in the middle of the morning, under the season’s first real rain, i stepped into a korean memory behind glass doors on San Pablo Avenue. paper lanterns of varying shapes dropped from an exposed ceiling and Asian furniture adorned the space creating small areas that catered to soft exchanges among tea drinkers.

an elevated bamboo platform encouraged us to remove our shoes and my legs folded with familiarity over each other on a colorful seat cushion. the smell of steeping herbs calmed the vigorous nature of hours before and my hands cupped a welcomed heat. this experience imported quick flashes of favorite spots discovered on strolls in the cobbled streets of Insadong nestled in the heart of Seoul.

there were, though, imperfections here.

for one thing, there was much too much open space-not enough hanging wooden bird cages nor small niches to hold a ceramic animal or bowl. the tea pots and cups lacked charm and delicacy. the classical music played was misplaced. the hostess smiled too openly.

yet, engaged in the exchange of stories from faraway places with a soulful stranger, i felt connected for the first time in a very long time to a reality of life that seemed to have vanished along with 2014.

[image by Autumn Ann]

so a while back i shared a bit about some uncertainties around my health. after some weeks of waiting, procedure, recovery, waiting, i have received confirmation that all went well, that my body is healing, that there’s no malignant anything to worry about. in the Dr.’s words: so, yeah…you’re ok. go ahead and get on with it (life).

i stepped outside the UCSF Medical Center, out of the shadow of the building and into the delicious October sun. blue sky above, a frenzy of city activity around, i stood aware.

in this whole experience, there have been levels of awareness. awareness of vulnerability and fear, of wondering whether i should worry or be present. awareness of my blessings and of all the things i’ve yet to feel, do, be. awareness of how true it is when people say each day is a gift.

and so in the spirit of this gift, i revel in joys and continue to just be aware.


Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.52.44 AM“Find beauty in the sad parts”. ~ Monica 8.22.14

It is all too easy to want to numb, hide, run away from sadness or pain. Who, after all, wants to feel sad? We’ve long attributed such feelings as negative, as though something is wrong and we scramble to find away to be ok again. But, what if we could just be with discomfort? Recently, this message was shared with me:

We hear a lot about healing these days, but less about accommodating woundedness: allowing it to be there without needing to remove it.
This willingness to recognize the presence of suffering and refrain from interfering with it is a powerful theme…
…the heavens point to the need for compassionate patience which allows ourselves and other people to be imperfect, in pain, struggling without needing to intervene to make things ‘right’. They remind us that ‘right’ is whatever is in the moment, not a particular version of life that we prefer.

It is natural to find impatience stirring when it comes to healing. Aching to get better quickly from an illness or surgery. Jumping into work to avoid emotional conflicts. Distracting ourselves socially in order to silence what comes when we’re alone. Yet, these methods fall flat, postponing the true process of healing.

Being wounded does not make us weak, it makes us human. And, part of this experience is to exercise humility, gratitude, and compassionate patience while we strengthen in our own time.

[image: ripening persimmons]

IMG_0458dawn awakes before i do, as it does most days, as you do most days.

the stirring sounds of the day seep into dreams that slowly emerge to consciousness. i make out the click of the door behind you, an effort to contain your morning ritual, a way of honoring the marked differences in routines. faint kitchen noises permeate through thin Korean walls: glass touching wood, steel being laid on steel, water collected in aluminum. and shortly after, the aroma slithers in from under the door, familiar and comfortable…guess, years of drinking coffee will do that.

i turn to my right side, stretching slightly and releasing my muscles and bones once more to sink into some final minutes of rest. the warmth of the bedding envelops me, the thought of the snow laden city tucks under my pillow.

now, your om, your invocation rests in my ears, as you begin an ancient practice on an 11th floor sky rise.
and as you do, i leave you, once again searching for meaning in dreams of my own.

IMG_0819i’m learning a big lesson on trust.

tomorrow i go in for a small medical procedure that will hopefully shed some needed light on the pain i’ve felt for some time. it’s outpatient, it’s common; i should be home by early evening.

still. there’s something unsettling about being on a hospital bed, knocked out, with a pair of hands handling your insides.

there’s a level of trust that needs to come through in order to move into the experience well. one that gives into releasing control. one that believes there’s something powerful at work. one that smiles and accepts.

this takes practice and it’s happening all over.

the trust of a healer over the body.
the trust of loved ones over the heart.
the trust of intuition and choice over the journey.

in these hours of pre-op where uncertainty lingers in the shadows, there is little left to do…than trust.

[image credit: produce market Bolinas, CA]

open handed loveThere is a story about an attended wedding where the groom’s vows made a lasting impression. The exact words are fuzzy, but this gist was something like this:

The key to loving is to hold it well. Not like this (hand rolled closed into a fist), but like this (palm wide, upward).

And, that’s it. That was what was remembered.

The simple gesture speaks volumes. What does it mean to offer open-handed love?

Since the time we are children, we have the tendency to wrap our fingers around things: the toy, the friend, the grade, the plan, the income, the outcome, the relationship. It’s human nature to hold fast to what we want, what we love. But, like anything natural, we are meant to be free and the being held tightly can squeeze out the beauty of love: growth.

If we could move past the ego’s desire to have to oneself, love may just blossom wildly.

I get it. It’s hard. Who doesn’t want to be rewarded for peristence, to gain due to goodness, to be loved reciprocally? Yet, the moment we grab onto expectation, we’re screwed.

Life is impermanent. It shifts and changes and shifts again. All the cliches are true. Expecting things to go our way can lead to pain sooner or later. Letting go, surrendering…this is what nature does. This is what lets other beautiful things to happen.

This is what opening your hand, offering all your best, and watching love freely is really all about.


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