Finding Serenity in a Chaotic Day

I think too much.

To forge forward, I step back and turn. Meditate on my footprints. With the world at my back, my heart slows. In my breath, the footprints vanish. I become what I see in my “Be.”

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The trip from Heathrow airport to Oxford campus took only about one hour by bus.

On the previous night, my birthday, my flight from Baltimore to London had been cancelled. My wife and I managed to drive back home and reserve another flight the next day. As last-minute passengers on a full flight, we were just lucky having our seats next to each other. My seat next to the window however sunk a few inches deep backward with a screw missing. “Better than sitting separate,” we agreed and never asked for change of seat. After 7 hours, I landed at Heathrow airport, my back aching. Bearable, I thought. My wife boarded a train to Kensington, and I got on the bus to Oxford.

I arrived at 9:00 a.m. for the Masterclass of Teaching Mindfulness in Non-Clinical Settings: Finding Peace in a Frantic World at the Oxford Mindfulness Center.

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“Gong,” a little brass bell rang. Silence spread.

Quieting my hard-beating heart, I took deep breathes. Sweat drops rolled down my back. Running from the bus depot had exacerbated the fermentation of my two-day-old clothes. My feet were burning. A painful unsatisfied trip can ruin your birthday profoundly. Rumination began. “Why cancel my flight…what if I asked for a change of seat, why bother coming this far, …?” I was on autopilot, reacting to the past.

Soon, the heaviness of the silence in the room suppressed my thoughts. Too quiet for anything to fly around. From the silence came a voice. “Welcome to OMC…” Chris Cullen, a renowned teacher of the ‘Frantic World’ course for students at Oxford University and MPs and Peers in the House of Parliament, shook me out of autopilot.

The rest of the day at the OMC shifted me to a different place-a familiar place where I used to train martial arts, sutra and meditation-a branch of the Hainsa Temple in Korea.

In two different time periods and places, intriguingly enough, I had quite a similar experience of Being Here. “Breathing is amazing,” I thought, “instantly anchoring me to my body. The body linking my mind of both of the times and places.” In just a few minutes, all the participants were on the same wave of breaths. “Breathe in, breathe out.” Unified by breath, there was an intimate togetherness, connecting each other.

With the ruminating thoughts nestling in the body, my attention began to settle into the sensation of my breath. My analytic problem-solving mind started to dissolve into the space somewhere between the body and mind, still trying to fix things and making me feel better.

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“We become wisest and deepest when the mind and body do its own work. So give them the space and be kind to yourself.” I heard the familiar wisdom in two different languages, in English in my ears from a man with light hair in a light blue shirt and dark slacks, and in Korean in my memory from a monk with a shaved head and a grey pajama-like outfit. Time merged into one now, one here.

Slowly but steadily my mind began to open to what I am: fear, guilt, worries, anxiousness, passion, dreams, plans, setbacks, bouncing back, surrender, discovery, acceptance, and being.

A day in Oxford put me a step closer to the gate to unfetter my too much thinking, and importantly, to do things right mindfully.

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