I rushed out of the house yesterday morning to catch the bus to work, only to be stunned by the entire countryside coated in snow. It was drizzling when we went to bed the night before, so the dampness must have made the snow cling differently than it had in earlier falls this winter. It piled itself in steep mounds on each branch of every tree. The mountains glowed in layers of white as the ascending rows of trees looked as though they’d decided to sprout snow instead of leaves this year. The long thin branches of the young pines that lined the way to the bus stop humbly bowed, holding more than their own weight in aesthetic. I stopped for a moment and let out all my breath so that I could breathe one in, to inhale the crisp, clear, beauty of the moment. Soon, it will be gone.
On rainy days, and the occasions that it snows, the streets slow noticeable from their usual pace, sometimes to a crawl. Korea’s “Quickly, quickly! Go, go, go!” mentality translates into a lot of traffic accidents and even more collisions on the sidewalks. It’s not so bad to have a day now and then that makes us a little more mindful, or even mindful at all. The snow on the sidewalk was quickly becoming slush, in a noble display of impermanence. It made me especially aware of each step, the change in pressure on the soles of my feet as my weight transferred from one foot to the other. I’ve yet to take to walking meditation, but at these times, it takes over naturally, on its own. I remember last winter. I went for a hike a the small mountain by my house just after it had snowed. Fellow hikers were slipping and falling in font of and behind me, even the ones carrying two hiking poles and removable metal cleats. I remained mindful, and camera in hand, I made my way up the hill with a single slip. It was the first time I ever understood walking meditation.
Speaking of mindfulness, I figured it was time I put my mindfulness where my mouth is and sit on it, at last. It was really difficult, though. I’d been ignoring too many things over the past few weeks but it was getting to the point that I couldn’t anymore. In less than a minute, I was completely overwhelmed. It wasn’t by the usual, seamless string of thoughts, but something deeper. I really don’t know what, but probably a combination of things. I wasn’t aware of any sorrow, joy, frustration, or any other emotion. I think it was just that I’d finally stopped for a moment to look at what was going on, and it was a lot. I’d practically just sat down and my eyes suddenly began to fill with tears.
What ever it was, I wasn’t able to deal with it then, so I got up. For the next couple of days, I returned several times to my cushion, each time for just a minute or two. I was immediately agitated, I couldn’t sit comfortably, my back or my legs would immediately hurt, but I kept chipping away at it, one minute at a time. It kind of like if I haven’t shaved in a few weeks. It’s impossible to make a long stoke with the razor, but many short strokes are required to eventually cut through the thick stubble. Finally, tonight, I was able to sit peacefully for a decent amount of time. I didn’t get very deep, nearly a year of very limited sitting has set me back, but it felt great anyway. I noticed my stress melt away, like the snow outside.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spoken a lot about developing generosity and a simple life. Now that circumstance has but me in situation that requires me to live more simply than I have in a long time, and nearly all my energy and resources have gone to EunBong and Fina, why have I been fighting it all the way? Why not embrace what I essential asked for? That awareness hit me just about as hard as the cement wall did a couple of weeks ago, but with much more beneficial results. I’m still not sure if the ‘tock’ I heard was the sound made by my head or the sound made by hitting rock-bottom, but at least things are bouncing back up. I just have to catch myself halfway, and try to stay there a while!