Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good Medicine

Special moment for me right now. I'm listening to a new album by The Orb for the first time in 4 or 5 years. I love The Orb and I love this new album! Few things compare to hearing a really great new album by a band you already loved for the first time. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

I hung out for a long time today with my only Korean friend who is not a coworker or a Baha'i, and we hadn't seen each other for like 4 months or something, so it was kinda special. We went and saw one of those romantic movies that feels good when you're watching it but when you walk out you start feeling really lonely and crummy. It was "He's Just Not That Into You." First time I've seen a movie at the theatre for like 5 months!

My friend is really cool, kind, and soft spoken. A good person I can really be friends with. Unfortunately her English isn't quite at the point where we can have more abstract conversations. Actually I was able to talk about all kinds of spiritual things, about life and stuff, about the Baha'i Faith, and she understood almost everything I said clearly. She got frustrated trying to express her own understanding of Buddhism, but she said it was hard to speak clearly about in Korean as well. Of course I made an effort to teach the Faith but I think she might be kinda satisfied with Buddhism right now. I'll invite her to a devotional in the near future.

So with that in limbo I'm down to basically zero contacts for teaching the Faith right now. I'm like a painter who has everything but paint. I'm not going to sit here and complain about the myriad difficulties in teaching the Faith in Korea. I've done that enough already. It is what it is. Korea is just tough. I'm sure it seems tougher to me because I can't help but compare it to China. Someone coming from the States might not notice a lot of difference, except that they can't communicate with most people, and that the concentration of evangelical Christians is much higher than in most places in the U.S., which is surreal.

Until recently, I was getting more and more set in my feeling that I needed to move on from Korea as soon as possible, mostly because of my perception of the low percentage of receptive souls here (I don't know if it's accurate) and because of how difficult it's been for me to meet people and develop friendships. Well, also because I can speak Chinese and Korean is pretty hard to learn, and because I had such unprecedented successes in the teaching field there. And maybe because I have this urge to keep moving, keep moving, which is definitely partly unhealthy.

My trip to Malaysia shook me up though. I got a break from Korea, which enabled me to go back and look on it with fresh eyes. I also got to know many members of my community that I hadn't been able to connect with very closely before, because a bunch of us went to Malaysia together. Since then I've been spending a lot more time with other Baha'is, especially one-on-one. I've been getting out more and participating more in the activites of the community. I've been able to serve others, listen to then, give them counsel, all those good things. It's made me feel much more useful and envigorated than I was when I was just trying to survive in my cave. The teaching work is going slow, but at least I can serve the community. At least I can support the friends as they face their own daunting challenges. At least I can love them and be a friend and hopefully a positive example to them.

I've really fallen in love with this community since the Malaysia trip. The Baha'is of Seoul and the surrounding area are really a family. It's a small community, and there are a number of souls drifting around the edges, not participating much or at all (which I understand. I've definitely been there!) but there are some really pure, dedicated, radiant souls working hard for the Cause here. They love each other, they take care of each other, they support each other. Korea is not an easy place for them to teach the Faith or to be a Baha'i either! They face the challenges courageously, though, and persevere. They keep stoking the flame of devotion, cultivating unity, and taking step after steep uphill step on the path that God has laid out for us. I really admire them and love them.

So I'm trying to find my path of service to the Cause here in Korea. I was almost in despair about it before, but now I feel buoyed by my capacity to serve the members of the community. I'm also focusing maybe more than ever before on my own spiritual practice, as well as other things, like getting good sleep consistently, that are a huge part of the overall picture. Baha'u'llah sometimes refers to Himself as the Divine Physician, and it really helps me to think of Him that way right now. He understands all my problems and He knows the solutions. He has diagnosed me perfectly. I know the essentials of the treatment that He wants me to undergo and I know what medicine He wants me to take. I've always known but I haven't ever taken the treatment and the medication consistently enough to really receive their benefits. I've been so, so stubborn in my refusal to change, to break with my discredited old ways, to accept my need for his healing treatment. I've also been such a daydreamer that I keep drifting off into fantasy, not holding onto reality long enough to really see and start attending to the urgent needs of my life. Maybe when I've seen the problems is right about when I've dove back underwater.

So whether it's better for the Cause for me to stay here or go to China or something else I don't yet know, but I do know this: establishing healthy and transformative new habits like sleeping and eating well and getting exercise, like praying and reading the Scriptures every morning and evening and memorizing the words of God, like saying my Obligatory Prayer and 95 Allah-u-Abhas very day without fail, like studying the Faith and maybe other important things in my spare time, like grounding myself in the present moment and its needs and joys, then my whole mental-physical-spiritual makeup will be changed over time. It's all good medicine from God, especially the prayers and readings, and good medicine has a profound affect over time that you can't appreciate until you've experienced. Important decisions are best left for when one is healthier and of sounder mind.

I've been telling myself to do all these things for years, but not having much success due to a lack of commitment. I feel like something is happening now though, maybe something entirely new. I feel very hopeful. I guess I see the importance of all these things more than before, especially taking the prescribed medicine from Baha'u'llah. It feels like something I'm actually wanting and doing rather then something that I'm ruminating on and "should-ing all over my self." That's new. Like, for example, I realized that I need to set a strict bedtime for myself, probably 1 am for now, at which time I must be in bed no matter what. I can read and stuff but I have to stay on the bed. I hadn't thought of that before! I can't believe now that it hadn't occured to me but I think it didn't because I didn't really care enough. I didn't really want to change enough. Actually, it's more like this: I didn't want to stay focused on the reality of my problems long enough to find real solutions to them. I already had it figured out! When things get tough, escape into fantasy! Problem solved! Well, not really. Escapism solves problems about as effectively as drug use, just with less side effects.

Anyways, what do do and why and how to do it are pretty clear, so all that's left is the doing! Everything still feels kind of empty when I'm not teaching the Faith, no matter how much good I'm doing, but I can't just give up on everything else. Besides, good things in other areas will lead to good things in teaching. They'll make me better able to teach. I just ahve to accept that teaching is going to go slowly here and just do my best and stop getting so frustrated all the time. It does no good.

In order to teach the Faith in Korea I'm going to have to really put myself out there by joining groups like Toastmasters or going to this meeting of Unitarian Universalists I heard about. If I don't do that I just don't know how I'm going to meet even one person, much less a searching soul! And even when I join those groups it will take time. It will take some time tilling the soil and planting seeds before I see any sapling springing from the earth, and even they aren't guaranteed to grow as much as I hope. Other people have their own lives and they are in God's hands. I can only do what I can. I wish I could be more direct in my approach, like a soldier on the battelfield, unsheathing my sword and racing towards the evil horde, yelling out a battle cry, but I'm not on a medieval battlefield. I'm in a big modern city, full of busy, preoccupied people. I'll will do more than what I'm doing. I'll pray for God to show me the way, to send souls to me and me to them, and to give me the strength and purity and openness and constancy and love to be able to understand what they're searching for and to humbly guide them to the fountain of the love of Baha'u'llah, where they may at long last quench their thirst. I must find my own way there before I can guide others. I certainly must.

That starts with getting good, regular sleep, so I'm going to observe my new bedtime rule and go to bed!

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