The Big Picture

Now imagine the pitter patter of little toddler feet bumbling down the hallway. A baby out on a journey! Everything about that journey is glittered by the newness and amazingness of everything around us. This carpet feels funny. That wall makes a sound when I touch it. But that feeling fades with time, unfailingly, as we begin to conquer the tasks that hadn’t once seemed so easy. To maintain that amazement state we crave to conquer more and more difficult tasks. And with time our mind aligns with the way we spend our time, climbing higher on the staircase than ever before or learning how to roll forward on the floor. A wonderful process blossoms as we make our way through a system designed to both challenge and represent our desire to continue learning. But for some reason this blossom’s loss of color begins when we decide in our minds to get a job. What is a job? Is it a socially decided upon way of converting human energy into economic energy? And economic energy for the sake of what? To provide us with more presents? Presents, we all know sometimes, just don’t cut it. What we’ve always been looking for lies behind the only place one would never consider looking for. The place behind the Irises is indicated by the entrance to the now. Only in the now do presents become presence, an all becomes a one.

 

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Life is the Class, Love is the Lesson

Now this is going to sound kinda corny but I saw a bumper sticker this morning that inspired me to write about it. It read, “Life’s the class, love is the lesson.” Sitting there at that red light for two minutes I all of a sudden felt like waving to the person in their mirror to tell them I agreed. Mind you, I am usually not a big fan of bumper stickers. I often try my hardest NOT to read them actually. So by the time I had gathered the courage to actually get their attention, the light was green and we were moving again. Feeling like I had missed a clear signal from the Universe telling me to make that person’s day, I instead thought that I would write a little anecdote about it here: 

Now imagine you are in a classroom. Sitting there in a chair that’s a little uncomfortable, you look around at the walls and see art projects and pictures hanging everywhere. In the front of the classroom there’s a chalkboard virtually covered in chalk dust, yet with no distinguishable marks. On your desk in front of you is a notebook, and in that notebook everything you have ever thought about your “self” is written down. It contains every want you ever expressed, every personality trait you thought you had, everything you’ve ever gotten mad at yourself for… all of it. Now underneath that notebook is your desk. It has a wooden feel to it, and it’s almost as if has been there forever like the trees from which it came. As you look closer, you notice it is scratched up around the edges, clearly showing its age. Inside the desk are all the things you tried to hold onto in your life, all your attachments. Every teddy bear, dog, or gold watch you ever owned is in there. Even some of your friends, people you dated, and past bosses are in there. All the things you have ever worked hard to keep close to you are stored inside that desk.

**Knock Knock** “Uh oh, time to sit up straight! The Professor is here,” you hear someone say behind you as shhhhhh’s fill the air. Slowly the Professor prepares for class by carefully placing everything on the podium. The first thing out of the bag is a rubber chicken, the second, a soft red pillow in the shape of a heart, and the third, a rubber ball. After they are neatly positioned on the podium, the Professor speaks:

“As I’m suuurrreeeee you all remember Class, our last lesson was about humor, represented here by this rubber chicken.  And next week’s lesson is to be about play, as represented here by this ball. Now for today’s lesson, I brought this heart pillow. And rather than let you all keep guessing for an eternity, I’ll be gracious and just tell you exactly why I brought it today.” You begin to fixate on the pillow, admiring its texture, as the Professor drones on for a bit. The surface of the pillow has a soft yet welcoming sheen to it. It almost seems as if you could see your reflection in it if you really got up close. And then, just as your day dream seems to get interesting, the Professor tosses the heart shape pillow right at you. It bounces off your chest and onto the ground beside you. Then the Professor speaks again, “Did you hear anything I just said young one? Or were you distracted by the love pillow’s shiny surface? You see, today’s lesson is love. From a far, it will always appear shiny and inviting. But its true value is experienced when you embrace it. Here you go. Give it a squeeze. Can you see how it makes you want to hug it, tighter and tighter? It almost seems as if the harder you squeeze, the more love you feel. Right? Well, that’s the thing about love. All that love you feel for others is also inside you. In order for another to love you back, you must have love to first give them. Love is recognizing that that which is in you is also within them. That’s all for today’s lesson.” The Professor paused for a moment after finishing, as if something was missing. Then, instead gathered everything up again and exited through the rear of the classroom.

After the Professor is gone, you glance down at the notebook before you. For some reason looking back through its pages, those thoughts of “you” don’t seem to carry the same weight anymore. Those things inside your desk? Do they seem different too?

Love pillow

 

THE TAKEAWAY: So I wrote this sort of abstract anecdote as a way of taking a situation we are all familiar with and throwing in some philosophy. I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts you’d like to share please do!

You Are a Child

Giggling to yourself when someone farts, playing imaginary games, and allowing yourself to get utterly excited over the simplest of things are just part of everyday life for a child. When I was around ten years old, me, my younger brother, and a few of our friends found a small orange pipe tip that had been cut off and left somewhere as garbage. We, on the other hand, saw it as the greatest thing that had happened to our lives thus far. We picked it up and rolled it down the hill, watching it to see how long it stayed up. After an unusually long roll down the hill, we decided that this piece of PVC pipe had a personality of its own and therefore deserved a name; Orange Wheel we dubbed it, ever so creatively. And for the rest of our lives, all of us will remember the stories of our times together in great detail.

Now let’s consider for a second how strange that story would sound coming from an adult. That person might be in danger of being forcibly checked into a mental institution and yet, if a child says it we encourage it. Why are we, as a society, so two faced? If a little girl wants to imagine she is a magical wizardress, with her spoon as her wand and her breakfast cereal as her magic potion, we think its perfectly fine! But if you’re boss came into work one day and told everyone that from now on her pen was a magic wand and anyone she waved it at would be transported to another dimension (insert “department” for a more realistic scenario) then what? The employees would literally have a LEGAL standing to get her fired. Where’s the disconnect?

On the contrary now, lets think about how ridiculous two people who are madly in love seem to outsiders. They make ridiculous nicknames for each other like smoopy woopy, rub noses together, and stand to make people around them either jealous or sick to their stomach. Well children do these things all the time, and once again, we don’t see it as ridiculous. In fact, we usually smile instead. You see, it is that love, and therefore feeling of fulfillment, that we lack in our adult lives that holds us back from expressing ourselves in our truest form. When we were children, we knew nothing about cars, expensive watches, sexuality, or weight loss. All we knew was all we had, and in that, we were fulfilled. So is it no wonder that when two adults are in the thick of love that they, inspired by that long lost feeling of fulfillment, are not afraid to display their childishness and thus, show themselves in their true form.

THE TAKEAWAY: The first step toward solving any problem is being aware of it. And if by now you are aware that you rarely allow yourself to act like a little kid, then that’s good – that means you have already taken the first step. Now that you are aware, you can pay attention to your actions – watching them as if you were someone else looking back at yourself – and actively ask the following questions: “Why am I being so serious right now? Does this situation really have to be this stressful? When was the last time I let myself have fun for the sake of fun?” The reason I wrote this blog today was to remind you that you’re natural state of being is that of a child. Child is to still water as adult is to white water. So if it is stillness in your life you are seeking – if you feel like there is room to add some more happiness and fun in your life – then start asking the little kid inside you what they want to do. I promise you, whatever it is, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

It’s nice to let go sometimes

A Conversation with God

Before any of you think I’ve gone off the deep end and started standing on mountain tops yelling at the sky, hear me out. Recently I’ve been reading a book called Conversations with God by Neil Donald Walsch and it has honestly been the perfect capstone to this year long experience in Korea. I came here because something inside me told me that I needed to go. I didn’t know what it was then, but now I do. And thanks to this book, I can finally put it into words.

As I have discussed here before, there are a lot of problems with the word “God” and mainstream religion, and in my honest opinion this book puts them to rest. So if you are reading this and have an opposition to either of these two things please reserve your judgments until the end… better yet, have no judgments at all. In fact, this leads perfectly into one of the major lessons I took away from this book:  all pain in life is caused by judgement, attachment, or resistance. Let’s think about. Have you ever lost something of value to you and felt sadness? Have you ever fought against a situation in your life and had it cause you pain and stress? Have you ever made a judgement about someone you’ve met only to have it come back and blow up in your face later? Can you recognize resistance to what I’m saying right now? I know at this point it may seem easy to poke holes in this lesson, but I promise you, if you really look hard, all pain is rooted in one of these three things. For example, what if your dog dies? Of course, this would be a sad experience for any of us dog owners, but if you break it down: You have judged that where that dog is going is worse than its life here on Earth, you have become emotionally attached to the dog and therefore are experiencing the absence of the happiness it brought you, and you are resisting something that has already happened and is therefore outside of your control.

Now maybe even this example has made you feel a little angry. Of course I’m attached to my Dog! I love my Dog. Of course I don’t want her to die. Are you saying I should actually want her to die to avoid pain? And my answers to those questions come in the form of the next lesson I learned from this book:    That which the Bible calls God, New Agers call the Universe, Muslims call Allah, and people call life, are all one in the same. The absolute internal recognition that all things – yes, ALL things – are really one thing is the state of Enlightenment. Contrary to popular understanding, enlightenment is not akin to the yellow brick road leading to Oz. It is not a path. Rather, it is a rememberence of that which already exists inside of us. Think of the light that we see in the eyes of a young child – now consider that many people have also spoke of this same light in the eyes of the Dahli Lama. We are born into Enlightenment. Getting there, therefore, is not a matter of learning anything new, but in actuality it is a process of taking out the mental trash that gets in the way – like anything that belongs in the JAR (Judgement, Attachment, Resistance). All of those things are emotional or mental constructs that distract us from the fact that eeeeevvvvvveeeeerrrryyyyttthhhhhiinnngggg is one.

Now this leads to Jesus. For a moment, I am going to ask that you suspend all of your previous knowledge and judgments about Jesus. Jesus was not the savior. Well, not directly at least. Rather, he was the example of a person who completely and absolutely understood the above two lessons and lived them everyday, in every action. So, he gave us a perfect example of how one should live life, and in that way, can be considered a “savior.” However, as the book discusses in depth, mainstream religion has a vested interest in making us feel guilty and therefore in need of savior. When I say mainstream religion, I mean those TV preachers that tell millions of people the only way to be saved is by accepting Jesus as their savior and sending money to the number at the bottom of their screen. As long as those viewers feel like they’re not good enough, don’t have the answers, and feel guilty about virtually everything they do, then mainstream religion can control them. And this leads quite well to the final lesson I took from this book: There is no hell. Hell is only the absence of the knowledge that Heaven is a here on Earth. Heaven is a mind-state, not a place that we go. It is the feeling linked to the realization that all things are one. Heaven is the overwhelming inner joy that comes from the realization that you are everything, God is everything, and therefore you are God. Whoa… now I know that may sound crazy at first – it did to me too. But the reason it seems so crazy is that all of our lives we have been taught that God is this separate being floating above us throwing lightning bolts, judging us for thinking things that are “wrong,” and ultimately weighing judgment on us deciding whether we get to go to Heaven or hell. But if God teaches us not to judge, then why would she then go and judge us? How could he be such a hypocrite? And the answer to that lies in the fact that the Bible was written by men – generations and generations after the events actually took place. Furthermore, the only method of communicating information to the masses at that time was through stories, and therefore stories were used. But thousands of years of misinterpretations, the Catholic church deciding to remove and add things, other religions printing their own Bibles, and Televangelists spreading their malintended messages to the masses have brought forth a picture of a ruthless, judgmental, destructive and hypocritical God – one that I still remember having trouble understanding as a young Catholic. I could not understand why God would care whether we put $2 or $10 into the donation basket. I could not understand why, if God really loved us unconditionally, there would be SO MANY RULES that we had to follow at risk of being sent to eternal damnation. I now see God for what it was meant to represent, and for that I am thankful.

THE TAKEAWAY: Now, I am fully aware that there may be some of you who are strongly opposed to some of the lessons I’ve taken from this book. And yet, in the spirit of what I believe this blog has come to represent, rather than look for things to resist, please try to find things that you feel like you can accept. Things that, deep down inside, feel like the truth to you. No individual religion is any different at its core than any other. They all are based on stories told thousands of years ago to communicate one incredibly simple point: all things are one. The wind that blows past my face, the King Crabs at the bottom of the ocean, the truck driving down a highway in Croatia, the Sierra Nevada mountains, the sun, and our galaxy – all one. If we can all work on taking out the mental trash, then we can finally remember the Enlightenment we were born into. I came to Korea because I was looking for Enlightenment – I thought that if I could get out of my comfort zone, learn a new language and culture, and redefine myself once more then I would somehow be able to find the path to Enlightenment. But now, I am overjoyed to say that I now know I was going in the wrong direction. Instead of looking out, from now on, I will look within. Love to you all. 

Opening

“Oh… Jeremy, today you have a class with some parents,” my CoTeacher told me, almost one year ago. “Really?!? What am I supposed to teach them?” I responded. “I don’t know, just talk with them.” And so it began. Every Wednesday for this past year, I would meet two of my students’ Mothers for a little English class. One of them spoke pretty well and the other could hardly understand a word I was saying. And yet, every week she kept showing up to class with this look of fear, nervousness, and distain in her eyes. “I kentuh speak Engrishi,” were the first words I ever heard her say and she said them with such low self confidence it hurt me to see it.

Quickly I realized that I wasn’t going to be teaching appositives or prepositional phrases and decided that instead of teaching them, I was just going to help them learn.  Since I was learning their language also, it made it a lot easier. I used pictures to show them that if they just continue to study a little everyday, over time, they would improve. We laughed a lot – at awkward moments and silly situations – and each week they became more and more comfortable with me. As my Korean caught up to their English level, we began to have mixed conversations about life, Korean culture, their children, and traveling the world. We shared experiences of frustration with learning language and laughed together. Whenever I was sick at home, I would receive a half English half Korean text message telling me to feel better and to cheer up. Our classes really became a highlight of our week, and I found out yesterday exactly why.

HeeJung is a 45 year old mother of two high school students, her husband is an English teacher at a prestigious high school in Seoul, and she hasn’t driven a car a day in her life. Her laugh is utterly contagious and she really shines in a group setting, that is, when she’s the one talking. Last night, her and the other two mothers from this semester took me out to a nice steak restaurant near my house to say their goodbyes. At the end of the dinner, HeeJung turned to me and mustered the courage to tell me something in Konglish (I’ve translated): One morning a few months ago, I woke up and thought something strange. I thought to myself, ‘Is Jeremy really my friend?’ At first I had many prejudices about him. He is younger than me, a man, a foreigner and my teacher. In Korea, woman are not supposed to be friends with men. In Korea, we are only friends with people of the same age. I have always been afraid of foreigners and I was always taught that my teachers were above me and cannot be friends. But that day I realized that I really do consider you a friend. Thank you for that. Thank you for always encouraging me. Now I feel like I am much more confident. Have a wonderful last month in Korea and I miss you already. 

THE TAKEAWAY: After pushing my tears of joy away, we took pictures together and made our way to the door. It was the strangest feeling – so bittersweet. But as I left them I realized what this experience has taught me about life – open yourself and others will open to you. From day one I was doing my best to learn their language, and I was always positive, and encouraged them as best I could. HeeJung had especially low confidence, believing herself to be “only a housewife.” Everyday I reminded her of why she was learning English and that it can be easy and fun if she learns to see it that way. The walls that she had to knock down to let me in are enormous here in Korea. Many of those things she said simply aren’t done. But this all just goes to show that rules are made to be broken, and minds are meant to be open. So please, let’s open ourselves up to the world and maybe… just maybe… the world will open itself to us.

A good friend…

Fall in Love with Yourself

These days you really don’t see too many romantic comedies where the main character has this long drawn out battle with him/herself and at the end of the movie, stands in the middle of a bridge on a rainy day and says, “I love myself!!!” with an orchestra playing climactic music in the background. Maybe it is for this reason that there aren’t many of us who ever really come around to loving ourselves. Recently my brother and I have been discussing a book called The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz and we came to a few conclusions I’d like to share here:

1. Virtually every relationship problem is caused by a lack of self love. When we are not in a relationship, we fantasize about finding the person that will one day make us happy because we don’t know how to be happy on our own. Then if we finally do find someone we eventually start to depend on that person to make us happy, but that’s not fair. Our happiness is our own responsibility, no one else’s. As soon as we start to depend on them, we place expectations upon them and set them up for failure. Then, when they finally do fail, we get angry at them, blame them, hurt them, and maybe even end the relationship with them (I know I have done this a few times in my life). And the saddest part of this is, this doesn’t just pertain to romantic relationships, this goes for all types of relationships.

2. The economy doesn’t want your self-love. As sad as it may seem, it is not in the best interest of mainstream media to help you learn to love yourself. The only thing that makes the gears turn in this capitalistic society we have are the dollars and cents that we put into it. If we suddenly all became perfectly content with two different outfits of clothing, a small home, and a garden in our backyard, then the economy would collapse almost immediately. Perhaps this really is why we don’t see any romantic movies about self-love. These days true self-love seems far more rare than its dual counter part.

3. You cannot love another until you love yourself. If you do not love yourself, then how is it possible to expect another person to do that? In essence, you are starting off the relationship with a MAJOR disagreement if you do. I think that this is the reason why true love seems to be so allusive for so many people. If we never learn to consider the concept of self love, then true love seems almost mythical. For me, I had to learn this the hard way. I had to make many mistakes, date the wrong people, hurt others, and learn that I must first love and accept myself before I can accept another. And it’s no coincidence that my soul mate learned to do the same at the same time in her life.

4. You are NOT your mind. You are not the internal monologue in your head. You are not your clothes. You are not your job, your friends, or your political beliefs. For a moment, please look away from your computer screen and consider the question, “Who am I?”

**********

If you started by saying something like, “I am a happy, loving, outgoing, man, friend, construction manager, scientist…” then you were not answering the right question. You were answering the question, “How do I define myself?” And these two questions are very different. When we use certain qualities, roles, or words to describe ourselves, we are limiting ourselves to what we believe those words to mean. For instance, if I say that I am a happy person, then does that mean I am never sad? If I say that I am a man, then am I implying to myself and others that I do not do feminine things? If I say that I am a writer, am I saying that that is the only talent I believe I have? Everyone is different in terms of how they define themselves, and that defining is the problem. The solution to this is not to define ourselves at all. We are nothing and we are everything at the same time. We are many and we are one. We are not our thoughts because we are the producers of those thoughts, we are the window through which they are shown. Ruiz beautifully depicts this point here:

 “You are life itself passing through your body, passing through your mind, passing through your soul. Once you find that out, not with logic, not with the intellect, but because you feel that life,  you find out that you are the force that makes the flowers open and close, makes the humming bird fly from flower to flower. You find out that you are in every tree, every animal, vegetable, rock. You are the force that moves the wind and breathes through your body. The whole universe is a living being that is moved by that force. And that is what you are. You are life.”

THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this post today because I was sad. When I learned about how simple self love can be, it deeply saddened me to know that so many people live their entire lives without ever truly loving themselves. For most of my life, I disliked so many things about myself that sometimes I would even punish myself. “You don’t deserve a friend like that Jeremy, what are you thinking?” or “You’re probably going to screw this all up Jeremy, you might as well not even try,” are a couple of examples of things I can vividly remember thinking. If you can remember thinking something similar in your lifetime, then it is my sincerest hope that you ask yourself, what have you done for yourself lately? Do you love yourself? Your mind? Your body? If not, then maybe its time to take yourself out on a date and get to know you a little better. As for me, here I am after a long drawn out battle in my life, sitting on a bridge at the climax of my personal romantic comedy, saying (** romantic background music***) “I LOVE ME!!!”


What’s Your Favorite Food? – True Love

I don’t know about you but whenever someone asks me about my favorite food, I usually have to think for a second because I feel the need to justify my choice. “It really depends, but I guess I would say chocolate because if someone offered me chocolate, I would probably accept in almost any situation.” Now consider how you would answer that question: What’s your favorite food?

Now, for a moment, think about that food. I will use chocolate for the sake of explanation. Now, when I think about chocolate, I know exactly what it tastes like, what it smells like, how it feels in my mouth, what goes well with it and what doesn’t, and all the varying types of chocolate that exist out there. I also know that studies have shown the chocolate releases chemicals in the brain that bring about better mood and alertness in the body and mind. Sometimes, even, cacao chocolate can be very good for your health. So, I think that is it sufficient to say that I know enough about chocolate to say that I like everything about it. I know that at no point in my life am I going to change my mind and say, “Actually, I don’t like chocolate. Nevermind.” 

In contrast, there have also been foods I once loved, hot dogs for instance, that I changed my mind about when I realized what they were really made of. I used to enjoy them simply because they tasted good. But then when I learned all the junk that goes into them and the process involved, I saw what they were really doing to my body, and moved them down quite a few notches on my list of favorite foods. (No offense to you hot dog lovers out there)

This past weekend I spent three days straight with my girlfriend whom I’ve been waiting over 5 months to see. There was never a single second where we were not happy or out of sync with one another. And now today, after we are apart again, I realized why I know that this is true love and will never change. It’s just like the example above. I know everything about her – her personality, likes and dislikes, life goals, strengths and weaknesses, her facial expressions, her walk, her most commonly used words in speech, how she acts when she’s frustrated, how she deals with excitement/ anxiety/ stress/ sadness, her favorite food, her favorite book, her music style, her talents, and most of all, the person whom she loves more than anything. And when I take all these things into consideration, it is so easy to say, “Yes. That’s the girl I’m going to spend my life with. I’m never going to change my mind someday and say, ‘Nevermind. I don’t like all of that stuff.’ ” 

I think all too often we become so excited at the idea of love that we blind ourselves to things that we don’t want to see. And those things, in the future, become the root of the very problems that destroy that love, and turn it to evil. Sometimes, we choose not to ask certain questions, like what they are made of, and so we don’t really know how that person is affecting our life until its too late. I made these mistakes many times in my life before I met her. But it is only because I made those mistakes, that I was able to notice the real thing when it hit me in the nose (or heart, I guess you could say).

THE TAKEAWAY: Maybe you feel that you have it now, maybe you’re still looking for it, or maybe you’ve already made up your mind that it doesn’t exist.  Whatever the case, for a moment, think about how certain you are about your favorite food. Are you ever going to change your mind? Why not? If you have or are looking for a love that’s true, then consider how much you know about that person. If you don’t know enough to be sure, find out. If there are things that you try not to think about or ignore, address them with that person in an honest and constructive way. It is difficult to find, but only because of the process involved with getting there, not because of its rarity. If you want it bad enough, the Universe will conspire to make it happen.

Artwork by my beautifully talented girlfriend

It is my sincerest hope that writing about my experience with true love will help someone out there who reads this. The majority of songs, movies, television shows, books, and plays that have been created throughout the history of mankind have been about finding it in some way, and it is my hope that whatever I can write about it here will help someone… hopefully, you. 

The Wait is Over… Forever

Five months ago I left the love of my life and now she will be here in just two days.This past week, ironically enough, has felt like one of the most painful though. Everyday I woke up thinking about how many days were left, how many hours until I can see her again. Two months ago though? I woke up each morning and didn’t really think about the time left. It was just this lofty date that didn’t need to be worried about yet.

How is it possible that time could seem so slow and so fast at the same time? Looking back, I cannot believe it has been five months already. Looking forward, the next two days seem like an eternity. How much more useless can time be?

In an effort to channel all this energy into something positive, I have used my anxiousness and frustration to push myself further into the moment, to appreciate each and every second of each day, because whether she is here yet or not, this moment is a gift. Whenever I do this, I forget about the anxiety and, ironically enough, time seems to move faster. So the key to solving the problem of that anxiety was in the least likely place… inside of the “pain.”

THE TAKEAWAY: As I’m sure anyone who reads these knows, I am absolutely ecstatic that she is going to be here with me. We have looked forward to and talked about this for what seems like such a long time, and now it is here. But I felt it pertinent to use this experience to learn something. That something is what I hoped to share with you today. If you ever find yourself waiting for something, whether it is tomorrow or in six months, take a step back. What are you missing right now?  What beautiful things does life have waiting right in front of you for you to see? It really is the simple things in life that make it worth while. For me, today it is this blog. In two days, it is true loves gaze.

What it Means to “Be There” for Someone…

Last week, I taught a lesson to my classes about American Dances… Needless to say, they got a bit rambunctious, but had a lot of fun. In one of the later classes on that day, one of the girls from my Student Mentoring class seemed a little blue. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but a midst the laughter of her classmates, her eyes remained fixated downward on the imaginary manifestation of her problem in front of her. I asked her what was wrong, but she brushed me off and said it was nothing. I persisted and asked her to stay after class for a moment so we could talk about it. Just one week before she had seemed quite happy.

After class, she was no where to be found, and I was a bit disheartened. So I moved on with business as usual and continued with my next class, which was a one-on-one session with one of the Non-English teachers at my school, Grace (her English name). As soon as she sat down, I could tell there was something wrong. So instead of talking about our lesson, I pushed the papers aside and said, “Today, let us just talk.” She went on to tell me that there was a problem with one of her students. “When my student have problem… my problem.” I could see the pain in her eyes. So I asked her to tell me about the student and she said, “Today, I ask her what wrong. She say… ‘Nothing. I’m fine. Today I realize I want to become artist.’ ” She knew that the student was avoiding her. Then it dawned on me, “Wait, is her English very very good. One of the best?” “Yes! That’s her!” It seems our empathies had converged.

As the bell rang I asked Grace if she could ask the girl to come speak with me during the next period. I felt like she may feel comfortable with me since she was in my mentoring class (we play games and talk about their future once a week). She agreed and five minutes later I was sitting with my student, asking her what was wrong. A couple minutes of silence and hmmm’s eventually gave way for the greater story to unfold. Her parents had recently split, and her father had killed himself. As I’m sure any child anywhere in the world would, she felt like this was her fault. I replied to her by assuring her that it wasn’t her fault.

She was afraid to tell her teachers, her friends, and her counselor because she thought they would judge her. In Korean culture it is common to speak your judgements about others very frankly. So why wouldn’t she be scared? But as fate would have it, I did not fit into that category, and the fact that I was an outcast gave her the comfort to open up. We talked about it for the rest of the class period, and came to the conclusion that the split was a result of his decisions in the past and that his final decision was his as well.

THE TAKEAWAY: She came into my office after school that day and said thank you with the slightest sparkle in her eye. Maybe it was a tear, maybe it was the freedom from her pain. But the misty sparkle that matched it in mine was one of joy. Joy that I was lucky enough to be in the right place, at the right time, for the right person. Had things gone any differently that day, she may very well have lived with that pain for a long time. Being there for someone does have a lot to do with the kind of person we are, but it has even more to do with timing. If we want to truly be there for someone, let’s not focus on what we are going to say. Rather, let’s focus on recognizing the times when those around us are in need. The rest is up to the Universe.

it's all about timing...

Live in the Moment: It’s All We Really Have

For a moment, forget about your past and your future. For the moment, what happened yesterday does not matter and what will happen tomorrow can wait until… well… tomorrow. Right now in this very moment, what do you have? How do you feel?

I recently started reading a book that has already changed the way I see the world around me. It is called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Fittingly so, it presents the reasons for focusing on the current moment, and nothing else, as much as possible. What I have taken from it so far I thought would be worthy of sharing here:

The Time is Now

You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are the words on the whiteboard of your mind. They are in your view, not in you. Think about the last ten thoughts you’ve had. How many of them were about something that happened yesterday? Or something that will happen in the future? If you’d asked me this question last week, I would have said at least nine. Today, after some practice, I can say that its probably down to about five. But the difference is incredible. In moments of high stress, or negative emotion, I remind myself of one elloquently simple fact:

All I really have is this moment, and in this moment, everything is great.

The wind against my face reminds me that I am a part of the world around me. The lights on the buildings above me remind me how lucky I am to be in Korea, experiencing this new culture. The smiles of the children walking by me remind me  to smile. And in this moment, I just feel so alive.

It’s really just a slight shift in perspective. Rather than keeping your thoughts in front of you, like words overwritten on the picture of the world in front of you, they are in a book in your back pocket. They can be taken out when you need them, and used accordingly. Or they can stay there while you clear your view and truly soak in everything around you.

THE TAKEAWAY: Money, possessions, prestige, pride, hatred, “problems,” and stress… can all wait. If you think about it, there is really NEVER anything we have but this current moment. We can choose to cloud that view with our own thoughts about the things that are bothering us, but those are just distractions. They are distractions from the most beautiful thing our world has to offer us: itself. So the next time you find your self stressed about something, or feeling bad, remember, if there isn’t a problem right this very moment, then what do you have to worry about?

It's in our nature...

Artwork provided by my beautifully talented girlfriend.