Friday, April 18, 2008

Missing China

There's no question I'm happy to be in Korea right now. In Korea I can make enough money to pay off my debts and save some money. If I stay here two years I can save a lot of money by my standards. I also like my job and am liking it more and more. Loving it is a possibility. The 3-9pm schedule is annoying for reasons like not being able to go to Feast on weekdays, but it's also kinda awesome. Getting enough sleep is not going to be a problem for the first time in my life! I'm also making some good friends here and meeting sweet, loving people that I like being with.

Having said all that, I really miss China. I wasn't thinking about it but then I read an article a friend posted on Facebook about how the Chinese are searching for spiritual meaning more and more and how the society and even the government are opening up to that aspect of life. My love for China came flooding back. That's always the way it is. I don't think about it for a few weeks and then it just floods me. It's like remembering a past girlfriend that I never really got over or someone close to me who died.

I still feel like that sometimes, that my life in China died, that I died in some ways when I was ripped from my life there. Feelings of bitterness and regret still come up in my heart and pass away when I think about it.

Maybe I wouldn't miss China as much if America or Korea needed me as much. The fact is I was much more useful to the Faith there. In America I could speak the language and I was integrated into the community but it was just so damn hard to find waiting souls there. I guess I could find ways, though, in the long run. To be honest, in the last 1.5 years there I wasn't really trying. I was a little bit, um...preoccupied. So maybe things could be much different if I go back there to live.

As for Korea, reminds me of hearing about communities in Africa that had been sorta "run" by pioneers for years and had recently developed to the point of being able to run all their own affairs. They didn't really need the pioneers anymore and, in fact, the pioneers were encouraged to let go and step into the background and let the locals take care of everything. They were ready to shine!

A week after I arrived here I went to a very moving reflection gathering in Seoul. They had experienced a lot of victories and confirmations in their last, and perhaps first, cycle of their Intensive Program of Growth. I got that feeling then--that the best thing I could do for this community is to let the Koreans take care of as much as possible. Of course I should still teach on my own and bring seekers to events, but if they can join a Korean-speaking study circle it's better. It may be difficult for me to start a study circle of my own because it will need to be in English, at least the discussion portion, but, y'know, we'll see.

So in Korea I'm not pioneering. I am not a pioneer. I'm just an American Baha'i living in Seoul who will teach the Faith as best he can and who will help the local community as best he can while still keeping my distance and letting them do their thing.

In China I was a pioneer. I was needed. I was in a place with amazingly high receptivity. Korea and America are remarkably similar in their mediocre receptivity and people who are committed to another religion already. In China people were hungry for spirituality and meaning! I would just meet people, get to know them a little bit, and they would join study circles like it was no big deal! Then their friends would join! I had many study circles going in China, really good ones. I was able to form new ones with little effort compared to the States. Korea seems to be the same as the States in this regard too: people are wrapped up in their lives, their hobbies, their passions--all wrapped up tightly in themselves--and it takes more to get them interested and into join a study circle.

China spoiled me and now I know what I'm missing. I don't know. I'm in Korea for the money, and that's a good reason to be here, but I'm having trouble seeing how I can be of much service to Faith here compared to China or even the States.

I see guys I knew in China marrying Chinese Baha'i girls and settling down there, building their lives there, living their dream, and feelings of envy and bitterness arise in my heart. They arise and pass away. I was so sure that that was going to be me! Everything was going in that direction. Just like those guys, I knew I wanted to pioneer in China. I felt deep inside that I was called to do just that. As long as I pursued that, everything else would fall into place.

Things were going that way. Then they came to a screeching halt, and before I knew what had happened I was wrapped up in American life, wrapped up in growing debt, wrapped in depression. I got lost in a dark maze and I should be grateful that I've found my way out and am building my life again. And I am.

Maybe all the suffering, all the bad luck, all the dashed dreams are a mercy from God. Me being a pioneer in China is nothing to Him compared to me being a consecrated servant of Baha'u'llah, tempered and purified in the fires of many tests.

I do feel like a different person now. I feel calmer, less interested in all the clamor of the world. I feel like I could just meditate on a flower for a long time, just be. I do feel more peaceful. A coworker today said that she feels peace coming from me and it calms her. That was a huge compliment. It also confirmed a bit what I had been feeling. I really do want the world less and God more now. Perhaps my experiences have made me weary of the world, as 'Abdu'l-Baha said tests were intended to do. I just have to let go and give myself to Baha'u'llah and forget about all my own desires. Let them all go! They're just a burden. Freedom and bliss is to be guided and moved by His will. Since I know that now and may be on that path, maybe things aren't so bad after all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Things I Like About Korea

- Banana-flavored milk
- Kimchi: spicy, pickled vegetables, most often cabbage
- Tons of spicy food!
- Ultra-cute Korean kids of all ages up 5 or so
- The dynamic, on-fire Korean Baha'i community
- My rockin' school
- The Korean written language, truly a thing of exquisite beauty and efficiency
- The activity in the streets: masses of people of all ages, lots of street vendors
- The plethora of little mom 'n pop shops
- The freshly made, relatively cheap food
- The little restaturant I'm always eating at and ordering from at work
- The fact that some of the people working there speak Chinese!!
- My awesome apartment on the 5th floor: it has a balcony that spans the whole
length of the apartment! That's standard here it seems.
- The fact that homes are heated from pipes under the floor here! So you can lie
down on a warm floor! Nothing like it! You can also dry clothes on it.
- The fact that Koreans always take off their shoes in homes and restaurants (not
little "diners")
- The bird-song-like sounds of children playing that comes into my apartment in the
mornings from the nearby elementary school. (It's great when I wake up but it's
not so great when it's the thing that wakes me up!
- My awesome bossIt's really all about the kindness. It's just so nice to have a
kind, loving boss who really cares about me!
- My students, with all their ups and downs. They're a bunch of good eggs!
- My helpful coworkers, Simon and Jennifer, who are very kind. Thery're good people
and they happen to be in a relationship together which makes things a little more
- My sweet coworkers, 6 Korean women. They're funny and kind.
- My new friend Sujeong, a Korean Baha'i woman, who I've already become good friends
with! She did Vipassana too! The first person I've met that's also done it!
- My good, old friend Lex, who I've not lived around for ages. It's awesome to be
back in each other's lives!
- The fact that Korean people hardly jaywalk at all. I like that everybody-following-
the-rules thing. (Though it's probably more due to the fact that Korean drivers
drive fast and will run you over and keep on going.)
- Korean strawberries! The best ever!
- Korean flowers and blossoming trees!
- The awesome Korean subway system! It's a thing of beauty folks. I just SO LOVE not
having to deal with a car!!!
- Learning a new language! I think Korean will be easier than Chinese, partly
because the script is as easy to read as Chinese is difficult.
- The fact that I can get whatever Western food I want here if I really want it
pizza, ice cream, Dr. Pepper, just about anything) or I can totally avoid it.
- Studying Book 3 (Teaching Baha'i Children's Classes) with awesome Baha'is!
- Living in Korea!

Friday, April 11, 2008


I passed up a golden opportunity to teach the Faith tonight. I had been spending time with some coworkers out to dinner, etc. After a while the others left and it was just me and one of the Korean teachers from my work finishing off our drinks. We had talked about the Faith and religion a bit earlier in the evening. That was THE time to bring up spiritual matters again and just learn where she's coming from, what she's searching for, ar least just listen to her story if not discuss the Faith.

It didn't even occur to me! After all the spiritual thoughts in the blog last night, after talking to her about the Faith earlier and sensing receptivity I just chit chatted about this and that, it got a little quite and we picked up and left. Right after she turned to go her way I realized my folly. Dammit!

Knowing that I missed an opportunity at all is progress I guess. Who knows when or if we'll be in that situation again. I guess I just have to keep on going. Just do my best, be my best. I'm sure I've squandered countless opportunities just like that since I became a Baha'i in 1993! Most of them I either wasn't aware of or wasn't confident enough to sieze. So I guess spacing out and being in a selfish trance and then coming out of it and realizing that I wasn't thinking about Baha'u'llah or the other person's well-being is a part of coming out of the Big Trance that lasts all day long every day. A sign of real change is realizing that you're doing something that you had previously been oblivious of, right?

I don't remember the feeling being so potent before. I may have lost my chance to really help her in a huge way to grow and find her heart's desire! I may have more golden opportunities or I may not. Not one can be taken for granted. I hope this feeling is the beginning of embracing the responsiblity that comes with the great privelage I've been given.

Tomorrow I'll attend Common Ground, the local Baha'i fireside/discussion group that goes on every Saturday or so. That will be cool. Then on Sunday I'll start attending a Book 3 study circle. That's all about teaching Baha'i children's classes. Fits well for me since I'm working with kids. I really want to spend as much time as possible with the local Baha'is.

One thing I learned last Sunday at the relfection gathering is that in Korea I'm not pioneering, not at all. They got their own thing going on here, they have a Local Spiritual Assembly here in Seoul, they have an Intensive Program of Growth going on here, they have new believers coming into the community, they have older believers getting fired up and trained in the Ruhi process. They've got it going on, and they speak Korean. I don't, so I can't tutor study circles in Korean do anything in Korean. I also can't attend most Feasts because I don't get off work until 9pm.

Korea doesn't need me in the way that China needed me. That's totally cool of course, and that doesn't necessarily mean that Korea isn't a good place for me to be. I have to remember that I'm here for the money. If it weren't for that I'd be in Chine right now. The money might keep me here for 2 years though, and during that time I might learn a lot of Korean and then who knows.

Other things could come up to keep me here too. I'm no professional teacher here by any means but I could become one. The pay is enough to make a real living no doubt, though the 3-9pm schedule isn't really tenable once kids come into the picture, nor is it great for being in a relationship or having a normal life and going to Feast and all that. It definitely works for now though!

Wife and kids. I'm starting to feel more detached about love than I have in ages. Ever since I was in my first big relationship from 2000-03, I've been obsessed about getting into another one. I've gotten in and out of too many and experienced some really, really rocky times as a result of my blind craving for love. I'll never have peace until I just let the whole thing go and accept whatever God sends me. No wife for this life? OK. No kids? Cool, whatever you want, God! No sex? No problem. No cuddling? Who needs it. Really, these things are great, but the craving for them is just another part of the bigger problem of the trance of self. It's another craving, another fear, another dream not of God. Another path into the wilderness. Throwing off the shackles of this world is the only way to peace and joy and fulfillment. The longing for romance and companionship is just another shackle, one of the most dangerous and insidious traps of all in fact because it's mixed up with a lot of noble sentiments. So it's one of the very toughest ones to leave behind. It's the ultimate drug. And it's harder for me, too, since I have been madly in love and drunk deep of love. In end however, it has blindly inclined me to error.

So anyway I'm gonna keep working on all this stuff but in the midst of it all I need to rapidly progress as a teacher. Winging it will simply not do this time! That's a challenge for me because wingng it is basically how I've been living my life for...all my life. I need to come to class prepared! I need to recognize what my students need and give it to them! I need to teach them in such a way that they enjoy the lessons and progress in English. I face the challenge that I continue avoiding ceaselessly: to work hard so that I am prepared andeffective in my work. Failure is not an option this time.

One of the other foreign teachers at my school is a "real teacher." She's going to move on to teaching elementary school at an international school this summer. She's so good. Really amazing. I'm just amazed at people who apply themselves so well, so consistently, who become truly excellent in their work. SHe makes me look like chopped liver, which is good. I'm lucky to have such an example. She's super busy though so I hope she'll have time in the future to teach me more of her magic. A few of the kids in my more advanced class used to have her as a teacher and I feel a little sensative to them. It's obvious they had a transformative experience with her and I'm kind of chopped liver to them too. I can't let it get to me too much though because I'm new to this kind of teaching--China, subbing, and Goodwill were definitely warmups but not the same type of teaching at all in many ways--and she's been teaching in Korea at this kind of school for like 6 years.

I love teaching kids and teens and spending time with them. I am sensitive to the pressure on me as a teacher to teach well though. If I don't do well the student suffers. Anyways, I'm commited to improving every week. The next two weeks are the last of the term and then we start a new one, though I'm not sure exactly what that entails. So these next two weeks are my time to really pull everything together and get honed. I'm up to it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogging Again

Hello to all you wonderful souls reading this! (Quick note: everything before this post is 4 years old.) I hope this can be a way that I keep in touch with you, though I'm sure it will often ramble out into various dimensions that may or may not interest you. Depends on my mood (and what music I'm listening to while I'm writing!) Seems like most times I blog I'm in a kind of melancholy, lonely mood. The last time I was blogging very much people reading it thought I was depressed but I was just showing one side of life! Might be the same this time around so don't be alarmed! Anyway I hope to balance that stuff out with interesting down-to-earth, day-to-day stuff. This one's gonna be rambly. Rambliscious.

So on to what's on my mind now....which is: will I ever stop feeling like I'm drifting and floating through this life? I don't remember ever feeling like I belong here, like, "Oh, yeah, I'm human, I'm American, I'm this, I'm that, so let's get on with it!" It's been much more like, "Man, how much longer do I have to be in this body? How much longer do I have to keep doing all this stuff? How much longer do I have to keep feeding and clothing myself and working at jobs and running on these tracks?

Maybe that sounds lazy and that's definitely part of it. Laziness is a vice of mine. It's not that I don't want to do things to help other people and contribute to the whole and pull my weight and then some. I don't know. I just want to be free. I want to be in the next world so much. I wouldn't wish for death, partly because of the sadness it would cause and partly because I don't pretend to be ready at all.

I feel like I've been pushing at the walls of self ever since I knew they were there. Sometimes I break through and taste the sweet fragrance of His Presence all around me, but then I fall right back into my selfish oblivion. It's those moments of small victories that have given me hope that happinessis possible for me. All else but this is ashes! Baha'u'llah is not exaggerating when He says things like that! All the crap, crap, crap! He calls it "the world." Every satisfaction it provides might as well be the exact equivalent of getting stoned or something as far as I'm concerned. It all works when you're in a trance state, fixated on those cravings and aversions, trying to milk the teet of whatever you desire before it's empty once again. Then it's on to the next diversion.

Ok, so that's all well and good. Actually if I wan't a Baha'i that would be it because I would be a priest or monk or rabbi or mullah or whatever. I would just roll with that as far as it could take me. I guarantee I would have been a frickin' kick ASS priest or something! Of course it's good all clergy is abrogated for this Dispensation. Try as they might, clergy as a whole are just too human to take on the burden of being a link between the individual or community and the Divine Unity. Fuggetaboutit!!

Nevertheless that leaves people like me kinda stuck. Are there other Baha'is out there, I wonder, that have trouble finding there way because they're the guy or girl who would be priest or medicine man or whatever and there's just no need anymore for that role?

So is there any solution to longing to burst into flames of the spirit and fly free above the brilliant meadows of the Kingdom of Abha, spreading the sweet savors of His fragrance to all souls whose path I cross, dispersing in the wind, moved by His breath, scattering in the breeze until all traces of self have vanished forever? I mean as opposed to what, day after day, is continuing to not be that, i.e. this life?

Suicide is not the answer. It leads to an opposite result. Asceticism is not the answer. It can't be reconciled with the need for servants of God to serve humanity. We already ruled out priesthood. Living at the World Center? Nah, that's like trying to find a loophole. Baha'u'llah commands action, integration with humanity, tireless work to transmit His healing message to all peoples, a lifetime of the utmost effort to the extent of my capacity to do the glorious work of the Cause.

My feeling right now is YES! Wow what an unbelievable privelage that I will never be worthy of! While I still have time I must do all I can! YES!

But stuff keeps getting in the way, stuff lodged in various places inside me. It goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Ugh! It's sickening! I'm so tired of it! 'Abdu'l-Baha said that one of the desired effects of tests and difficulties is to make us weary of this world and cause us to long for the Kingdom. I'm not sure if He was at all referring to the way I feel but I do feel weary of this world.

Ok, so how do you attain the Kingdom even if you want it? All I can think of is to give up. Give up my desires. Give up my hopes. My dreams. My loves. My opinions. My personality. My interests. My quirks. My mannerisms. My cravings. My likes. My dislikes. My deep desires. My hobbies. My plans. My pleasures. My pain. My past. My future. My self.

What good has all of that done me anyway? Nothing compared to what He has done for me. What good has all of that done for others in my life? Nothing compared to what He has done through me for others. My only glimmers of peace and joy have come when I was somehow able to free myself from all those things with Him.

I remember this one time (I may have told you this story) when I had been meditating all day in a retreat back in the day. I went for a walk in a really meditative zone, really on a higher plane, at least a little. I swear I was able to perceive things being communicated that had been absolutely invisible before. In particular there was this one bird singing. That song! Words beyond language! I felt I was witnessing the power of God to speak to us through all things at all times, uniquely each time, unfathomably beautiful and profound and glorious! I felt like I had never opened my eyes before and I just flickered them open for a moment. I can never forget what I saw.

When I think of a lifetime of "living martyrdom," daily conquest of self and complete sacrifice of all for Baha'u'llah,it seems like an unbearable, toilsome journey. Too hard! Too long! Too much! But then when I think of the alternative--a life of more of the same vacillation, regret, confusion, and terrible remoteness from Him--I realize that that is the real hell.

Do you ever feel like you keep holding onto so many aspects of your self because you just are afraid to let go? Or because you know others think those aspects are vital? Or because you lack the imagination, the willingness to believe that you can live without these things? What will happen if you just let go? Why do you have to be "you"?

We've learned so much by now! Even those of us who are only in our early or mid-twenties have learned so much! We know so much, and I'm not just talking about Baha'is. How much do we know that we haven't acted on? How simple are so many things that we convince ourselves are complicated?

What if all the things that mystics have woven the most illuminated tapestries of elucidation on are all at our fingertips and all we have to do is reach out and sieze them? Sieze them and never let go? What if all we have to do is throw off EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING and take firm hold of the cord of His kindness? What if that's really all there is to it?

The Blessed Beauty spoke these words: "O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee."

He states this so simply. These words are truth. They are not a roundabout interpretation of truth. They are Truth. This is not a metaphor for what He wants us to do. It's what He wants us do! Without delay! If He says it is that simple, it's that simple!

"If thou lovest Me..."

"If thou lovest Me..."

"If thou lovest Me..."

If I love Him. If I love Him. If I love Him.

I love Him. I love Him. I love Him.

I love Him! I love Him! I love Him!

Love Him. Love Him. Love Him.

Him. Him. Him.

Baha'u'llah. Baha'u'llah. Baha'u'llah.

Baha'u'llah! Baha'u'llah!