Apr 21, 2015

Finding a Direction

I returned to KUMON in time for one of Thailand's biggest festivals, Songkran, the start of the Thai New Year. Children stood along the streets with pails of cold water to splash over passing bikers and motorcyclists, instantly cooling them down from the soaring heat.

At the beginning of 2015 I stayed at a temple for a meditation retreat, and here now at the beginning of Thai New Year I was doing it again, this time for five days of individual practice at Wat Naluang. KUMON Principal Jiab took me there because she is devoted to the temple's abbot, Luang Phor Thonbai, who is considered by many to be a living enlightened monk. She encouraged me to take the opportunity to learn from him.

At the mountain top temple, Jiab and I poured bottled water on Luang Phor's and other monks' hands for purification. To keep Luang Phor pure himself, a large twin Naga (dragon-snake deity) water slide bedecked with flowers was constructed for devotees to pour water down to be received by his hands.

During Luang Phor's speech in that hot, open-air hall, I was wrestling with the fear of uncertainty – of what I should do for a living/graduate study after this trip is over. I've been telling people I'm going to be a librarian because it seems the safe, practical choice; it's "what I know." But every time I told someone this, I felt shame and uneasiness. It didn't feel right in my gut. If I took that path, would I be living up to my full potential?

While mulling over this, I gradually became calmer as I began to meditate in the hall. I centered my thoughts on the question: "What do I really want to do?" It became apparent, when I listened inside myself, the answer was I want to study mythology.

This is not a new idea, but I always shot it down in the past because: (1) it doesn't lead to a practical job; (2) it's $90,000 in tuition alone; and (3) only one university in the US has it, and they only meet for three days a month for instruction.

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." –– Joseph Campbell

Where is my bliss? My heart's center is in STORIES –– from animated feature films to epic mythology; from the narrative of our lives to a friend recounting a recent experience. Stories are how we making meaning of our lives.

I'm leaning towards pursuing an M.A. in Mythological Studies because I believe it will help me to be a better storyteller – I will be able to better grasp the depth psychology of the universal human story: of how we live and dream.

This doesn't answer all my questions, or quell my fears of uncertainty, but at least I have a direction. I'm going to make an effort towards it, and see what doors will open...


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