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Back in Texas

10 Oct

I’ve been in the Austin, Texas area for about a month now. I have to admit that my landing has been a little less than elegant. A series of car issues and just a feeling of “adjustment” have had me feeling not quite on my feet.

I lived in the Austin area for a few years in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Known as an “evacuee” at the time, it was a powerful and transformational period for me. Returning almost 15 years later is quite a trip. Austin has, shall we say, exploded! Honestly, it was a bit of a jolt to see the maze of new highways, strip malls, building and shopping developments in the town I lived in and called home for a bit. As I’ve been here a while longer I have had glimpses of the town that I loved and the place that for a little while felt like “home.”

One of my favorite places to return to has been Unity Church of the Hills. This church was a bit of a refuge for me when I lived here post-Katrina. It’s where I first heard Gary Renard speak (author of Disappearance of the Universe) which had a major impact on my spiritual thinking. It’s where I went to a sound healing session and got my first truly deep restful nights sleep in the wake of the upheaval of hurricane Katrina. Years later, with new ministers at the helm, the church is as dynamic and alive as ever. Their message is so gentle, powerful and loving. It is a great community to take a dip in while I am here.

Black Tourmaline

After a year of traveling and house and pet sitting in the US, while in many ways I am so grateful for the diversion and new scenery (and still want more of it!), I am also a bit exhausted from the constant change and travel. More recently here in Austin I have found myself in need of a bit of an “attitude adjustment.” Stumbling upon a few friendly reminders like “laughter yoga” and the importance of laughter for health and even a “chance encounter” with a powerful healing stone, black tourmaline, to lift off some of the negativity (in myself and the world at large) have made a difference.

Some of the people I turn to for wisdom and advice talk about this time in general as one of great change and spiritual shift. Perhaps even an inner revolution of sorts. Can you feel it? I know I feel that myself, my world and the world are being rocked in a deep way.

When “the going gets rough” I turn to my favorite trusted resources to help smooth out the ride.

Young Living Oils Lavender and Valor

  • Young Living Essential Oils  These oils are my constant companion, especially when things feel a bit rough. Valor and Lavender (among many others) are a few big hitters that bring some groundedness, soften some of the anxiety, and restore a bit of equilibrium to my mind, body and being. Would you like to learn more?
  • Healthy eating.  Wow, it really makes a difference. I have to be honest, when I am stressed or feeling a lot of emotional intensity I want to run for comfort food. But I do my best to make good choices in times of stress. Eating a healthy base makes such a big difference in my body, mind and mood. It’s critical. Recently I’ve been revisiting the site of Kris Carr (https://kriscarr.com/), cancer survivor and wellness guru. I’ve especially loved reading about her meal planning tips (https://kriscarr.com/blog/kris-carr-crazy-sexy-meal-plan/) and exploring some of her recipes!
  • Spiritual Nourishment. I have to say, I love God. And for me spiritual nourishment, connection comes in many forms. My daily reiki practice. My buddhist chanting practice of Nam-myoho renge kyo. Time in nature. Being inspired by the beautiful music of “Celebration” at Unity Church of the Hills. It’s all good. And for me, it’s all needed, helpful, useful and inspiring. What do you turn to for your spiritual nourishment?

When I feel like I am in the dark, I also appreciate pulling a few cards. Sometimes this means a tarot reading from my own deck or a professional reading. I also enjoy getting a quick burst of insight from Collette Barron Reid’s online card ap (https://www.colettebaronreid.com/). I am amazed at how often her cards deliver a morsel of wisdom that helps me refocus, regroup, realign in way that is meaningful and helpful.

Here’s wishing you a little peace, wisdom and laughter wherever you are in the world, whatever your journey!

Reiki Giveaway

22 Nov

Do you know about Reiki?  Perhaps you are a friend or family member and have heard me talk about Reiki or received a treatment from me over the years. Maybe you’ve heard Reiki mentioned in the media, a movie, or casually mentioned by a friend.  Reiki has been a part of my life for over ten years now.  I stumbled upon it quite accidentally, but it’s now such an integral part of my world for me it’s akin to breathing.  I just can’t imagine life without it.

Reiki has been a big part of my international journey that has now expanded over nearly five years and seven countries.  My first big international leap was into the safe… yet unpredictable… haven in Wettenbostel, Germany where I was graciously met and supported by a team of Reiki Masters running a seminar house.  A Reiki Master from the Netherlands generously hosted me for a month at her home near Amsterdam. A Reiki connection introduced me to the wonderful work exchange site helpx.net.  Also, a Reiki friend made a connection which led me to spend 7 months in Vienna, Austria. Along the way I have given and received Reiki treatments and met new folks in the international Reiki community.flowers of thailand

My home base Reiki Master and teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, has truly been my co-pilot on this journey endlessly giving of herself, her time and her wisdom to assist me on this twisty and at times challenging international odyssey.  And I can’t forget my committed network of Reiki friends in New Orleans and beyond, all of us united in Reiki and support for one another.

What is Reiki you might ask?  In its essence it is a simple and transformative tool that supports healing. It is my faithful companion after a long day or anxious moment.  It is my go-to place when I feel a little cold coming on. It is the first place I turn when a friend or family member is sick or challenged in some way.  And most of all, for me Reiki is a journey that I am learning to lean into… one day at a time… and (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly) watch my life unfold from a deep and transformative place.

flowersofthailandHawayo Takata, the Japanese-American woman who spread Reiki beyond Japan is known for saying that she wanted Reiki to be as common as taking an aspirin.   Indeed, Reiki is the first place I turn when I have a headache (a rare thing for me with my regular Reiki practice).

Reiki healing takes on all shapes and sizes, from slow, quiet change and restoration to the more dramatic and “miraculous”.  I met a Reiki Master who rid herself of cancer through her Reiki journey.  I have felt a friend’s dislocated rib snap back into place under my hands during a Reiki treatment after a fall in a bathtub.  I have moved through a virus in two days time that had others down for weeks.  And I have quietly soothed, softened and nurtured my own panic and anxiety after a troubling day or moment.

With the healing path of Reiki, the best practice (and indeed an important part of the journey and its lessons) is to let go of expectations and simply… experience what is there for you…. whatever it may be.

Are you curious about Reiki?  If so, I would love to share it with you.  I am giving away two 60-minute distant Reiki treatments.  What is a distant treatment?  The practice of Reiki is traditionally offered in two ways, hands-on and distantly. A hands on treatment, learned in the First Degree Reiki class, includes the gentle laying on of hands and direct contact with the hands and the client’s body.  A distant treatment, learned in 2nd Degree Reiki, is a tool that allows the practitioner to send the Reiki energy anywhere regardless of time and space.

Curious?  Interested but skeptical?  Would you like to try it?  If you’d like to be considered, simply write me a note through the contact form on this blog.  Let me know, in just a sentence or two or at length if you are inspired, why you would like a Reiki treatment.  I will allow two weeks from the posting of this blog for people to write and then choose two folks to receive a distant Reiki treatment.  I will contact you via email if you are chosen and we can work out the details.

If you’d like to learn more about Reiki, you can visit my Reiki page with more details about Reiki treatments as well as some quality Reiki links.

Thanks for reading.  It would be my pleasure to share a little Reiki with you and in some way support your journey the way Reiki and the people of Reiki have supported mine.

 

Featured photos – the colors and flowers of Thailand.  I am amazed how color is popping everywhere no matter what time of year it is.  Here it is in November and while friends and family are starting to bundle up for the winter, we are here surrounded by sun and vibrant color.

 

Traveling the World with Anxiety

1 Jun

No, Anxiety is not the name of my spouse, best friend or significant other.  This is not the story of how Anxiety and I quit our corporate jobs and headed off happily into the sunset to see the world together.  But, in its own way, Anxiety has been a faithful companion.  When I first shared the idea of traveling the world, Anxiety was… well…hesitant to say the least.  Nevertheless, I put a few belonging in storage, packed up my bags, and Anxiety and I began an adventure together.

“Free spirits” come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  For me, my desire to have adventures and see the world is saddled with my own challenges with anxiety.  At its worst it’s been paralyzing, but in the daily rhythm and play of life it typically ranges from light to moderate.  Frequently present.  Notably there.  Anxiety.

The point is Anxiety (or fill in the blank with your personal flavor of challenge) doesn’t have to be the death sentence or curtain call on a life of travel and adventure.  I am not your typical traveler and I have learned to more peacefully make my way as I weave my life with new experiences, cultures, people, surroundings.  I take things more slowly, I plan things more carefully, and I allow plenty of time to be on my own.  I also make things like spiritual practice and healthy eating a priority no matter where I am in the world.

In truth takings risks and having experiences in new cultures is in itself an antidote for anxiety.  There is something healing about getting out of familiar waters and swimming in a world with a different syncopation from your own.  New and more liberating patterns begin to develop. The more I stretch myself, the more healthy risks I take and new successful experiences I have, the more peaceful this life with Anxiety becomes.

I can still remember my first major breakthrough I had traveling with Anxiety.  I was working and living at a seminar house in Germany.  Every weekend the house was filled with participants attending the workshop of the week.  Being surrounded by so many people on a daily basis sent Anxiety shooting through my spine.  Just the sound of their voices in the morning typically sent my body into intense nervous positioning.  Until one day.  One day I was lying in bed and when I heard the voices of the participants coming down the stairs, rather than be tangled with Anxiety I found I was… excited to hear them.  Glad they were there.  And so began the unfolding of transforming my life traveling with Anxiety.

Still today, four years later, Anxiety and I haven’t yet parted ways.  Anxiety hasn’t willfully gone its own way, packing its bags and going off to India or perhaps returning to the States. It’s still there, sharing my morning cup of tea, questioning my decision-making, planning the events for the week.  Undoubtedly our relationship has softened.  Life with Anxiety is easier, way easier than when we first left the States together four years ago.

There are some things I have learned to count on to soften the daily cry of Anxiety while I am roaming the world.  They are the first things that I pack and have become some of my new companions, ushering in more peace and comfort no matter where I am in the world.

1.  Reiki.  Reiki is one of my daily spiritual practices.  It is something I first discovered over ten years ago on a flier at a yoga studio in New Orleans.  Reiki is a very simple practice of connecting with a healing energy that is deeply relaxing and healing.  I am so grateful that after a nervous or challenging day or moment, I can simply lay my hands on myself and receive Reiki and much of that nervousness is just washed away.  If you’d like to know more about Reiki, you can visit my Reiki page or feel free to contact me.

2.  Art of Living Practices.  Ten years ago in New Orleans I took a class from an organization called the Art of Living founded by Indian Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  The organization came to New Orleans to assist the people with getting back to life after the impact of Hurricane Katrina.  I learned their foundational spiritual tool, the Sudarshan Kriya.  This is now a daily practice and how I nearly always start my day.  It melts away pain, discomfort and anxiety and puts me in a softer, better place.  Recently I attended their second course, The Art of Silence.  The course deepened my understanding and appreciation of their practices and also deepened my own spiritual reservoir creating a space for greater inner, unshakable peace.

3.  Healthy Eating.  It is a priority for me to eat healthy and balanced meals no matter where I am in the world.  I have learned that for me life with Anxiety is exponentially better WITHOUT SUGAR AND CAFFEINE.  Additionally, I find I feel better without eating any added preservatives or chemicals.  I also eat Gluten Free.  This is not easy on the international road, but it makes a big difference and truly is part of what makes this international life “doable” for me.  When arriving to a new country, I do my best to get the lowdown on the food contents there, to sniff out a few healthy restaurants and groceries where I can shop, and then begin to build a healthy food base for myself.

4.  Taking time for myself.  There is so much pressure in life to go, go, go.  But the truth is I feel so much better when I have time for myself.  So I do my best to create and allow for generous portions of time on my own without much on the agenda.

5. Yoga.  I first began practicing yoga in New Orleans almost 15 years ago.  It was my first step in using spiritual practices to soften and heal my personal and physical challenges.  It is something I have taken on the road and try to work into my daily life.  Even just ten or 15 minutes on the mat makes a difference.  Whether I am doing yoga in the fields of France, or in my room in Thailand, yoga is a constant companion and a place I can always come home to. Yoga classes have not always been available on my journey, so I have relied on my own personal yoga practice.  I check out local studios when available.  From time to time, I have also done a yoga class on the web from sites like doyogawithme.com.  My friend Miss Amanda at Inner Lift Yoga also has a great online video.

6.  Chanting with SGI Buddhism.  I began chanting with SGI Buddhism about four years ago.  I was invited to a meeting and couldn’t help but notice the powerful current generated from their chanting.  I was encouraged to try chanting for myself and chant for things I wanted in my life.  Surprisingly they easily flowed into being.  I began a regular chanting practice and it’s as if the current of my life is flowing more abundantly and heartily.  My daily chanting practice brings positive attention to those thing that are on my mind or that I am concerned about.  It softens the edges of my fears and anxiety.  And often it connects me with powerful community as SGI Buddhism meets all over the world.  Whether I am living in Vienna, Austria or visiting family in small town Missouri, I have access to the much appreciated community and support of SGI Buddhism.

7.  Supporting Others.  Finally, I have learned that it’s healthy to take time daily to focus my attention on others.  I mostly do this through my spiritual practices including sending Reiki to others needs or chanting for others.  I also enjoy taking action to support friends and acquaintances on their own personal journeys and adventures in ways that work in my life.  Supporting others rounds out the well-being of my life.

Anxiety and I, we’re not perfect.  We still have our challenges and ups and downs.  But I am so grateful that I “took the leap” and was willing to say “yes” to my sense of adventure rather than just “yes” to Anxiety.  With the support of family, friends and mentors, I followed my delight and inspiration.  It’s not always the easy road.  Often the challenging road.  But traveling the world with Anxiety…well… it has made all the difference.

 

 

Earn Your Living Honestly

30 Apr

The strange days of Gyeonggi English Village continue.  Quiet campus.  No classes.  It is clear that, at least for the short-term, Korean students will not be taking class trips anywhere as mandated by the local government after the Ferry tragedy.  How long will this continue?  We don’t yet know.  For now we plan lessons for programs that may not happen.  And we wait for our administration to formally announce their decisions regarding how they will handle this situation.

I am learning that life at English Village is never dull.  In the year I have been here I have seen financial challenges, shortened teacher contracts followed by mass teacher exodus, questioning if English Village would shut down, and now this.  Recently I asked a teacher how he was doing in the face of the current circumstances.  He just kind of laughed and smiled… and said, essentially, just another day in the life at English Village.  When he first arrived here a few years ago, there was an outbreak of swine flu.  For at least a month, teachers at EV were quarantined to their homes and no students could come.  And while this current chapter has its own complexities and is burdened with tragic events, it is possible it is just another dip in the bumpy history of English Village.

We hear news of possibilities developing… 6 week international programs in the summer, perhaps more international and military students coming soon.  But for now there are big gaps in the English Village calendar and a fairly large staff of teachers with no one to teach.  We hear our administration will likely offer leave to some teachers to soften the financial blow of paying teachers with no programs.  But that full story is yet to be revealed.

In the meantime, this seems like a great time to explore the 5th Reiki precept in my Reiki Precept blog series.  As I have mentioned, Reiki is a gentle but powerful healing and spiritual practice that has been part of my life for over ten years.  The 5 Precepts are simple guidelines to assist us on our path of life.  I explored the first four Precepts in earlier blogs.  They are:

1.  Just for Today Do Not Worry.

2.  Just for Today Do Not Anger.

3. Honor your Parents Teachers and Elders.

4.  Show Gratitude to Every Living Thing.

The fifth and final Precept  is Earn Your Living Honestly.Earn Your Living Honestly

I have always appreciated this precept and attempted to use it as a beacon when exploring how I earn my living.  For me, earning your living honestly isn’t about not lying and cheating.  It is about being honest with yourself and seeking to be in integrity with yourself and the world around you when it comes to earning your living.  In my life this has included seeking work that truly feels aligned with who I am and what I want.  At times it has meant simply stepping up and taking some action to support myself… even if the work at hand didn’t fit my ideas of what I wanted to do.  It has meant practicing being present and simply tackling the task at hand, whatever it may be…. when I was in Germany it was often cleaning up rooms for guests or tackling a mountain of dishes after a busy meal.  Somehow it seems like it is about seeing the truth in yourself and others and having the work you do be a reflection of that truth.

As my current work is bending and stretching in unexpected ways,this precept seems like a good place to land. Somehow there is comfort and strength in its message that can be like a fortress in the midst of a storm.

For this week, I will continue to lean on the spirit of this precept and see what wisdom it has to offer me. I invite you to do this same if you are inspired.  What does this precept mean for you?

Good-bye for now from the hushed campus of Gyeoggi English Village.

 

Featured photo on top from a favorite near-by walking path in Paju just outside Gyeonggi English Village.

It’s Alright

17 Apr

It’s a cool and grey day at English Village and the last day of my mid-week weekend.  I am at home listening to music, in part to drown out the English Village music leaking persistently through my windows. The music is featured songs from English Village Musicals and there are speakers all over campus.  While I appreciate the creativity and effort of these original songs, we hear them all day over and over again.   With lyrics like “being a hero takes HARD WORK!” and “you can beat the monster….” it can be a bit… haunting… to say the least.  If you work at English Village, feel free to sing along.  You know the words.

It has been an average week for me filled with the typical ups and downs of life teaching Korean adolescents.  Many of the students this week were truly great.  With varying levels of English ability, I met many students with kind attitudes and welcoming spirits in the classroom.  Inevitably there are also students who just wouldn’t respond not matter what I said.  This includes simple discipline requests… asking a student not to do something and they just stare at me and continue to do it or wait one second for me to leave and do it anyway.  I am practicing cultivating my more laid back attitude, aspiring to be of service and be a good teacher but also… to just not sweat it, whatever it is.

Middle school is known for being a time when many things are of the utmost importance, including physical appearance.  While this is an issue to many a young teen across the globe, it seems to be of particular importance here in Korea.  It is common place and often a distraction in the classroom to see young Korean girls with their own personal mirror looking at their face or placing their hair just so.  At first I thought this was very strange but now it is just part of regular life.  This focus on physical appearance, however, also extends towards the teachers.  Some students get surprisingly excited by attractive men or women teachers sometimes following after them like they are celebrities.  This lends itself to flattering comments to teachers when they like their appearance but also less kind comments when they think the opposite. Some days this feeds well on the ego with comments like “pretty teacher.”  Other days it can be a bit of a challenge when a less kind comment is said or over heard.  I have had my share of both experiences.  This week, however, on a day that I was feeling “less than beautiful” a student said something to me perhaps not intended to be mean, but truly less than kind and something I did not need to hear. Teaching in Korea at times… is not for the faint of heart.

As you may have noticed by now, this international escapade is not just my story of seeing the world.  It is really a spiritual adventure. I do my best to pay attention, learn and grow from the challenges I meet day-to-day.  I am currently practicing reducing my stress level in part through reducing my reaction to what is happening around me.  With this perspective I am considering how I may respond to ups and downs of life more like an wise observer.   This lighter hold on life creates the freedom to choose what to respond to and what to simply let be.  This is of course a practice. Some moments it seems available… and other times I find I am riddled and wrought in reaction.

This space that I explore is nicely echoed in a tune playing right now on Pandora.com.  It is a little Louisiana delight by Curley Taylor and the Zydeco Trouble as they simply coo “It’s Alright“.  Nothing like some Louisiana tunes to sooth my soul… and inspire my mind. Incidentally, the name of their album is Free Your Mind.  And so it seems perhaps that is what I am up to… little by little… step by step….

As I have done these past few weeks, I would like to continue my visitation of the 5 Precepts of Reiki . It has been good for me to review them and have them more active and present in my life.  They are good reminders that I can simply choose to not worry and not anger… and if I miss the mark, it’s okay.  I can try again in the next moment.  It’s not a rule, only a practice.

The next precept to explore is “Honor Your Parents Teachers and Elders“. Honor

I love this precept but I am earnestly still getting to know the truth of its message.  For me, the first step is to distinguish that honor is not the same as obey.  To honor one’s parents or teachers does not mean simply that you do what they say or wish.  It is perhaps more like an acknowledgment that values both parties. A healing-arts practitioner I visited with not long ago offered that the best way you can honor your parents is to be true to yourself.  To me honor feels like a loving gentle bow sending appreciation their way, appreciating them for who they truly are, and also doing your best to reflect the best things in them through your own actions.

Do you have any insight or experience to share about honor?  What does it mean to truly honor someone? And how is that distinct in your life?

My own music has quieted down and the English Village music is sneakily invading my apartment.  And so continues a day in the life at English Village.  The words of the song outside shout “Hard work”… but instead I will leave you with the cool easy message of the Zydeco Trouble… “It’s Alright!”

Featured photo, the gentle blossoms of Spring at English Village.

The Students are Coming!

10 Apr

It was a warmish Spring Monday at English Village.  The air was fresh and clean. It felt great to be outside for a bit before our busy day began.  I was lined up with around thirty of my fellow teachers awaiting the arrival of our newest group of students. Finally, there they were, coming down main street and around the bend.  The street filled with adolescent Korean bodies diminishing in the distance into tiny beings. As we watched them descend towards us, they kept coming and coming…as if an endless assembly of students, until, at last, they had all arrived.

Later that day when students were dressed in their informal attire, I couldn’t help but notice that many of them were wearing the same shirt.  It said… “The Sexy Face” in logo fashion similar to “The North Face,” a brand very popular in Korea.  “It’s a class t-shirt,” an English Village teacher informed me.  “Surprising,” I thought.  How strange it seemed for middle school students, boys and girls, to have a class shirt with that message.

“Sexy” easily drips out of the mouths of Korean middle-school students. It helps to consider, as I am told, that the word “sexy” has a bit of a different meaning in Korea than it does in the United States and standard English.  As I understand it, in Korea it means more like pretty with perhaps less of an emphasis on the “sex” part.  Even so, when I was teaching a smallish class of girls only and removed my clumpy brown coat revealing a more form-fitting sweater underneath, the response from the students was “teacher sexy.”  Such is life in Korea.

Perhaps “sexy” in Korea fits into a category of words known as Konglish.  Simply put these are English or English sounding words that have a different meaning here in Korea.  Many of these words, commonly spoken in Korea, would likely be misunderstood by most English speakers.  Here are some examples.  “Eye shopping” is Konglish for window shopping.  “Oil” is Konglish for gas.  And “cunning” is Konglish for cheating.  Here is a more complete list of Konglish words if you are curious.

In previous posts I have been revisiting the 5 precepts of Reiki, a spiritual practice that has been a part of my world for over ten years. The precepts can be thought of as guidelines to cultivate a higher quality of life and happiness. I brought them up because, in truth, I have felt stressed at work lately. Reminding myself of these precepts is a way to re-center myself and to keep my focus on a healthy and balanced path.  The first precept is “Just for Today Do Not Worry.”  The second is “Just for Today do Not Anger“.  Here is the third precept:Gratitude

Show Gratitude to Every Living Thing.
Ah, this one is a great reminder!  Particularly when one is faced with large groups of adolescent children who mostly just want to go wild in the classroom.  Like the other precepts, I see this as a call to be more mindful and refocus attention to showing gratitude to all living things in my life.  People, animals, plants.  It helps to restore an attitude of reverence and also helps me to take it slow and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of life.

For the coming week, I will be intentional about calling my attention to this precept.  Would you like to join me?

This week I am also revisiting creativity a bit.  With my regular pattern of busy days of teaching and my desire to just take it easy when I am not, I have found my creative life has gone to the wayside.  What is creativity for you?  For me it is writing, drawing, painting, poetry, playing and writing simple songs.  When I feel connected to my creativity, it seems these things just flow like a river.  I simply dip my toe in and there it is.  But lately, it has felt dry and my desire and willingness to visit the flow has been… slim… to none.  I read a post recently by writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author Eat, Pray, Love) offering the suggestion of spending just 30 minutes a day on whatever your creative project is.  This was a big help for me as it gives me a tangible and doable way to pick up the creative path in the midst of being exhausted or busy. When I am so tired and don’t want to do anything, I can say to myself “hey, it’s only 30 minutes!”  This simple strategy has already helped me pick up a painting I started months ago but have just been staring at for weeks.  30 minutes.  Very doable!

How about you and your life?  Any gratitude to share?  Creative yearnings or frustrations to express?  It’s always good to hear from you!  Bye for now from my regular irregular life at Gyeonggi English Village!

 

Featured photo, “The students are coming!  The students are coming!”  Hundreds of students arrive for their time at Gyeonggi English Village.

Cultivating Happiness

3 Apr

It is a grayish Thursday today at Gyeonggi English Village.  I am not working as my days off have shifted to Wednesday and Thursday.  Much to my relief, Spring is making herself known in more clear displays lately.  It makes a big difference to walk out to a fresh, warmish sometimes sunny day.

Here are some sure signs of Spring I captured in Paju and English Village!

This past weekend I took the day off on Sunday and traveled to Seoul to visit with my Soka Gakkai Buddhist friends. With the preceding cold winter months plus my weekends occupied by work, it has been a while since we have connected.  In their typical generous form, they set aside a portion of their day and we met in a member’s home to study, share and chant.  It never fails that our time together serves as an attitude shift and a wake-up call for me.  I arrived a little down and left feeling changed somehow.

My biggest insight of the day was when one of the members offered this perspective.  He said sometimes when a fellow SGI member hears you are going through a challenge or a hard-time their response may be, “Congratulations!”  Sound strange?  The teachings of SGI invite me to consider that challenges are truly the key to happiness.  They bring us new opportunities for growth and lessons. Additionally, they provide the circumstances to practice staying in the space of optimism, joy and persistence and build an unshakable foundation of happiness.  “Congratulations!” is a great reminder to me to shift my attitude, to not be faltered by whatever challenge or disappointment I might be facing, and to continue courageously on my journey.

My past three years as a member of SGI and particularly my time with my group in Seoul has helped me to reframe my ideas about happiness. While many good things have come my way, I have also faced and continue to face many challenges.  SGI helps me to have a grateful attitude regarding challenges and to consider within this pursuit is… happiness.

Are you facing some challenges in your life right now?  If so, congratulations!  Feel better?  I did.  Just this simple response helped me to shift the space from being a victim to someone who could handle whatever was presenting itself.  It helped me to feel my power.  And of course, chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” helps too!  Are you curious about chanting?  If so, check out this video that briefly introduces how to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

This past week we saw once again the big energy and more hectic Spring pace at GEV. We continue to receive busloads of students for their brief 2 night 3 day escapade in the land of English.  We also explore the balance of creating a fun and engaging environment for kids with the limitations of our current curriculum and program structure.

As Spring shows her face and life wakes up after the cold, quiet days of winter, it seems well-suited to continue to explore the Reiki Precepts.  As I introduced in last week’s blog, Reiki is a healing art that originated in Japan and has been a big part of my life for the past ten years.  There are Five Precepts in Reiki that are simply guidelines for happy living.  If you are curious about last week’s blog, you can visit it here. This week we will explore the second precept.

Do Not Anger

Just for today to not anger.

This one has always been a doozie for me.  Historically, anger has been my right hand man and a habit that can be easily triggered in myself and my life.  I think the message of this precept is to bring some mindfulness to our tendencies with anger. When I pay attention to this precept in my life, I can notice my inclination to turn to my friend anger in situations that may be frustrating or challenging and simply choose not to go there.  When I am mindful I am aware that I am the one brewing up the fire of anger in me.  I can turn up the heat and I can turn it off too.  This one is not easy for me, but like Reiki, it is simply a practice.  I may succeed one moment and fail another.  The gift is to continue to practice and do my best not to judge.

I think for a long time I thought that I needed anger to be safe and protect myself.  This precept is a gentle reminder that “do not anger” is earnestly for our own happiness and that as we continue to cultivate this awareness, it is our own selves who benefit most.

(A side note… While finishing this blog I got an interesting workout with this precept with a finicky internet connection and quirky blog program…)

The artwork above is one in a series I created on all five of the precepts.  If you would like to view them all or even purchase a print or card for yourself, please visit fineartamerica.com/profiles/nancie-teresa-biver.html.

My mid-week-weekend is winding down.  I went to Seoul today for my first dental visit in Korea.  Overall, it was a mostly non-traumatic experience.  The dentist spoke English.  The office was posh and inviting.  I was a little shocked when the hygienist threw something on my face that covered everything but my mouth during the cleaning… but ultimately, I recovered.  Just a restful evening ahead before I roll into a new week.

How are things in your world?  It is always good to hear from you!

Just for Today

25 Mar

It’s a Monday morning at English Village in Paju, South Korea.  My work week is complete and I have a few days break before it starts all over again.

This past week was bursting with middle school students and a few extra surprises.  On Thursday morning I walked out my door to find a parade of serious looking Korean men wearing black suits and ties.  I didn’t think too much of it as I have learned to expect the unexpected here.  As I walked further into campus it was soon clear that something out of the ordinary was happening.  English Village is often a hot spot for an assortment of activity – wedding photo shoots, movies and television shows, commercial shootings.  What was the excitement today?  None other that EXO.

EXO

Who is EXO you may say?  In the land of Korean K-pop, in the company of top stars like Psy and his world-famous “Gagnam Style“, is EXO.  I know of EXO mostly by way of their doting fans, our adolescent Korean students, mostly girls.  On more than one occasion a student’s art project of the day has been dedicated to EXO.  From time to time as they map out their future life for a class assignment it includes a marriage to one of EXO’s members.  And there they were… at English Village.

The guys in the ties and black suits were security.  It was a good thing too as I am sure you can imagine what happened.  Many of our Korean girl students have a tendency towards high-pitched screaming  and excitability.  It was not uncommon throughout the day to hear bursts of girls screaming in enthusiasm as they leaned their bodies at the edge of the security barricade trying to get just a little closer.  During class break, and sometimes during classes, you could see their faces glued to the windows just hoping for a glance.

EXO was at English Village for two full days until at last… they left….returning to our regular irregularity. That is until two of the students were diagnosed with the swine flu.  This required a quick health check-up for the entire visiting student body.  Then mostly healthy and drama free, it was time to go home.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, it is an adjustment for me to return to the bustling world of our mostly adolescent young learners program after my brief hiatus in the more serene world of Book Club.  I am doing my best to have a relaxed attitude with myself and the students and classes but sometimes I find this challenging.

We have had to adjust our attitudes towards programs at English Village as they have morphed and changed over the past year.  What originally was a one-week program that was fun spirited but still had some academic intent has shifted into a two-night three-day program with more of a fun camp-like feeling. It was a necessary shift.  Our students arrived expecting and being sold a fun class trip. They were ready for a few days of fun and good times – not to study English. Also our students are tired and overworked from the rigors of school and academic expectations in South Korea.

It is easy to have compassion for our busy overworked students. As you may know, life for a student in Korea is very challenging. They are in school during what I would consider regular school hours.  Most students, however, also have a busy “after school” school life when they study English and possibly other disciplines.  They attend an after school, have dinner there, and stay well into the evening.  I have heard stories of parents typically picking up their child at the Library at midnight… on a “school night.”

When they come to English Village ready to have some fun, however, this is not always fun for the teacher.

This past week I had a group of students who were very challenging for me.  They pretended they didn’t understand or speak any English when I know for a fact that they did. They wouldn’t respond to even simple requests like stand up… and acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about and continued on with their own personal parties.  They wouldn’t answer questions. Didn’t participate. Not all classes are like this.  But it wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.

And so continues the busy spring world of teaching at Gyeonggi English Village.  It seems like a good time to visit some tools that I find useful to ease the mind with the ups and downs of regular life. They are the Reiki Precepts.

Reiki as some of you may know is a Japanese healing art and a practice that I have participated in for about ten years.  Once one attends a Reiki class and is initiated, what follows is a simple but powerful practice of laying ones’ hands on yourself or another and allowing the healing energy to flow through.  The precepts are sort of guidelines, or friendly reminders that support a life of happiness, well-being and balance.  It’s always good to revisit them.

I like to consider them one at a time, reintroducing them into my mind and life as a daily reminder.  Here is the first Reiki Precept.

do not worry

Just for today do no worry.
This is a great one.  Simple and true.  I often forget to be mindful of this basic but powerful precept as I go about my worrying ways.  Sometimes when I feel that my life is out of my control, I think I actually worry to give myself something “to do” about it.  Recalling this precept is a good reminder to let it go and just practice… just for today… do not worry.

I created original images for each of the five precepts. The image you see here is from that series. If you’d like to view them all and possibly purchase a print or card for yourself, you can visit my on-line gallery.

How about you?  What do you think of this precept?  Do you have any experience or related insight that would be fruitful to share?  If so, please do.  It’s always good to hear from you.

While it’s a day off for me, it is also the start of a new week at English Village and the next crew of students is arriving.  I can hear the wheels of their suitcases and happy voices rolling down the street outside my window.  And so begins another week at English Village.

 

Featured photo, a day off in Seoul strolling down a quiet street in Itaewon.

Reiki Break

16 Jan

It’s a quiet day at English Village.  Winter is here, but it’s not making a big fuss. Sure, it’s blowing around some icy cold air. Whispering, “you might want to think twice about that walk outside.”  Overall, it’s being generally well-behaved….but still winter, nonetheless.

The program I have been teaching these past couple of months at English Village is nearing an end.  It’s a book club targeted to blossoming English readers as young as 3 to as old as 8 or 9.  The students are grouped into small classes by age and reading ability and spend some of their time here reading different character stories including Clifford, Nate the Great and Arthur.  There are weekday and Saturday classes but after January 24, the weekday classes will exist no more.  My book club co-teacher and I will likely be relocated to new (or old) pastures, teaching somewhere else in the Gyeonggi English Village landscape.

With the polite, but still cold weather my motivation for venturing out and about continues to slide.  Lately I am doing my best to engage and entertain myself mostly at the home front.  I have started training once a week at the on-campus weight room with one of our English teachers who is also an experienced trainer.  As it’s been perhaps 20 years since I have been in a weight room, mostly occupied with the gentle work of yoga in the interim, it is a bit of an adjustment to my mind, body and being.  While reacquainting myself with the various exercises, I do my best to maintain the balanced attitude and physical stature of yoga while still responding adequately to the heavy (to me!) weights descending upon my body. The intention is to build some strength… but my desire is to do so in a moderate way.

I continue to lead a weekly yoga class for interested teachers at English Village.  This week there was a little twist in the routine as I led a yoga class for elementary and middle school students studying and living here for a month-long program.  Leading yoga for younger people continues to be a new experience for me.  I am still finding my feet or perhaps my wings when teaching yoga to kids. Overall, the class went really well.  While they weren’t exactly hoisting me onto their shoulders and chanting “yoga!  yoga!” when it was finished, I would call it a success.  There were 31 pre-adolescent Korean girls tightly packed in a very cold room at 4pm in the afternoon. They were generally quiet and mostly engaged throughout the entire class.  I say, “Bravo!”

Recently I began offering Reiki treatments to teachers here at English Village. Reiki, as you may know, is a spiritual practice of mine for nearly ten years.  It is a simple but powerful spiritual tool and healing art that originated in Japan.  An intrigued collection of teachers have responded to the call and received a hands on Reiki-treatment.  For some, they share it is their first time trying something “like this…”  It seems their reasons to try Reiki are many – curiosity, health and healing, a need for restoration and relaxation.  I am really grateful to be able to offer to those who are interested here.  Often there is nothing like a Reiki treatment to turn over a new leaf, get past a cold, regain some balance, or just really let go if even for a little bit.

I have heard my Reiki teacher compare taking a Reiki class, typically a two or three-day commitment, to going on a Hawaiian vacation. Indeed, it is truly a restorative break to bask extensively in the practice and energy of Reiki.

I can recall, over 5 years ago, when I traveled to an annual Reiki gathering at a retreat center in the pristine forests of Oregon. Collectively as Reiki students, practitioners and teachers, we spent the whole weekend giving each other Reiki treatments, sharing, and listening to stories from some of the leaders of our Reiki tradition.  After that time away from the city and dipping in Reiki for days, I was amazed to see that a problem that was persistently on my mind prior to the gathering was completely resolved within me.  I felt at ease and wholeheartedly clear as to what I needed to do.  I returned to New Orleans, my home at the time, and fearlessly and easily took action on that insight. Good things naturally flowed afterwards. Self-Reiki-Badge

While I am here with quiet time at English Village, my Reiki practice is one of the things I lean on.  At the foundation of my practice is daily self-treatments.  Part of the beauty of Reiki is that you can easily give it to yourself.  We are taught in classes that Reiki is for self first.  After nearly ten years of practice, daily self-treatments are almost like breathing to me. It’s hard to imagine a day without them.  Reiki Master Pamela Miles has created a badge to bring to light and honor the importance of daily Reiki self-treatments.  Click on the red badge to learn more.

In addition to self-treatment and giving hands-on treatments to people here,  I also send Reiki daily to friends and family all over the world.  As a second degree practitioner, I can do what is known as a distance Reiki treatment and send Reiki to people, places and situations anywhere and at any point in time. An interesting benefit of Reiki is that sending it to others it is actually a way to care for myself. As I send daily to the needs and requests of others, I just feel better.  It’s amazing how while sending Reiki the thoughts and entanglements of the day begin to dismantle.

As a traveler, how lucky I am that no matter where I am in the world, I have Reiki with me.  All I need to do is give myself a treatment to begin to melt away whatever it is… a cold or flu, anxiety, fatigue.

Are you curious about Reiki or perhaps a Reiki practitioner yourself?  Do you have your own Reiki story to share? It would be fun to hear from you!  I am also happy to answer any questions about Reiki.  Ask away. If you’d like to experience Reiki for yourself, you can always request a distant Reiki treatment.  If you are in South Korea, a hands-on treatment may also be an option.  Visit my Services page to learn more.

Here is a simple video introducing Reiki presented by Reiki Master Pamela Miles.  If you would like to learn Reiki for yourself, there are teachers all over the world!  Here is a database of teachers and classes in the Usui Shiki Ryoho system, the traditional system that I know and trust.  I can also recommend my teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, located in New Orleans but willing to travel for classes anywhere on the planet.

Thanks for reading!  And remember, it’s always great to hear from you!

Happy New Ear!

3 Jan

Well it seems all too easily 2013 has slipped away with the arrival of 2014.  As is typical here at English Village, we worked right through the holidays.  And so I shared my New Years with a very young assembly of party-goers, our students.  As I did my best in class to communicate about the New Year in very simple English, two of my youngest students liked saying “Happy New Ear”… instead of “Happy New Year”… and so, I pass their amusement on to you.

It continues to be a quiet winter season.  The snow is periodically melting giving way to dirty streets and icy patches.  English Village is currently entertaining a group of month-long visitors for a program called VIP.  This student body is generally around 11 – 14 years old.  The month of January is a winter holiday for Korean students.  As learning English and studying is a high priority here, around 200 lucky students are spending their winter holiday here.  I am not teaching these students as I am teaching the youngest students at English Village, a program where we read books, do simple english activities, play games and do crafts.  Truly a world apart from the busy adolescent body of VIP.

I continue to be aware of what an odd life I lead here in English Village.  Recently a friend from Germany wished me well in my current adventures in the UK.  “I am not in the UK…” I had to distinguish to him.  “I am at a place called English Village… it’s in South Korea.” True, the architecture of English Village is hardly reminiscent of South Korea… and it’s not intended to be.  This is a place where South Koreans can be immersed in the English language and something like western life… without leaving their country.  It’s the only place where I can feel like a rock stock just for smiling, saying hello and speaking English.

Despite the strangeness of life in English Village, there are many things that I cannot help but be grateful for.  In the simplest of terms it has afforded me a safe and mostly gentle respite in life where I can live, develop and grow.  It is nestled in the un-busy hills of Paju City that always feels like a relief to me after returning home from a day in Seoul.  There are many friendly English-speaking faces here and a whole network of resources for surviving and navigating life in South Korea.  Plus, there is a whole world to discover not far outside our door and easy access to Seoul.

Recently I took myself on a little pre-New Years celebration/adventure to a traditional Korean bath, known as a jjimjibang.  I went to a bath in Seoul called Dragon Hill known for its friendliness and accessibility to foreigners (that’s me…).  It was only my second visit since arriving in Korea.  I have to admit it still takes a little “somethin'” for me to go to a public place where I will be walking around naked in front of strangers.  While it might seem unusual to some Americans, the practice is quite common in Korea. At the Dragon Hill spa, you take the elevator to the women’s sauna floor, find your locker, take off your clothes and you’re on your way!

The sauna itself is filled with a myriad of inviting, warm, herbal baths.  Ah, so nice and invigorating.  It’s sort of fun for me to go there as a foreigner who doesn’t speak or understand Korean.  In some ways I get to be almost invisible as I glide in and out of the tubs surrounded by many Korean faces and bodies.  It’s also a joy to share the innocence of unspoken communication… the simple things that are done to acknowledge someone else in a friendly way – a laugh, a smile when there is something to be said but no words to use.

While at Dragon Hill I gave myself a special New Years treat and signed up for a massage.  This was, as it turns out, no ordinary massage… but 90 minutes of full body acupressure, thai massage, foot massage, facial acupressure, head massage and facial treatment… whew!  Are you feeling relaxed yet?  It was, in fact, one of the most kind and loving things I have ever done for myself.  At one point I just laughed out loud in sheer joy as I had some sort of facial treatment on my face (that felt really cool and refreshing) while my body continued to be coaxed into release and relaxation.  Granted, it wasn’t quite the personal “massage therapist” experience you might have back in the States.  At one point I heard someone call the name of the man who was giving me my message. He responded to the call immediately and just dropped my leg on the table in mid-massage.  Nonetheless, he was very good at what he did and I was grateful.

As this year has come to an end, myself and others are looking to the New Year with some sort of intention or fresh energy. In honor of that I thought I would share a few of the things that really make a difference in my life.  If you know me or read my blog, you are already aware that Reiki and SGI Buddhism are both spiritual pillars in my life.  But here are a few others that I seldom mention that would enhance any New Year.  Enjoy!

  1. Dan Millman’s 4 Minute Workout
    You many know Dan Millman, the well-loved guru whose story is told in the movie Peaceful Warrior. I learned this sweet little workout during a cold, quiet winter in Germany.  It’s great because it moves and addresses every part of the body in only 4 minutes.  It’s a perfect way to bring some movement into your life on daily basis.
  2. Art of Living Sudarshan Kriya
    I stumbled upon the Art of Living in post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans.  Their was something about the organizational name that caught my attention.  I attended an informational session and felt inspired to take their first course which teaches the Sudharshan Kriya.  The Kriya is a simple sequence of breathing and movements.  I have done it regularly for about 7 years now. It’s something I can count on to ease stress, reduce anxiety, bring me back to my body, and help release any physical pains or discomforts.  Click here for more information and to find a course near you.
  3. Radiant Recovery
    Many of us know… on some level… you are what you eat.  For many people, myself included, eating a heathy and appropriate diet is the difference between day and night in health and feeling good.  A friend referred me to this program of eating.  It’s signature book is “Potatoes not Prozac” as part of the ensemble of new eating habits is eating a potato before bed.  It is targeted for people who are “sugar sensitive” and gently unfolds a program backed by science to support health and well-being. Do you think you might be sugar sensitive?  Read here to learn more!

How about you?  What are your plans and inspirations for the New Year?  Any cherished goodies to share to help launch me and others into the New Year?

Wishing you a powerful, happy and transformative New Year!  And as always, thanks for reading!

Photo on top, in class with the little ones we made party hats for our New Years celebration!

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