my head

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Looking back, if I may, over the past five years of learning and three years of dedication, I’ve found it interesting how the Dhamma has come in a very linear progression, always relevant to what I need at the moment. When I began, again and again, I would hear the simplest teachings. When at last I grasped them, they ceased their appearance. Sometimes I would pickup a book that had laid around for months and it would answer something I’d had on my mind that week, or I could go to a talk and hear something pertaining to my struggles that morning.

It could just be that the stuff I wasn’t ready for just didn’t register, and I could probably reread some of the early things and find an entirely different book than what I remember. It would still interest me that I would choose to open that book at that moment and I’d wonder how Dhamma knew that’s what I needed to read. That said, I’ve also found myself in awe of how Dhamma knows when I need a swift kick in the rear!

I used to be a humble person, before I knew what being humble was. Then people started telling me that I was humble and I started getting a sense that “I” am humble. It was a while before I saw the pride that had arisen, now I could spin in circles trying to find a place between no pride and no humility. Thankfully, I can count on Dhamma to let me know when pride starts to arise and put me well back into place.

I usually transfer buses on the way to and from work. It ends up being faster than waiting for the only bus that brings me the whole way. Last week, I didn’t (for lack of a better description) *beep* my card between transfers. When I boarded the next bus and pressed my card against the sensor, not only did I lose my free transfer, but they charged me double fair, perhaps as a penalty for not letting the system in on my exact commute. As I sat for the rest of the ride, I watched my mind go from annoyed, to a bit angry, to, “how can I manipulate the system to get my $1.40 back?” Finally, mindfulness took over and I said to myself, “Is all this stress really worth a buck forty?” Wouldn’t I gladly pay a dollar and forty cents for peace of mind? Sure, of course! And I did. Instead of stopping there, I continued… How much would I pay for peace of mind? $1.40 was easy, what about $20? $100? $1000? If I could buy enlightenment for $1 000 000, I’d like to think I would. But loosing $1 000 000 would seem different. Anyway, I’m not likely to have a million dollars anytime soon, so there’s no point in thinking about it, but in the meantime, I was quite proud of my small triumph over money and was really curious to what extent I could apply it. As Dhamma would have it, before week’s end, I found myself literally banging my head against the wall!

When we moved into our apartment,  I was told the place was going to be “renovated” in a few months. Size wise, the place was great, though renovation was obviously long over due. Even after a month of scrubbing I eventually threw in the towel (it was torn to shreds!) and decided we’d put up with the place until May, by which time I could save up the $3000 deposit for a decent place, pay off my Visa, take care of my family and maybe even go on a few weekend trips to the countryside. That was until I “our apartment is being renovated” turned into “the entire block is being demolished” (I really have to learn Korean!). EunBong told me that our real estate agent found a nice place for us and we were moving as soon as I got paid (three days later) so that I could pay the deposit. And I also mysteriously owed her mother $250, $160 for her cell phone, and the gas bill came and was also about $160.   In retrospect, I don’t have any money but I’d give a good portion of what ever I do have for another chance to have been mindful that morning. The only mind that I had was, “Well, if this building is coming down anyway, my head against the already crumbling drywall a few times won’t cause any harm!” I was wrong about a couple things; first, I was wrong that there wasn’t a cement beam behind the drywall, and second, it did hurt! A lot!

EunBong thought I was joking as I fell back on the floor holding my head. She realized I wasn’t when I asked her to take the last $10 out of my pocket to buy some ointment for my head! If anything good did come out of it, it’s that sometimes it might take a good smack to the forehead to get some sense. Meditation would be preferable… We moved the next day and the our real estate guy, maybe still won over by the extra $50 we gave him, convinced our new landlord to let us pay the remaining $1000 of our deposit next month. Our latest home is really nice, and EunBong is happy, which is worth everything to me. She told me if she can do what ever she wants with our bedroom, I can do what ever I want with the small side room. Of course, I made a really nice tea room with a small meditation corner. Since the combination of becoming a father and working mornings, just the thought of meditating gives me an instant headache. It’s easier to not focus on the exhaustion now. I can’t deny that meditation is exactly what I need, though. The funny thing is, since the head incident, I’ve been the calmest in months. I realized what a foolish thing it was to do. I’d felt a little emotionally broke down since coming back in December, but that seems to be fixed. I’m broke for another month, but we’re in a better place now, and that’s worth it. Our ability to live simply has been well put to test. Five days later, the welt on my forehead is gone, just a little spot of pink on one side, and we’ve laughed about it a few times already. Sometimes, that’s all there is left you can do…  We might be ridiculous, but we’re happy! ^^

3 responses »

  1. Great post. Head-butting walls?! I always use my fist, but the cement walls in Korea are no good for either…. or for mobile phones… i’ve tried many things.🙂

    • thanks Joe.
      it’s been tough lately with no one I can really talk to.
      EunBong takes things the wrong way if I express any opinions that contradict her’s.
      I keep hoping you’ll tell me you’re coming back to Korea! haha

      I almost called you this morning, but as soon as I opened Skype, a friend in New York needed me to help her.
      It got too late to call, but I’ll try again soon!

  2. Hi Joseph,

    I know exaclty how you feel. When I was in Korea, Hailey and Josette were coming to my place and I was preparing some food before hand. I was draining the potatoes into the sink and they all fell in. I had to punch something and unfortunately the closest thing was a glass door – which shattered all over the floor and left me with a bloody, cut hand with glass lodged inside. I’ve realised, after similar incidents, that I really have to control/re-channel that kind of response or I could end up doing something really stupid.

    Great to read your blog – a lot of great experiences and insights you are sharing. And it’s inspiring to hear that your path along Dharma is so enriching.

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