Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a lifetime isn't long enough...

"when loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields,
the orderliness of the world. notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

a lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this
and the responsibilities of your life.

scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

in the glare of your mind, be modest.
and beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling."

by: mary oliver
from: "the leaf and the cloud: a poem"

Friday, April 25, 2008

afternoon stroll...

the green man of yeungnamthe abundance of cherry blossoms that filled these trees on lover's lane a couple of weeks ago fell like snow to the ground and fresh, beautiful green leaves have grown in offering shade and the promise of summer.still a few hot pink trees in blooma community garden on campusall the tangled old trees leaning in for a piece of the neighborhood in the distance....across a dazzling field of sunshinetravelin' lightlookin' on with the wind in my hair and warmth on my face....the same gate that led to this same field filled with sunflowers last fall....

Monday, April 21, 2008

when broken glass floats

cambodia by john mcdermott

solar eclipse, angkor wat, 1995
face in the window, the bayon, 2000
the bayon II, 1995
twisted tree, ta prohm, 2000
villagers on the pathway, banteay samre, 2000
i am reading a book called "when broken glass floats" written by chanrithy him, a cambodian woman who survived growing up under the brutality of the khumer rouge. she now lives in oregon and writes in the most poignant, shattering way about the cambodian killing fields. reading him's book has taken me back to my dayworld thoughts and in my dreams at night. i feel immersed in her journey....learning more deeply the devastating history of cambodia that happened such a short time ago.

when visiting cambodia in january, i came across john mcdermott's stunning photography.
the images that he has captured seem to carry the larger than life beauty of the land, the people and the temples, as well as the recent tragedy of loss and devastation that is still so deeply embedded in the landscape and the bodies of the people.

elephants at the gate, angkor thom, 2000

Sunday, April 20, 2008

dakini and the hungry client

yesterday i went to the nearby ayurveda yoga center for a massage. for those of you who know that i had begun working out at a gym, i must report that i have not been there in about 3 and a half weeks, ever since i massively pulled a muscle in my upper back. i hit the gym in what i thought was a gentle way compared to the past. however, it's been many years since i seriously lifted weights regularly and i think i sort of resumed where i'd left off way too long ago. lifting weights at age 20 and 30 appears to be a drastically different situation and should be treated as such. i learned this the hard way. so, about 3 and a half weeks ago i woke up one morning sore as ever from lifting the day before, did a yoga twist while still half asleep in bed and suddenly felt as though i'd pulled a posterior rib out of place or torn an entire muscle group in my back. the pain was otherworldly. i walked bent over to the side for a few days. talk about excruciating! it's been many days now with not a whole lot of improvement, so i decided to try a massage at the yoga center in hopes of finding some relief and also hoping to god that my armpits would not be rubbed raw as in my last korean massage experience.

i set up my appointment with a specific massage therapist named dakini (sanskrit word meaning "goddess of wisdom" or "sky dancer"). she was AMAZING and i found her name to be truly fitting for her fierceness of spirit and strength of body! her style was a mix of interactive thai massage, the precision and depth of deep tissue and the intense focus and full, intuitive presence that i have experienced time and time again with my all-star bodyworker, bodhi ashburn, in california.

as dakini was getting me situated to begin our session, she spoke something to me in korean and i said very apologetically, "oohhh, chogoom hangul." which means "small korean language" as in "i speak little korean." she smiled and said something more in korean and then left the room for about 10-15 minutes. i just laid there relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet....and the warm heating pad beneath my entire body. i assumed that she was doing some prep or that maybe this time of relaxation was part of the whole routine. well, she returned holding a beautiful plate of food and a mug of hot green tea for me. for a moment i was very confused! then it hit me, "chogoom" is very close in pronunciation to the korean word for "hungry!!" SHE THOUGHT I SAID THAT I WAS HUNGRY!!!! i started laughing and couldn't believe the hilarity of the "lost in translation" situation. there was no way to explain it to her and i didn't want to make her feel silly, so i said many, many thank-yous and ate the wonderful meal! i couldn't help but wonder what she must have been thinking about this woman who at the beginning of the massage tells the therapist that she's "oooohhh, so hungry!"

after my pre-massage feast, dakini worked on me for two hours. i normally fear traditional thai massage because of all the manipulating of limbs (stretching) and how tight some of my muscles are. i am wary that i'll be stretched too far, too quickly before i can say something and get injured. for some reason, the slowness of dakini's pace and how intuitive she was enabled me to trust her completely. at one point she had me in a bridge pose with her body underneath mine, supporting my body up with her arms and legs and at the same time stretching my entire back body, elongating my spine with her feet. i have rarely felt so limber. it reminded me of how i felt when receiving a watsu treatment. under warm water the body seems to be much more fluid and agile. i remember feeling like a sea horse.

today, i feel like a different body! so much of the tension and pain has dissipated. i bought a package of 10 massages and plan to visit dakini once a week for the rest of this semester, until i come back to the states for the summer. i feel so grateful for the healing resources that are available here in south korea. to have finally found a massage therapist who steers clear of my armpits! LOVE IT!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

without a speck of guilt

"revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

imagine the moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least, we are exiled together.
when you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. no one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment,

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness...

as if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be..."

- excerpt from david whyte's poem "revelation must be terrible" from his book "fire in the earth"

- painting by connell design, "still water" acrylic on canvas 2006

Friday, April 18, 2008

don't forget to smell the roses

it has been raining for the last few days, but today the weather cleared. the sun shone brightly. it felt positively glorious. after my last class this afternoon, i took out my camera and took a few pictures of the popping flowers all over campus. i ran into a few of my students along the way...the two students below walked me all the way home. amidst our chatting we taught each other the names of different flowers in our native tongues. i stopped numerous times to "smell the roses" and at first they just laughed and stood by watching. by the end of our walk, they were stopping to appreciate the fragrance of the lilacs and azaleas...the cherry blossoms and the jasmine. when we parted ways one student said to me, "teacher you really like flowers, don't you!?"lilacsbeautiful blossomsazaleas galore!brilliant!

swapping frenzy

i just got home from the first annual women's clothing swap! sandy, the ultimate party thrower, had all the gals over to her apartment to exchange and recycle our unwanted clothing (and books!). it was a blast! of course the precursor to the event was an absolutely outstanding meal. first, we had sandy's mouthwatering greek salad and sarah's ever-famous kimbap. then came sandy's homemade wild rice chicken soup followed by nerina's to-die-for chocolate chip banana cake. truly amazing. after our bellies were full, the madness began! actually, we were all very mannered for the first round of swapping but when sheila showed up with bags and bags brimming over with beautiful clothing from all over the world, we were like wild animals who hadn't eaten in days! really, our behavior was quite unruly. sheila commented that she now sees us all in a bit of a different light!

sandy: world's greatest hostess...and her daughter, ananda, who is getting to be not so little anymore!sarah went out of her way to facilitate an eighties flashback for us all! this shirt was one of a kind for sure! reminiscent of "flashdance," a unitard and some sort of unidentifiable style object! sheila trying to show some of her items to swap, but most of us were digging through her bags before she could even get them unpacked!would anyone care for some australian chardonnay!? it's better from a can!inhui made quite a haul!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

how death happens

on the day of my mother's arrival into korea, i took a slow, leisurely walk home from school under the glorious cherry blossom trees....blown away by the immense vibrancy of spring. when i got home after my walk, i posted a blog about how i had felt called out of my daily routine into a state of feeling completely awake, alive, and present by the tremendous beauty and bursting life all around me. only the very moment existed, and i had no idea that my 15 minute walk had turned into 45. my heart felt so open and elated. i spent the next hour cleaning my house and excitedly packing to go to seoul to meet my mother and spend the weekend there.

then i received a text message that one of my colleagues here at yeungnam university had just died in a motorcycle accident. it stopped me in my tracks. it was one of those moments where all perception shifts and suddenly nothing fits together...where the reality of the moment makes no sense at all. the supposed ground beneath is gone. the first thought that came into my head was, "no." i read the text message again. i even spoke out loud, "no." i read it a third time and thought to myself, "oh my god. this is how it happens, isn't it? this is how death happens. on some idle friday afternoon while cleaning the house." with the force of emotion that hit me i immediately sat down. it was so hard to believe that frank was dead, that i would not see him again or hear his dry british humor...his wry chuckle. i felt completely unable to integrate it. dismay and shock filled me at the reality of death, almost as though it was something i'd never even considered before.

i realized how distant my consciousness is most of the time from the basic, known truth that all beings die. all life changes, trees, birds, ants, humans....all of us. since frank's death, i am noticing it all around me. this cycle of life and death. it is strikingly apparent in a land where there are distinct seasons. in winter the earth looks stark naked, everything seems dead and gone forever and in spring life returns; the earth miraculously dresses up in so much beauty it almost seems unreal in its drastic contrast.

i am beginning to approach the reality of death in meditation, when i'm sitting quietly each morning. little by little allowing myself to touch that truth. an enormity of feelings arise. i come back to the breath a lot.

the afternoon that frank died i experienced a felt sense of the spectrum of feeling that we humans hold, especially if we are approaching our days with the intention to be present to each moment without numbness or distraction. on friday, april 4th, i went from feeling blown open and awakened by the boundless beauty of nature, brimming over with elation and complete grief, the kind of sorrow that feels like a weight so heavy on the chest that it is nearly impossible to breathe. i saw that to be awake, to feel deeply, includes the entire scope of human feeling and experience...the kind of beauty and joy that make you burst into song and the kind of sorrow that brings you to your knees. none of it can be escaped. and sometimes i catch a glimpse of why i wouldn't want to. it seems that the joy and the sorrow come from the same deep well inside and are doorways to the same awakened, open-hearted, truest of places. maybe life and death are like that...just in different forms.

"those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else."

by: david whyte

in memory

a new earth....awakening

"i am not i.

i am this one
walking beside me whom i do not see,
whom at times i manage to visit,
and whom at other times i forget;

the one who remains silent when i talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when i hate,
the one who takes a walk where i am not,
the one who will remain standing when i die."

by: juan ramon jimenez

a few days ago i was informed of a worldwide web-class that oprah winfrey and eckhart tolle are facilitating based on tolle's book "a new earth." i downloaded the audio of the class sessions from itunes (7 of 10 classes have been held already). they can also be downloaded from i have listened to the first two classes and am utterly amazed. there is something about this that is too vast for words at the moment. all i can say is that if something in you feels drawn to this, please check it out. over one million people are taking part in this class each monday night and you can download the audio and listen at any time.

sunday: mom's last day in korea

waiting for the bus to downtown daegu to meet up with a student of mine and her mother for lunch.on our way to the restaurant we came across a marathon!here is one of my favorite people in all of the world! jiyoung is a student of mine whose family i have become very close to over the months. i visit their house once a week for a wonderful, home cooked meal and great conversation!jiyoung and her mother, jeonghee, gave my mom a gorgeous tea set with some korean green teajiyoung's exuberance coming out for the camera and jeonghee showing us how to make tea.our server cooking the galbi (beef) stir fry on our table.we enjoyed a feast! at least 30 or 40 different side dishes over the course of the meal. the food just kept coming and coming! our servers told us to eat faster because we were taking too long!! my mother had never eaten so many different kinds of food in one sitting!here comes the subway train to take us back home.
on our way home we stopped off at the bathhouse for a scrub and a soak! as we arrived, we noticed there was some sort of hapkido performance/rehearsal going on in a nearby park. we stopped to watch for a bit and captured a piece of it on video - quite spectacular.

here i am in my jimjilbang shorts and tee ready to introduce mom to the bathhouse!!!