Long, Long Road to Enlightenment
Elightenment. A word that brings images of the Buddha and saffron or gray robed monks sitting patiently waiting for nothing. A quest most people ignore in their daily lives, knowing full well that it is next to impossible to reach within one's lifetime. A quest of such magnitude that it seems senseless and disheartening to even attempt.........ah but sometimes that youthful, foolish ignorance of just what one's getting into allows one to do it just that much more simply and easier. This is my story of just how my long road to enlightenment began (and trust me I'm no where near getting there yet!!)
My search for an increased understanding of life and my purpose here in the world began as a teen in Canada, attending a Catholic high school. Disenfranchised with the system and feeling rebellious against the hypocrisy of the church, I found as I grew older that I could not mesh with the ideologies of the older fire and brimstone priests of our parish and found myself; as all teens do, looking for an escape and ideology with more meaning. I found that solace in a strange basement bookstore one afternoon after school, flipping through book after book in what was then one of the first Wiccan bookstores in Canada. After some discussion with the owner about philosophy and ideals, I learned the Wiccans were a form of the old pagan religions of Europe that was forced into hiding by the early rise of Catholicism. Somewhat in a act of rebellion and also having sincere interest in the old nature-based religion honoring the changes of time and seasons, I purchased some books and eventually became a self-practicing Wiccan paying respects to both the male and female aspects of divinity found in nature and in the universe all around me. Greatly satisfied with my new form of worship but eager for knowledge I read voraciously at the local new age book store where I began to see more and more books on the Eastern classics and a form of divination called the I-Ching (Book of Changes). After perusing some books on the subject and learning more and more about its basis in the Eastern belief of the Tao (Ultimate Infinite) and its division into Yin and Yang (Male and Female energies) I became intrigued by what I understood to be an Asian version of my pagan, Wiccan beliefs.
Wicca dealt with the practical aspects of worship in rituals and ceremonies but lacked in providing understanding of its philosophical aspect where Taoism and Buddhism had abundant information and seemed promising in teaching about the fundamental nature of the universe and my relationship therein it. Again after reading many books, I set off in search of a Tai Chi Chuan teacher in my hometown who could perhaps explain and qualify what I was absorbing from these texts that spoke of Chiones internal life energy. To no avail. Yoga sure.... Tai Chi?? What? Nope, never heard of it.
With typically ignorant yet romantic images of Asia and people doing Tai Chi Chuan exercise in the park at the crack of dawn, hidden mountain monasteries and young, noble Jackie Chan kung fu movies in mind, I decided to move to Korea in late 1994 on the advice of some friends who were working here and having the time of their lives away from the drudgery of the nine to five lifestyles in Canada. Wow. Was I in for a shock. Being from a relatively small city the hustle and bustle of Seoul was beyond belief at first but I quickly adjusted and found myself liking the bright lights and energy of the metropolitan city coupled with its small, back street markets and age-old traditions and culture. Living with my friends, I first set out to learning some of the language and looking into what I could find out about finding a teacher to instruct me in the ways of Tai Chi exercise, Buddhism and other Oriental philosophies such as Confucianism. After visiting a local temple in the Seoul area, famous for its instruction of foreign truth seekers and receiving nothing more than the master is not here. …