Thursday, July 21, 2011

More from Korea -- Finding the Meaning of Me

I'm so thrilled that so many of you read my blog post about my life in Korea.  Posts like that are springboards to the book I hope to write, and it's always a little scary to see if anyone even thinks I have anything interesting to say!

Today's "Life in Korea" post is about finding my meaning.

I'm the type of person who's spent my entire life trying to stay grounded.  I feel like I was born with wings, but I can't control those wings.  Sometimes they carry me through the light and the beauty and the calm.  At those time, I feel successful and happy and loved.  Then sometimes they fold up and I plummet like a damaged bird into a mud puddle, wondering what happened.

So fly with me back to 1990, to a peaceful Buddhist temple in Rakusan, South Korea.

photos by me, pre-digital era

After my trip to Sorak-San, the bus kept moving along towards the coast to this gorgeous Buddhist monastery.  I was told monks still lived there, but it was also a tourist attraction.  Looking at the photo above, you see exactly what I saw, down to the overcast day and the soft feeling of the air.

The tour guide let us loose at Rakusan, just warning us to be quiet and have respect.  I have to admit, I forgot to take a lot of pictures because I was so taken in with the peace, the quiet, and more than that -- the calm.  Do you know what I mean?  Calm.  There's a difference between quiet and calm.

When I rounded the corner at the Rakusan monastery, I came upon this amazing buddha. I literally stopped in my tracks and took in the serenity.  You couldn't hear a thing except waves crashing against rocks.  I didn't dare encroach upon the platform to get other photos, but what I want you to imagine is this -- the buddha is on the very edge of an incredibly tall cliff overlooking the ocean about as far north as you can get in South Korea without being in North Korea. 

I'm not Buddhist, but I don't think you have to be to have felt the calm and wonder of that spot. I felt on the edge of the world, the literal edge of something, and I felt peace and beauty and love.  I've found those same feelings sitting in the back pew of a Catholic church in Italy, and I'm not Catholic, either.  I think it's more about recognizing where you are in relation to where you are within yourself.

To find myself, then as now, takes calm. Even though my studio spaces are all bright and colorful, I still need calmness to find inner peace so my metaphorical wings can spread.  I get very bogged down with emails and computer work and my "must-do" list, and often, the smallest slight, the tiniest tiff, or even a pretty real in-your-face snub, hurts me and makes my wings droop and I plummet to the earth.  

So I hug my son and husband, call my best friend, and lately, shed tears.  Then I shake myself off.  Find a calm place.  Wait to feel my wings ruffle back up with the wind of self-confidence, self-worth, and finally, push up and away from self-doubt.

via Pinterest

As I've said before -- Korea was a formative time for me, and now, while I'm battling some demons and a lot of insecurities, I find myself reminding myself of just how far I've come. I started as a scared young girl boarding a plane alone to the far reaches of the world to the grown woman, mother, and wife I am now.  I need to remember that trip to Rakusan and the Buddha when I feel my wings folding and my heart plummeting.

Spread your wings, and don't let the little things get to you!

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. Here's a quote from Marianne Williamson that I this is appropriate here & now: "ACIM [A Course in Miracles] says we're like people living in a very bright room, with fingers in front of our eyes, complaining that it's dark in here. The issue isn't to seek for love -- it's everywhere! -- but to surrender our blinders (blame, attack, defense, criticism, fear) that make us unable to see it." I love this and hope you do, too!

  2. Thank you Lori for sharing an inspiring story and the beautiful pictures. I went to Mt. St. Helen's in 2001 and we stopped at this one look out point near the crater. It was so quite and calm there and I was in awe of the beauty. My Mom took a picture of me sitting on a bench looking out at the mountain. I call that picture "Quite Reflection" I felt as you must have at the Buddhist Temple in Korea.

  3. Wise words, Lori. I think having those moments that you describe can be visual cues in our minds to focus ourselves on that supreme inner calm. You can put yourself back in that space and find yourself again. I can think of a quite a few places where I have felt that, all of them bustling with tourists but all of them having something quite overwhelmingly peaceful about them. Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and sleeping on the canyon floor, the wats of Bangkok, the chapel at Chimayo, and Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala in the Adelaide Museum of Art come to mind. Especially, Tibetan monks. I went there several times over the course of the week they were there. Each time I went there were visiting groups of elementary school children, and really, can you get more boisterous than young children. But people were quiet as church mice, even young children. I was drawn into the silent meditation of the monks. I still use that image in my mind to focus my own meditation and let inner peace fall over me. It is a wonderful personal resource isn't it, to have that connection with that sense of universal spirituality?

  4. Wow! Lori, thanks so much for sharing! That's an amazing story!

  5. Thanks for sharing again! Hope you don't mind but your monastery photo is presently adorning my desktop. Just lovely and peaceful.

  6. Beautiful pictures and great experiences that you have. Lori reading your stories make me want to know more about you, I look forward to reading more excerpts of you future book. Calm and living in the present are two things that I strive for in my everyday life.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing a beautiful post. It takes a lot of strength to share vunerability.

  8. Sacred places have a special quality that has nothing to do with religion. Thank you for sharing such a very private part of yourself.
    BTW - that photo of the Buddha statue is absolutely wonderful!

  9. Thanks for taking us on another incredible journey. And you are right about the difference between quiet and calm. Calmness is so much harder to achieve. I can get a sense of it from the beautiful shot of the buddha. Amazing. I often get the feeling in catholic churches and so I'm a catholic I think truly spiritual places can do that for us and you do not have to have that particular religion to feel it.

  10. A beautiful story, Lori. Also, an honest confession of everyday life. Maybe if we had grown up with the Buddhist monks, we wouldn't have demons. So much of who we are are things from our past. It's sometimes hard to recognize which is a demon sneaking in from the past and which is truly a demon. We also have to remember that other people are products of their past with their demons acting out. We all started as innocent children and then life began, which a huge dose of our parents' past!

    My therapist told me once that whenever we have a feeling that would be considered too strong for the situation, it is usually coming from childhood issues. That has stayed with me for 20 years and continues to hold me in good stead. I hope it helps you.

  11. Lori, imagine you thinking how scared and insecure you were, but getting on a plane ALONE to fly to South Korea????? You are so much stronger than you know - you always were! That's how I look at it! I have had some experiences in my life like that too and you have to remind yourself that you have done things that are amazing!!!!!

  12. Wow...what lovely images and your words of calmness embellish them perfectly. Thank you for sharing this Lori~~

  13. Such a wonderful post Lori. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about your feeling of calm when visiting these spiritual places. This shows that you don't necessarily need to follow a particular religion to find the inner peace within ourselves, i think many religions cite this as their main message. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and images from this beautiful place.

  14. Beautiful post and pictures Lori. I understand your post completely, and often feel like you, up and down, just never talk about it openly. We just have to keep going, not all days are great, but just keep trying.

  15. Don't sweat the small stuff Lori. Thanks for sharing these posts with us and your thoughts and fears. You are braver and stronger than you think.

  16. Thanks for sharing Lori. I can completely relate to your journey. We must always find a way to pick ourselves back up. I have it made it my personal mission to not let others bring me down but then that is not always easy because when you are an open person, you risk losing that openness. It is a delicate line to walk. Find the calm and stay to true to you.

  17. I love this post, Lori. I completely agree that you can go into different places (that may or may not be of your religion) and feel something beyond the everyday. I also agree that quiet and calm are not the same thing. They are both important in our lives but they aren't always together.

  18. Lori, that Budha is just amazing. I think I would have stopped in my tracks too seeing that. I had a similar moment about 15 years ago when out in Canyonlands (Utah). I was with a group of men roaming around the canyon looking for places to find fossils & to climb. It was wonderful experience, but the moment that was the greatest thrill for me & I can still go back to it was when all the men decided to hike out into one of the side canyons to look for fossils. I was all by myself for over an hour. All I could hear was the wind blowing the sand around. After awhile, I could even hear my own heart beating. I felt so small standing there under the big sky. I felt a moment of panic, but then this feeling of peace came over me. Now whenever I feel stressed, I picture myself back on that ridge looking out into the great expanse of that landscape with just me, my thoughts, and the wind.

  19. Lori, what a beautiful, heartfelt post. I enjoyed traveling back in time with you (what amazing pictures), and learning more about your past. I think your past AND your present are both so very interesting!! :-)

  20. I have so enjoyed reading of your experiences living in Korea. I have a Korean daughter in law and we recently celebrated a special event for my little granddaughter, a 100th day celebration. Something different and rather wonderful.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I also know that feeling of 'calm' that you mention. Living in France for a short while I took the opportunity to visit old churches and cathedrals. Just stepping through the door brought to me a sense of awe and peace


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