I took this photo at Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea. The peacefulness of this temple complex is a noticeable change from the bustling Gangnam that surrounds it and it’s definitely a place to both disconnect and reconnect.
It was at Bongeunsa that a friendly woman motioned to my hula sister and me to enter into the building where she was praying. Once we reached the door, I noticed the room was filled with other women, some sitting in silent meditation or reading passages, while others were in the process of bowing. We removed our shoes and the woman who had welcomed us in, laid cushions on the floor for us to sit. Although she didn’t speak English, we followed her lead, entering quietly so as not to disturb everyone else. I sat quietly on the cushion and allowed all the elements of the room to engage my senses; the smell of incense, the hushed praying, the ornate statues. I glanced around me and made eye contact with our host, then bowed my head slightly to thank her for her hospitality while she smiled back.
After 10 minutes of adjusting to my new environment, my heart opened and I was suddenly overcome with emotion at being amidst all of those women, from all walks of life, who were connecting so devoutly to their higher power. There was no sermon, no intermediary, it was just them connecting to Buddha through movement and prayer. It touched me so much that all I could do was sit on my cushion, while my eyes brimmed with tears. I was truly humbled and to this day, I remain grateful to that woman who graciously invited me in to experience her faith and to connect with something greater than myself at a moment in my life when I needed to be awestruck.