SOUTH KOREA: The Zen Mama Warrior

SOUTH KOREA: The Zen Mama Warrior

zenHere in Korea, there is a wonderful program that allows outsiders to experience life in many of the hundreds of Buddhist temples all over the country. Some programs are only for one or two nights, but some are for weeks or months or even up to a year. During your time there, you follow the exact schedule of the monks and nuns who live there, you wear clothing that is issued to you upon arrival, and you strictly observe all of the customs of the temple.

I recently enjoyed two days and one night at Golgul Temple, just outside the town of Gyeongju, which is about 2.5 hours from Seoul via high speed train. There are many options for Templestays, as they are called, much closer to home, but I wanted to go to Golgulsa when I learned that it is the home of sunmudo, a zen martial art. Yes, you read that right. Zen martial arts. I’d heard that it was a combination of Yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi and that was basically all I needed to hear to be motivated to go have a look myself. Mostly I was curious about unwrapping this seeming contradiction – how could martial arts be Zen or Buddhist?

The land where Golgulsa sits has been a site of Buddhist worship since the 6th century A.D. There is a 1,500 year old stone Buddha carving in the limestone cliffs of Mount Hamwol. The main temple shrine sits just below this carving and the rest of the temple buildings are scattered alongside the steep path to the carving. The setting is beautiful and peaceful and the air was intoxicatingly crisp and clean, especially compared to the air in Seoul. (more…)

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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