A few weeks ago something truly extraordinary happened.
My friend and former coteacher from Japan was visiting me in Korea for the 4 day holiday that happened here for Buddha’s Birthday. Mariko was really interested in having a true Zen experience while visiting me in Korea, and I planned for her to have a temple stay experience. As we were travelling to this isolated temple situated in the mountains, I told her that every time I have gone to this temple I have always met such interesting people and made good connections.
When we arrived at the temple, it was the busiest it’s ever been, with so many people staying there for the holiday that there was no more rooms left, and we ended up staying where the volunteers who live at the temple sleep, which is right under the mountain closer to where the monks living quarters are. Mariko attended the temple orientation, and I had planned to rest for a little bit sitting on the wooden veranda outside our room listening to the birds sing. My roommate who was also volunteering at the temple, told me that I should go to the main office. I didn't feel like going to the office right away since we had just arrived at the temple after a two hour bus ride and I wanted some time to just “be”. I told her that I would come 5 minutes later.
As I sat outside my room and was listening to the birds sing, absorbing the peaceful energy, and just enjoying the tranquil atmosphere as I meditated, five minutes past and I still did not feel like going to the main office. My mind was saying something like this: “Nicole you have to go to the office now, you promised you would go there after 5 minutes. You have the obligation to keep your promise and maybe you might get in some trouble if you don’t go right away. They will wonder what you are doing, and why you have not gone. Go! Go! Go!”. My mind felt fear in waiting any longer to do what I had said I would. My mind also felt the obligation to keep my promise, and my mind was experiencing conflict. In contrast, what I was experiencing and feeling was something entirely different. My entire feeling was stillness and being. What does that mean? It meant that I felt pure presence…a state where I am able to mediate easily with no thoughts usually. It’s a subtle feeling I felt all around the top of my head…this energy or presence that was telling me to stay seated where I am, even when my mind was in conflict about getting up and leaving. The presence around me was so strong that it kept me sitting there and I physically did not feel like getting up or moving. Therefore, I remained sitting there with my eyes closed with this strong feeling of needing to stay where I was, and trusting this feeling of just sitting still even if my mind did not agree. Eventually my mind became silent and I just sat there on the veranda outside my room, breathing in the fresh mountain air, feeling the moistness in the air as it started to rain and just being at peace. I think I sat there for maybe a half an hour.
Then I heard the door open in the room beside me and opened my eyes to see a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes come out and she was putting her shoes on. I asked her where she was from, and she said Canada. She had been teaching in Seoul and has just started a new job teaching at a University. I was curious how she got the job teaching at the university level, as it’s something I would be interested in doing. She told me that she has a master’s degree in a field completely unrelated to English, but helped her secure this teaching position. I asked her what her masters was in, and she said “transpersonal psychology”. When she said that, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest because I was so surprised and in awe! I have never in all my travels the past 2 years met anyone who has studied the same thing as me, let alone known what the field of transpersonal psychology entails (the exception being a Japanese couple I met while in Ishigaki Island earlier this year, which deserves it's own blog post on its own!). It’s very, very rare. I told her I also was finishing my studies in transpersonal psychology. When I asked her where she studied, she said her university was in California. It turns out that we went to the same school, through the same global program! She graduated in 2010 and here I was about to graduate one month later in 2014. Then as I was looking at her, my intuition compelled me to ask her if she had ever lived in Tokyo before. She said yes. Then I asked her if her name was Erin. She said yes; surprised I knew.
My mind traveled back to 3 years ago when I was living in Japan teaching English on the JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme). At the time I had so much free time in my teaching job that I spent a lot of time researching masters programs. Every day I was seeking for a master’s program that I really would love to do, not just something to study for the sake of getting a masters degree. One day I came across an article posted on the Yasodhara Ashram website (located in British Columbia, Canada) about a girl who had written about her experience staying at this beautiful ashram after living in Tokyo for a few years. She wrote about her time teaching and doing her masters in transpersonal psychology while living in Tokyo through a global program. I was curious what transpersonal psychology was, as I had never heard of this field of psychology before. I ended up writing this girl an email and getting in touch with her to find out where she studied and how she liked the program. We exchanged a couple emails and she had only positive things to say about her experience in this masters program.
It was because of this girl that I found my path in studying something I love and have always been passionate about. Until that point of time, I did not know it was possible to study academically psychology, spirituality and consciousness in an actual university setting; let alone have the opportunity to get a degree in this field. Connecting with her through the internet opened my life to a new path that was not visible before.
Now, three years later here we are sitting in front of each other at this rural, isolated Zen temple in the mountains (both there at the same time, rooms side by side out of the thousands of temples in Korea with hundreds of them offering temple stay programs), both living in Korea (whereas before I was living in Japan and she was back in Canada) and I got to meet the person who connected me to my masters program, my university and the field of transpersonal psychology! It was one of those moments in my life where I was beyond amazed, and completely in awe of the perfection of life. Divine grace. This experience was 1000% proof to me that if we are meant to meet certain people in our lifetime, a way will be made and the Universe will make it happen. This was an extraordinary synchronicity, and one of the most powerful affirmations that there is a divine intelligence that is always guiding us on our path and connecting us with the people we are meant to meet.
Some of my other realizations and learning from this experience:
1.) Had I listened to my mind, and out of obligation gone to the office like I told my roommate I would (out of fear), I would not have met Erin and perhaps I never would have had the chance to have a conversation with her.
2.) I realized the importance in doing what you FEEL like doing, not always what you think you should do.
3.) Being in a state of inner stillness, allowed for me to connect to the feeling of presence around me that subtly told me that I should remain seated and not get up, even when my rational logical mind did not understand why I felt I had to stay still. If I was only in my mind, I would not have been able to feel this subtle feeling that was telling me to continue to meditate and this physical feeling of energy pulsating all around my head (crown chakra). The crown chakra's symbol is the thousand petal lotus in both Hindu and Buddhist yogic tradition. This center of our body is associated with enlightenment, divine guidance, higher self, knowing, life force energy, Oneness with the universe, spirituality and wisdom.
4.) It’s incredible how life works through us and is always conspiring on our behalf.
5.) If you are meant to meet someone, regardless of the chances of it happening, if it’s meant to happen, it will happen.
The chance of us meeting at the temple is amazing because we both chose to visit the temple at the same time (with her friend inviting her at the last minute to go with him to the temple, and her saying yes even when she had a couple different options of what she could do that weekend), her room was beside my room (there are many rooms at this temple) and I chose to listen to that subtle nudge that told me to stay where I was.
This type of extraordinary synchronicity has happened only 2 other times in my life, once in Japan and once in India with meeting someone who I never thought I would meet in person.
As Dan Millman said in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior, “Life is not a private affair. A story and its lessons are only made useful if shared.”
I hope in me sharing this experience, that it could provide a confirmation to us all that there is an intelligent life force at work in our lives, and we are always being guided to the places we need to go and in meeting the people we are meant to connect with, even when we don’t know it at the time. Always listen to your inner knowing. Always listen to the subtle feeling that whispers to you, and remember that the mind serves a purpose in our lives, yet there has to be discernment between the voice in our heads (which is usually loud) and the subtle voice within that gently communicates to us if we have the stillness within to hear it.
With love always,