Friday, November 30, 2007

miracle of each moment

"any moment, preparing this meal,
we could be gas thirty thousand
feet in the air soon
to fall out poisonous on leaf,
frond and fur. everything
in sight would cease.

and still we cook,
putting a thousand cherished
dreams on the table,
to nourish and reassure those
near and dear.

in this act of cooking
i bid farewell
always i insisted you alone were to blame.
this last instant my eyes open
and i regard you
with all the tenderness and forgiveness
i withheld for so long..."

poem by: ed espe brown (he wrote this when there was impending threat of nuclear war)
from: "the tassajara recipe book"

one-stroke zen circle titled: "miracle of each moment"
by: kaz tanahashi

Thursday, November 29, 2007

all the hemispheres

"leave the familiar for a while.
let your senses and bodies stretch out

like a welcomed season
onto the meadows and shores and hills.

open up to the roof.
make a new water-mark on your excitement
and love.

like a blooming night flower,
bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
and giving
upon our intimate assembly.

change rooms in your mind for a day.

all the hemispheres in existence
lie beside an equator
in your heart.

greet yourself
in your thousand other forms
as you mount the hidden tide and travel
back home.

all the hemispheres in heaven
are sitting around a fire

while stitching themselves together
into the great circle inside of

by: hafiz
translated by daniel ladinsky
from: "the subject tonight is love"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

time flies like an arrow

my first semester teaching abroad is coming to a close! i can hardly believe it! "time flies like an arrow," as one of my dear students wrote in her farewell letter to me!! so what would the last day of class be without a mound of korean junk food, some hilarious english conversation, and the sweetest goodbye cards ever?! i can't imagine it now without those things. this semester will be a hard act to follow.last night i received an email from my student "angelina," with the subject, "dear my teacher:"
Thank you.
Your class is very funny.
Always I was wait English class.
I will missing you.
I will English study hard for you.
Really You are my best teacher.
I love Jessa~~~~"

what did i do to deserve such sweetness? i fell asleep with a smile last night (amidst the coughing and runny nose).

the red cord

"i wear something around my wrist that one would not expect a presbyterian woman to wear; a thin red cotton cord that was blessed by the dalai lama, and given to me by my buddhist friend jack kornfield. it's quite ratty, with what look like rings of laundry lint circling it. i separate these rings with my thumbnail when i am fidgety, as if counting with the beads of an abacus.

jack and i take walks every few weeks, when we are both in town, often in the hills above the meditation center he founded nearby. he teaches his students, and has taught me, to slow down, breathe, and take care of everyone, which is of course the same message jesus taught - that breath is our connection to holy spirit, to our bodies, minds, and soul....jack is about my age and height, slim and very jewish: he brought me homemade chicken soup last time i was sick in bed. he also seems vaguely east indian, smooth and brown, and gives off a light, spicy, ancient smell.

breathing has never been my strong suit. i've never been very good at breathing. when i was young, i was afraid that if i stopped remembering to breathe, i'd have cardiac arrest. i was always much better at holding my breath for long periods of time, the length of the pool or of the tunnel that leads to the golden gate bridge. at the age of two, i used to hold my breath in public until i passed out. my first memory is of coming to on the planks of the boardwalk in tiburon, my father nudging me from way high up, with his shoe. he had been dead several years before his sister told me that he used to hold his breath and pass out on the streets of tokyo, where his parents were presbyterian missionaries. i think he was a little angry; held breath is the ultimate withholding; you're not taking anything in, you're not putting anything out.

i am a little angry too. i feel that we began witnessing the end of the world in super slomo once george w. bush became president, and some days it takes everything i can muster not to lose my hope, my faith, and myself. one out of six women in my area is now being diagnosed with breast cancer. my son is in his teens, and i am in menopause: i have not felt this clueless and tired since sam was a colicky baby. we are both more testy now on a regular basis, quicker to anger, and in my case, to weep and reevaluate the meaning of life. sometimes i feel like the big possum who has been coming into our driveway lately, worried and waddly. i hear that stress hormones possums produce are off the charts. possums live only a few years in the wild. i suppose that if i had two penises and still fainted alot, i'd be stressed to the max, too.

i am fifty, and have only now figured out why you are supposed to have babies when you are young: so that by the time your child is in his teens, one of you is stable some of the time, and you the mother are not racked with back pain and alzheimer's. sam has grown tall and muscular. i have grown wider, stiff and achy. i trip alot and hit my head on cabinets i forgot were there. i get into the shower with my glasses on. and whereas i always had a slim waist, i suddenly have two stomachs - a regular tummy and another one below that, which i call the subcontinent. this older body is both amazingly healthy and a big disappointment

jack knotted a number of blessings into my cord last year when he tied it on my wrist, to protect me from the values and judgment of the world, from the disaster of my own thinking, and to allow me the forgetting of myself. i tug at the red cord constantly: it was an anointing of sorts, and i will take all the anointing i can get. my pastor, veronica, explained recently that in the twenty-third psalm, when david says that his shepherd anointed his head with oil, it referred to the fragrant oil a shepherd would put around his sheep's mouths to prevent an infestation of flies. otherwise, the flies would lay their eggs in the soft tissues of the sheep's mouths, and when the eggs hatched, the sheep would go crazy, butting their heads against trees to dislodge the infestation. when my head is filled with worries and resentments, the cord helps me remember that i was anointed. i am safe, even when my cup is not exactly runneth-ing over."

from: anne lamott's book: "plan b: future thoughts on faith"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

weekend trip to seoul

i decided to take a train to seoul for the weekend. i managed to get to seoul just fine....but then it came time to take the metro for the first time. talk about madness! the volume of people and the speed at which they were moving was shocking. and the lack of signage in english was a bit harrowing to my beginner korean language skills. it was NOTHING like daegu's metro system! i am used to 2 platforms with 2 sets of tracks. seoul station has at least 8! luckily, a man i had chatted with a bit on the train ran into me right at the precise moment of my confusion! turns out we were both headed to insadong! what are the chances in a city of 12 million people! i have found that in all of my travels throughout korea, kind people have always appeared at the exact moment i have needed help.

i spent all day saturday in insadong, one of the last districts in seoul to retain an atmosphere of the past. on the weekends the main street closes down to cars and the narrow, meandering alleyways are home to piles of art galleries, specialty shops, traditional korean restaurants and tea houses. there are also all kinds of street performers, playing music, doing magic tricks, wearing outrageous costumes!

here is a young woman who gathered quite a crowd to listen to her sing "dear mr. president." i stopped for tea several times while i was shopping and had dinner in the sweetest little restaurant that came highly recommended from lonely planet's guide to seoul. it took me forever to finally track it down and wasn't able to do so until a couple of people actually walked me there themselves! it was nestled away in a corner amidst a maze of twisting and turning cobblestone streets with a sign that read:

"hangari sujebi"

the restaurant is famous for its sujebi, which is a soup with big dough flakes in a potato, seaweed and seafood broth. when i walked in an older woman greeted me with a big smile and showed me to a little table in the center of the buzzy full house of happy eaters! the ambiance was warm and an old barn brought to life with firelight and laughter.....and smells of delicious food cooking. i was brought an enormous clay pot of kimchi right off the bat and some hot barley tea. nothing like the red pepper spice of kimchi and warm tea to chase the cold of winter away! i ordered my sujebi and it came piping hot. as i started to situate all of my bowls and utensils around on the table, the older woman came over to me laughing and did it all for me! she stirred up my big pot of soup and using a hollowed out gord she dished the steaming hot goodness into a smaller bowl for me to eat. i was pleasantly surprised to find oysters amidst the potatoes, seaweed and was AMAZING! i ate the entire pot of soup. it probably could have served three people! i was enjoying the whole experience so much i didn't want to leave! but knowing the ins and outs of the restaurant world, i saw the line up of people waiting and decided to free up my little table. i put on my tuque, bundled up and headed back out into the chilly night.

these street food vendors were putting on a bit of a show for their customers! the food stand next to them is selling what i can only equate with hot dogs on a stick, except they are made from fish.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

her vow to always return in female form

green tara.....fierce female bodhisattva...goddess of the story goes, tara wanted to receive the teachings of the buddha, but the monks would not allow it because she was a woman. so, she began to study and practice on her own. over time, she became enlightened which the monks could not help but notice, however, they would still not allow her to study or practice with them...instead, they wished her well in being born a male in her next lifetime so that she could become part of the sangha (community of monks). it was at that moment that tara vowed to always return in female form.

Friday, November 23, 2007

motley crew thanksgiving

i could have never imagined a turkey dinner would stir such intense and equally felt enthusiasm amongst such a motley crew! but, the smell of turkey sparks memories and feelings a foreigner could easily forget they had. it was definitely a pavlov's response kind of evening - all of us salivating and exuberantly expressing our excitement! when we had dished up our plates and were eating together in katie's livingroom, you could have heard a pin drop! then the "ooohhhh-ing" and "aaaahhhhh-ing" started! we kept going back for more....turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, homemade mac 'n cheese, spinach salad with mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail salad with whipped cream, kale with cranberries and pinenuts, craig's pumpkin curry from scratch....amazing....amazing....amazing. and cheesecake for dessert. i will have dreams about that meal for weeks to come.

katie - the master chef from chicagoand her world reknown stuffingshawn - the canadian master carverchris and barb - blissfully happy about the meal aheadcraig - world's greatest storyteller!frank!foreigners feasting

korean physical therapy

this evening, after a day with the children in goryeong, i walked into the orthopedic clinic for a physical therapy treatment and there was shawn in "the boots!" this contraption is quite possibly the best invention ever. you lay on a bed that massages your entire backside, while wearing "the boots" that massage and air compress your legs and feet in varied rhythms. the korean physical therapy world has it figured out! so, while you wait to see the physical therapist, you get "the boot" treatment, deep heat therapy, electrical currents, suction cups and/or traction....the possibilities are endless! my visits now last at least two hours - it's a wonderland for a gemini rising!my physical therapists! hands down, they rock my world!

the goryeong hokey pokey

i still come home after my days in goryeong feeling as though i've been hit by a freight train, but there are more and more sweet moments as i get to know the children. for the last several weeks, "tina" (the girl on the right) has run into class and thrown her arms around me, refusing to let go until the absolute last minute before class begins. as much as i say that working with children puts me over the edge, when she comes barreling into me and i look down at her sweet smile and delighted eyes, it's enough to completely melt my heart.
here is a video clip of two of my sixth graders doing the hokey pokey in front of the class!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

my dead friends

"i have begun,
when i'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.
should i take the job?
move to the city?
should i try to conceive a child in my middle age?
they stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling-
whatever leads to joy, they always answer,
to more life and less worry.
i look into the vase where billy's ashes were-
it's green in there, a green vase,
and i ask billy if i should return the difficult phone call,
and he says, yes.
billy's already gone through the frightening door,
whatever he says i'll do."

poem by: marie howe
from a collection of poetry: "risking everything," edited by roger housden
"tulips in green vase" print by: julie rodriguez jones

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the science barge - NYC urban farm

winter is upon us here in daegu....there is a biting chill in the air....many of the colorful leaves have fallen to the ground, leaving the trees bare.....the parkas, hats, and mittens have been pulled down from the top shelf of the's officially soup season! i took out the biggest pot i own (which isn't all that big!) and put together a delicious mini batch of homemade soup. vegetable bouillon, salmon, organic kale and potatoes. simple, delicious, and delightfully warming on this cold winter day. this kind of nourishing food reminds me so much of berkeley.....i miss the farmer's markets like crazy. it makes me long for a garden on the rooftop of this 20 story high-rise where i could grow my own vegetables that i know are without pesticides or the use of diesel fuel in transportation. even though i am able to buy some "organic" fruits and vegetables here, for the most part they are being imported all the way from new zealand.
as my soup was simmering on the stovetop and these thoughts were crossing my mind, i received an email from a friend who lives in new york city. she is the education coordinator for "the science barge," which is a sustainable urban farm floating in the hudson river estuary.this urban farm is powered by solar, wind, and biofuels and irrigated by rainwater and purified rainwaters. the science barge web site informs: "we grow food in the city with no carbon emissions, no net water consumption, and no waste stream. the vegetables grown on the science barge require 7 times less land and 4 times less water than field crops." the barge offers sustainability education to school groups during the week and the general public on the weekends. they define "sustainability" as: "producing what we need without damaging the world around us." below is a fantastic video about the science barge that i found on a website/blog titled: "apartment therapy (new york): changing the world one apartment at a time." this blog's author writes, "with rooftop systems like the science barge's, we could have greenmarkets in every neighborhood. or imagine schools growing veggies to supplement the cafeteria offerings. even just the idea of barges around the city producing locally-grown vegetables opens up a world of possibilities."

for more information on THE SCIENCE BARGE, click on the link to the right, under "for the love this earth."
youtube video from:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

aung san suu kyi

the current situation in burma and a fascinating interview on the american public media radio show/podcast, "speaking of faith," with harvard graduate, anthropologist, and former buddhist nun, ingrid jordt, have impelled me to research the history of this buddhist country. burma, which used to be known as "the rice bowl of asia," is now a country impoverished by its own government. the september 2007 demonstrations by monks and anti-government protestors were in reaction to the regime's sudden and massive price increases for oil and certain food staples, in some cases as much as 500 percent. these price hikes have caused even more devastatingly impoverished conditions. and as you all know, the government responded by imprisoning, torturing and killing many, as well as emptying monasteries.

let me go back in time a bit.....u nu, the first prime minister of burma, after its independence from the british empire in 1948, attempted to transform the country into a modern democratic nation along buddhist lines. he set in motion a lay meditation movement where the buddha's teachings were made available to anyone and everyone. his idea was to build a virtuous society from the ground up. he paid a salary to one person from each village to come and meditate at the center so that they could then return to their village and spread the buddha's teachings for enlightenment. u nu ordered the ministers in his cabinet to meditate regularly to maintain a high level of awareness and virtue. he was revolutionary in that he allowed prisoners who practiced meditation and attained enlightenment to be released, as they were no longer seen as a threat to 1962, ne win led a coup, taking over the country and creating an oppressive military regime. over the years the military government has become intertwined with buddhism. ingrid jordt makes the important point that the borders between sacred and secular are drawn very differently in various cultures. one myth she seeks to debunk is that state legitimacy is based on force or threat of violence. in burma, the regime derives its legitimacy by associating itself with buddhist society. this is done by the military leaders making daily, ritual donations to the monasteries, which are televised for at least several hours per day so everyone in burma can witness the government officials being "virtuous" leaders. of course these actions are not pure and no one is naive to this, but the military believes that having access to the monasteries and being able to make donations to the monks actually is what keeps them in power.
so, in the september protests when the monks took to the streets, the action of turning over their alms bowls was the most powerful statement to be made, on one hand a refusal to accept donations. ingrid jordt argues that it was not solely a political statement though. it definitley had political ramifications, but first and foremost, it was the one action that is permitted by the monks' rules of conduct - it is a rebuke of laity when they threaten the teachings of the buddha or threaten to split the sangha (community of monks). in the "speaking of faith" interview, ingrid jordt said, "it was a rebuke of the very foundations of the way the regime has been claiming the moral authority to rule....the military junta has tried to secure its political legitimacy in buddhist terms. they have really put so much effort into looking like virtuous kings and rulers, but once you've shed the blood of a monk, once you've gone into their monasteries and taken the heads off of their buddha statues to raid them of their jewels and to imprison the lay supporters and even the young monks, the five year old apprentice monks, and take them all and put them into these detention centers......"in 1988, ne win, who ruled for 26 years, stepped down from power, which led to massive demonstrations for democracy that were violently suppressed. a new military junta took power. in that same year a burmese woman named aung san suu kyi returned to burma from the u.k. to care for her dying mother. she entered the political sphere to work for democratization, her values being strongly influenced by mahatma gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and by buddhist teachings. she founded the national league for democracy and when the junta called for a general election in 1990, she ran and won by a landslide. the military refused to hand over the power to her and immediately placed her under house arrest. this resulted in an international outcry, but her situation did not change. that same year she was awarded the sakharov prize for freedom of thought and in 1991 was awarded the nobel peace prize. she used the 1.3 million u.s. dollars of nobel peace prize money to establish a health and education trust for the burmese of her most famous speeches begins with these words:
"it is not power that corrupts but fear. fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."in her book "freedom from fear," aung san suu kyi writes:
"the quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development …
it is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. concepts such as truth, justice, and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


"if you tarnish your perceptions by holding onto suffering that isn't really there, you create even greater misunderstanding. one-sided perceptions like these create our world of suffering. we are like an artist who is frightened of his or her own drawing of a ghost. our creations become real to us and even haunt us."

two of my most beloved teachers are thich nhat hanh and pema chodron. one a vietnamese (zen) buddhist monk, the other an american (tibetan) buddhist nun. the wisdom above comes from thich nhat hanh. they are words he recorded in his diary in the 1960's, which have since been published as part of a collection of his entries entitled "fragrant palm leaves."thanks to a good friend back in berkeley, i received a link to a bill moyers interview with pema chodron. i had just gotten home from a day of long busrides, during which i'd listened to about two hours of pema chodron's teachings on my ipod. so, when i opened my friend's email about the interview, i decided to sit right down and continue my pema marathon! why not?! it doesn't get much better than that, anyway!i sat there for the hour feeling filled to the brim with gratitude that in my lifetime i have been blessed with the dharma (buddhist teachings). coming from a childhood and young adulthood steeped in fundamentalist christianity, the odds of escape were slim for awhile there, but being the little contemplative that i was, questioning and pondering since day one....well, it made for a deep dis-ease with the religious beliefs that i was instructed to hold as my own and the spiritual path i was taught to follow. for twenty years the road i traveled was an ungodly barely had enough room for me to walk, let alone experience any kundalini rising!!!!
it's a funny thing, i can't remember the exact moment i first stumbled upon buddhism. it's hazy. i find that strange because i can remember every other pivotal moment of my life (and i would consider encountering buddhism one of those). i think my discovery of buddhism wasn't so much something new but rather, a mirroring of ideas and experience that i'd been carrying inside and feeling all along, having no language to articulate and no community with whom to share it.
all i had in regards to fundamentalism were questions fraught with anxiety.....pushed up against the rule: don't doubt, don't ask, don't think! i pretty much felt a whole lot of distress, a whole lot of the time....for many years! so, when i began to study and practice buddhism, i found the once so narrow road, widening...and my body began to breath began to deepen.....a space inside started to grow....and within that openess seeds of lovingkindness, understanding, and compassion began to root.....and over time the anxious questions melted into peace and irrelevance.......
i am still very much a beginner, learning how to relax and how to to not react when i get to soften my rigidity and open my heart.....especially when i come into contact with fundamentalism and right wing politics.....and insecurity and fear.....

in pema's interview, she spoke of groundlessness. groundlessness being the truth of the way things are, whether or not we are aware of it from moment to moment. it's what we are most often reminded of when the bubble of security pops.....when a relationship ends unexpectedly....when a loved one dies.....when we become very ill.....when the towers fall to the ground. it's the impermanence of everything. pema spoke of how most often we think of groundlessness as being unpleasant....when we feel insecure, fearful, and lost.....a feeling of the rug being pulled out from underneath us. but, groundlessness is also awe, wonder, great beauty that stops the thinking mind and suddenly there is all this space....emptiness....possibility......freedom.....falling to our knees in wonder at the beauty of the night sky and the rug being pulled out from under us - it's all the same.....we separate by labeling certain experiences of that groundlessness as pleasant or unpleasant. the possibility for true freedom and peace lies in learning to rest in that groundless state of being. this may take many, many lifetimes for me to fully grasp.

some people might consider that groundless state as god....matrix of creative potential.....if i had been given this definition of god back on the ever-so-narrow road to the pearly gates, i might have felt a bit more at ease....a bit more capable of breathing deeply and finding space inside. however, the god i knew, you know, the one who goes by "he," who lives up in the sky and makes judgments about who goes up or down when they die....well, that god scared the sheist out of me and to my good fortune fell into the ditch when the road widened up.

a clip from the interview:

bill moyers:
"how do you experience god?"

pema chodron:
"in buddhism they say, we do not believe or disbelieve in god. we keep it as an open question. i personally don't use the word "god" much - i'm not at all or in any way even slightly offended by the word "god" and i know it means alot of things to different people. if i had to have a definition of god i would say it is that open space of mind that allows for ultimate possibilities and doesn't narrow down into a security or fear-based view where my way has to have precedence."

Sunday, November 11, 2007


i have only listened to this song about 150 times in the last month. between jack kornfield and pema chodron dharma talks, garrison keillor's lake wobegon podcasts, fresh air with terry gross, and democracy now with amy goodman, "cactus" has been the soundtrack to my autumn days....on busrides, taxi rides, subway commutes, walks to school and home again.....this meandering, contemplative song of so many layers has been a companion to's the kind of song that i find i can listen to over and over again and yet, each time a different part stands out and touches me in a new way....this song seems to hold space for the complexities of life, the comings and goings, the gains and shares some wisdom that comes with living....the twists and turns throughout offer a mirror to the mysterious and ever uncertain unfolding of this human life.

"it's been a year since you left home for higher ground. in the distance i hear a hoot owl ask the only question i have found to be worthy of the sound it makes as it breaks the silence of your old town. these letters are another way to love you.

it takes trouble, and it takes courage to be free. but you'll find if you are soft enough, love will hang around for free. and the coldest bed i found does not hold one but it will hold three. i hope you never have to know what that can mean.

it's safe to say i took the long and winding path. and were it not for loving friendships who knows how long i would have lasted. you're young one day but youth is rude and while you watch it walks right past and get your chance to think like me.

when i was young i was in service to my pain. on sunny days you'd find me walking miles to look for rain. and as many times i swapped it all just to hop a moving train. looking back, it was the most expensive way to get around.

and i found that all the world could love you save for one. and i don't know why it is, but that kiss will be the haunted one. you'll pine and weep and you'll lose good sleep and you'll think your life has come undone, until you learn to turn and spurn that bitter wind.

because it'll probably be the one you least expect to, who will wager through your storm with you, who will give your fears respect... who will melt your burden down...though you probably don't want that yet, still...the odds fall sweet in favor to an open heart.

seems to me the tools for being human are wicked crude. they're not so slick and smooth and shiny as some stranger might allude. and while your longest night might test you, you don't be scared of solitude. and remember what is shared is also true.

because there's a place where the water races wide. and you could be hard pressed (in the muck of time) just trying to reach the other side. you learn to find the only way, or you learn to say you tried. it seems to me a lot of little towns were made that way.

now while i'm at it...let me tell you about the moon. because i heard some people talking, looks like we're probably going to have to move there soon. all i know is the face it shows at midnight is not the one it shows at noon. but i bet it's a standing kind of wistful from over there.

in a word, i heard that life's a cactus tree. and should you find a way to break it's skin, won't you have a drink for me. but...if you're standing near a cactus, you're probably where you shouldn't be. isn't this why you left your home, though you love me.

now when i imagine life is only time and space...then i guess i've seen the best of it upon your tender, loving face. and the faith that you bestowed in me gives me a solid sense of place. i learn to, water, earth and air...i learn to say fire, water, earth and air...i learn to say fire, water, earth and air...and i'll see you there."

"cactus" lyrics by: ferron
oil on canvas by: joni mitchell

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

a circle in the sand

for those of you who have followed me on this journey since the beginning, you already know that i was reading the novel "eat, pray, love" by elizabeth gilbert. well, i never finished because one day as i was happily reading, i got to the end of page 276 and found an unpleasant surprise: 277 was missing! in fact, pages 277-309 were all missing! it went from page 276 back to 246 and repeated all i had read up until that was one of those moments, like experiencing a mild takes a second to really believe it is happening because the earth isn't SUPPOSED to move....a brand new book isn't SUPPOSED to be missing a chunk of pages!!! i was beside myself because i was being left hanging at a REALLY juicy part! i quickly emailed my mother who i knew had just finished reading this same book. after realizing that scanning the pages would not come through well enough to read, she said she would photocopy the missing pages and mail them to me. so, i waited.....patiently. they came and i am now almost finished! i say all of this because freak stories like this are worth repeating, so that others can be prepared if such a shocking thing ever happens to them....also, i came upon a passage in the book that i want to share......but first....

since i moved to korea, nearly three months ago, i have had many moments where i'm walking down the street or riding the bus, looking out the window and suddenly feel so moved by what i see that tears well up in my eyes and i find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for this incredibly vibrant place, the spirit of the people, the rich and fascinating culture......and most of all, that i got myself here. i cannot imagine NOT being here right now. there is nowhere else i would rather be. no doubt, i miss people back home very much, but i feel not a thread of confliction about my choice to move to korea. i feel so full, everyday. the teaching i'm doing at the university is incredibly engaging and i find myself delighted by the students all the time. i love my living is so feels like a little monastery in the middle of the flashing neon lights and whir of traffic below.....for those of you who know me personally, you are aware that i have an affinity with elderly people. i am so moved everytime i see the "agimas" (older women) at the traditional outdoor markets....with their weathered faces and shining eyes selling their fresh fruits (persimmons, apples, oranges, melons) and vegetables (still covered in dirt), their peeled garlic cloves and ginseng......something in their eyes and their wrinkles and how very hard they work makes me want to run up and hug them tight. i resist this impulse, as i'm not sure how that action would come across culturally, instead i support their livelihood and i speak my best korean because i've found it lights their faces up like the sun! i love going at night....the markets are buzzing until about 10:30 or 11pm.....the agimas all chatter loudly to each other from stall to stall, letting their laughter echo out into the streets! there is so much vitality.
i love seeing monks and nuns mixed in with the crowds of people.....i love knowing buddhist temples surround us here....scattered all over the mountainsides.....knowing i can visit anytime....and eat lunch with the monks and nuns any day of the week. it gives me a peaceful sense of belonging....i feel very held i belong in a way i never have anywhere else in the world before.

i am now a member of ayurveda yoga studio....i have attended three classes and already feel embraced by that community. so far, i'm the only foreigner i've seen there. this doesn't bother me a bit!! after class, many of the students sit around a wooden table and drink ginger tea together.....tonight i stayed for about an hour after class. i talked with a man who also works at yeungnam university, in the accounting department. he lived and studied in the u.s. for 16 years, so his english is impeccable. after he left, i got into a conversation with a couple of college gals. they were eager to practice their english. they got our their cell phones, which double as dictionaries/translators, and began asking me question after question! when they found out i am 30 years old, they looked stunned and quickly began typing into their cell phones and what came up was "boyish face!" i told them what "boyish" meant and they said, "no, no, no." they went back to their cell phone keypads and punched something else in and then said enthusiastically, "baby face!" that is what they meant! i got a good laugh! before i knew it, 10pm had rolled around, so we said our goodbyes and i caught bus number 509 home. the bus was PACKED. i almost didn't need to hold on because we were standing up against each other like sardines. i find that i love using public transportation more than i ever would have imagined! i have never used it like i do here. i used to ride the BART train occasionally, but on a daily basis, never. i find there is a sense of community in it. it somehow breaks the isolation that so many humans face. a smile here.....a kind gesture there.....random conversations.....bodies packed in like sardines.....

my new life is showing me a completely different way of being in the world.....

"what would i do if i never came here?
but i was always coming here. i thought about one of my favorite sufi poems, which says that god long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. i was never NOT coming here. this was never NOT going to happen."

-excerpt from "eat, pray, love" - "here" refers to bali

Monday, November 5, 2007


our walk through an unbelievably gorgeous park from the gondola on mount palgong to donghwa temple (donghwasa).....all i did was gasp the entire way because the changing leaves were beautiful beyond my capacity to speak....the guardians of donghwasa....protector of bodyprotector of mind....a sword to cut away illusionprotector of wisdom...his hand is placed in the "do not fear" mudraprotector of life....holding a torch to light the waywith arms wide open.....embracing the falling leavesbeautifully painted panels on the outside temple wallspricelesslittle buddhatemple catwe shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
~t.s. eliot