you don't believe in these things, then how can you expect to continue. If you make your intentions very clear, then every action should support your intentions. When your purpose is crystal clear, when it has become your mantra for life, then you will finally see that ANYTHING is not only possible, it's probable.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 349: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Friends, family, fellow bloggers, the end is near. I am coming in on the home stretch. After today, only fifteen posts out of an entire year remain. And, to be honest, I have no idea if I have it in me to write fifteen more posts. But, I think I can get by with a little help from my friends. Yes, I think I'm going to try with a little help from my friends....

Don't miss the chance to be part of Lessons from the Monk I Married. There have been plenty of blog posts here, but I'd like to open the door to you all. I've written enough about myself and what is going on in my life. How about your life? As we close in on a 2010, it's a great time to reflect on what we have learned this year. I've been reflecting for 349 days and today's lesson is that I couldn't have gotten by without YOU!

All of your comments, guest posts, letters and words of encouragement were really instrumental in keeping me going. Without you all, I think this blog would have faded away at around Lesson 10!

So, I thought, why not open the door to my readers? Why not see if there is a lesson YOU have learned this year. A lesson that has helped you and could possibly help others. I'm looking for inspiration here. I've given everything I've got and I feel a drought coming on.

So, here's the BIG question. Looking back on this year that is almost over WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED? Is there anything that stands out. Is there anything you'd like to share as we move into 2011? You can share what you have learned in the form of a comment here on this post which I will add to a list and a separate blog post later or I invite you to write a lesson, if you so desire, and send it to me so that I may post it as a lesson on this blog. This is your chance!

I only have 15 more posts left, so I can't promise everyone will have a chance to post a lesson here. I don't know what the response will be by opening the door up to you? I don't know if there will be a windfall of lessons in my e-mail box or just a few, but I want to give you all the opportunity and I'm interested to hear from you. So, if you are interested in writing a lesson on my blog you can let me know at kathyjenkins@hotmail.com. Before you write the lesson, let me know what it is and that you are interested.

Thank you friends. I look forward to learning what lessons you've learned as I feel we can all learn from each other. Remember, you can also leave a comment about what you've learned this year in the comment section of this post if that is easier and I'll compile that all into a blog post. You may also want to scroll through the lessons I've already written. I cover almost every topic under our big bright sun, but everyone can add their own twist to a topic that was already written about.

Peace to all of you and I look forward to reading about what you have learned in 2010!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 334: Forgive Yourself



I found this card on photobucket.com and I tried to make the picture smaller, but it just wants to be BIG, so I think I'm going to let it be. Here are the words that were written with the card. I absolutely needed to hear these words today:

Let go of struggle, anger, unforgiveness, or anything else undesirable. Trust that the Universe is on your side. Let go of an argument, judgments, or a long-term hurt • Have compassion for everyone involved in this situation, including yourself • Be gentle with yourself • Forgive yourself for what you think you've done or not done.

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes and I don't always do what's right. Am I the only one? I used to beat myself up over things I did wrong or mistakes I made, but you know, it's really not the way to go. I try my best in life, but not everyone is going to be happy with what I say or do. I can't please everyone.

When I make a mistake, I try to learn from it and move on. I also try to forgive myself. I think forgiving others for the mistakes they've made or the harm they've done to you is key. But forgiving yourself is even MORE important.

It's very hard to live if you are carrying this heavy burden of things you wish you'd never said or done. If you don't forgive yourself, you remain stuck with this load on your back and then you can never move forward.

I've been feeling very vulnerable lately. Maybe it's just a phase I am going through. I write a blog post every single day and quite a number of people read this blog. I know because I get the statistics. Sometimes that is scary. I write because I feel I have something to share with the world. I know not everyone will like what I write, but I've got to be me.

Sometimes I just want to pull the plug on my blog and go hide under a rock. Sometimes I think it would have been better to remain an anonymous person in this life--someone who could say things but not take any credit for what they say or do because they are "anonymous." Maybe I should have become a ghost writer or written under a pen name or something. But alas, I think it's too late.

I started this blog on January 8th 2009. It was so scary the day I posted my first blog post to the world. I felt so naked. I believe that post was about signs. I guess I had been getting a lot of signs and perhaps the reason I started this blog was from a sign I had received. I don't know if you believe in signs, but I follow them because I believe they come from my heart and it's very hard for me to NOT follow my heart.

But there's a price to pay for following your heart. There's a price to pay for deciding to open up and share yourself with the world. After all, if the world sees you make a mistake, it suddenly feels like the biggest blunder on earth. But if you make a mistake all alone, no one cares.

But I've decided, just now, that if what I write and do can make the world a better place, then I'm willing to put myself out there. It's been really hard writing my book because in the process of writing my story, I've revealed more of my life than most people would be comfortable with. And it wasn't all a bed of roses. "So why exactly are you writing this book, then?" you ask. Because I believe that through sharing my personal story, my trials and tribulations, my ups and downs and not-so-perfect days, months or even years, I can connect with you. Because you and I are not that different. We all make mistakes, we all struggle and we all have something to share with this world. Peace to you my friends...and much love.

Monday, November 8, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 312: If you want love in your life, love yourself first

Love yourself first. This may sound egotistical, but it's not. After all, we've been taught in society to love our neighbor, to love our children, to love our partner, to love God, to love all beings, but somehow this person that we feed, exercise and bathe everyday, this person that is YOU got left on the sidelines.

And if YOU can't love YOU, then how can you expect to love anyone else or expect others to love you. Whenever you expect anything from something outside, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

After all, what if your partner doesn't behave in the way you'd like him/her to behave? OR What if you can't find a perfect partner? OR What if your children don't behave in the way you'd like them to behave? OR What if your family doesn't behave in the way you'd like them to behave? OR What if your co-workers or friends don't behave in the way you'd like them to behave? OR What if government or the media doesn't behave in the way you'd like them to behave? OR What if you decide that even God hasn't behaved in a way you'd like him to behave, that some terrible situation has happened to you and you wonder why, if there is a God, this has happened....and this list could go on and on.....

Trying to rectify things on the outside is futile. You can NEVER change anyone outside you, but you can certainly change yourself. You can certainly LOVE yourself. It all starts with YOU.

People have probably told you this. You've probably heard that it's important to love yourself, but do you? Do you REALLY love yourself. Do you treat yourself like a God? Do you feed yourself properly, give yourself exercise and proper sleep, are you gentle with yourself or do you beat yourself up when things don't go smoothly? Do you believe you are a worthy person, worthy of love and all the best things this world has to offer? Do you care for yourself and tell yourself, "I love you, you are important in this world."

In my husband's yoga class he sometimes tells the students that its good to say, "I am awesome!" The students laugh when he says this. But some of them have decided that they like this. One time I asked a yoga student in class "How are you?" and she responded by saying, "I am awesome, Yoon taught me that!"

Many people like to use this word "sacrifice." They say, "I have to sacrifice myself for my job, my children, my husband or my God." But real sacrifice doesn't come like this. It comes when you sacrifice yourself for YOU. When you decide that you will do everything in your power to love and take care of yourself no matter what happens. When you decide that no matter what happens you are committed to you, then something quite amazing occurs.

When you develop love, peace and happiness within you, it extends outward. It expands from you to all things. You are filled with it. Nothing can take it away, it becomes part of who you are. People might not like it, they might not like what you have become out of fear. You have become so bright and shiny and they don't feel like that so they don't like it, but you keep shining because that's who you are. That's who you've become through taking care of YOU.

The amazing thing that occurs is that this love that comes from you is boundless. It knows no distinctions. It is not selfish or self-seeking. It encompasses all people and all things. You become content and fulfilled within yourself. You are satisfied and grateful for the moment, however it may unfold. With this love for yourself, you are boundless too. There is no limit to what you can do. When you love yourself AS YOU ARE first and take care of this human being that is YOU, the one you carry around day after day, then you will be complete and all the love in the universe will be yours.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 310: Don't Get Entangled in Unnecessary Drama

I have been trying to reserve my energy for my book and other things which are loaded on my plate. But somehow I let drama, which has nothing to do with me, take center stage. I'm letting go of it now. What I've come to realize is that most negativity or hate directed at anyone often has very little to do with the person to whom this negativity is intended for and has everything to do with the person offering the negativity.

Negativity is a disease in my book. It is like a cancer. It can really pull a person down if one is not aware. And I've also come to realize that those who offer negativity are suffering tremendously. This helps me find compassion within for the person who wishes to lash out or attack. It is not easy to offer love to your attacker; it's one of the hardest things in the world to do, but I find that it makes such a difference in life.

If you accept negativity then you have become part of this chain. How does that help anyone? By offering negativity in return for what was offered to you, you are just adding more fuel to the fire. Pretty soon you'll have a bonfire or a forest fire which will destroy so much.

I've learned to look at negativity, which sometimes tries to creep into my world and destroy things, as Mara. In Buddhism, Mara is the demon who assaulted Buddha beneath the bodhi tree, using violence, sensory pleasure and mockery in an attempt to prevent the Buddha from attaining enlightenment.

When negativity or a setback or a problem enters my world I say, "Oh look! Mara has come to pay a visit!" I recognize it as all part of the same thing. It could come in the form of a craving or an aversion. It could come from a person or a situation, but it's all the same. It's all just drama.

By observing the drama, or Mara, I learn from the situation. I try to see if the negativity directed towards me is called for or not. I try not to engage, but this is still a challenge for me at times. The lucky thing is that I often recognize Mara when she comes. This has been such a powerful realization in my life. The ability to recognize the drama and not get entangled in it. And if I do start to get entangled, to recognize that I've let this happen to myself. I am responsible, no one else.

Getting entangled in unnecessary drama or negativity eats away so much precious time. Deciding that you are going to be angry at someone for an indefinite period time only means that you also will be rolling in anger for an indefinite period of time. So now two people are suffering. This is not very effective, is it?

It may take all that's in you to face the negativity and decide to dish out a bit of love for the person who is dishing out the opposite. Realize that no one can make you suffer except yourself. Also realize that when someone offers you negativity, most likely this person is suffering more than you can imagine. Gather up all your strength and offer love if you can. I know it's not easy, but it is so important.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 278: No News Is Good News, Unless it's Funny News

My husband has a new habit of wandering up to the Taco Time up the road and picking up the paper in the morning. I know, let's save the trees. But he gets some contentment from it, so I'm going to let it fly.

I don't care for the newspaper. It's full of stories about people getting killed or stabbed or arrested or thrown in jail. The International Section will make you believe that our world is going to hell in a hand basket. Why do people read this stuff or watch it on TV? I don't have TV for that reason. So, I like to go straight for the comics these days. I don't think I could make it through life if weren't for some humor in my day. Forget the mayhem on the front page, the world's got enough of that, give me the Funny Section.

The September 28th Seattle Times ran the comic Between Friends that had me chuckling. It showed a picture of a woman who got sucked into her computer. She was on the screen looking out at the world from inside the computer. She said, "Is anyone out there?" And then a voice came from the computer that said, "No, we are all in here."

I can so relate. I needed that laugh.

I couldn't help but glance over my husband's shoulder as he read the headline in the paper today. It said, "Kimchi Shortage a National Crisis in South Korea," reported by John M. Glionna from the Los Angeles Times. Now I know if you are Korean and you are reading this, this is NOT funny. I lived in Korea for over 10 years. I know that everyone there eats, lives and breathes kimchi, but next to the other news in the paper about all hell breaking loose all over the globe, a kimchi shortage seemed to be digestible somehow (ha, ha). It went on to say that Korea was going ahead with a kimchi bailout plan.

Forget about "these tough economic times" in America, over in Korea there's NO KIMCHI! And as the paper states, "Depriving Koreans of their kimchi, many say, is like forcing Italians to forgo pasta or taking all the tea from China." Jin Hye Run, a 51-year-old housewife in Korea, put it more bluntly by saying, "We can't stand life without kimchi even for one day."

I love the fact that the paper included a little factoid section in the side bar called "kimchi bites." These are the facts:

1. South Koreans eat more than 2 million tons of the dish of fermented cabbage, radish and chili paste in total each year.

2. It is believed to ward off aging, reduce cholesterol and fight disease.

3. There is a museum dedicated to kimchi in Seoul. (I think I've been to it, believe it or not!)

4. Portions of it were blasted into space with the country's first astronaut in 2008.

After reading this article, my husband put down the paper and said to me, "Good thing I'm in Seattle right now. At least they've got kimchi here."

The odd thing is that the cabbage crops in Korea were destroyed by the rain. Here in Seattle, where we are famous for our rain (Seattlites don't tan, they rust!), cabbage seems to be growing just fine.

Anyway, I love kimchi and even though I got another chuckle out of that news today, I do hope the Koreans get their kimchi back, honestly.

So if you have any weird and wonderful news stories to share, send them my way. Because no news is good news unless it's weird or wonderful ^_^!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 266: Walk through the Pounding Rain

When the rain comes (rain being a metaphor for anything difficult) the tendency is to run for cover. Why not walk through the pounding rain? Why not walk out in the midst of it all exposed? What could happen to you? Maybe something unpredictable is in your cards; a turn of the tables, so to speak.

This morning at around 9am, my husband was eager to go walking. I looked outside at the clouds of doom and raindrops already starting to fall and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in my bedroom with warm, fuzzy socks on.

Instead, I threw my non-waterproof raincoat on (sin in Seattle) and headed out into the elements. In the car driving over the Ballard Bridge, the rain was coming down in sheets. This was not walking weather, yet we were on our way.

Once at the park, there was no turning back. We were hiking and that was it. The rain started to let up a little as we got to the beach. All the sudden, amongst the barnacles, broken clam shells, seaweed, and a mad circle of seagulls, I saw too little eyes peering up at me on the beach. I almost stepped on this tiny, little thing.


What was it? Could it be a baby Harbor seal? The mother had left it on the shore in search of food. The little guy looked scared. It made little squeaks at us. I knew not to touch it or move it. If the mother smells human hands on her baby, she will abandon it. I was worried, however, that the mother had forgotten where it was. It was so far up on the shore now.

A sudden break in the rain had revealed this angelic creature to my husband and me. I couldn't help but take it as a sign. Seals, as you may have read from earlier posts about my book writing adventure, have a important meaning to me.

I had to go out in the pouring rain to find this jewel. My jeans were now thoroughly soaked, but we kept walking. We were committed to the walk and no sleet, hail, lightening, thunder, or hurricane was going to stop us.

Lately, I've been a bit saddened. I haven't heard from several blogging friends who used to comment regularly on this blog. Where did they go? Are people still reading it or am I writing it just for me. Should I stop writing it? Should I put it aside? Do I have anything more to say? All these thoughts go through my head and then I remember one very important thing.

I've committed myself to this walk. Let the rains come, I'll continue on. When things get difficult or boring or monotonous or I feel like I'm at the end of my rope and I'd rather turn back, go inside and hide under the covers, that's the time to continue I've learned.

The seal was a hidden jewel in the rain today. Something I wouldn't have seen if I decided to stay indoors. When we least expect it we will find that everything we were hoping for is already there, waiting for us in the pouring rain.

Friday, August 27, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 239: Escape to Nature


My husband closed down his yoga school for three days and we ran away! We went to Dungeness Spit in Sequim, WA. It's a long sand bar that stretches 5 miles out. The round trip hike is 10 miles. We had an amazing time and saw WHALES blowing. My husband saw a whale tail up close, but we weren't able to get it on my video. We just got them blowing in the distance.

Nature is so strong here. I won't be able to write much tonight because I want to feel it. I'll leave you with a video of the afternoon and pictures.
Here are some picture of us on the beach:



Nature is so powerful. It can change all the molecules in your body when you are in it and make you feel part of it. I am enjoying the silence, waves, my husband and life in general. Have you had a chance to be with nature lately? Good night, off to look at the full moon and hear some crickets maybe!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

365 Lessons-Lessons 205: Free Your Inner Child


"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."—Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943 
 

Another post from my 365 Lessons from 2010. I like this one very much. Here it is:

Floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes with stars on them, swinging on the swings even though there are only children on the swings with their mothers or fathers pushing them. What made us become serious adults who say, "Oh, I'm too old for that." Is there an age limit to floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes or swinging on swings? When given the chance, I don't hesitate to do any of these.

When you let your inner child out, the one inside you that liked to play and was always game for anything new, you free yourself. The picture of me on the swings was at my best friend's twins second birthday. All the kids were running all over the place with cake smeared across their faces. They climbed ladders, slid down slides, played in the sand box, walked over the rope bridge, but not me. I made a bee line for the swings.

I have so many memories of being on swings when I was young. I remember moving my legs forward and back, forward and back to try and get as high as possible. Sometimes I got so high that the poles supporting the swing seemed to come out of the ground. A rush of fear would spread throughout my body for an instant as I thought, "What if I break the swing?" and then I'd let go and close my eyes, let the swing rock me back and forth and feel the wind blow my hair back and touch my cheeks and nose. There's something soothing about the rocking motion of a swing. I'm sure it comes from the time when I was a baby and was soothed in this fashion by my parents. Once the swing would start to slow down, I'd jump out onto the sawdust.

Yesterday, when I arrived at my parent's lake house in Washington, I didn't hesitate to go for a swim. I didn't care if the water was warm or cold. I was going in. I don't think my family believed me and followed me down to the dock. I walked down the ladder and found the water to be surprisingly warm. Once in the water, I tread water and blew bubbles with my lips just like when I was a kid.


I also ventured off on my own around the lake. I walked slowly looking at all the houses and trees along the way. I heard young girls scream on a inner tube out on the lake. I caught a glimpse of them high up on the road through the trees. Their laughter was contagious and I couldn't help but laugh myself at the good time they seemed to be having. While walking I felt so happy and free I decided to take my self portrait. I wanted to remember my feeling.



Today my sister and her kids arrived for my father's birthday party. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer, but I needed to make it back to Seattle. They made chocolate cupcakes with different sprinkles on them. My dad got the one with dinosaurs because, well, I guess he's getting up there in age, but he is still young at heart. He was very pleased, however, that his cupcake only had one candle. He said, "Wow, look, I'm one!" and then blew it out.


My cupcake had stars on it. I licked the frosting and ate the whole thing in about four bites. After our cupcake eating session, I sat for a little while longer with my sister and family outside on the deck and we told stories about when we were young. We have so many.

It's always great to reminisce, but instead of just remembering all the fun times I had when I was a kid, I try to keep that part of me alive. I want to keep the flame burning. There's an innocence to the way children are. Often times I feel it's a shame that the child in us gets bottled up once we become adults. There's a tendency to become reserved and fearful of doing anything that might embarrass us. When I let my inner child out, I find my spark for life. It keeps things exciting, spontaneous and fun!

Do you let your inner child out to play? When was the last time you did something spontaneous and fun?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 192: Detachment Arises from Clarity of the Mind


Today's post is brought to you by my husband, Seong Yoon Lee, a former Buddhist monk in the Chogye Order in South Korea. Seong Yoon has dedicated his life to sharing the insights and knowledge he has gained through his practice in the monastery and in daily life. He is an inspiration to so many people. He now teaches yoga, a practice he was first introduced to by his master in the monastery, at his own private yoga studio near Seattle. English is not his first language, but I have learned by watching him and hearing him speak to groups of people that the essence of what he wishes to convey to his students is deeply felt. Here he is to talk to you today about detachment; a concept which is easy to understand in theory, but so difficult to practice in every day life.

Normally, in yoga practice, people talk about detaching from worldly things. If you do this it will give you freedom. But, in our daily life, we are attached to so many different things like family, work, friends, community, children, etc. So, it's very hard to do this. These things are our fuel to live in daily life. Relating to each other is required, otherwise our community doesn't work.

So why do yogis keep saying that the detachment of the mind will give you freedom? I think it's not because of detachment itself. Detachment arises from the state of our mind. So, detachment is the product of our own clarity.

For our minds to function properly, we need two components: subject and object. And through that interaction, we perceive the world; we live every second of our lives through that interaction. Some things we like and some things we don't like.

But, through yoga practice, if our energy body begins to open up, we feel lightness, a sense of joy and a sense of peace. But sometimes not. Sometimes old memories or heavy emotions rise to the surface through our practice. So each time we don't know what will come out.

Just let it happen it's own way because nature works without our thinking mind. What's actually happening is that our openness creates a force that naturally wants go within; we close our eyes and want to feel ourselves. We don't need to try or exert a lot of effort, it just happens. That taste of the present moment through the physical body is good. Through that taste, we begin to enjoy the state of simple existence and I think that is right concentration of the mind because we are not distracted by outside things and we naturally want to reside in the deeper sense of ourselves.

So that is the state of meditation. Relaxed but wide awake. Sustained without effort.

If we feel that quality within us, our mind becomes clear and becomes independent without an object. It feels like all outside things are a reflection of the mind, or a shadow of the mind or a mirror of consciousness.

If we feel that, the natural state of the detached mind arises. We feel space and freedom. Also, we don't have any special business with outside things in that moment. We sees things as they are and not the way we want to see or feel these things. Everything seems so clear like a reflected image on a calm lake.

But that detached mind doesn't cause you to say, "I don't care about people or things anymore." I think we begin to care more. A detached mind arises naturally from our clarity and give us a sense of spaciousness. In that spaciousness, we expand ourselves and are able to feel greater sense of compassion, love and kindness for all beings.

Some people think they should not buy a nice car or house because they are practicing detachment and want to rid themselves of possessions. This is not true detachment. If these things bring you happiness, go ahead and enjoy them. Enjoy your house. Enjoy your car. Enjoy your day. You should never suppress what you feel in the name of detachment. If you do this, life doesn't seem like much fun.

Develop your clarity and awareness and then you'll know what the right balance for you is. Then you will truly begin to enjoy your day and your life.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 133: The Pursuit of Money is a Dead End


Do you want money? Does money rule your life? Do you sit around and think about what you could do with your money? Are you afraid of losing money? Do you always complain about not having enough? Wow! Sounds like money's got a hold on you.

Here's a little story from my husband which he loves to tell but can't take credit for because I'm sure he got the story from somewhere else. It goes like this:

A man who was about to enter the pearly white gates of heaven was greeted by an angel. The angel said, "I will grant you one wish. Anything you want will be yours. What is your wish sir?" The man knew exactly what he wanted and didn't even hesitate to answer the question. He said, "I want zillions of dollars." The angel looked at the man and smiled and said, "Your wish is granted." Then, poof, she disappeared and the man was left all alone in heaven with zillions of dollars for eternity.

Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want zillions of dollars, or do you want what zillions of dollars can buy you. The pursuit of money for the sake of it only will lead you down a dead end street. There's nowhere to go after that.

Focusing only on money will only make you a slave to it. You can never get enough. Are you working for money or are you doing what you enjoy in life? If you get money, but you don't enjoy what you are doing, how is that going to make you happy..... or anyone else for that matter?

Ever penny you make will only make you happy if it serves you and others in a positive way. Everything in the world is energy. If you are waiting around to get the money you need to do what you want, you may be waiting forever. Do what makes you happy RIGHT NOW. If you are doing what makes you truly happy, chances are it will make others happy, too. Instead of running down the money-dead-end-street, you enter the pool of infinite exchange.

Some people chase money until they are almost run over by it, others think it's dirty and want to wash their hands of it. They give up all their possessions and wander around with a begging bowl. This is fine, unless you start to feel resentment towards others who have the money you gave up.

Money is a man made material thing. Emphasis on MATERIAL. It can bring you temporary satisfaction, but nothing lasting can come from money. Spend it how ever you want to. If you have a big dream to buy a house..DO IT or if you'd like to give all your money away to good causes and the poor, by all means, DO THAT...as long as it makes you genuinely happy.

And by the way, lasting happiness can't be bought with money. I'm sure there was a legitimate reason why the Beatles sang, "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love." Easy for them to say...they had it, right? But maybe they were further down the dead end road than the rest of us and wanted to give us a heads up.

Instead of focusing on your never ending supply of money or lack of it, focus on taking care of yourself and making yourself the strongest person you can be inside and out. Once you are strong, you will find that your ability to share that energy with others is so great. Naturally, through nurturing yourself, you will find what you are meant to do in this world and the means to do it.

Once you find what you are meant to do in this world, give your energy to that. Whether your energy comes from material wealth, exchange of services, physical labor, or any other means of exchange, it doesn't really matter. Many wonderful things in the world are being done with money; when it is used in a positive way it can do so much. But real wealth comes from your own effort and good intentions.

Love, peace, and happiness are free for the taking and they are the most valuable assets we have on the planet, but there are many who have yet to realize their true value. Once you have these, you don't need to worry too much about those pieces of paper and metal things.


In my experience, I have found that if you are truly happy and doing what you love you will be supported in one way or another. Letting go of the fear of "not being able to make it," is a big step. Realize that the universe if very abundant and supports those who are flowing with the river, not against it. Sharing what you have with those around you puts this energy back into the universe. Money, being a human creation, is a means to an end. The universe, being infinitely abundant, has no end. The universe exists IN you, invest in IT!

Monday, May 10, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 130: One Person's Words Can Change a Life


Words. How are you using them? Are you using them wisely? How easy it is to hurt someone with these sounds that come from our mouths and symbols we type on the page. Harsh words can cause immeasurable damage. Children are particularly susceptible to the utterings of their parents. How easy it is for parents to forget the words they choose to use with their children. But children never forget.

Encouraging words can change a life and in return YOU are changed. It is an exchange. Do you use your words to gain friends or followers? Are you really concerned about their well being? Do you REALLY care about your own well being?

Understand that the words you tell yourself are the most important in the world. I've gone for 45 days without speaking or scribbling a word. It made me more aware of the power words have. Since I was ten years old, I've written in dozens of journals. They are all stuffed away in closets. I've never shared what's written on those pages. Forming words became my way of understanding the world around me.

During those 45-days, during which time I was in a long course of silent meditation, I realized I wanted to share my words. That I had something to say that was important. Important for myself and perhaps important for you.

Choose your words wisely. Be honest, but don't use words that hurt or deceive others. When you write or speak, speak from the heart. Don't be afraid of who you are or try to cover yourself up in words that others want to hear. Forget about what others THINK about what you have to say. Be YOU.

You don't know how powerful your words are. One person's words can positively change a life, a town, a city or a country. You may think you have nothing important to say or write, but you have more than you know or will ever know. If your intention of speaking and writing is for your own good and the good of others, then SPEAK and WRITE by all means. Keep shining your light. And when someone else shines their light and you see it and are affected by it, let them know with WORDS.

Thank you dear readers for all your kind and encouraging words and letters. They keep me going and they have changed THIS life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 116: Compassion Begins with Yourself

Writing lessons on this blog everyday has proven to be quite challenging. The lesson I've learned is that sometimes we run out of words. Instead of saying, "That's it, all my words have dried up, time to pull the plug on the blog," I've decided to call upon some dear friends. Friends who are inspirational to me. Alone it is so hard to do keep going. Together, so much is possible.

Sharni Montgomery from Australia has been my blogger friend since the beginning. I feel like I've grown up with her, yet we've never met. I've watched her evolve right here on the net. She went from having a sweet little blog about her life in a one-horse town to her own website called Sharnanigans where she interviews and highlights amazing people from every walk of life. Whenever I feel like throwing in the towel, it's Sharni who appears in my inbox or in a comment to say something like, "Roll with it, I'll do a guest post if you need it, I believe in you." Her post below is so timely. When things don't go our way, it's easy to beat ourselves up. Instead, compassion and love for ourselves is what we really need. Thank you Sharni, for this beautiful, timely post.


Through The Eyes of A Friend

By Sharni Montgomery

www.sharnanigans.com

A few years ago I hit a bit of a breaking point, as we all do in our twenties at one point or another.

The extent of it varies, but I’m pretty sure everyone reaches a day when they come face to face with their own insecurities. The way we handle it differs.

Mine came after breaking up with a boyfriend when I was living in Bondi Beach.

We had been together a couple of years and it came to a halt after a few grueling months.

As the relationship ended, my whole world felt like it had ended.

I told myself that I wasn’t good enough for the relationship, I wasn’t beautiful enough, I was a bad partner, I ruined the relationship, the list went on.

As if it wasn’t hard enough going through the end of a relationship without my own voice kicking me while I was down.

I spent many weeks with eyes swollen from all the crying. Friends and family were at a loss to console me because I couldn’t hear their words over my own self-talk.

It was relentless.

When I look back I realize it wasn’t the end of the relationship that kept me up at night howling with tears.

It wasn’t what ‘actually’ happened that made me unable to leave the house, or feel I would ever smile again.

It was the way I was talking to myself that was making me cry.

It wasn’t until I took myself to see a doctor and announce that I was having trouble with my sadness when he asked me.

“What would you say to a friend that was going through this right now?”

This was possibly the ‘a-ha’ question of my lifetime.

I would definitely NOT tell my friend that she was too ugly, fat, crazy, undeserving, horrible, not worthy if she broke up with her boyfriend.

So why was I telling myself these things? Why did I feel the need to make myself cry?

The fact of the matter was one thing, and one thing alone: Our relationship had ended.

The rest of it was the story I was telling myself about why it ended and I had myself smack bang in the firing line.

Though I didn’t learn the lesson then, I look back and I see that what I needed then was compassion, forgiveness, love and self-care.

If we can’t be as kind to ourselves as we would be to a friend, then how are we ever going to pick ourselves up and get on with life?

This is something that I am now very conscious of.

I know that little voice in my head can be a real a-hole at times. It can rock up when I least need it and spout things I would expect from an arch enemy. I have learnt now to tell him (obviously it’s a bloke) to pipe down and give some air-time to the friendly self instead.

Changing that little voice inside my head and letting myself off the hook for not being “perfect’ has been one fantastic life lesson for me.

Compassion begins with yourself.

When you learn to do this for yourself especially when you are really struggling, you see yourself the way your best friend sees you.

And as Whitney Houston once said “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all..”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 103: You are Next

When we see other people's success in something we feel is only meant for those with super special talent, there is always someone who pipes up and says, "You are next." I always laugh at that statement. Who am I anyway? Why would I deserve anything like this? But sometimes it feels so close. Like someone is giving you a preview of what's to come.


Today I played hooky from work and if my boss is reading this now, I'm actually flattered. I called in with the stomach flu, but I was really at a book reading in Seattle. I LOVE my job, but this was an important event that I promised myself I wouldn't miss.

I was talking to my husband today on a walk around Greenlake. I said, "My mother, my best friend Lena, two of my co-workers and original Writers Rising members, my co-worker's friend, and my writing coach/editor are coming to this event. I feel like this is my book reading, but it isn't."

My husband said, "In a way, it is. Everything is connected."

Laura Munson kept appearing in my e-mail inbox one day. I had no idea who she was. I opened up one of the e-mails from her and found out that she is a writer in Montana who was published in the New York Times. Her article, Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear was so popular that it ended up temporarily shutting down the comment section. After years of trying to get a book published, she landed a book deal with a very large publishing company.


A friend from college recommended my blog to her and that's how she found me. We ended up talking on the phone for over an hour. At the end of our conversation, she encouraged me to contact her agent. I had just finished a book proposal, so I sent a query out to her agent. Within a week, I was offered representation for my book Lessons from the Monk I Married.

It is still all very surreal to me. Laura was in Seattle today for her book reading and I knew I had to go. I read her book in three days. While I was sitting with my family and friends at a table in the cafe which was attached to the bookstore, she came over.


I gave her a hug and it really felt like I had known her before. But this was the first time we had ever met. She was a messenger to me of what is possible.


There were so many people at the reading that the tiny little space they had for her really wasn't enough room for all the people who attended. It was a nice reading and afterward there was a book signing. People formed a long line to get their book signed. Laura signed my book with "To Katherine, Sister in Words, Yours, Laura."


I felt very good this evening. I needed to have this experience. I needed to see that everything is connected. That Laura's success is my success.

When you see someone doing something amazing, don't be surprised when someone pipes up with the statement, "You are next." Don't toss those words aside as ridiculous. Hold on to them and realize that anything is possible.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 101: It's a Small World After All

It's a world of laughter,
A world of tears.

It's a world of hopes,
And a world of fears.

There's so much that we share,
That it's time we're aware,

It's a small world after all.

By Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman

When I was young, this song was stuck in my head for weeks after visiting Disney World with my family. Perhaps it's a kind of subliminal mantra of sorts. There's so much truth in it. The song popped out in my dreams last night and I'm 40 now. I remember sitting in the theme park boat with my sister and father and all these mechanical people danced on the sidelines with perma smiles singing this song over and over through the whole boat ride.

On that theme park boat, we toured the whole world...from the North Pole to Fiji. I believe the song was even sung in different languages as we made our way through.

It's a Small World After All is so true these days. The internet can connect us to every corner of the globe. Sometimes I'm in awe of the people I communicate with through the blogosphere. I could never have even conceived of this while riding the theme boat in my youth. I never imagined I'd be sharing laughter, hopes, fears, and tears here on the net.

Some of my friends don't understand it. They say, "I want to keep my life private." I also felt like this. I wanted to keep all my laughter, hopes, fears and tears to myself. My writing was private and meant to be locked up in a closet. But what good is that? What is "my life" after all. Am I isolated on the ISLAND of MYSELF, where no one can touch me?

When I first opened up and started sharing my thoughts on this blog, I felt naked. I felt exposed. I wanted to delete myself from this place. But soon people started responding and sharing and commenting and I realized a very amazing thing. We all have different stories, but we all have the same emotions...everyone has laughter, hopes, fears and tears. By sharing these, people find comfort, people get inspired, people let go of their fears and people laugh together.

It's my own ego that I was afraid. The ego says, "This is MY life." Looking deeper, and after years of meditation, I realized that there is nothing that is actually "mine." That everything in life is in a flux and flow. That all the molecules in the universe, which make up YOU and ME, are actually nothing solid at all. They are flowing in and out of everything.

"There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all." Amazing! Yes, it's time we're aware that we can do so much on this big blue marble of ours...not alone...but COLLECTIVELY.

Now hear me out, this is the way the world is going. You are either on that theme boat or you're not.

If you are not on the boat of sharing this world, you will suffer greatly. I don't want you to suffer, but this is a fact that has to be accepted.

Now I'm not against keeping some things private. We don't need to get into the nitty gritty details of life (unless you feel you'd like to share that), but what's wrong with sharing with the world? If people get benefit from that, what on EARTH is the problem? What are you afraid of?

We don't live in a bubble in this world. Well, maybe you beg to differ on that one. Many in my part of the globe (not in my state in particular) live behind locked and double locked doors with the shades drawn at all hours of the day.

What happened to the old days when people used to bring baked goods over to the neighbors through the snow on a horse? What happened to the time when people would band together if there was a problem? No one was an island back then.

On my blog I have a planet. It spins and it seems so small. The yellow lights show all the people who have visited this here blog. Sometimes I am blown away by that. 78 countries have stopped by. People from Kenya, Jordan, Iran, Russia, Tunisia, Israel, China...

I found a dear friend from Spain through this blog of mine. I couldn't believe it. After so many years of no communication, that's how he found me. He left a comment in the comment section one day!

After the United States, Australia is the second largest reader population of my blog. I've made so many dear friends in Australia through this blog that I think I'm going to have to visit! Was I a Aussie in my past life? I feel an affinity for Australia and I've never been there. It feels like another home?!

The child who heard these words, "There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all," is finally understanding what that means. We are at a time in history when we have to realize that everything we do impacts everything else. It always has, but now it is even more critical. Whatever you do, do it with love. Share your gifts with everyone. Don't ever be afraid to do this. You may think you have nothing to give, but you have so much! Keep giving, keep sharing for the good of yourself and for the good of others!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 100: Do Something for 100 Days


100 days of blogging is upon us friends. I'm in the triple digits. That's a Ben Frank for a dollar a day of lessons. Let me tell you, I've wavered a bit here on this blog, but I'm going to keep going. I am sort of in a strange middle period in my life. It's not up and it's not down, it just is.

I'm staring at the cursor here blinking on my screen. I have no idea what will come out. I never have. This is my own discipline. It is my practice. I never thought I'd make it this far.

You ask, "Why are you doing this?" and my answer is "Why not?" Have you ever done anything for 100 days? 100 days of yoga? 100 days of poetry? 100 days of not using a car? 100 days of anything?

Of course you have done 100 days of waking up, of brushing your teeth and of going to the loo. It has just occurred to me that 100 blog posts is a lot. It's like a short book already.

What have I learned from blogging for 100 days?

*I've learned how to be disciplined and stick to something I planned to do.

*I've learned that sometimes I have so much to say and sometimes I have nothing to say at all and feel like writing watermelon, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon..for an entire blog post.

*I've learned that I don't like the computer so much and that I may do 365 days of no electronics after this year is up.

*I've learned that what I have to say is important. If I can make one person's life better by what I write here, it is the greatest gift in the world.

*I've learned that writing everyday on a blog is not easy work and it takes time. It is a challenge to write everyday, but I am embracing that challenge.

*I've learned that the most rewarding things in life are not easy. We have to water our dreams every day if we want to see anything grow.

*I've learned that there are AMAZING people on the Worldwide Web who I have come to know like family and dear friends. For all of you who have been walking with me on this journey and encouraging me, I am so grateful.

*I've learned that we don't do anything in this world alone, we are all here together, so why not help each other.

*I've learned not to be concerned with what others think about what I do. We all have our own journey and we all choose our own paths in life.

*I've learned that we are all different, but we have so much to learn from each other.

*I've learned that real success is about making a positive impact on the world we share. What I do should be good for myself and good for others.

*I've learned that keeping a balance is key. I try to balance computer time with yoga, meditation, long walks in the wilderness, sharing time with my community of friends and family and work.

*I've learned that Photobucket has cool pictures to use for blogs.

*I've learned about embedded codes and how to change photo sizes through the Edit Html button.

*I've learned that stating your intentions out loud to as many people as possible is important. It keeps you committed to your dreams and it also connects you to so many people who will help you along the way.

*I've learned that people have popped into my life through the Worldwide Web who are helping me realize my dreams and intentions and I have also been the position to help others do the same.

*I've learned that I love to blog.

So that's it. I guess that's why I've kept going. This is my virtual diary. It is a record of this year that I will keep and read later when I am an old woman. I am learning so much in this process. At times, I am tempted to throw in the towel and give up, but my commitment to this is stronger than any attempt to lead me astray. I guess I really do have the discipline to follow through. That's another thing I have learned.

Have you ever kept a resolution or plan for 100 days? 90 days? 60 days? 30 days? What was it and what did you learn from it?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 79: The Shit Hits the Fan When You Least Expect it to


Just when things seem to be floating along like a soft breeze, the shit finds a way of hitting the fan. It's not that bad really, it's not that good either. And I know it is what it is. It's Saturday night and I'm alone. My dear husband and I did not see eye to eye today. Things surfaced and I'd like to smooth it over like frosting on a cake, but you know, life isn't always a bed of roses and I know that shit hits the fan sometimes. I love him so dearly, but we are both have such strong characters and are moving so fast in what seems like two different directions in our passions. As different as they are, they also seem to run parallel to each other. This is a picture of us in Dhammagiri in India after sitting in silent meditation for 15 days with hundreds of people from all over the world. I felt on top of the world with my husband here, after our long course of meditation. We didn't see each other for the entire 15 days because we were in our own meditation cells and in different sections of the facility.



He is my hero, my teacher, my biggest supporter and my best friend. He inspires me more than anyone on the planet. I am in awe of the things he does. Everything I am doing in life is because he has been cheering me on telling me that I can do it. I am inspired when I am with him and I feel like anything is possible. So what's the problem?

So much energy is going out in the directions of our own purposes on the planet. I believe I am in that groove and so is he. But I think, in our endeavors for the greater good, we sometimes forget about each other and our need to nurture our own relationship.

I know it is just a passing thing. Things bubble up sometimes and it is good that they do. It makes me see that attention needs to be given to this beautiful being who is now back from wherever he went and is sitting on the sofa quietly.

It's funny, when shit hits the fan these days, it does so in a very quiet and respectful way. I think I'll go hug my husband now.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 48: Meditate

People have been asking me about meditation, so I dug up this old post about when I came out of 45 days of silent Vipassana meditation. I am reposting it here so that all those who are interested can have the same opportunity and reap the same benefits that I am. While these 45 days were truly remarkable days of my life, every day is important and daily practice is the most important. Participating in a meditation course can help you establish your practice of meditation, so I recommend that too.

I'm emerging. I feel like this lotus. My petals are unfolding one by one. If there were an appropriate pop song for this occasion, I think it would be I'm Coming Out by Diana Ross. It's going a bit slow for me my friends. I'm talking again, just fine. I've met three people since I've been home-my husband, my mother and my friend Lena. I find myself wanting to be part of all that I have missed and then wanting to retreat again. I think it's just where I am. For those of you who have just happened upon this blog, you may want to read earlier posts. To catch you up to speed (and the speed is quite slow at the moment), on March 14th, 2009, I returned from a 45-day meditation course at the Vipassana Massachusetts Centre in Shelburne Falls, MA. People have asked, "Did you have a good course?" Well, it's a bit hard to summarize the experience actually, but I feel so much gratitude, peace, happiness, and clarity. It was harder than anything I've ever done, but it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

A 45-day course is not something you just jump into. I've been practicing this form of meditation since 1996 when I took my first 10-day course in Nepal with my husband Seong Yoon, who was a Buddhist monk at that time. The 10-day course in Nepal was so hard. I felt so much anger coming out and I wanted to run far away. The moment the course was over, I was on the first bus out of there. I vowed to never take a course again. Later, when I was wandering the streets of Kathmandu with Seong Yoon that day, I realized that something had changed. I felt light and free. There was a deep happiness inside. As soon as I was away from the meditation center, I could clearly see that I had gotten something very positive from the experience. At the Vipassana center in Nepal, I was surprised to learn that there is a center in Washington State. By December, 1996, I was sitting a course in Washington. This is still shocking to me given my state after my first course. What's more surprising is that I've continued taking courses for 13 years and I just completed 45-days of meditation.

The benefits I have received from sitting and serving courses are really indescribable. If you have never tried a course, all I can say is, "try it!" It's very easy to make all kinds of generalizations or have judgments if you've never done it. If you've tried it, you know that it's not easy. Right away you know when you arrive for orientation that this is going to be work. Hard work. For me, it is the most rewarding, beneficial work I've ever done. Already people have asked me, "What did you do for 45-days?" Well, I meditated. Another question was, "How did you spend your days?" I spent approximately 10 hours per day meditating in a 2 by 6 foot meditation cell and two hours meditating in a hall with other meditators. The cells are only for people who have completed at least one 10-day course. If you are attending a course for the first time, you will sit in a meditation hall with other meditators.

Other than talking to the teacher a few times, I was in silence for 43 days. We had two days of speaking at the end to reintegrate. The other times I was either sleeping, eating, walking or taking care of personal matters. The Vipassana Massachusetts Center provided me with a private room and bathroom, a meditation cell, meals and walking trails. Every center is different and what you are offered depends on what is available and how many people attend the course. People came for 45-days to cook. They volunteered to do this because they have received so many benefits from this practice. Forty-five days is a long time to cook and work. There is no charge for the course either. The courses run on donations. People get so much from these courses, that they feel they want to give. If you serve at the center, they call it "selfless service" . Those who have completed at least one 10-day course can serve. You serve, just to serve. You don't expect anything in return.

In the past, I have had an opportunity to serve on courses and live for a year at the center in Washington and serve as the center manager with my husband. It was so wonderful to live and work in an environment where people are meditating. Most people go into a course a little heavy with whatever emotional and physical pain they've been carrying around with them and come out light, happy and shiny! The transformation that I have seen is truly amazing.



If you look at a picture or see someone meditating, it appears that nothing is happening. We live in such an extroverted society. People, especially in Western society, aren't taught to go inside or to experience what is happening inside of us, yet that is where everything originates. Every emotion or action on the physical level starts inside. I don't want to go into details here on the practice of Vipassana. If you are interested, I suggest you go to the website (http://www.dhamma.org/) where you can learn all about it. All I can say is that through this practice, I do not feel as much anger, pain, worry, or irritation as I used to. As I continue to practice Vipassana meditation, I feel more and more content, peaceful, happy, at ease, and free. I am not perfect, so of course negative emotions creep in, but they are not as strong as they used to be. They don't stay for very long.

Right away I am able to notice the people who received positive benefits from this practice. They are shiny! Their eyes are so bright after a course. They make people feel at ease and comfortable. There actions are positive. They really seem to glow like this woman from Serbia!

In my 45-day course, I sat with people from New Zealand, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, India, Israel, Canada, Burma. People from so many different walks of life and religious backgrounds are sitting together. It's amazing. They listen to instructions in their own languages. I've sat with an army general and a rock star (you'll have to ask me personally, if you'd like to know who...^_^). People come and keep coming because they get something. They feel different. This technique of meditation is very practical. Anyone who is not seriously debilitated mentally or physically can practice this. You don't need to change your country, name, religion or background. You will remain as you are, but you will have a technique or tool that can help you in all of life's ups and downs.

You can start with a 10-day course. Look at the website, I am sure there is one near you!

I write this with the sincere wish that everyone can share what I have experienced. May all of you feel peace and happiness. May all of you be free....


Monday, February 15, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 47: Awaken your Intuition

My husband, Seong Yoon Lee, is a believer. What does that mean exactly? He believes in what he is doing so much that he is willing to make very bold statements. Sometimes his statements scare me. When we were living in South Korea, he used to say things like, "Quit your English teaching job and teach yoga full-time to Koreans." This was his suggestion to me when I was at the end of my rope with my teaching gig in Korea. I just looked at him with wide eyes and an opened mouth. All I could think of was How will I do that? Well, I did it. I quit my job, got my yoga teacher's license in Colorado and started teaching yoga to agile Koreans while trying to speak Korean. I'm sure I chopped up the language a bit, but it went quite well. For those of you who have just arrived at this blog, my husband used to be a Buddhist monk. After we married, he left the monastery and opened his own yoga school. This was not an easy leap and it's one I am writing about in my book Lessons from the Monk I Married.

Flash forward to 2009, my husband hasn't stopped making these bold statements. Sometime during the past year he said, "I'm going to teach yoga at Microsoft." Guess what he's doing? During the same year he said, "I'm going to open my own yoga school." Now this one I couldn't believe. I mean, we didn't have any money for this..how would it be possible? It's expensive to rent business space, how would we pay for everything? I couldn't wrap my head around it. When I asked him directly how this would be possible, he answered, "I have no idea, I don't think, I feel it."

In early December, I went to a 10-day silent meditation course. When I came back, Seong Yoon had a business partner who wanted to invest his time, energy and money into opening a business with Seong Yoon because he too believes it will be a great success. I thought jokingly, "It's contagious, more and more people are becoming believers." They will open Yoon's Yoga Bliss near Seattle on February 26th. When you are around this kind of energy, you can't help but start to believe in your own inner feelings or intuition.

I asked my husband just now, "What does intuition mean?" and he said, "Message from inside." Most of the time our insides are so jumbled, it's hard to hear anything clearly. Meditation has helped me immensely in tuning in to what I am meant to do.

I have spent periods of 20, 30 and 45 days in silent meditation. All of this time was not wasted; it was training me to hear myself from the inside out. Unknowingly, I have also come to trust my intuition. It takes training to hear what your inside has to say.

My inside is telling me to connect with as many people as possible and share with them the fact that everyone has this possibility of hearing themselves. Meditate, feel your breath, practice yoga, take a walk, get out of your head..all of these are helpful. The most helpful thing I can pass along is to live moment to moment because living in the moment is where you will find your answers. If your mind is racing to the future or falling back to things that happened in the past, you will miss what your intuition wants to tell you. You will miss now and if you keep missing now you will miss your life.

In the evening before my husband and I go to bed, we like to read to each other. I always grab a random book from the stack by our bed and say to my husband, "What page?" The other night he said, "Page 76." Whenever he tells me a page, I say, "You always say that page." He starts to laugh, he knows this isn't true and that I'm playing with him. Then, he lies flat on his back with a peaceful look on his face and closes his eyes. Then, I start to read the page to him.

The gist of page 76 was about struggling to find the answer to something or to remember something. Only when you completely let go of your efforts, do you find what you are looking for. Like when you forget an actor's or actress's name and it comes to you in the middle of the night when you are no longer focusing on finding the answer.

I believe that when you set good intentions which are helpful to you and others and you release those intentions into the universe, without being attached to them or attached to the results, good things will happen. It's the law of nature. The key is to be opened and remain in this moment. I know this to be true as I have seen unbelievable things happen with my own eyes which have caused me to become a "believer" too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 37: Practice Yoga

When I was young, I was told in elementary school that I had Scoliosis (curvature of the spine). For some reason, I always believed after hearing that news, that I was doomed. That I wouldn't be able to do things that other people did. That maybe I'd lead a sedentary life. I always lived with the fact that I just wasn't flexible and that not being able to touch my toes was just part of who I was and it was all hereditary and there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well face the facts.

Over the years, I enjoyed running and even joined a half marathon in my mid-20's, but always felt tight in my muscles. I started to get knee damage from running and at one point was told by a doctor that I would need laser knee surgery. I refused to do this. I hated going to the doctor. I was determined to find some way to cure myself. I stopped running and did more walking and hiking and less impact sports. Around 1995, I started to take up an interest in yoga. I felt there was a lot of stress in my life and I wanted to find some way to relieve the stress I felt. My mother gave me a gift certificate to join Yoga Centers in Bellevue, WA to practice Iyengar yoga. The main teacher for that center is internationally renowned Aadil Palkhivala from India. Immediately I noticed that I started to feel lighter, taller, and more limber. After a few classes I could already see an improvement in my posture and overall sense of well-being. I knew I wanted to continue with yoga and make it a part of my life.

While in Korea, I met my husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. He was trained in yoga by his master in the Zen temple where he lived. Before we got married in 2003, we decided to open a yoga school in South Korea. My husband had official training at Kaivalyadama Yoga College in Lonavala, India and I received my yoga certificate after a month-long training course at Shoshoni in Colorado in 2002. My husband taught most of the classes at his school and I continued to teach English at a college in South Korea. So many students loved my husband's classes. He did not scream at you if your posture wasn't exactly right. He has a lot of gentleness and calmness and he emphasizes the internal experience of yoga, rather than the outward appearance of yoga. That being said, I always thought he looked so graceful when he practiced yoga. He looks so light, like a feather. Here are some pictures we took at Green Lake today in Seattle. Some of these pictures will go on his website for the opening of his new yoga school near Seattle.

I am proud of my husband. It wasn't easy for him to leave the monastery. It was very hard. I am writing a book about that journey. The journey we decided to take together. When he left the temple, he had nothing to his name. NOTHING. He went from monk, to husband, to opening a yoga school in South Korea, to opening two yoga schools in South Korea, to moving to the USA, to teaching yoga in the USA in our living room, to teaching yoga in the USA at various yoga studios and health clubs, to teaching yoga at Microsoft, to deciding to open up his very own yoga studio in the Seattle area with his friend. The name of his yoga school is Yoon's Yoga Bliss. Yoon means happiness. That is my husband's name.

The bliss part came from a Tibetan Rinpoche who is friends with my husband and is recognized by the Dalai Lama. One day, while he was walking around Green Lake in Seattle with my husband, the Rinpoche said, "You are yoga bliss." And that's how he decided the name for his school. The website is still under construction, but you can check it out here: Yoon's Yoga Bliss.
Yoon's Yoga is his own style. It's an inward focus of yoga, so anyone of any age or flexibility level can do it. The point is to focus on your inward awareness. Instead of focusing on exact body posture, my husband guides practitioners to feel themselves from the inside out; To keep the continuity of awareness throughout the entire practice; To never lose focus of the breath and the body from the inside.

Yoga has become a big part of my life thanks to my husband's encouragement. I ended up quitting my English teaching job in South Korea and teaching yoga full-time using only Korean language at times. When my husband told me that I could do this, I thought he was crazy. How on earth could I, someone with a curved spine, bad posture, and little flexibility, teach yoga in Korean to agile Korean students. But I did it. Anything is possible, but it takes practice to see the results of anything you do. It takes discipline. It takes patience. It takes belief in yourself. Belief that you can do anything regardless of what anyone tells you. I see my husband and I am always reminded of the long road he walked to be with me. I see his love for his students and everyone he meets. When I see him I can't help but want to be the best person I can be.