The onset of contentment.

I arrived at Mihwangsa late last night. If I were to do this again, I would have left my luggage stored in Seoul and only brought a book bag containing a few personal items (laptop and oral hygiene products). I cannot go a day without floss. Oh, and Quacky. Climbing the several flights of stairs constructed with boulders proved to be a careful balancing act of determination and ability. I stopped several times, which made me late for my check-in time. I was told before I arrived here that I would not be able to use any electronics or have access to the internet, but I do not have my temple etiquette training for another 2 hours and I figure until someone physically takes away my laptop I will keep blogging!

The journey here was a long one. I had missed my first two buses. I was given some directions on how to get here from Seoul, but they were lacking the small details that are key to English-speaking foreigners (such as myself, who is public- transit- system- challenged as well). Every time a tidbit of information was missing I became lost. I ended up getting on the wrong subway train and then having to backtrack and cross over an additional 9 stops. I had left my hotel about an hour earlier than advised and I still had to get the third bus out of the city. Once I did find the correct terminal I was able to get the second last seat on the next bus leaving, which was hours later. I was happy to have the time to sit though. At that point my body was screaming at me and I just wanted to sit. Here is a picture of what I left behind (the view from the 12 floor of my hotel):

The conditions of the busses deteriorated with each transfer. I started this adventure with air-conditioning and ended it with none. The last bus also made rather peculiar noises every time it backed up, I don’t think it made the trip home in one piece. I was shocked at how inexpensive it was to get here in comparison to Canada. I think it came to less than $50, and that included what I bought for lunch. When I boarded my last bus there was a gentleman sitting in my seat. We were both assigned the same one, however, the bus was not full so I sat across from him. After a few minutes of conversation, I found out he was from France and going to Mihwangsa for a month as well. He has spoken French to me since the bus ride and I feel quite comfortable conversing with him.

I arrived at the temple in time for Yebul (evening chanting) which was followed by a Dharma talk over tea. After Yebul we had a walking meditation that led us to sit and watch the sunset over what I believe is the Korean Strait. The clouds were laced with hot pink trim and the fog hovered just above the water. And yes, that read fog and not smog- life is good. The image reminded me of the island I grew up on, Cape Breton. There have been very few things in Korea that remind me of Canada, so this was a great welcoming to the temple. After this experience I was so content I just wanted to go to bed, but it was time for evening tea. Jajaehaeng, the woman who is now guiding me, introduced me to the head monk. I didn’t have any questions for him at the time, but about 20 minutes later the questions were in abundance. I resolved to wait until the next teatime and I returned to my room to get some sleep. Or at least I attempted to. This is the main hall where Yebul takes place:

I did not sleep very well at all. The temperature here was easily the hottest I have been in since my arrival to South Korea. I also had a small (ok, very large) concern about insects (specifically spiders) crawling into my ears while I slept. There are insects here I have never seen before, and they are in my room. I had brought several earplugs for studying at Hanyang and they were quite handy last night. I no longer have a concern about insects, I now only have a concern for sleeping in past the morning bell that summons me to the 4:00 am Yebul. Good thing I was awake already when the bell tolled this morning! This is now my alarm system:

I started the day with chanting and another walking meditation. For this meditation I was given a bowl of water and we hiked up a trail to what appeared to be a burial ground (I am not sure though so I will be asking about it during tonight’s teatime). I had no idea the water I was given was to be poured as a donation to the earth, and I may have taken a sip of it from my bowl (my first major offense at the temple –oops!). Once we arrived at the top of the hill, groups of us gathered around the ancient stone markers and poured the bowls of water around the base of each stone as we chanted. This offering was given for all sentient beings. The experience was absolutely lovely. Once we were finished it was 6:00am and time for breakfast. This is where we made our offerings:

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day. I eat it sometimes three or four times a day. They have a different philosophy here; they eat supper three times a day. All of the food served here is vegan and it is incredibly delicious. This morning I had kelp soup, rice, eggplant with zucchini, noodles, tofu blocks, seaweed, and watermelon. I am ecstatic over the seaweed actually. I had this version of it for the first time a few nights ago when a friend offered me a package to try. It is thin and flakey, with an almost but not quite oily/salty taste to it. I am far too full to be thinking of lunch, but I am definitely looking forward to it. It is the first time since I left Canada that I may eat with confidence. For the most part, the restaurants in Seoul cook all of their food with animal products. I was fearful to order anything there and sometimes eating anything “vegetarian” was anxiety inducing. This building is for Gongyang (it is where I eat), the picture after it is where our food is stored:

My community volunteering was cancelled for this morning due to a typhoon. I am enjoying the change in weather. I can’t remember the last time I was happy to have so much wind. When I am in Calgary the wind’s ever-present force angers me. Another unexpected pleasantry here was my accommodations. I was placed into a small room, which is rather private. I was told I would have to share a room with numerous other people, but there are not enough people here today for me to have to share it. It is too small for me to be able to share with more than two other people. This greatly pleases me. After living in a dorm this summer I am happy to finally look up and not see another body in my room. I was given a mat on the floor and a sandbag to use as my pillow. The first picture is the view I have from my room now. Even with the storm brewing this view beats the one I left yesterday. When I step out to the ledge I have the view that is seen in the second picture. The third pic is my building and the fourth one is my bed.

Since my arrival at the temple, I no longer feel the need to be anywhere but where I am.  I am not looking forward to any future plans, goals, or desires. I am not looking to my past to ruminate over previous decisions, failures, or successes. I feel no need to. Hopefully, by the time I leave, I will learn how to embrace this mentality back in Canada. It is one of the many things I had hoped to learn during my stay here. It took less than 12 hours to grasp it- it was automatic. Yesterday’s version of me would have started taking notes already just to make sure I do not forget it, but today I will simply listen.


About this entry