Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Where have you been? Shedding my skin....

"RECEIVING" by Francene Hart
Where have you been? Oh, that's right. I'm the author of this blog. It's been awhile. Truth be told, I'm in a very strange transition period in my life.

I have this strong desire to shed everything I own, burn papers in a big pile in the backyard, give my clothes to Goodwill, sell my car and hit the road.

Right now that does not seem too feasible. I have bills to pay, I have a job and I've created a life here. But this urge keeps tugging at me...keeps calling me...keeps telling me there's somewhere else I need to be.

I did hit the road for awhile actually. I took off for 10 days on a road trip with my husband to Northern California. We just got back last Saturday. My main purpose was that I wanted to be in the Mt. Shasta area for summer solstice because I'm working on a series of books and part of the first book takes place in that area. I'll have to tell you more about that later.

So what would you do if you had all the money in the world or it was not an issue stopping you from doing the things you want to do? Really, tell me....is there something you'd like to get rid of, let go of, do or be?

Here's what I'd do:

I'd move to the Big Island...a place that has been calling me for a long time. A place I've only visited twice. I would live or be close to a community of healers, seekers, yogis, shamans. I would write, work on my books, study healing arts, teach intuitive writing, practice yoga everyday, meditate, eat fresh fruits and veggies and live off of very little. I don't know if I'd live there forever, but at least until I was called to live somewhere else.

While I was in Mt. Shasta researching my next book, I met a conscious intuitive. My husband and I met her standing at the base of Mt. Shasta dressed in white. She seemed like any other person, but somehow she summoned us to come to an event the next day for summer solstice. I can't explain here all that went on at that event, but I will say there was magic. Things happened that defied the laws of nature and made me question logic itself.




Long before I visited Mt. Shasta, I had a dream I was standing in a circle of woman in a clearing somewhere on the Hawaiian Islands. The stars and moon were all above us. There was a wise woman leading the group and the rest of us were a mix of seekers, healers, yogis, and intuits.

That exact group of people from my dream were in a circle in that room near Mt. Shasta. There were about 30 people at the summer solstice event, but five or six of us, all drawn to the Hawaiian Islands, happened to sit together, yet we did not know each other. One woman who sat next to me felt like a sister. She'd left everything behind to live on the Big Island. The two woman behind me had lived on Kauai and were feeling called to return, but did not know why.

I could just call this a coincidence, but I'm starting to listen more deeply to these events, signs, dreams, symbols, urgings and callings. I find that when I do things that don't suit me anymore, life does not feel quite right.

None of the urgings or callings make any sense to me, yet I feel so drawn to take this leap. There would be lots to figure out before I do it. I would have to leave my comfort zone...I don't know how I'd survive there. Basically I'm afraid of giving up what I know and have here.

So that's why I haven't been here in awhile. I'm just trying to take this all in. I think I'm in a gathering stage.

I've been working on a series of books...very different from my last one. These books are works of fiction, but will be based on my real travels to sacred places on the planet.

So what to do with all of this? How will it all unfold?

I do not know, but I'm listening and I'm ready. I can't force anything, I know that. I will know when the time is right...

Have you ever felt a strong urge or call to move in a certain direction or let go of something?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Musings from My Backyard and My Book Releases in Taiwan....

I've got lots of pots starting to percolate and bubble on the stove, and in the meantime a few earlier creations are now completely baked and ready to come out of the oven. Am I hungry or what?

I just got word that my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, will be hitting bookstores in Taiwan on May 31st. It's very strange to see my book in Chinese characters. Here's what the cover looks like:


 I wonder what the response will be halfway around the world. I am seeing people reading it on subways and buses. I see a woman, dressed to the nines, on her lunch break, diving into it over a bowl of steamy noodle soup. Maybe it makes her question what she has been doing all this time? Maybe she will suddenly get an undeniable urge to hit the road?

After my book came out in Croatia, readers from this mysterious land began to contact me via email and blog comments. Suddenly I wanted to know every thing about this place and its people. I watched a Rick Steves's show on Croatia and started to get a bad case of wanderlust again.

But my backyard is really not that bad, to be honest.

Since I live here, I don't think too much about where I am. I'm currently reading Jack Keroauc's The Dhamma Bums. There's a reason for this. It's one of the pots on the stove at this very minute that's about to bubble over. I'll let you know the details soon in another post, perhaps.

So here's Ray in The Dhamma Bums, traveling here there and everywhere, and where should the finale, the final destination, the place of dreams, the much-sought-after holy land be?

My backyard.

My digs.

The place where I grew up.

The Great Pacific Northwest, but more precisely Washington State.

You don't think too much about where you live until it is glorified in some book. And then, where you live seems to take on a whole new look. It sure did for me.

Here's what Ray in The Dhamma Bums says about where I live:

"The Northwest was a great deal more than the little vision I had of it of Japhy in my mind. It was miles and miles of unbelievable mountains grooking on all horizons in the wild broken clouds, Mount Olympus and Mount Baker, a giant orange sash in the gloom over the Pacific-ward skies that led to the world."

And that's just the start of Kerouac's description of where I live. This suddenly made me take a good, hard look at my surroundings starting with my yard. Here are a few photos of my garden and street:


Rainbow on my street the other day and towering Evergreens

My front garden fence with Japanese maples

Purple Clematis we planted two years ago now climbing the fence

Irises blooming and my reading table in the background


Then, I began to explore my neighborhood. I had no idea that less than a mile from me was an old growth forest, a babbling creek and a place called Hidden Lake, so clean it made me want to swim with the little ducklings there.

Lupus and daisies with the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound

Little ducklings swimming on the crystal clear Hidden Lake

My husband in an old growth forest practically in our backyard

Living in the one of the most wonderful place in the world! This is right in Seattle.


I can't say I still don't have wanderlust, but I will admit that I am starting to fully recognize what a dream place I live in?

Do you like where you live? Do you ever take for granted the place you call home?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Changes

I feel a big change coming soon. Things are all up in the air in my mind, but on the surface life rolls along just as it always has. I think this idea of something new on the forefront has been on my mind for a long time, but now it appears to be a burning desire to move.

Move in a different direction.

Walk along a different path.

I feel it will all come to fruition....

soon.

We don't make things change in nature, they just do.

What I find is that when I'm resistant or fear the change and try to continue along the same road that no longer fits me, the desire to change course burns even stronger in me. It won't leave me alone.

So I decided to go out with my husband today and witness the inevitable changes in nature. We hopped in the car after breakfast and headed out to Discovery Park.

Along the path, through a tunnel of greenery, we saw that the salmon berries had decided to ripen a bit earlier than usual. All the way down to the ocean we picked these juicy gems and popped them into our mouths. It was our own garden of Eden.




When we got down to the ocean, wild roses greeted us along with daisies and lupus. Behind them, the Olympic Mountains stood majestically in the background. I felt the warm sun on my shoulders and back and realized I had forgotten suntan lotion. It's rarely needed in these parts.



The tide was way out due to fact that the moon is currently full. We walked out where clams were squirting and half-devoured crabs lay mangled on the sand. The seagulls had obviously had their lunch.


Yoon plopped down in the dry sand near a pile of driftwood and I followed. I sunk my bare feet deep into the warm grains and rested my head on a log. I felt light and happy and assured that I didn't need to push things.

Change will come, whether I like it or not. Nature is evidence of that. I just need to fully feel each day, each sight, sound smell, taste, touch...pay attention to the bees working their way from flower to flower. Watch the kids on the beach joyfully searching for sea creatures.

All in due time.
All in due time.

I feel it will happen sooner rather than later, but I'm not going to wait for it. I am not going to wonder about it anymore. I'm just going to enjoy my day.

Are there any big changes or shifts you are also currently experiencing?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Student-Centered Learning or How About Cheesecake in Class?

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."—Benjamin Franklin

I'm teaching several different types of classes this quarter and have close to 100 students! I teach at a local community college.

This quarter, I'm teaching everything from a Prep for Small Business Ownership class for immigrants and refugees as part of the ABE ESL program to a new class I created as part of the Arts Now program called Blogging and Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within.

I'd like to say that I'm not just teaching, but allowing students to become the center of their own learning process and development. I can give instruction, information, ideas, materials, stories and share my own personal experiences, but the students must take the extra leap and apply all these things to their lives.

For real learning to take place, experience is necessary. 

The classes I remember most from school are the ones where the teacher was more like a guide and it was up to me to take these ideas and materials and put them to use.

So what does this all have to do with cheesecake, you ask?

In my Prep for Small Business Ownership class, I had the students read an article from 2005 Small Business Resource Guide (A supplement to Business Examiner). It was a little magazine that is chocked full of interesting "real life" stories about people who took the plunge and started their own businesses.

The article they read is called Agencies Can Provide Sweet Deals and it's about a woman named Danelle Bentley who loved to cook delicious cheesecakes for friends, family, neighbors—anyone she could think of. Many of them, after tasting her creations, said, "This is the best cheesecake I've ever eaten—you should go into business."

She didn't take it seriously at first, but before long she had transformed her garage into a commercial kitchen and later opened her own shop, Dee's Licious Gourmet Cheesecakes, and was selling to a restaurant chain and even sold a product at Costco.

After reading the article in class, I said, "I wonder if she is still in business? Maybe you all could Google her and find out."

One student took this very seriously and managed to track Danelle down. She even went to her place of work and interviewed her and came back to the class to report what she discovered.

At first I was a bit surprised and even thought maybe this was a step too far, but the student had a very pleasant experience chatting with Danelle about her cheesecake business and this gave me the opportunity to contact her and ask if she'd come to the class as a guest speaker.

Even though Danelle is no longer in the cheesecake business, her experiences—both positive and negative—about operating a small business were invaluable to my students.

Besides that, what an amazing journey it was for my class to read an article in a 2005 supplemental magazine and then have that person show up in class with arms full of mini cheesecakes (a secret recipe) for my students. They were so thrilled and had so many questions.

It was one student's very keen interest in finding this woman that brought her to our class. This made our class experience and the learning process much more interesting for the students because they were involved in this process.

The entire class came up with questions to ask Danelle and I compiled those questions into a list and emailed it to her.

I know this was an experience the students will never forget. At the end, we all clapped and thanked Danelle for coming and took a picture with her.

Students in my Prep for Small Business Class with Danelle who formerly owned Dee's Licious Gourmet Cheesecakes

Perhaps, after years of being out of the cheesecake business, the enthusiasm of our class sparked that interest and passion in her again. At least I know it did for the time she was in our class and we were so lucky to hear her stories.

Was there ever a time in school where you were excited to be part of the learning process? What were you doing? Do you have any specific teachers you remember very well?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blogging & Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within

This quarter, at Edmonds Community College, I'm teaching a new class called Blogging and Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within. I gave my students the challenge of writing everyday for one week and I was surprised to discover that many of them are doing just that!

 I received so many benefits from blogging and journaling over the years. I wrote 365 blog posts for two years straight. One year was in the form of daily lessons (2010) and another was in the form of inspirations (2013).

I was surprised to discover that one of the students in my class started her own 365 daily posts in the form of reflections. Here is a link to her first post that describes our first class meeting and her inspiration for writing everyday:

http://colormemod.com/365-reflections-reflection-1/

I learned so many things during those two years I blogged daily. Here are a few things I learned:
  • I can stick to a goal and complete it. Even a goal that is every day for an entire year!
  • There's always something I can write about and in keeping up with the practice of writing every single day, I learn so much about myself.
  • The writing that comes from my daily blogs and journals does not need to be perfect. Sometimes there are spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. The important part is to get the words out and I can go back and edit later.
  • The daily act of writing is important part of freeing the writer within. Without this daily act, one becomes rusty and out of practice. 
  • I was surprised to discover that my daily posts actually attracted a following. Some came just to see if I had kept to my word about blogging everyday.
  • Writing every day on my blog helped me to free the writer within and enabled me to write my memoir, Lessons from the Monk I Married, which was published by Seal Press in 2012.
  • In blogging everyday, I became part of the blogging world (the blogosphere) and was excited to meet new people and find other bloggers with similar interests. I have met, both online and in-person, so many!
  • I realized that you don't have to carve out hours and hours to blog. You can set a timer and create a post in 10 minutes. Then add a photo or a quote to spice it up and....Voila! Everyone can spare 10 minutes in their day. If I did it for two years while writing a book and working, you can too :)
  • When you write everyday, the real YOU cannot hide. I call this 'intuitive writing'. You don't edit or judge, you just write. The important part is to keep typing or writing without stopping. Let the words flow out, later you can go back over what you've written. In both my blog and book, my strongest writing has come from intuitive writing. 
  • People ask me how I built up my blog. It was the joy of coming here daily to WRITE. It wasn't about seeing how many followers I had or how much money I could make. It was simply about showing up here. From there, things began to happen organically.
I know there are dozens of other things I have learned in the hundreds of posts I've created here. Now I feel confident enough to teach classes at colleges, retreats and in-person about my experiences. It brings me joy to share my journey and be part of other people's journeys to blogging and journaling OR freeing the writer within, as I like to call it :)

Have you every written every single day for any period of time? Do you blog daily or regularly?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder

Reading outside in the sun today!
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."—J. D. Salinger

I watched a documentary on J.D. Salinger on Amazon Prime, which I get free with my Amazon Prime membership. I've been watching lots of documentaries lately, especially about authors.

J.D. Salinger was a recluse. He lived in his own world and did things his own way. On the outside it might have seemed crazy, but to him perhaps it was perfection.

I had never read The Catcher in the Rye. It was never required reading for me in high school or college, even though I studied literature/writing in college. Suddenly, after seeing this documentary, I had to read it. I immediately ordered myself a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from Amazon.

It was a tiny paperback book with the title in a 50s-looking font. It had an orange cover with a carousel horse on it.

At first, it was hard to read and I couldn't understand for the life of me why this book was a sensation. Every other word in the book was goddam. But then something happened. I let go of my ideas of what this book should be and entered the scene. I went for a ride with this author. I was part of the story.

For the last few days, I could not put the book down. It was a coming of age story of Holden Caulfield. Nothing was going right for him. He got kicked out of school, he got beat up, he didn't fit in, but he could only be and think who he was at that time. He definitely could not pretend to be anyone else. In fact, the entire book was a comment on how people in society, at that time, were just pretending or acting out their parts. The word phony was used dozens of times.

Yesterday I had so much to do, but I didn't do anything I was supposed to do.

I pulled two chairs together and made a makeshift lawn chair. I got myself a drink from the kitchen and I sat in the front yard in the sun for two entire hours reading The Catcher in the Rye. 

I forgot where I was.

I forgot who I was.

I forgot I had things to do.

A good book will do that to you.

Finally, I pulled myself together. I got my wits about me and got to work and taught my classes and it went really well.

But I wouldn't have done it differently. It was perfect. A perfect afternoon in the sun with an excellent book that took me awhile to warm up to.

It made me want to read more and write more. So here I am.

Have you read a book recently that made you feel good, made you think or made you change your mind about something? What was it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prescribing Love

Love just may be the best medicine
I had a profound experience at the doctor's the other day.

I recently stopped going to "regular" doctors. I was just another number at those places. Just a pile of flesh to probe and poke and stab and write up tests for. I was prescribed all kinds of things that were probably deadly. I was told there was nothing that really could be done. Unless, of course, I was dying.

So I sort of gave up hope.

I'm not dying. But I have had serious digestive troubles since traveling to dozens of countries in my youth, some cleanlier than others.

I picked up different bugs here and there along the way and it was all finally taking a toll on my system.

A few friends recommended Seattle Healing Arts.

"Oh, this is not like going to the DOCTOR'S office," a friend assured.

She explained how they had naturopathic doctors, Chinese medical doctors, massage, Ayurvedic doctors and even a few regular MDs sprinkled into the mix. She told me about how "un-clinical" the place was. There were beautiful paintings, buddhas and they played soothing meditation music while you waited.

I started seeing a doctor there and he's changed my entire view about "going to the doctor."

On our first session, he spent TWO entire hours with me. He let me speak and he listened.

He just listened.

Occasionally he'd ask me a few questions, but he was really very present with me.

I felt a very soft, gentle energy flowing from this doctor.

On my last visit, he had dozens of acupuncture needles stuck in me. Now you have to understand that I really dislike needles of any kind and hate to draw blood.

But I felt so at ease with this person and hardly noticed what was happening. We talked about life while he was giving me this treatment. I felt genuinely cared for.

After the acupuncture treatment I received, the pain in my stomach is now gone.

After being with this doctor for about two months, I've had a profound healing experience like none I've ever experience in a doctor's office before.

What was different?

It was love.

Genuine love and care about another human being.

Of course I believe that proper medicine, herbs, treatments and supplements all help, but all of this is nothing if you are just a number.

I finally feel like my body is really healing.

I'm not just a number anymore.

I'm a human who has been the recipient of the best medicine of all: love.

Have you ever been healed by the love of another person? 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Coming Out Of My Shell

Swimming with enormous sea turtles helped me open up again
"At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."—Alan Alda

Winter was a long, hard haul. I wasn't here at all. I agreed to teach a split schedule at the college where I teach ESL and that just about did me in. The result: I was sick with the flu for an entire month.

I haven't been sick for an entire month since I don't know when.

Obviously I had taken on too much and was out of balance because of this choice I had made.

Never again.

My body and intuition are strong and always give me clues as to what feels right or wrong for me, yet sometimes I choose not to listen to my gut, intuition, hunches, instincts.

Fear is usually what causes me to go against these.

Fear of not enough money. Fear of what others may think. Fear of losing something. Fear, fear, fear...

Fear of death.

I went to Seattle Healing Arts and met a doctor who changed my whole view of things. He told me I needed rest. He said I was under stress.

Me?  Under stress? Someone who practices yoga and meditation? Someone who knows when too much is too much?

But I listened to him. I listened hard.

My digestive track was also out of whack. He prescribed me herbs and a round of antibiotics to get rid of parasites. He gave me a food allergy test and recommended I take a vacation or get a massage.

So that's what I did.

Actually, my husband led a yoga retreat at a private farm in Kula, Maui for 7 days and I was there leading the writing/collaging part of the retreat. We just came back yesterday.

It was so healing for me and those 10 days (7 for a yoga retreat and 3 for our own retreat) changed my life.

I partly went to this retreat to research my next book which I'll tell you more about later, but I mainly went for the healing aspects of being on this island.

I ate fresh veggies and fruit everyday, I did yoga almost every morning, I hiked in a bamboo forest and near waterfalls, I swam in the warm ocean, dug my toes into the sand, felt the sun on my face and the healing hands of my husband on my body (he now does energy healing massages in addition to yoga).

I swam with enormous sea turtles. I felt the power of their beings. These ancient creatures healed me.

After the retreat, we visited a friend in Kula and stayed at her place for two nights. She made the most delicious food straight from her garden: a salad of kale, spinach, arugula, basil, etc. And she made a seafood pasta dish that was so tasty.

I listened to the wind through the sugarcane fields.

I listened to bird calls.

I heard the ocean.

I saw the new moon.

I saw the sunrise from the top of Haleakala.

I listened.

I really listened.

I know what I need to do. It's deep in my soul, but I am not sure why I sometimes work against myself.

A new quarter starts on Monday. I am a bit scared of losing all that I gained while away. I want to keep myself in check and tune in when I have free time. I want to write here on this blog and I am working on a new book.

I'm back. I'm coming out of my shell. It was a long winter, but I'm ready to swim the gentle waters again.

Did you ever do something that went against your instinct or intuition? What was the result? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

A New Chapter

"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life."—Omar Khayyam

I've been avoiding writing anything here. After one entire year of writing inspirations (2013) and another of writing lessons (2010), I'm not sure I have much left to share.

But I still want to write.

Write here now.

So here I am on a Friday night. It's 8:02pm and I'm alone.

Yoon went off on a retreat with a Tibetan Rinpoche he met in the Seattle Public Library long ago. His name is Sonam Rinpoche and I really had hoped I could be there too...but....

I came down with a bad cold and felt I needed to rest and to have some time to myself.

So that's what I'm doing.

I just signed up for a free trial of Netflix for one month. Tonight I watched a movie called Life in a Day.

It was recommended to me by a friend.

Human life is so interesting. Somehow, we are here and our basic needs like food, shelter and water need to be met. Then there's a need for love or to have someone care about us, including ourselves. If those are met, life becomes a patchwork quilt of moments and experiences—some good, some bad, some neutral.

Life is not one big event, goal, award, promotion, marathon or expedition.

It's here now.

Now I'm sitting in my office on a futon. Clothes and blankets are strewn around the room. I'm feeling a bit lazy, so I haven't organized. I'm wearing a big, long, wool scarlet sweater with wooden buttons. It feels warm and cozy. I'm also wearing black wool socks and gray pants. It's cold outside and there's been talk of snow, but I haven't looked outside to see if there is any yet. I feel relaxed, calm, contemplative, and a bit hungry...I may grab a bite to eat.

So this is a new chapter...

...of living moments.


How about this moment in your life right now? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—365: Happy New Year

Well, goodbye year of the SNAKE and hello year of the HORSE....If 2013 was a hard year for you, the snake might have something to do with it. Snakes are deceptive and creep up on you when you least expect it. I know so many people who experienced unexpected setbacks and difficulties this year. But the good news is, the Year of the Horse, a compassionate and loving creature, is here for 2014.

This is a pre-written post. Right this very minute, I'm at a silent meditation course in CA with no contact to the outside world. In other words, no reading, no writing, no electronics, no dancing, no singing.

Just meditation. That's it.

So I'll be ushering in the New Year with eyes closed and legs crossed.

I so need this time. I'll be welcoming the Year of the Horse in silence.

Now is a time when people write down New Year Resolutions.

After writing 365 blog posts for this year, I feel like cutting myself some slack on the resolutions!

I made it to 365 and that's a miracle in and of itself!

But I'll give you the gist of what I see in 2014:

1. More meditation, yoga and inner work.
2. Less computer (except for book writing and a handful of blog posts)
3. More walks in nature
4. More focus on friends and family
5. Exercise and healthy eating

I was thinking I might join a gym too, but I do get lots of exercise with walking and yoga. I plan to continue working on my new book and not blogging every day will free up some of that time. I also really want to cut sugar, grains, and coffee from my diet. I felt so good when I did that before.

I want to say that travel is in my horizon. I see it, but part of me feels the need to save and to just observe where I am. In 2013, I went on so many trips and yoga retreats—Peru, twice to Hawaii, twice to Las Vegas, Sedona, and right now I'm in California for this course. It was exciting, but perhaps I need to see how it feel to stay home for a year? Maybe it will give me an opportunity to travel inward if I stay right where I am instead of always being on the go!

Maybe I will get some clarity about my direction at the end of this meditation course. It ends on January 6th  and I'll be coming out of silence then.

 Thanks for tuning in here for an entire year. I plan to still write posts, just not everyday.

Our next retreat is at The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island January 24-26! Hope to see you there. You can find out more about it here.

Did you enjoy these blog posts for one entire year?



Monday, December 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—364: Nothing Looks Interesting


Here are some pictures of where I am right now. I'm at the California Vipassana Center in North Fork near Yosemite. I was here in 2012 in the summer, so it was SUNNY and hot. It is most likely colder now. Who knows? We may even get a little snow? Anyway, I wrote this post after I had finished my 10-day course and I wrote about how I felt. I want to share that with you here. This is a repost and it has been prescheduled. Going on retreat is a great way to rejuvenate and gain insight into yourself. Please click here about a yoga/writing retreat Yoon and I will be offering at The Yoga Lodge in the New Year and share it with others if you can. Here's my repost:

I was at the Fresno/Yosemite airport on Sunday. After 10 days out in the "bush" in silence with very little stimulus, the airport was a rude awakening. There were people with backpacks, roller duffles and suitcases, whining children, fast food and kiosks full of things I really don't need. After a long period of no stimulus, suddenly the magazine display seemed to come alive with stars faces, colors, and words. The jewelry case which displayed mostly bling was overwhelming. Gum, newspapers, bottle openers, tacky fridge magnets and t-shirts seemed to enclose me. I found my way towards the exit next to the display of bestselling books. I thumbed through a few of them. "Nothing looks interesting," I said under my breath.

Nothing looks interesting.


"Nothing" looks "interesting".

Somehow nothing had become interesting. Because nothing, besides meditation, responding to calls of nature, walking, sleeping and eating was all I did for an entire 10 days. This might sound boring to those looking for an exotic vacation at say...a beach cottage in Thailand or a mountain chalet in Switzerland. But for me, this was how I chose to spend my precious time off. And not a minute of it was wasted time. From 4:00am, when the first gong sounded to 9pm lights out, we were working. Hard to imagine how meditation could be work. Let me tell you, it's the hardest yet most rewarding work I've ever done.

Maybe you've traveled all over the world. Maybe you've spent time on that exotic beach or at that mountain chalet. And I know, I have fond memories of those places too. But have you ever thought about taking a trip inside? Do you know what's going on in there?

Give yourself 10 days in silent meditation and I guarantee you you'll find out more than you can imagine. And if you are working properly, you'll uncover quite a bit..and not all of what you see you'll want to face, but when you do decide to face what's in there, things start happening. Good things...positive things...

Nothing looked interesting because I was full. Not full in the sense of "I ate too much" but full in the sense of "I have all I need." I felt light and clear and happy. This happiness wasn't about who I was with or where I was or what I was doing. It was a happiness or a very deep contentment with what was. It came from the inside out. Even the kiosk screaming with "things to buy" had its place. I felt like a scientist observing my new surroundings. Like every moment called for my undivided attention and thorough examination.

During the course, it was hot and dry. As not to make contact with my fellow meditators, my gaze was usually downward. While at the meditation center, we are meant to keep to ourselves. The point is to go inward. We are meant to be working alone, in silence.


Still, I couldn't help but notice the beauty around me. The California wild flowers became my friends. They greeted me every morning on my walk around the pond.



On the last day, we had an opportunity to view a new pagoda building.


This building housed dozens of tiny meditation cells. During the course, we meditated in the hall, but these cells would provide further privacy for the meditator. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to sit in the pagoda when it is finished.

On the last day, we come out of silence and have an opportunity to speak to one another. This is always an interesting experience. After having spent most of our time in silence with our gaze cast downward, we were now communicating and getting to know one another on the very last day.

The course had produced "shiny, happy people"...people full of gratitude and full of gentleness. The smiles were contagious.

Svetlana, didn't even hesitate when I asked for a ride to the airport. She said, "Certainly!" She also planned to volunteer and clean the kitchen before our departure. Everyone who works at the center is a volunteer. There are no fees for these courses, they run on donations and the hard work of volunteers who have all completed at least one course.

I cleaned my cabin and had a chat with my cabin mates, and then Svetlana and I went out for a little brunch before my flight. It was our reintegration into the world. We had a nice chat.


It was a very productive course for me and I received a lot of clarity. As I type this I feel so much gratitude that I have had this practice of meditation in my life for almost 15 years. But most of all, I was grateful for the opportunity to do "nothing" and to realize that stepping away from "doing something" all the time was what I needed. It's easy to get caught up in what we are doing as if the world revolves around what we "do." Sometimes more productivity and clarity can come from stepping away and stopping. What I found is that the world is not going to stop if you decide to and when you come back you'll realize you haven't missed much.

Have you ever gone on a personal retreat? How did you feel when you returned home?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—363: Everything Changes


"When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana."—SN Goenka

It's DAY FOUR of the course. It's Vipassana Day! For three days I've been focusing on the awareness of my breath—for three whole days! But now I will start Vipassana. I will start to move my attention from head to toe and observe my natural sensations. This post is a repost AND it has been prescheduled, but I think it applies to what I will be experiencing today. Change will be in the forecast for sure! 

I feel I'm in a groove now. That doesn't mean it's easy, this observing the self. It's not easy to keep my attention inward on my breath and sensations at all times. The mind still wants to take over. The mind wants to pull me in this direction or that direction. What a monkey mind we carry. It keeps jumping from this branch to that branch. It never settles down. We keep filling it up. If we are bored, we find something to entertain it with.

But I'm in a groove now. I see what is happening. I am witnessing it. That's it. I'm watching. As I simply watch, or simply observe, I see that everything changes. Every moment changes.

There is nothing we can hold on to in this big, wide world....NOTHING. Instead of that being a scary thing, it is actually very freeing. There is a deep peace that comes from this.

Are you scared of change?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—362: Meditation

Here's a little information about what I am doing right now. I've reposted this post several times, but thought you might like to read it if you haven't already. The only difference is that I'm not sitting for 45 days this time, just ten days in North Fork, California at the meditation center there. Only a few more days until the New Year. I'll be celebrating the beginning of 2014 in silence. All my posts here since December 25th have been prescheduled since I am completely unplugged while here. I'll be writing more in the New Year, but I won't be posting everyday. Here's my repost:


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....


Have you ever practiced meditation before? 


Friday, December 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—361: Completely Unplugged

"The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug."—Pico Iyer

Have you ever completely unplugged from all your gadgets for one whole day? How about 10 days?

Today is DAY TWO of my 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course. I've written many posts about Vipassana, but you can read more about it here.

This is a prescheduled post, so I wrote it ahead of time.

I'm out by Yosemite at the Vipassana center near North Fork, CA.

I don't have a phone or computer.

I'm without books and writing materials.

My life here will be rather simple.

I will meditate, sleep, eat and tend to calls of nature. That's about it.

After writing blog posts for almost 365 days straight, I am so looking forward to this time of being completely unplugged.

Have you ever unplugged completely for any length of time? How long?


Thursday, December 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—360: Happy Birthday to my husband, YOON!

I'm in California on a 10-day silent meditation course. I'm on DAY ONE of 10 days and today is my lovely husband's birthday! No, I'm not with you, but I'm sending lots of good vibes to you dear husband...that is my gift. And this letter to you is also my gift:

Dear Yoon,

Happy Birthday! I'm not here today for your special day, but I'm thinking of YOU! Wow, what a journey it has been!

 It's been such an inspirational journey with you that I even wrote a book about it!

I just want to say that I'm very proud of you. You came to the USA with nothing and did not know anyone, except me, my family and a few friends.

Now, you know hundreds of people. With nothing, you believed that you could make something of yourself here. You started teaching yoga in our living room, led workshops locally, then opened Yoon's Yoga Bliss which ran for almost 4 years!

You led yoga retreats to Hawaii, Sedona, and even Peru. You took yoga students trekking over Salkantay Glacier in Peru and to the tip top of Machu Picchu.



How did you make this happen?

You simply believed you could do it...and you did... and lots of eager people joined in on your enthusiasm.





I am also someone who has benefitted by being with you. You gave me so much encouragement and had so much belief in me while I was writing my book.

Anytime I doubt myself, you make me see that I can do it. You are my reflection of all that is possible. Maybe I am your reflection too?

You also had to close your yoga studio because the overhead was just too high, but your students weren't coming to you because you had an awesome place to practice yoga, they were coming to practice with you.

Now you teach in our living room again. Back to beginner's mind.

But this time something is different. I feel an expansiveness I can't describe. I feel that the circumstances—ups, downs, chaos, bliss, loss, gain—are all part of what makes being with you so sweet.

In yoga, we contract muscles and we expand them as we move in and out of asanas. Without one, we would not have the other. In fact, contraction is necessary for another wave of expansion in life.

I feel like I'm riding on a magic carpet with you. Sometimes, I have no idea where we are going or what we are going to see. This is the beauty. We don't have it all figured out. We don't know what will happen next or where we will end up.




But we keep leaning into life, not away from it.


I'm so happy to be riding next to you on this great journey called life! I couldn't ask for a better partner.

Here's to many more adventures.

I love you and enjoy your day!

Kathy