Friday, May 28, 2010

a forest full of poets...a room full of holy

in the words of my students...

long time no see, nature
it passed long time to feel you
but you're always same
- hanna

day like this fine one
i wish i could have guitar
then i sing for you
- song

at silent forest
breeze blowing, trees whispering
small flower seems shy
- yae jin

nature give many
humans snatch things from nature
soon end relationship
-ye young

greatness of nature
it makes my mind flow freely
hugging my sorrow
-bo wae

no one knows my heart
the sun burning with my love
only breeze knows that
- ga young

go back to the woods
where many birds are singing
without shoes, with me
- ji young

the fickle weather
please find your own character
in every season
-sae rok

flowers are shaking
butterflies flying around
my heart is throbbing
- ga young

a few days ago, my students and i set out into the woods for the footsteps of the great nature mystics. we found a secluded grove on campus and in silence each settled into a place of our own. i sat on a bench under a big shade tree guarding a mountain of the gals' handbags. they looked so much lighter and carefree without those giant purses strapped over their shoulders. i spent most of the hour studying my students who were sitting nearby...finding great delight in how peaceful and relaxed they seemed...their eyes gazing quietly off into the canopy of green...heads turning at the echoing cry of a magpie...soft smiles on their faces...hands reaching out to graze the dandelion fuzz floating by on the breeze...pens occasionally jotting the language of poetry in their spiral bound notebooks.

students so peaceful
their faces glowing sunshine
heart door flung open

we have shared very intimate time together this semester. the kind where sometimes i am left breathless with amazement at what is organically unfolding in a moment. recently, we began class by sitting in a circle in the darkened lecture hall with a burning candle at the center. i played lisa gerrard's haunting piece, "i asked for love." as they gently set their eyes upon the flickering firelight and the music filled the space, i walked around the inside of the circle and dabbed a bit of frankincense essential oil on each of their wrists, as a way to create a wider sensory ground them and clear their create a deeper sense of sacred space. when the music ended, we remained in candlelit darkness and each person spoke one word to express his or her feeling in that moment:















the students then moved directly into "free writing" (stream of consciousness) for five minutes. one of my students wanted to share her writing with me after class that day. usually i do not read the students' free writing work because i don't want them to write with an audience in mind; i want them to write solely for allow uncensored material to surface. however, she insisted i read, as the experience in the circle had moved her deeply:

I feel I sit in church. Actually, I don't believe in the God. But at that moment, if I pray to the God, the God listens to my prayer. It's so comfortable, so relaxed...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry --
I long for Kyoto.


for c. always in all ways.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


"in the proximity of death, the whole concept of ownership stands revealed as ultimately meaningless."

-eckhart tolle, from his book "a new earth"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

belly as drum

"today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
take down the musical instrument.

let the beauty we love be what we do.
there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

these 12th century words reverberated through my classroom at the university this afternoon.
all students' eyes closed as i recited this rumi poem several times.

then, we all gathered into a large circle around the lecture hall.
curtains drawn and lights out, room dark and mysterious, vibrating with anticipation.
students have become accustomed to not knowing exactly what to expect in english composition class. their teacher recently resolving that life is too short and precious not to come fully alive and open the channels of creativity, infusing inspiration into every possible teaching moment. since said epiphany, the classroom experience has not been the same. music fills the halls...embodiment is key...and comfort zones are expanded each and every meeting. not a moment is wasted.

in our circle, we breathed deeply in and out together, sighing loudly on the out breath, letting go of stress and tension, as we have been doing since the first day of the semester. a new addition, however, the waking of our bodies by stamping our feet, shaking our arms, sounding "aaaahhh" with our voices, and playing our bellies like drums!
after the laughter died down and the timing felt right, i instructed the students to turn their backs to the center of the circle so they could drum against the wall or continue to use their own bodies as percussion instruments with no anxiety of others watching them. the room was a mix of nervous excitement and childlike giddiness.

i had cued up the song "zahrafat al sa'ld," which translates as "rejoicing in upper egypt," by the musicians of the nile. seven minutes of pure ecstatic drumming. i pressed "play" and away we went.
participation began tentatively at first with only a couple of kids diving in right away...most seemed unsure whether or not to let loose...since when do we drum against the wall, let alone our bodies, in a korean university classroom?!! gradually the energy of the doumbeks dissolved all inhibition. the students began to tap against the wall, some gently, others wildly...hands gravitated to drumming on their own bodies...hips began to sway...feet and legs started moving in time to the rhythm and the room was rockin'!

after the last drum beat sounded, we all turned back towards the center of the darkened room in silence. breathing together in unison once again for several minutes; there was a strong sense of aliveness, awakened bodies/minds, a sizzling experience of energy rising...and awe. when the students returned to their seats, they wrote stream-of-consciousness for five minutes, as we do at the beginning of every single class after listening to a piece of music. what they expressed on paper, i will never know, as that kind of writing is for their eyes only, but from the sparkling looks on their enlivened faces and the "wow, teacher!" from more than one, we shall be drumming again...and soon!

ah yes....may the beauty we love be what we do!

sufi dancers...whirling dervishes...