On Re-Entry

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Amazing to see this mountain again.

So, we’ve landed back in the States. The flight was easy enough, even with the three felines and the toddler (who slept almost the entire way, bless his heart). We arrived sleepy and smelly and completely confused time-wise, but none the worse for wear.

Now that our internal clocks have almost completely adjusted we are more able to focus on getting settled. None of our things have arrived yet, so there is little we can do in terms of physically settling. Mentally and emotionally settling are all we can attempt right now, though I can’t help but think that having the things that are familiar and comfortable surrounding us would certainly help.

Sleeping on an air mattress while in the third trimester of pregnancy for over 5 weeks and counting has been a particular challenge. Entertaining a toddler with the same half a dozen toys has required immense creativity. I came down with the flu within hours of landing and our son injured his foot within 10 days. It’s been spectacularly rainy and cold. All this to say, we’re overall totally fine, but it’s been rough. Add these difficulties to the completely overwhelming sensation of being a stranger in a strange land, which seems an odd thing to say when one is returning to the place of one’s birth, but the culture shock has indeed been more pronounced coming this way. Doubly true for the little guy, who has never lived here and only visited once when we was just months old.

It’s one thing to feel like an outsider in Korea, where I was indeed an outsider. It’s another thing to feel it in your own country. I know it will pass and I know it will get better. Our things will arrive, we’ll get into a routine, we’ll feel settled and comfortable again. All this will happen. In the meantime, our current circumstances are wearing thin.

Lent began yesterday and as I was reflecting on my lenten practice last year I was reminded of something: every thing we have, every moment we experience, is a gift. Lent calls us not only to seek justice and heal our relationships, it also calls us to see the reality that all of life’s blessings and challenges are gifts when we allow them to be. When we seek justice and beloved community, this truth becomes obvious.

So, my practice this year it seems will be about trusting that as physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable as I am right now, as long as I focus on what matters – my relationships, my community – all the pieces will fall into place. And in the meantime, rather than waiting for things to arrive and the house to be organized to feel like I can start living here,  I need to just start living.

Namaste, yogis. Thank you for reading my ponderings for the last three years. It was a great adventure.

This will be my last post on this site. I will continue to write on my other blog I Don’t Know and can be found on Twitter @MsVKH. 

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Lent and तपस् (Tapas)

Buckle your seatbelts; it’s February. Yes, already. If, like me, you thought New Year’s was just a few days ago, you might also be Meditation_by_Kokuzosurprised to realize that we’re already several days into the second month of this year.

Ash Wednesday is coming up very soon, marking the beginning of the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. I have never observed Lent as it wasn’t in my tradition growing up, but I have become familiar with it through the years. It is my understanding that it is a time of purification and renewal of commitment to faith proven through sacrifice, prayer, and good works. All of this, of course, in preparation to celebrate Easter Season, specifically the resurrection of Jesus.

These ideals of purification, sacrifice, good works are not unique to Christianity and can be found in all major religions and world philosophies. Yoga is no exception, although there is not a great deal of emphasis in yogic philosophy on penance mainly because the idea of sin doesn’t really exist within Yoga. Impurities, yes. Bad habits, absolutely. Mistaken thoughts, definitely. Bad choices that result in bad karma, most certainly. Original sin? Not so much

Despite this difference, I think there is a lot of common ground to be found between Lent and the yogic tapas, particularly if we choose to see the idea of Christian penance as corollary to the idea of facing karma.  Tapas means heat and the idea is to burn off the negative energy that we gather as we move through life in order to move ever closer to spiritual enlightenment. Tapas are not penance, but they can be done as penance, i.e. a means to liberate oneself from bad karma caused by a wrong thought, word, or deed. More commonly, however, tapas are thought of as a disciplined approach to our practice. They are the efforts and sacrifices we make to be self-disciplined as we purify our hearts and minds through our practice, moving closer to our spiritual goals.

So, as Lent prepares the believer, tapas prepare the practitioner, each for their chosen path. Something I find especially appealing about Lent is the idea of this practice being a form of justice.  The 40 days of prayer, fasting, and good works are forms of justice to God, oneself, and one’s neighbor, respectively. If we think of doing justice as “appreciating properly”, then we can see Lent and/or tapas as a practice that helps us to fully appreciate and recognize the Divine, ourselves, and all others.

The other thing this has me thinking about it how there need not be any conflict between Christianity and Yoga. It seems that a few times a year this debate heats up – can Christians practice Yoga? To me, the answer is clear. Of course they can! Though they may diverge on certain specific beliefs, the overarching message of both is the same: love, kindness, compassion, devotion, forgiveness.

Wishing you all an enlightening Lenten season, if that is your practice. For the first time this year, I am planning on doing my own 40 day meditation practice during Lent. I have done 40-day practices before, but never during the Christian Lenten period. I’m looking forward to sharing the energy of devotion with my Christian brothers and sisters.

Namaste.