The Monsoon

The monsoon, or changma as it is called here, is winding down. We had a few weeks of 20130731-135733.jpgalmost nonstop rain, and have now experienced a few days with some spots of sun. Weeks ago when we were all going bonkers from being locked up in the house for days on end, I was desperately wishing for the monsoon to end. Now that it does seem to be nearing its conclusion, though, I feel a bit sad, unready to let it go. It could be that this will be my last monsoon season here in Korea and that I am not likely to experience this kind of torrential rain ever again. Or it could be something more.

Before the monsoon begins, the entire peninsula is enveloped in a heat that can only be described as oppressive, a heat that is made less bearable by living in a densely populated urban environment. (Fresh air? What’s that?) Then the rains start and the peninsula is enveloped in -wait for it – more heat with the added bonus of air so thick and humid you think it may choke you. The rain provides zero relief from the heat and only exacerbates the physical discomfort of existing.  And yet, it is quite beautiful and somehow still refreshing. Everything feels cleaner and fresher, even if you yourself are rather smellier.

Gashmuit is a Hasidic concept meaning serving God through the physical or material world. The word comes from geshem, a Hebrew word for heavy rain. To use rain to encompass the physical and material, as opposed to the spiritual, does not seem an obvious choice. Rain is not solid like earth or rock. It is, literally, fluid and difficult to harness, in many ways not unlike wind (the base of the word used to describe the spiritual world). But rain we can see, we can feel, we can smell, we can taste.  And rain does have a heaviness to it. Not in the individual rain drops, of course, but in it’s cumulative effect and in it’s capacity to completely soak you in minutes. You can’t outrun it, you can’t escape it, and when it is ready to fall, it will fall. It must be taken seriously, even though you really can’t get your hands on it.

If you think of monsoon rains as something that you cannot control in any way but can have complete and utter control over you, it is perhaps a very fitting symbol for the physical world.

When the rain stops, Seoul will be spotted with lush greenery. The yellow dust that blows through in early summer will have settled. Every body and every thing will be ready to soak up some sun in preparation for a very cold winter. The monsoon will have cleansed and nourished the Earth and reminded us of just how powerful and fierce Nature can be.

So much of our time is spent trying to control, manage, and change physical reality. When we, instead, make an effort to live in harmony with Nature, it settles the dust that clouds our minds and hearts, cleanses and purifies us, and nourishes us for growth.

The last few months have been a time of intense emotional experience for me and I have craved clarity and new beginnings. Perhaps it is this craving that makes me feel unready to let go of the rain just yet. But I have been nourished, through my practice, through my relationships, through my internal rain, and when the rain stops, I will be well-prepared and nourished for growth.

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