One of the first things I quit during the Year of Quitting was my church. Shortly after that I quit my religion.
I didn’t quit God. I didn’t quit my faith. I simply broke open the shell holding that faith to give it room to grow beyond the boundaries I’d been keeping it in.
My halmoni says it doesn’t matter if you go to a church or a temple. The reason you go is the same. To clear your heart.
My halmoni is Buddhist, my parents are Catholic, and some of my emo’s are one or the other or both. I grew up Catholic, but have always been drawn to Buddhism. I’m realizing now that maybe it’s just in my blood.
After feeling bad for being curious about The Middle Path for years, I finally allowed myself to stop feeling bad, and explore this particular fork for a bit to see where it leads.
I call it my Amish year. I’m giving myself a chance to not be Catholic for awhile, so I can I choose whether or not to chose it for myself. I don’t know how long my Amish year will last. Maybe I’ll come back later, maybe I won’t. But for now, I’m open to the road currently ahead of me.
When I moved to Seoul I stumbled across a Buddhist temple in my neighborhood by divine accident. On the way back from one of my long aimless walks along the river, I saw this red tiered building amongst the tall high rise apartments. Actually, I think I heard the rhythmic sound of monks chanting before I even saw the temple.
I crossed the street and there was a sign outside the front door advertising English Dharma talks every Saturday. They were free. I didn’t need any more prompting. I filed away the information and made a mental note to come back after Chuseok.
Since then I’ve been attending the meditation classes every weekend. I’m learning mindfulness meditation, which is helpful in my recovery process. Last weekend was the first intensive meditation temple stay. The nun had several coupons for us to attend, so it was free.
At the end of the retreat she invited us back on the winter solstice for Dongjinal (동짓날). It’s a special day for eating red bean porridge (팥죽). I hadn’t heard of this particular Korean holiday before, but it reminded me of that summer holiday where you get to eat chicken soup (삼계탕). I just love how there are all these Korean holidays focused on eating a specific food.
On Tuesday, I went to the temple for a 2,000 won lunch of red bean porridge and to receive my free calendar. The nun told us that in the old days only kings and rich people had calendars. So on this day, a good king (or maybe it was the monks, I can’t remember) would hand out calendars to the local people, so they could plan their next year. Thus the temple was also giving away free calendars.
Before I left, I felt like I needed to do a little bit of heart clearing. I entered the main dharmma hall, which is the temple equivalent of the sanctuary in a church. I sat on my cushion and meditated. Afterwards, I felt refreshed, as if I had taken a shower for my soul.
A temple is like a shower for your soul.
It’s a place you go to purify yourself
from defilements, unwanted habits, thoughts, emotions, grudges.
It’s where you go to empty the weight of the burdens clouding your heart,
and wipe the slate clean.
A temple isn’t limited
to a building
or an establishment.
It can be a church, a yoga studio, a cave,
a forest, a mountain, a gym,
a therapist’s couch, a yoga mat.
The form doesn’t matter so much
as the intent.
you simply need a sacred space
to release what’s holding you back,
so that you can keep moving forward.
it’s easy to get stuck
under the weight of your own personal anchor of heavy feelings.