Day 20 down


It would calm down over the days, after I’d given up the world. She was still on my mind, some kind of sub-desperation that fell off only with the distraction of the training forms and the practice. It was just too hot.


I was tumbling into something unavoidable, that would tear my life apart. Not blindly, I realized the dangers and began winnowing down to minimize the damage. I gave not only my own soul, but my identity, my whole being, again and again. I could not have pressed farther into the unknown. There was no reason to hold back. I’d never been so wild. Every sitting I gave my life to it. My body would seize with the intensity. I changed. I didn’t have the view anymore that my higher self was communicating with me through the work. There was no other self to communicate with. All the pieces were gone: the higher self, the writer, the Great Ones — no more need of them. Only my entity, the process, the One Mind space. No prayers, no religion. Gone! That was Tae’s gift. She didn’t know, of course. Probably she never would.


A good morning meant it was easy to disconnect from the night’s dreams and fill the space with the One Mind. It became a practice to give away the fragments of my life that came to me, to create more space. It developed naturally after resolving Tae. Much of the practice I’d never heard described. Certainly I was on my own. Meditation could be wonderful the whole hour through, an unbelievable space to exist in. All the things that surfaced had some value, the experience of life. Why? Why is it possible? Why is there delight? The rapture at the core, what is it???


Tae continued to occupy my mind. It took a lot of effort to sort her out. Why she hadn’t responded, how she’d reacted to the letter, what would she have to say, how would she be when I saw her again? What if she didn’t contact me from Musangsa, when she was free? That I knew — let it go. Don’t talk to her again. Let it find a place in the outer zone with Sangmi and nearly everyone else. It would mean the world had nothing for me, not a single person I could connect to. Only in passing, or to perform some task. Why had I spent so much time with her? She was like a force of nature, a typhoon. It was stupid. It only drove me deeper. I had no idea how she was doing. She probably wasn’t thinking of me at all, the way things go. There was nothing to do but burn to the core, to be one with it, to not hold anything, to not cease to exist, but to see it through, to be the human this world made.


In Zen there’s a basic understanding of the meaninglessness of existence. The One, without us it had nothing. It must exist through us, or else begin again, from nothing. For us to question our existence, the One recognizing itself, is both terrifying and banal — for there is no meaning, no reason to exist beyond bounds. That’s why we live the way we do, why we practice: to become liberated, to see it through, to be human beings.


Tae became more beautiful with the passing of time, like a work of art. The one that I know now wouldn’t be the same. Maybe I wouldn’t recognize her in a crowd. New friends, a new life, connections lost…


The problem with the stalker persisted. The worst was the day we shaved our heads. I couldn’t get him off of me. He was completely lost, and no one believed me. They thought it was a cultural problem. I asked to be moved away from the him. We had to share a table for meals together. I saw him all day. It was a crime, countless ruined moments, rising bile, fear. But it wasn’t just him. I thought I’d discovered something priceless, and it was, but it came out to be something I couldn’t have. There was no greater meaning — we were the existence of the One. Anything that happened, the same tone, only that we keep moving. It was up to us to align ourselves with it and live in peace — no reason to exert ourselves, to be something, to have something.


The teachings made new sense: only reflect, only go straight, human life has no meaning. Zen Master Seung Sahn was teaching us how to be in the flow, to align with the One, not to become enmeshed in human concerns. What was the point? It threw all of religion in a shitty new light. Pray, for what? The kingdom of heaven? What about the old science of Eastern philosophies: reincarnation and karma? Both had serious flaws, if they hadn’t been rendered completely irrelevant. When the conditions were right, it appeared, according to the size of the container. Always.


Day 19 down


Since I wasn’t seated next to the stalker anymore, I was far enough to the side that he had to completely turn to see me. It made his behavior more conspicuous. An elder of my group pulled me aside. “We’re watching him. We’ve noticed his behavior. He has some mental problem, but you need to control your emotions. It’s not helping your case.”


I got this from a few people, that I was somehow creating the problem, or exacerbating it. Standing in line, that’s when he would grope me, lying down to rest, reading a book, exiting a building. The only way I could get him off of me was by making a lot of noise. It was a daily event. The problem of being in Korea, everyone just said it was a cultural difference — they touched each other more, and so on. It made it hard to figure out what was going on. He got away with it for a while. How could anyone be so destructive? He was ruining his life for nothing — he felt my ass. That was the best he would do. And we had to live together for another 3 1/2 years.


Day 18 down


Tae. I could only feel the thing coming apart. I would fall to the ground. There was darkness – no email, no letter, no connection. She wanted me to disappear. I imagined crawling to the reservoir and slowly dying. I worried about the work. All of the careful writing, turning a fearsome ordeal into a piece of literature, what for? I had to keep alive, to beg for the future just one more day. I saw the hot asphalt, the road to the café. I could feel the pain, my heart; a mortal pain like sudden blood loss, a pain in the eyes, staggering alone down to the reservoir, death throes on the cold bank.

Before enlightenment

After enlightenment

One time to die, to the point of dying

Peak of crisis

Painful hour

Turning point

To pass, to leave behind

-Zen Master Man Gong (translated from the Korean by Won Qong Sunim)

I’d already given up, not only her, but my whole life. It came back to me because I was only useful if I was turning the wheel. We must press forward to the end. So maybe on that cold bank I would begin writing Season Three — The Return To Darkness. I had to remember to bring a notepad, in case. I could write so well when I was beaten-down. It was some kind of reflex.


That afternoon, the sweet flowing of deep meditation, its wonderful pull and draft through every moment that wasn’t taken. What a wonderful life! Would I have time to transcribe all the wondrous things before the next crushing blow? I had to make peace with that, that I may not live to get the work out. It could well only be an illegible journal buried in the leaves, and so my life…