Main Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection

Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection

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A #1 internationally bestselling book of spiritual wisdom about learning to love ourselves, with all our imperfections, by the Buddhist author ofThe Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.

When you care for yourself first, the world begins to find you worthy of care.

No one is perfect, but that shouldn't hold us back from love--for the world, for one another, or even for ourselves. In this beautifully illustrated guide, Buddhist teacher Haemin Sunim (whose name means "spontaneous wisdom") draws on examples from his own life and on his years of helping others to introduce us to the art of self-care. When we treat ourselves with compassion, empathy, and forgiveness, we learn to treat others the same way, allowing us to connect with people on a deeper level, bounce back from failure, deal with feeling hurt or depressed, listen more attentively, express ourselves more clearly, and have the courage to pursue what really makes us happy so we can feel complete in ourselves. With more than thirty-five full-color illustrations,Love for Imperfect Thingswill appeal to both your eyes and your heart, offering you comfort, encouragement, and wisdom so that you can learn to love yourself, your life, and everyone in it.
Penguin Books
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			THERE ARE TIMES IN LIFE when we encounter a film that stays with us for a very long time. For me, A River Runs Through It is one such film. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, and with the beautiful scenery of Montana for a backdrop, it tells the story of the Maclean family, for whom fishing is just as important as religion. The father is a Presbyterian minister with two sons. The elder son, Norman, lives a respectable life and becomes a university professor. The younger son, Paul, comes to lead a life of debauchery while working as a journalist for a local paper; his gambling habit gets him into great debt, and in the end he is beaten to death in an alley. The father, consumed by his deep sense of loss, speaks to his congregation during Sunday service with restrained emotion, revealing his love for his second son. “We can love completely,” he says, “even without complete understanding.”

			It was difficult for the father to understand why his son Paul had to live a life of dissipation. However, this didn’t stop him from loving his son—because, to him, love transcends human understanding. Rather than loving someone only when you feel you understand what it is you love, the kind of deep, enduring love shown by the father does not cease even when the loved one behaves in a way you do not agree with. In the depths of the heart, love is always flowing, like a river.



			WHEN WE EXAMINE OUR LIVES, we see many imperfect things, like motes of dust on an old mirror. There are all kinds of things that leave us feeling dissatisfied and unhappy: Our words are often different from our actions, our relationships are strained by our mistakes, our best-laid plans for the future go awry. On top of that, in the course of our lives we inflict various wounds on others, intentionally or unintentionally, causing us to feel guilt and regret.

			But it’s the same when we look at our family and friends. The child who doesn’t listen to what his parents tell him; yo; ur own parents who do not understand you; your spouse who doesn’t behave reasonably. Close friends with bad health habits make you worry about their well-being. Every morning when we watch the news unfold, we see that the world is filled with yet more fighting, more accidents, more discord. It seems as though it will never end.

			And yet, even though we find many such imperfect things in the world we live in, we cannot help but love them. Because our lives are far too precious to be spent in ridicule and hatred of what doesn’t appeal to us, of what we do not understand. As we become spiritually mature, we naturally develop more empathy and try to see things from others’ perspectives. This, in turn, teaches us to accept the imperfections of others, and of ourselves, in a more graceful and compassionate way, like a mother loves her child no matter what.

			I have collected here my reflections on learning to look at the world and myself more compassionately. I have been inspired by people who have shared with me their life stories and questions during my public talks or on social media; they have opened my heart and deepened my wisdom. I pray that this book can be a friendly hand for you in a moment of despair, and bring you peace in a time of difficulty.


			The School of Broken Hearts, Seoul


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			THERE ARE TIMES IN OUR lives when a really difficult situation comes up and we want to talk about it with someone. At such times, what sort of person do you generally end up seeking out? A friend who is smarter and a better talker? Or just one who seems like they will be on your side and listen warmly to what you have to say? In my case, I generally go for the latter. Of course, talking with a friend who is more intelligent than I am can indeed be helpful, because they can home in on my problem objectively. But the more difficult the problem, the more likely I am to be left feeling a bit dissatisfied by coldly rational advice, however sensible. I probably long for someone warm and caring who will listen to my struggling heart in an empathetic way.

			Something like that happened when I was teaching in Massachusetts. There were many times when teaching brought me great happiness and fulfillment. But there were also times when all I felt was, “I am not cut out to be a college professor!” For one, there were the cultural differences: Unlike students in Asia, for example, some students openly contradicted their professors. I welcomed those challenges and still believe that students should be allowed and even encouraged to have opinions different from those of their professors, but I was not used to the direct manner in which they refuted me in class. Sometimes I encountered students who were not serious about learning and came to class unprepared. They were a small minority, but as an inexperienced junior professor I was quite distressed and even a little depressed about this. I hated myself for disliking difficult students, which made me feel very uncomfortable and guilty.

			Whenever I felt this way, I would want to talk it over with one of my senior colleagues. But rather than reaching out to those colleagues known to be clearheaded and direct, I usually ended up turning to senior colleagues who were kindhearted and good listeners. If I think about why, I would say it’s because there’s more to being a good listener than simply listening. From someone’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, we come to feel cared for and acknowledged and understood. When someone would focus on me, letting me say what I wanted to say without cutting me off or changing the subject, my troubled heart would begin to open up, and I would share those bottled-up stories one by one without fear of being judged.

			That was a huge weight off my chest, and probably what I needed more than sound advice. After being a sympathetic witness to my situation, if my colleague were to share something similar that had happened to him, it would be an additional comfort knowing that I was not alone. As I started to have greater perspective, I found it easier to accept my situation and to deal with my feelings.



			BEING BOTH A MONK AND A PROFESSOR, I often have to give a public lecture or Buddhist dharma talk. But while certain audiences laugh out loud at my silly humor and leave the lecture hall looking pleased and enlightened, others sit blank-faced in heavy silence. Even when I give exactly the same talk, the overall experience is hugely different without a lively audience. If my audience and I are attuned to each other, my words flow like a river, coursing through the hall in an atmosphere of spiritual vitality. But if my audience is not very receptive, I shrivel psychologically and cannot get across effectively what I have prepared. This is why I believe that listening is not a passive activity at all. Listening openly, patiently, and attentively is one of the most significant expressions of love.



			I SOMETIMES WONDER WHY WE STAY up late uploading photos and messages to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. No one forces us to; it’s simply that we want to share with the world what we did that day, what we thought about, what photos we took. I think this has to do with the fact that we want someone to listen to what we have to say, even if that someone is the impersonal online world. Because only then do we feel that our actions have meaning, that our existence has value. Without people to pay attention to us, our lives would feel empty, like being alone on a stage without an audience. With this in mind, I would encourage people to think every once in a while about whether there are friends or family members going through a difficult time. Even though we may not have solutions to the problems they are facing, they will be grateful just to know we are willing to listen.


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		Haemin Sunim is one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers and writers in the world. Born in South Korea, he came to the United States to study film, only to find himself pulled into the spiritual life. Educated at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Princeton, he received formal monastic training in Korea and taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has more than a million followers on Twitter (@haeminsunim) and Facebook and is one of Spirituality & Health's Top 10 Spiritual Leaders of the Next 20 Years and one of Greatist's 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness. His books--The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, which has been published in more than thirty languages, and Love for Imperfect Things--have sold more than four million copies and are popular as guides not only to meditation but also to overcoming the challenges of everyday life. When not traveling to share his teachings, Haemin Sunim lives in Seoul, where he founded the School of Broken Hearts, a nonprofit that offers group counseling and meditation for people experiencing challenges in life.

		Deborah Smith (translator) is the translator of Han Kang's The Vegetarian, which won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016.

		Lisk Feng (illustrations) is an award-winning illustrator whose work has appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Monocle, and Travel + Leisure.



			There are times when things are going well for you,

			and people offer you unsolicited advice in the name of love.

			They tell you to think about financial security, marriage, your future.

			At such times, do not be shaken. Just keep walking the path

			you have chosen, like the steadfast march of elephants.



			Don’t assume another bus will be coming.

			Sometimes the route will have changed,

			and you will never get another chance to catch the bus you missed.

			If an opportunity is presented to you, don’t give in to your fear.

			Muster your courage and get on that bus.



			If you’ve waited for someone to show up and change your life,

			and they still haven’t appeared, don’t wait any longer.

			It probably means you need to become that person for yourself.

			When you feel like relying on someone else, remember:

			There lives a far stronger and wiser being inside you than you imagine.



			Ask yourself:

			What are the values that guide my life?

			What do I want to achieve in my life?

			If the answer is clear, you can live more confidently,

			knowing your life’s direction

			and that you are not mindlessly following the herd.



			If you just go along with the crowd

			without trying to figure out

			what you really want to do,

			you’ll likely wind up striving to succeed

			in a highly competitive profession.

			Then, after several years of stress and struggle,

			you might become depressed from continuing to fall short

			in auditions, job interviews, or qualification tests.

			There are more than thirty thousand kinds of jobs in the world.

			If you want to succeed, be more self-aware

			about your values, interests, strengths, and limitations,

			and explore professions beyond those you are familiar with.

			You won’t regret taking the time to do this.



			When you try to learn something new,

			you will inevitably feel embarrassed in the process.

			No matter how respected you are in your own field,

			you will be treated like a kid

			and corrected every time you do it wrong.

			If you cannot stand to make mistakes,

			you will never be able to learn a foreign language, a sport,

			a musical instrument, or how to drive or cook.



			If you don’t feel like studying,

			start with the subject you like best.

			If a meal looks unappealing,

			start with what looks tastiest.

			It’s all right to start reading a book

			from the section you most want to read.

			Starting is often the most difficult part.

			Once you have started,

			it’s much easier to continue.



			New ideas often come from the margins,

			where people question and challenge the norms

			set by the mainstream.

			Rather than lamenting that you’re an outsider,

			use your unique position to your advantage

			and create something original and interesting.



			Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Edward Said—

			celebrated twentieth-century thinkers—

			all started out discriminated against.

			Michel Foucault was gay.

			Jacques Derrida was from Algeria.

			Edward Said was a Palestinian in Egypt with an American passport.

			Instead of seeing their outsider status as a disadvantage,

			they used their unique perspectives

			to revolutionize Western philosophy.



			Excessive thought won’t solve a problem.

			Rather than trying to fix it by thinking,

			set your mind at ease.

			A solution will rise to the surface.

			Remember that wisdom comes from stillness.



			When you have too much to worry about,

			ask yourself: “Am I solving anything by worrying?”

			Because of your worries, are you missing out on the present?

			If worrying is not doing any good, say to your anxious mind,

			“If what I’m worried about actually happens, that’s when I will worry!”



			Are you suffering from anxiety?

			Try prioritizing your worries by writing them down.

			If something you’re worried about hasn’t happened yet,

			put it at the end of the list.

			Worry only about the problems facing you right now;

			for the rest, you can cross that bridge when you come to it.



			Thinking too much can make it difficult to act.

			If you just do it, then it is done.

			But if you give in to your thinking,

			your mind will get in the way,

			telling you “you can’t,” “you shouldn’t,” “you don’t want to.”

			In that case, get up early the next morning

			and just do the thing you’ve been putting off.

			If you give yourself time to start thinking about it,

			inaction will take hold again.



			Even if it’s not perfect,

			set it aside and move on to the next thing.

			The idea of “perfection” exists only in your mind,

			and may not be the same for everyone.



			Before an exam or interview, always remember:

			You know so much more than you think you do.

			Our unconscious contains an ocean of wisdom.

			Have confidence in yourself.



			Distinguish between the things you can control and those you can’t.

			For instance, the past cannot be undone.

			You cannot control what other people think of you.

			But you can control what you are doing right now.

			The way to be free of worry and anxiety

			is to focus your attention on the present moment.



			Do not be afraid of making mistakes.

			Be afraid only of not learning from your mistakes.

			An expert is someone who has acquired skills and knowledge

			by making a lot of mistakes.


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						Chapter Eight



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						Chapter Two



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			Something as simple as holding someone’s hand

			can go a long way toward easing that person’s pain.

			The more we hurt, the more we need

			the love and support of our family.



			When someone you love is in pain,

			the most meaningful gift you can give is your kind presence.

			Sending flowers and texting are good,

			but not as good as sitting with her, holding her hand,

			looking into her eyes, and giving her a kiss.



			We live longer now not because we do not get sick,

			but because we have learned to manage our illness.

			To those who are fighting illness,

			and those who are caring for them,

			may you not lose hope!



			Even when the weather forecast calls for rain all day,

			there are times when, if we look closely,

			we see that the rain lets up.

			Even though we are ill and in pain,

			if we look closely, we see that

			there are moments without any pain.

			But if we say to ourselves,

			“I am sick” or “It’s going to rain all day,”

			then we feel that the rain or pain never lets up.



			Sometimes we want to be told

			“I need you” more than we do “I love you,”

			because we want to feel

			that our lives have a purpose.

			So, be brave and say honestly, “I need you.”



			When a beloved family member passes away,

			we feel sorry for not having looked after them better

			and guilty for not having protected them from harm.

			Then, after many difficult and lonely nights,

			the spring, which we thought we’d never see again, returns.

			As the warmth of the spring sunshine touches our face,

			we feel as though the departed is still with us,

			wishing us happiness.

			We assumed we were alone

			but then realized we were not.



			Losing someone precious to us

			is like losing the compass that pointed to life’s meaning;

			it seems as though we will never find true north again.

			The experience of life’s impermanence is a great lesson.

			For those of you who are suffering, may this experience become

			an opportunity to wake up to the Truth beyond impermanence.



			No matter how good a relationship is,

			it is inevitable that it will change over time.

			A close friend may move to another city,

			or a family member may pass away.

			Your circumstances, too, can change.

			But don’t let this make you too sad—

			because when one door closes,

			another one always opens.



			“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.

			Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts,

			and we are never, ever the same.”




			The greatest gift that parents can give their child

			is to be happy themselves.

			If the parents are happy,

			then the child can grow up into a happy and confident adult.

			But if the parents are not happy,

			then the child can feel worthless—

			unable to make his parents happy no matter what.



			You sacrificed your life for the sake of your children.

			But instead of being thankful, your children are angry

			that they have been living their parents’ dreams

			rather than their own.

			Look back and see if you deluded yourself into believing

			that being obsessed with your children was a sacrifice.

			And consider whether your “sacrifice” did not rob your children

			of the opportunity to learn for themselves.



			There are many aspects of life that we cannot control.

			When it comes to our children, spouse, relatives, and friends,

			we can love them, pray for them, show them interest,

			but we cannot control them, even when we have good intentions,

			since their happiness ultimately depends on themselves.

			Let them take responsibility for their choices.

			When we get through an illness, we develop immunity.

			If we protect others from illness,

			they may not develop proper immunity against life.



			If a teacher coddles her students, she will spoil them.

			It is the same with your children.

			It is often the case that your younger children,

			whom you paid less attention to,

			grow up to be more caring toward their parents

			than your eldest, whom you took such trouble over.



			The reason adolescents don’t listen to their parents

			and stubbornly try to have their own way

			is that they are learning to be independent.

			It is normal, so don’t worry too much.

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			Children want to admire their parents.

			You won’t win their admiration by being overprotective.

			Instead, offer your help to the weak and powerless,

			or make an honest effort to model important values,

			such as honesty, compassion, dedication, and tolerance.

			Do your best to give your children someone to look up to.



			Parents, please teach your children that

			abusive language or violence toward the weak

			is wrong under any circumstances.

			It is also wrong to delight in someone else’s pain.

			If you wish for your child to grow up to be decent,

			do not countenance such behavior.



			In oppressive and violent relationships,

			no one can take care of yourself but you.

			If a relationship causes you pain,

			then draw a firm line and distance yourself from the other person.

			Once you are apart, you will hear your internal voice

			and gradually become stronger and more independent.

			Do not lose your grip on the reins of your own life

			and allow yourself to be dragged around by someone else.



			In the course of giving advice,

			I often hear from young people who are conflicted

			because they love their parents but also hate them.

			There is nothing wrong with having these two emotions.

			You can love and hate someone at the same time.



			It is nearly impossible for a son or daughter

			to change a parent’s personality, values, or behavior.

			Even if children consider their parents problematic in some way,

			they have neither the right nor the responsibility to change them.



			If you were often rejected or ignored

			by your parents while growing up,

			you can end up seeking the love and attention

			you were denied from your romantic partner instead.

			If your partner is even slightly indifferent toward you,

			then the wound from your childhood can be ripped open,

			causing a big fight with your partner.

			But the real cause isn’t your partner;

			it’s the wound you are carrying within you.

			Rather than projecting this wound onto your partner

			and causing a fight,

			set aside your pride and speak from the heart:

			“I am terrified that you will reject me and leave me, like my mom did.”

			If we combine painful memories, the need for attention,

			and pride, the relationship can easily be ruined.



			If you assume that, since you’ve been together for so long,

			you should be able to read each other’s minds,

			there are so many things you will fail to understand about each other.


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			TO MY DELIGHT, SEVERAL GROUPS of Buddhists from New Zealand and Australia invited me to come and give a dharma talk. So for the first time in my life, I got to cross the equator and flew to Auckland and Sydney. Even though it was a long way from Seoul, I was looking forward to this trip because it would also give me a chance to visit my closest graduate school friend, who’d studied with me in the United States. He’d moved back to Australia after receiving his Ph.D. and had become a professor. It had been over a decade since I’d promised to visit him. Each time I saw his Christmas card, which arrived without fail as each year drew to a close, I would recall the promise that I’d so far failed to keep. Now that the opportunity had come about, I was really looking forward to seeing him again.

			On the other side of the equator, the weather was the opposite of what it had been in Korea. The temperature on the day of my talk was over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. And I learned that in the Southern Hemisphere, if you want a house that gets a lot of sun you have to choose one that faces north. Also, rivers tend to flow north rather than south, and in the night sky the Southern Cross takes the Big Dipper’s place. Though they were literally the polar opposite of the place where I had been living, New Zealand and Australia didn’t seem as foreign as I might’ve expected, especially their people. Well aware of the lonely and busy lives in modern cities, I was honored to be able to offer them some words of comfort and wisdom.



			WHEN THE VARIOUS TALKS WERE OVER, I headed to my friend’s house. I rang the bell, and he opened the door and greeted me with a big smile on his face. We reached to clasp each other’s hand and embraced, like family members long separated by the Korean War. Though ten years had gone by, he looked very much the same, aside from his hair having thinned slightly and his body having filled out a bit. He was as outgoing and warmhearted as ever, and as I also knew his wife, Jane, from our grad school days, I felt at ease in their company.

			After dinner, we drank tea on the terrace as the sun went down, and laughed out loud at how we were already middle-aged. Our hearts were still those of students; we could not believe we had become men over forty. As old friends, we were unguarded and revealed our inner feelings freely. Old friends have no need to display artificial selves; you can accept them as they are and share your true self with them. He was such a friend for me. He told me everything that had happened over the past decade, talking until he reached his recent worries.

			I remembered that he had always been anxious, even with nothing in particular to be anxious about. He told me that his anxiety had gotten worse recently, and to stave it off, he had been working hard. Jane was concerned that his health would suffer if he continued this way. He worked every night at his computer, even after midnight; he rarely got a good night’s sleep; and he was always busy. Of course, his hard work had earned him recognition in the academic world, and a swift promotion at his university, but not only could he not stop working, he also was overcome with anxiety when he had no work to do.

			Night had fallen, and it was chilly outside. We went inside to avoid the mosquitoes and sat on the sofa. My friend put on some quiet music and poured himself a glass of wine. He told me that he’d had a tough childhood. In the eyes of the world, his father had achieved success, but he took out his work stress on his family. His father would transform into a different person and become violent when he had been drinking. He even beat my friend. So my friend felt like he was walking on thin ice at home. When his father was in that state, his mother would leave the house to avoid him, and in her absence my friend had to look after his younger siblings, pretending for their sake that it was all a game. That was when he became increasingly nervous, never knowing when his father might drink and explode.

			Reflecting on how it had been for my friend when he was young, I made a guess as to where his anxiety and workaholism came from. Wanting to help him however I could, I spoke carefully. “Because each person’s situation is different, it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions, but one of the known causes of becoming a workaholic is growing up feeling unworthy of your parents’ attention unless you do something great, as opposed to feeling loved and cared for unconditionally. This also tends to be the case with children of successful parents who are too busy with their lives and show little interest in their children’s lives. To win their parents’ attention, such children feel under constant pressure to do things to please their parents. Otherwise they feel unlovable, and their actions are devoid of meaning. In your case, it makes sense that you have developed this constant feeling of anxiety, given your father’s violence when drinking. It must have been very difficult for you with your mother not there to protect you. Never knowing when your father might explode, you probably thought that the only way to prevent it would be to do everything he wanted you to, and to do it correctly. Now, as an adult, your father is gone. However, it’s the world’s demands rather than your father’s that are making you feel anxious—that if you don’t do everything that’s asked of you, and do it correctly, your existence has no meaning or worth.”

			My friend nodded, seeming to agree with what I’d said.

			“But the truth is, you are already worthy of being loved. You don’t need to be convinced of your self-worth by taking on society’s demands and living up to its expectations. You already are a precious being and deserve to be loved and cared for. Look inside and see if you can find the child within you, still shaking with anxiety because of his father. Send the energy of loving-kindness to that inner child, and look at him compassionately. How difficult it must have been, coping with your father’s rage alone, trying to protect your siblings, without even your mother to help you.”

			At this point, both my friend and I were in tears. My friend closed his eyes for a while, then said calmly: “You’re right. There is still a little kid inside me, trembling with anxiety, unable to be loved. And he is pleading with me not to ignore him anymore. All this time, I made myself too busy worrying about the opinions of others while suppressing the inner wound from the past. I need to believe that I am worthy of love for who I am.”



			AS I WAS LEAVING HIS HOME a few days later, I left a brief note for my friend:

			When we were in graduate school, you were like a big brother to me. You helped me overcome several crises. You don’t know how grateful I am even now, when I think of your kind heart. And so for goodness’ sake please remember: Even if you never achieve anything big and significant, to me, your existence alone is already enough.


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			Title Page




				Chapter 1: Self-Care


			Don’t Be Too Good

			Your Existence Is Already Enough

				Chapter 2: Family


			“Please Look After Mom”

			Understanding Our Fathers

				Chapter 3: Empathy


			The Power of Hugs

			Listening Is an Act of Love

				Chapter 4: Relationships


			On a Zen Retreat

			Dealing with Disappointment

				Chapter 5: Courage


			To My Beloved Young Friends

			The First Failure

				Chapter 6: Healing


			When Forgiveness Is Hard

			“Haemin, I Am a Little Depressed”

				Chapter 7: Enlightenment


			The Mind’s True Home

			My Spiritual Journey

				Chapter 8: Acceptance


			The Art of Letting Go

			Lessons from Life’s Low Point

			About the Authors


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			EVERY PERSON IN THIS WORLD is someone’s precious child, and a Buddhist monk is no exception. Even though monks have left home and become ordained in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, most do not cut ties with their parents. Maudgalyayana, one of the closest disciple monks of Sakyamuni Buddha, was famous for his filial love for his mother. According to Buddhist scriptures, he descended to hell in order to rescue her. Kyeongheo, the great Korean Zen master of the nineteenth century, also remained a good son to his mother after becoming a monk. Upon having an experience of enlightenment, the first thing he did was to search for his mother. Kyeongheo lived with her and spent nearly twenty years looking after her. Following Kyeongheo’s example, many monks nowadays are taking care of their elderly parents in one way or another.



			IN MY CASE, TOO, each time I return to Korea, I try to stay with my parents for at least a week, hoping to make up for my absence. But whenever I do, I feel sad to see how much older they have become, especially my mother. Many gray hairs have sprouted on her head, and many teeth have fallen from her mouth. She is not as active as she used to be. It is distressing for a son to see his own mother becoming old. Although I know that everything in this world is impermanent, I cannot help but wish that my mother might be exempt. I am a lot like my mother. She is an introvert, but with a bright and warm personality. She loves music and art and enjoys reading books, just like I do. If she hears or thinks of something insightful or interesting, she likes to write it down and share it with her family and friends. She can be patient and strong in the face of difficulties. She is also proud of my writings and talks, as they have helped many people.

			But a while ago I found out that my mother, whom I had assumed would always be healthy and well, had become ill. It seemed she had kept her illness from me because she didn’t want me to worry about her. Nothing makes your heart sink more than when you get a phone call from your father telling you that your mother is sick. I dropped everything and flew to see her. Though luckily her illness was treatable, I stayed with her for a full month. It made my heart burn with shame to think that while I had been busying myself trying to help strangers, I had been neglecting my own parents.

			When I give a public talk, I usually close by inviting the audience to meditate together. First I guide people to offer love and good wishes to themselves while caressing their heart. Afterward I ask them to hold hands with those sitting next to them and to close their eyes. Then I ask them to imagine that they are holding the hand of someone they deeply love and care about, like their mother. Finally I ask them to send love to the people they just imagined and to repeat this blessing: “May you be happy! May you be healthy! May you be peaceful! May you always be protected!”

			Chanting quietly together like that, a good number of people shed tears. Though we always wish our loved ones to be happy and healthy, we often do not express it, assuming that they already know how we feel. As we repeat the blessing, we regret that we have not spent enough time with our loved ones because we are too busy. I, too, felt that way as I was imagining holding my mother’s hand while chanting the blessing along with the audience. As the words sank in, all of a sudden the following sentiment rose up from the abyss of my heart:

			“Mom, Mom, I love you so, so much.”

			Without realizing it, the word “mom” came out instead of “mother.” Though it was a little embarrassing, I texted that message to my mother right away. Thinking about it, I couldn’t remember when I had last said these words to her. Later, I heard that receiving such an innocent message from her grown son, who had left home to become a monk, made my mother cry a great deal. And then she resolved to become healthy again, not just for herself but also for her son.



			IN THE FAMOUS KOREAN NOVEL Please Look After Mom, the daughter realizes how much she loves her mother only after her mother goes missing. In an interview, the author, Kyung-sook Shin, said that she had been planning the book for a long time but couldn’t get it quite right until she changed “mother” in the title to “mom.” The novel ends with the daughter on a trip to Vatican City. The daughter lays a rosary in front of the Pietà—an image of the Holy Mother embracing the dead Jesus—and prays, “Please, please look after Mom.”

			After staying at home with my mother for a month, I had to leave the country again. My heart was filled with sadness and remorse, and again and again I found myself summoning the name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Mother of Mercy and Protection, for my own mother.


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			Don’t think you are lovable only

			when you succeed at what the world demands.

			You are already worthy of love.


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			If you’re sad, it’s okay to acknowledge your sadness.

			If you have pain that leaves you at a loss,

			it’s okay to talk about your pain.

			The reason we have difficulties

			is that we are unable to accept

			the things that cannot be changed.

			Let them be and see what happens.


						Chapter Seven



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			My youth was the most difficult time for me.

			I constantly had to prove myself

			because the older generation saw me

			only as young and inexperienced.

			But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

			It will reveal itself not suddenly but gradually.

			Don’t be discouraged. Things will get better for sure.


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			We don’t become wise by thinking more.

			When our mind becomes relaxed and open,

			we suddenly have a brilliant new idea.

			Trust the wisdom that exists in silence,

			and rest your hardworking mind for a while.


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		It can feel like a mystery

		why my child, parent, or sibling is

		thinking and behaving a certain way.

		But although we may neither

		comprehend nor like it,

		we can nevertheless love them,

		because love transcends understanding.

						Chapter Four



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			I love you.

			I thank you.

			And I need you.


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			WERE YOU ONE OF THOSE CHILDREN who were praised for being “good”? Did you then try hard to be good by always agreeing with parents, teachers, or older relatives? Even if sometimes it was hard, you learned not to complain and bore it quietly? And now that you’re an adult, do you still feel a responsibility to please other people? Do you constantly make an effort not to disturb or be a burden on others? But when there’s someone who makes things difficult for you, you try just to ignore it or put up with it, because it is not in your nature to do or say something that can potentially hurt someone or make someone feel uncomfortable?



			I HAVE MET MANY GOOD people who suffer from depression, panic attacks, and other emotional disorders due to difficult human relationships. Such people tend to be gentle, well mannered, and solicitous of others. They are the kind of self-sacrificing person who will habitually put other people’s wishes before their own. Why, I wondered, do such good people often fall victim to mental and emotional suffering?

			I, too, was introverted and meek as a child, and so was often praised for being “good.” A good son who wouldn’t give his parents any trouble, a good student who listened to his teachers—all this taught me was that it was good to be good. But when I went to graduate school, I began to feel that there might be a problem with only being good. In group work with students who were smarter than I was, with stronger personalities, I found that the tasks everyone wanted to avoid somehow always fell to me. I kept on telling myself that it was good to do good, but as time went by it started causing me quite a bit of stress. When I opened my heart and spoke honestly to an older friend who was in the same program, he gave me the following advice:

			“Be good to yourself first, then to others.”

			It was like being struck by lightning. Up until then, I had only ever worried about what other people thought of me. I had never once thought properly about caring for myself, or loving myself.



			WHEN WE SAY THAT SOMEONE is “good,” we often mean that the person complies with the will of others and isn’t self-assertive. In other words, people who are good at suppressing their own desires in deference to another’s are the ones who frequently get called “good.” If someone always listens to me and follows my advice, naturally I like that person and think of him or her as a good person. It seems that “good” sometimes refers to a person who thinks too much of others to be able to express his or her own will.

			While it is not always the case, there is a particular pattern that can be seen in our relationship with whoever raised us as a child. Many who are self-effacing in this way grew up with a dominant father or strong-willed mother. Or as a middle sibling, who received relatively little attention from the parents, giving rise to a strong desire to win the parents’ recognition by obeying them in all things. In certain cases, when the parents’ own relationship is not good, or the family dynamic is awkward in some way, there are also those who take it upon themselves to make their parents happy by being “good.”

			But the problem is that, by living in accordance with the demands of others, we unwittingly neglect our own desires and needs. If as a child you were indifferent to your own feelings, minimizing them or not considering them important, as an adult you will not be able to tell what it is you yourself want to do, or who you are as a person. And then when you encounter someone who treats you unfairly or makes things difficult for you, since you do not know how to properly express your own feelings, the anger that ought to be directed toward its instigator is trapped inside you and ends up attacking you instead. “Why am I such an idiot, that I can’t express my feelings properly, can’t even speak up honestly?”



			ABOVE ALL, PLEASE REMEMBER THIS: What you are feeling is not something that should just be ignored, but something very significant. The feelings inside you will not easily disappear just because you decide to suppress or ignore them. Many psychological problems come about when repression becomes a habit and the energy of those suppressed emotions is unable to find a healthy outlet. Just as stagnant water becomes fetid and toxic, so it is with our emotions.

			But it’s not too late. From now on, before going along with what others wish you to do, please listen to the voice inside you, telling you what you truly want. Even when you feel yourself buffeted by constant demands, if you really do not want to do something, don’t try to push through with it, exhausting yourself to the point that you are no longer able to cope. Instead, try to make others understand what you are feeling by expressing it in words. Don’t worry that expressing yourself will cause the other person to dislike you and the relationship to become strained. If the other person knew how you really felt, she probably wouldn’t have made such demands of you.

			Even when everyone says, “Let’s all have coffee,” if you want a chai latte, it’s okay to speak up and say, “I’d like a chai latte instead.” We consider it good to be good to others, but don’t forget that you have a responsibility to be good to yourself first.


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			If your current circumstances are stressful,

			try visualizing this:

			Your circumstances are a hurricane,

			and you are the eye of the storm.

			Do not get swept away by the storm.

			Follow the wisdom

			emanating from the storm’s peaceful eye.


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			May my own pain open my heart

			wide enough to embrace others in pain.

			May my suffering become

			an opportunity to connect with others who are suffering.

			Just as I wish for

			a swift end to my suffering,

			I also pray for others

			to recover quickly from their pain.


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					[image: Penguin Random House Next Reads logo]


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			Just because you have failed to achieve your goal,

			it does not mean all your efforts were in vain.

			Failure is meaningful in itself,

			teaching you many new things.

			No one can tell the sum of a life until it has come to its end.



			You have not screwed up your life

			just because you screwed up an exam.

			Nor is your life a failure

			just because your business failed.

			When you have had a negative experience,

			be wary of thoughts that

			make it seem worse than it is.



			The first step to overcoming failure

			is to fully admit you have failed.

			Admitting it will put your mind at ease

			and help you to see what you ought to do next.



			Having too much success too young

			is one of life’s greatest perils.

			Don’t try to climb higher than you can go before you’re ready.

			You will get there step-by-step.



			When something hasn’t turned out well,

			don’t give up; keep going,

			and try different ways of making it work.

			There is no fixed answer, no single solution.

			We find the best approach through trial and error.



			After rolling thunder and a torrential downpour,

			we can see the blue sky and green mountains

			so much clearer and brighter than before.

			And after experiencing a great trial,

			we come to see clearly what is truly important in our lives.



			“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.

			It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”




			Don’t be disheartened, my friend.

			When we look at our lives as a whole,

			our current difficulty is like a cloud.

			Although large, it will soon pass.



			When you hope for someone to appear

			to solve your problem,

			remember that nothing in this world is free.

			After solving your problem,

			that person often becomes your new problem.



			Do not beg for people’s attention.

			As you discover and develop your unique strengths,

			they will pay attention to you automatically.

			If you catch yourself desiring people’s attention,

			tell yourself, “I just have to get better at what I do.”

			You are noble; don’t act like a beggar.



			If you allow yourself to be shaken,

			the world will shake you all the harder.

			Be like the rock, which is not easily moved

			by other people’s praise or criticism.



			Even when you have tried your absolute best,

			someone might still be critical or snide.

			There are all kinds of people in this world, even those who think

			the food of a three-Michelin-star chef is just so-so.

			No matter who you are, it is impossible for you to please everyone.



			We are far more affected by one word of criticism

			than by ten words of praise.

			Whenever you are hurt by someone’s criticism,

			remember that behind that one word of criticism,

			there are ten words of praise—

			from those who like you and cheer you on.



			If we see someone passionate about his work,

			we naturally feel drawn to him.

			As he is completely absorbed in his work,

			we can’t take our eyes off of him.

			Passion is contagious.



			If someone is promoting a product

			but doesn’t fully believe in it, it will not sell.

			It is not the product that sells but the seller’s passion.



			Have you ever tried your best to the point of tears?

			No one else may know, but you know that you really did your best.

			Even if you fail, you will have nothing to regret.



			If heaven wants you to grow,

			it sends one rival who is more capable than you

			and has a better background and a nicer personality.

			As you compete with your rival,

			you discover different abilities lying dormant inside you.

			Although you might have hated your rival,

			when you look back and see

			how much you grew during that time,

			you will probably feel grateful to him.



			Try solving this riddle:

			“Do you know which role

			is the most difficult one in your company?”

			Answer: “The role I am assigned to.”

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			Do not try to demonstrate how smart you are

			by nitpicking people’s faults

			that are too minor even to mention.

			It will be obvious what you are doing.



			Do not try to promote yourself

			by criticizing people ahead of you.

			If you do, you, too, will be criticized

			by those behind you.

			Instead, try to win recognition

			through your own hard work and talent.

			The moment you attack someone,

			your true worth is revealed.



			It’s a mistake to assume

			that everything about your dream job

			will be fun and interesting.

			All jobs have their tedious aspects.

			Know that there are always trials to get through

			before something bears fruit.



			I thought that professors just taught and did research.

			But after becoming a professor,

			I realized that the work involves

			all sorts of things I didn’t care for,

			like collecting receipts,

			writing recommendation letters,

			filling out applications and reports for research grants,

			giving lectures to prospective students and their parents, etc.

			This seems to be the case with every kind of work.

			You get to do what you like if you also do what you don’t like.



			When the time comes to do a task

			you have anticipated doing for a long time,

			you assume you will be quite nervous.

			But if you’ve prepared to the best of your ability,

			you become unexpectedly calm, not too nervous.

			Knowing that you can now show

			how hard you have been working,

			you even become somewhat excited.

			If you’ve prepared thoroughly,

			there’s nothing to be nervous about.



			“Put your heart, mind, and soul

			into even your smallest acts.

			This is the secret of success.”




			It seems we acquire the most strength and wisdom

			at those points in our lives that are the most difficult.

			Later on, we think back on those difficult times,

			on what we learned from them and how we came through them.

			Then we realize that they have been a priceless experience for us.


				[image: Book title, Love for Imperfect Things, Subtitle, How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection, author, Haemin Sunim, imprint, Penguin Books]


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			When we love someone,

			the greatest gift we can give

			is to be fully present for them.


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			The sacred spirit

			dwelling inside me

			salutes the sacred

			spirit dwelling inside





			Don’t let your difficult past

			define who you are today.

			If you do, you will live your whole life

			as a victim of the past.

			There is life force within you

			waiting to shoot out of the ground of the past.

			Please trust that force of renewal.

			Bow respectfully to your past and proclaim,

			“From now on, I have decided to be a little happier!”



			If someone is unable to think beyond himself,

			it could be because he didn’t get enough love growing up.

			Because he felt that the world was cold and uncaring,

			he had to be self-centered to take care of himself.

			If there is a selfish person in your life

			who makes things difficult for you,

			look deeply into his pain

			and try to understand where he is coming from.



			If we examine what motivates us,

			we see that even as adults

			we want recognition from other people,

			and that so much of what we do

			comes from that desire to be recognized.

			Shower your child with attention,

			and make her feel secure in your love.

			This way she won’t grow up starved for

			other people’s acknowledgment.



			If one of your children is jealous of

			her brother or sister,

			take her on a trip, however brief,

			just the two of you.

			If a trip is impossible, spend a whole day

			only with her.

			Eat something delicious together,

			play in a park, and listen to her.

			If children do not receive enough attention,

			psychological problems often emerge.

			Parents can prevent this while their children are

			still young and impressionable.



			Every now and then, permit yourself a little luxury.

			Whether it’s buying beautiful flowers for the dinner table,

			a slice of delicious cheesecake to have with a caffè americano,

			a pair of soft winter gloves—

			little luxuries can brighten your life.



			The nice cutlery set, tea, wine, clothes, pen, quilt

			that you have been saving for a special occasion—

			use them whenever you get the chance.

			Special moments are not separate from our everyday lives.

			When you make use of something special, it makes the moment special.

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			Do you sometimes feel that

			something small can bring you a lot of happiness?

			I feel that way when I see

			yellow and orange peppers.

			I often hesitate to buy them, since they are

			more expensive than green peppers.

			But I love their colors, and when I do decide to treat myself,

			they make me so happy.

			And did you know that bell peppers have

			three times as much vitamin C as oranges?



			If I like myself, it is easy for me to like people around me.

			But if I am unhappy with myself,

			it is easy to feel unhappy with those around me.

			May you become your own biggest fan!



			When I extend a small kindness to others,

			I find it easier to like myself.

			If you feel that your self-esteem is low,

			try doing something nice for a stranger.

			As you begin to like yourself,

			your self-esteem will improve.



			Even products labeled “limited edition”

			are made on a production line with hundreds that are exactly the same.

			But there is only one you in the world.

			Please cherish the unique individual that is you.



			The head says,

			“Do not hate that person too much,”

			“Forgive others for your own sake,”

			“Do not envy your friend’s success.”

			But there are times when the heart does not listen.

			At times like these, give prayer a try.

			Prayer connects the path between head and heart.

			Ask humbly for help with what seems to be impossible at the moment.



			People sometimes express their longing

			through hate.

			If you hate someone,

			look closely within yourself.

			What could the reason be?

			Are you still attached to that person?

			There is no opportunity as good as this

			to be mindful of ourselves.

			We send rockets all the way to the moon,

			but when it comes to our own mind,

			the closest thing to us,

			we remain utterly unaware and ignorant.



			Though we should not ignore

			what other people say,

			the decision is ultimately ours to make.

			When you make a decision,

			listen to your heart more than the opinions of others.

			A decision made because of the opinions of others

			is one we often come to regret.



			There is a saying in Korea:

			“Lengthy deliberation often leads to a terrible decision.”

			If you think and worry too much before doing something,

			“your boat goes to the mountain instead of the ocean.”

			Now and then it is necessary to trust your intuition

			and push ahead in the direction you feel is appropriate.



			When you have an important decision to make

			and are not sure what to do,

			stop for a while

			and listen to what your heart is saying.

			Take a walk in a park

			or a brief trip somewhere beautiful,

			or meet a friend you can trust

			and discuss what you have been thinking.

			Your heart is far wiser than your head—

			it already knows the answer.



			When your head thinks “yes” is the right answer,

			and yet something doesn’t seem quite right,

			take a little more time,

			and do not give the final answer just yet.

			There are times when intuition hits the mark

			and rational thought doesn’t.

			If you allow yourself a little time to discover

			why you are hesitating,

			the reason will soon become clear.



			Everybody needs time alone.

			When you’ve spent the whole day at work

			being harassed by others, and then return home

			to find your family won’t leave you in peace,

			you can easily become annoyed and angry.

			At such times, do not blame yourself for getting annoyed.

			Instead, take some time for yourself by stopping by

			your favorite bookstore, coffee shop, or temple.

			Go for a quiet walk alone and listen to your favorite songs.

			Being alone makes the world pause for a moment

			and helps to restore harmony.



			Just as a mother looks at her child with love,

			look at your own suffering with compassion.

			You will soon feel that you are not alone.

			There is a soft inner core of love and caring

			at the heart of every suffering.

			You are not thrown into this world alone.




			The reason we think we are better than others

			is that inferiority still lurks within us.

			A sense of superiority exists

			because of a sense of inferiority.



			In the course of our lives, we meet people

			who aggravate our sense of inferiority:

			the friend with a more successful career,

			the colleague with a better education and looks,

			the in-laws with a lot more money.

			But look beyond these externals.

			People who seem better off

			have other difficulties,

			brought on by the very things

			you envy them for.



			Someone’s true self cannot be known

			by the things that are easy to judge,

			like physical appearance, academic degree, job title, etc.

			Those things don’t tell us whether someone is

			humorous, kind, considerate, good at keeping promises,

			generous toward subordinates or those less fortunate.

			Only when we know these kinds of things

			can we come to understand who they really are.



			You can impress someone with words at first,

			but without actions to back them up,

			the good feeling cannot last.



			Who is an unfortunate person?

			One who looks at other people and sees only their flaws.



			If you listen to someone tell a story about someone else,

			in many cases more is revealed about the speaker than

			the one they are speaking about.

			Of all the attributes that make up a person,

			they are speaking of the one that captured their attention.



			If someone who has never met you

			says this and that about you,

			tossing off observations quite easily,

			then it’s clear what is really happening:

			They are just projecting.



			When we tried to talk critically

			about someone whom everyone at the meeting knew,

			an elder monk stood up and said:

			“What is the point of talking about someone who is not here?”



			There are times when a story

			that begins, “This is a secret . . .”

			is not really a secret, or not your secret to tell.

			If it’s the former, then you are hoping to win

			the confidence of your listener.

			If the latter, then you must want to feel

			the pleasure of disclosure.

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			When you are with one friend,

			you end up gossiping about celebrities;

			with another, you speak about money;

			with another, politics;

			and with yet another, spirituality.

			This is because, rather than

			“you” being something fixed,

			you change moment to moment,

			depending on whom you are with.

			In light of this,

			cultivate a deeper connection with those people

			in whose company you like yourself best.



			Sushi tastes better with a cup of green tea.

			But if you eat it with Coca-Cola,

			it doesn’t taste as good.

			The right combination is a key to success.



			When you have experienced something deeply unfair,

			make a formal complaint at least once, if not twice,

			so that it won’t happen to other people.

			And then let the whole thing go, as quickly as possible.

			But if you hold on to the memory of it,

			you may let new opportunities and experiences pass you by.

			With a new heart, focus on the present, not the past.



			Relationship problems are difficult to resolve.

			He is unlikely to change to suit you;

			she won’t be quick to forgive

			all the accumulated hurt.

			It seems all we can do

			is try to understand the other person—

			the circumstances we weren’t aware of

			that make them act the way they do.

			The problem doesn’t go away

			as soon as you figure things out,

			but as you come to some degree of understanding,

			you discover your own heart,

			softer and more open than before.




			When your self-esteem hits rock bottom,

			say to yourself: “To my family and close friends,

			I’m just as precious as I’ve always been.

			I’m still capable of doing good in the world;

			a few people who don’t really know me

			don’t get to decide what I’m worth.

			In time, I believe I’ll meet different people

			who will value me and my abilities.”



			If you love someone,

			rather than doing what you think they need,

			do what they themselves ask you to do.

			Though it comes from a good place,

			doing what you think someone needs

			can be the seed of wanting to control them,

			to make them a certain way to please yourself.

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			With a little planning,

			you can continue to enjoy your life

			while looking after someone close to you.

			Sacrificing yourself completely

			won’t be good in the long run,

			not even for the person you’re taking care of.

			Only if you yourself are reasonably well

			will you be able to look after someone properly.



			Are you worried because

			your spouse or child has put on weight?

			The best way to make someone you love

			look after their health is by looking after your own,

			with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

			If you set an example, they’re much more likely to join in.



			Even though you did your best,

			their response was lukewarm,

			or they demanded even more of you.

			There’s no need to despair.

			If you really did all you could, leave it be.

			If they need more, they’ll be able to find a way

			to finish the job themselves.



			We sometimes resort to verbal threats

			in the hope of making people come to their senses.

			For example: If you don’t do what I want,

			I will take away something that is important to you,

			or in the future I won’t give you what you need.

			This happens especially between family members.

			Unfortunately, such words won’t change people’s minds.

			They will only hurt them

			and make them dig in their heels.

			Instead, calmly explain why something is important to you,

			so your words don’t sound like threats or ultimatums.

			Change will last longer when it’s not forced

			but when it comes about because they have been convinced of its need.



			Someone told me this, and it made a positive impression:

			“Haemin Sunim, now that I am doing so well financially,

			my relationship with my siblings and parents has improved.”

			If you have made a lot of money, share some of it with your family.



			Much domestic strife comes from

			the futile effort to interfere and sow discord:

			the wife, between her husband and his parents;

			the mother-in-law, between her son and his wife;

			the husband’s sister, between her brother and his wife.



			However close a relationship is,

			some questions are better left unasked:

			“Why don’t you lose weight?”

			“Why aren’t you married yet?”

			“Why did you get divorced?”

			“Why aren’t you working?”

			Please, keep these thoughts to yourself.



			“Even among branches that stem from the same root,

			there will be those that are healthy and bear many fruits

			and those that are stunted and whose fruit is undersized.

			The healthier branch might have become that way

			by receiving more than its fair share of nutrients.

			It’s the same with siblings:

			If there is one who is smart and successful,

			there could be one who is poor and must rely on the other.

			You’ll be annoyed if every time your sibling asks for help,

			you feel you’re being deprived of what’s rightfully yours.

			But if you consider how your sibling might have had to sacrifice

			for you to get to where you are now, it will not seem so unfair.”




			We get the most annoyed by those who are closest to us.

			And when the annoyance is on both sides,

			an argument will inevitably break out.

			When someone is showing his temper,

			it could be because he wants us to hear

			about his current situation and empathize.

			Rather than arguing,

			try to understand his deeper needs.



			When you feel like you’re about to lose your temper,

			think of your family.

			Think about how your children will suffer the consequences.

			If you cannot control your temper for yourself,

			control it for your family’s sake.



			If a child is crying or making a racket on a plane,

			you’ll likely get annoyed with the child and resent the parents.

			Imagine the child is actually

			your niece or nephew, your grandson or granddaughter.

			If we think of the child as a stranger,

			we focus on the inconvenience to ourselves,

			but if we think of the child as a family member,

			we become merciful, wondering whether the child

			is uncomfortable or in pain.



			If you want to help your child, your partner, or your friend,

			simply listen without offering advice or your own interpretation.

			And empathize, imagining that you yourself just had that experience.

			Don’t turn away from difficulties, but endure them together.

			That is how you can be of greatest help.



			Before you lay your head on your pillow and go to sleep,

			recall just three things you were thankful for today.

			If you continue to do this for two months,

			you will see an increase in your level of happiness,

			because instead of focusing on what is wrong with your life,

			you will develop a habit of looking for what is good.

			A happy mind-set needs practice.



			If you give something your full attention,

			whatever it is, and examine it closely,

			it will come to attract your interest and care.

			Just as the face of your child is the most familiar

			and the loveliest thing in the world,

			constant attention will turn an ordinary object

			into an extraordinary one.



			If you take home a cat and care for it,

			even one that’s been abandoned and is dirty,

			it won’t be long before it becomes

			the cutest cat in the world.


				[image: ]




			Underneath someone’s violent nature,

			there is always fear, rooted in

			either childhood or present circumstances.

			Underneath that fear lurks

			hurt and vulnerability.

			If you really want to forgive someone,

			look beneath the surface and see what is there.



			“Only true understanding can

			bring about forgiveness.

			And this kind of understanding is possible

			when you see the suffering of others.”




			However much someone deserves your hatred,

			hating them will end up making you

			the biggest victim of your own hatred.

			The deeper the valley of hatred grows,

			the more it comes to feel like you are trapped in hell.

			Resolve to be mindful of these negative feelings,

			even if for no one else’s sake but your own.



			“Haemin Sunim,

			even though I apologized, she still won’t forgive me.

			Do I have to get down on my knees and beg?”

			Things don’t get forgiven right away

			just because you say you’re sorry.

			She has suffered a lot because of you,

			so it’ll take more than a couple apologies

			for her to forgive you.

			If you are truly sorry, you ought to

			apologize sincerely many times.

			It’s easy to say a few words—too easy, in her eyes,

			compared with the pain she has had to endure.



			When you look at the situation calmly,

			you see that the person who wronged you

			behaved badly not only to you,

			but also to everyone in a similar position.

			His terrible character is obviously to blame.

			So don’t take personally

			what he said or did to you.

			The problem is not you. It is him.



			When she says hurtful things,

			is it really in response to something you did,

			or is there another explanation?

			If it is the latter, then there is no need to take the blame

			for something you have not caused.



			If you are stressed out,

			maybe it’s because your mind is overcrowded

			with other people’s thoughts and activities.

			If this is the case, go on a “media fast” for three days—

			forgo your cell phone, TV, and internet.

			You will soon be able to listen

			to your own body and mind

			and return to a state of good health.



			If your desk or the floor of your room is messy,

			it attracts more mess.

			And, of course, it doesn’t help you to work efficiently.

			When you get home from work and change your clothes,

			even if it’s irritating, it helps to hang them up in the closet.



			Like someone who quits smoking for their health,

			my friend said he quit all news for a month.

			And he really did stop being distracted and anxious.

			Ask yourself whether you truly need to know

			the latest news about politics, accidents, and celebrities.

			We mindlessly consume it all without thinking.

			And, like instant noodles, it provides no nutrients.



			When we are alone in a peaceful place,

			we experience the stillness of our mind.

			It is nourishing and restorative, like medicine, helping us to

			recover our center and feel the divinity within us.

			A dose of stillness once in a while does a lot of good.



			Life’s pain is not something to be overcome.

			Instead, it calls for gentle love and healing.

			The more forcefully we deny it,

			or try to forget about it, the stronger it rises up.

			Gaze warmly at your pain,

			without denying or resisting it.

			If you do, you will detect the love

			that lies beneath it.



			The good heart that prays for the end of others’ suffering

			ends its own suffering with such prayers.

			Send out your blessings to

			family, friends, colleagues, strangers on the street.

			A saint acts compassionately not because she is a saint.

			Rather, her compassionate acts make her a saint.



			So you feel terrible today.

			But that doesn’t mean your whole life is terrible.

			Right now you feel drained and worn down.

			But you will feel better after a good night’s sleep.



			The heart’s wounds are healed

			when we encounter beauty or humor.

			When we walk amid the beauty of nature, our thoughts rest.

			When we look at beautiful art, our sensibilities are stimulated.

			When we talk with a humorous friend, our mind brightens.

			Through beauty and humor, we return

			to our original state and become whole again.



			I heard the following joke from another monk:

			A novice monk asks a senior monk,

			“Is it appropriate for a monk to use email?”

			The senior monk answers,

			“Sure, but only if there are no attachments!”



			If you want to kindle firewood,

			there needs to be space between the logs.

			If you pack the wood too densely,

			the fire will not take; the flames need room to breathe.

			In the same way, if our lives have no breathing room,

			we won’t be able to enjoy all the things we have,

			no matter how great or precious they are.



			When you have somewhere to go,

			set out ten minutes early.

			Your mind won’t be rushed,

			and you will be able to enjoy the walk.

			Similarly, take an extra five minutes to enjoy a meal.

			You will be able to taste the food properly,

			and the meal won’t sit heavy in your stomach.

			A mere five or ten minutes here and there

			can dramatically improve your quality of life.



			If you own several of the same thing,

			keep only the one you like best, and give the others away.

			If we have too many possessions,

			we do not possess them; they possess us.

			A clean space, with everything neat and tidy,

			is the greatest luxury, setting our minds at ease.



			Choose two or three objects per day

			that you haven’t used in a while,

			and give or throw them away:

			food, medicine, and cosmetics

			that have passed their use-by date,

			clothes you haven’t worn in years,

			books you’ve read but won’t read again,

			appliances that are just taking up space.

			If you get rid of them, you don’t lose but gain.

			Uncluttered space is a source of comfort and relaxation,

			and you are left with only the things that make you happy.


			[image: ]

			Frustration and failure are a part of life.

			If we do not flee from them but accept them calmly,

			we come to know what we need to do next.


				[image: ]


			IN EACH OF OUR LIVES, there will be someone who does something absolutely unforgivable. We know we ought to forgive them for our own sake, rather than remain filled with hatred and rage, but that’s easier said than done. How can we so easily forgive someone who has told such awful lies about us, leaving us feeling hurt and insulted? They have stepped over us on their way to the top and stabbed us in the back. Each time we see them, they act as though they have done nothing of the sort. The wound is so deep that we are not sure whether we will ever be able to heal.

			At times like these, we should try not to forgive the person too quickly. The first step to healing a deep emotional wound is to recognize and accept our feelings for what they are: burning rage and intense hatred. These are the mind’s natural attempt to draw a clear boundary between the person and ourselves. They function as a protective wall, allowing our vulnerable selves to heal. If someone encourages us to set aside that rage before we are ready, we run the risk of deepening the wound by breaking the protective wall too soon.

			But it can be a problem if the memory keeps rising up even after many years have passed, leaving us trapped like a hamster on a wheel, unable to move on from the pain. The more we remember how the pain came about, the more we come to despise ourselves for not having stood up for ourselves. As our mind dwells on the past, we also fail to notice what the present moment is offering us and cannot fully enjoy our lives. Even though our mind resolves to forgive, our heart stays stubbornly closed. Worse, because no one ever taught us the practical steps to take to be able to forgive someone, there is an unbridgeable gulf between head and heart, and this becomes yet another source of distress.



			ONE SUNDAY EVENING, I had dinner with an old high school friend whom I had been very close to. We hadn’t been in touch since our high school graduation, but he’d reached out after discovering that I had become a monk. Although it was a little awkward at first, as we had spent many years leading different lives, it didn’t take long to feel comfortable again. He was from a poor family just like I was, but worked harder than anyone I knew. He did his best not only in his classes, but also with extracurricular activities like sports and music. He had gone to a top university, then landed a job at one of the best companies in Korea. After working at that company for about ten years, he started his own firm. Everyone regarded him as a success.

			After we had finished eating, my friend, as though he had been biding his time throughout the meal, suddenly blurted out: “Please help me, Haemin Sunim. Lately I’ve been a bit depressed, and don’t feel like doing anything. It’s all become too much.” My successful, hardworking friend sat there with his shoulders slumped and his face looking like that of a young boy. Having intuited what things had been like for him at home, I spoke carefully. “You’ve always worked so hard, ever since you were a child; why do you think that is?” At first he spoke of the obligations of being the breadwinner, and then, as I continued to gently press the question, he returned to the subject of his childhood.

			“Things at home were pretty tough. If I didn’t work hard, it seemed my mother would always have a hard life, so I guess that’s why I did it.” I continued to draw him out. “Is that it? You just wanted to make things easier for your mother?” At that, his face darkened. He was clearly embarrassed. “Actually, it was my aunt, the wife of my dead father’s older brother; I hated how she always looked down on my mother, saying that someone so poor and uneducated would never make a better life for herself and her children. And so to prove her wrong, I was determined to work harder and become more successful than any of my cousins.”

			“So, each time you saw your mother being slighted by your aunt, you must have felt angry and humiliated. If I’d had an aunt like that, I would have hated her, too. If you really want my help, please try this. First imagine now that this aunt, who hurt you and your mother, is in front of you. Go back to being the child who was wounded, and speak your mind to your aunt. But instead of using the language of an adult, talk as a ten-year-old would. We are returning to the time of your youth. Set aside the importance of respecting your elders, and of not using bad language, and just speak whatever words happen to rise up inside you. Just as they are.”



			ONE OF THE REASONS why forgiveness is so hard is that our heart does not listen to our mind. We don’t know how to connect the two. Sometimes we try to deny or suppress the rage and hatred, hoping they’ll go away, but they always come back. Interestingly, however, it is those emotions of rage and hatred that function as the vital conduit through which the mind’s decision to forgive reaches the heart. Rather than fight our feelings, we should honor them by allowing them to be there and witnessing how their energy moves inside us. Does it manifest as a flushed face, muscle tension, or elevated heartbeat? Without identifying with the emotions, observe them in a detached yet caring way. Like a mother looking at her child, we can observe our emotions attentively and compassionately.

			If we continue to do this, something unexpected happens. Like a layer of an onion skin peeling off, the inner landscape of our emotions begins to reveal itself. In my case, I was able to detect deep sadness beneath the rage, and then, looking even more deeply and compassionately, I discovered the fear of loneliness and death right underneath the sadness. If we can teach ourselves to look at our emotional wounds with curiosity and compassion, our hardened heart will, mysteriously enough, begin to melt.

			Once we feel our heart starting to open, we can try directing our compassionate gaze toward the one who wounded us. Try to look deeply and understand their pain and suffering. If they were happy, it’s highly unlikely they would have done such a thing to us. See what lies beneath their unhappiness. The aim of this practice is not to excuse the wrongs that were done to us but to untie the knot of our own emotions, which are holding us back and preventing us from living a full life. In other words, we try to forgive not for the sake of the aggressor but to free ourselves from the past. In order to achieve this, it is important that we try to understand that person.

				[image: ]

			If we can set aside our judgment and look at the person in the spirit of understanding, we start to see things that hadn’t been visible before. For example, inside the boastful figure who looked down on us is a soul that had itself been looked down on. The person may have been ridiculed by their parents, siblings, or friends. The one who hurt me may have behaved the way they did because their life was every bit as lonely and insecure as mine. Facing such a deep truth, our hearts soften unwittingly. If we continue to open our heart to all the other people who are lonely and insecure, and feel how their suffering is just the same as our own, the sorrow inside us transforms into compassion for everyone in the world, including ourselves.



			MY FRIEND HAD BEEN SILENT for a while. As I encouraged him to give voice to what was inside him, he began to wail, venting his long-suppressed rage. “Damn you, damn you!” Like a child, he buried his face in my shoulder and sobbed. “I was so sad for my mom and so angry at my aunt. It was too hard.” I shed tears with him. After crying for a while, he seemed to calm down a little and said to me: “That’s it, the reason my life has been such a struggle—it’s all because I wanted revenge on my aunt, and at the same time to win her recognition. But after she passed away last year, that possibility disappeared, and that’s when everything started to feel so empty.”

			A few days after our dinner, my friend sent me an email, thanking me and telling me that he now felt much more at ease. “It seems I can finally forgive my aunt,” he wrote. “I went home and, just as you advised, thought about what kind of suffering my aunt might have endured. It struck me that she had had an unhappy life herself. Her husband was successful, but he constantly cheated on her. Feelings of betrayal and loneliness dominated her married life. If she had been happy, she probably never would have behaved like that to my mother. It feels like I might be able to forgive my aunt and let go of my past.”



			THERE IS NOT ONLY RAGE and hatred inside us, but also sadness and grief, loneliness and terror. But that is not all. There is also the compassionate inner eye looking at such emotions with equanimity. When you are suffering because someone is hard to forgive, I pray that you find the compassionate gaze inside you.




			Learn to express what you are feeling

			without agonizing over it.

			It is a life skill every bit as important as

			learning how to read. Without it,

			dissatisfaction builds up, arguments break out,

			and relationships can blow up like volcanoes.



			Does it make you feel frustrated

			to be the only one doing the work?

			If so, don’t just swallow the feeling; speak up:

			“It’s difficult for me to do it on my own.

			Could you please help me out?”

			Little by little, expressing your feelings will become easier.



			When someone asks for a favor,

			don’t forget that you have the option to say,

			“I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t do that.”

			You have no obligation to take on a task

			that will be a great burden on you.

			And if the relationship grows strained

			because you do not do the favor,

			it was never a good relationship to begin with.



			Just as on a plane,

			you are told to put

			the emergency breathing mask on a child

			only after you have put one on yourself,

			there is nothing selfish about looking after yourself first.

			Only if you are happy will you be able

			to make those around you happy.



			When you care for yourself first,

			the world will also find you worthy of care.



			In the same way that when you’re in love and

			you want to spend time with only that person,

			try spending time on yourself—

			you deserve your care and attention.

			Treat yourself to a delicious meal,

			a good book, a nice walk with a lovely view.

			As you would invest in the person you love,

			so you should invest in yourself.



			My dear friend:

			Because there is some part of you

			that is imperfect or broken,

			it can motivate you to work hard

			to overcome it, and can ultimately bring you success in life.

			It can also help you relate to others

			and become more compassionate.

			Do not despair over what is imperfect in yourself.

			Instead, look at your flaws with love.



			It’s okay that you have flaws.

			How could our lives be as clean and white

			as a blank sheet of paper?

			Life naturally takes a toll

			on our bodies, our minds, and our relationships.

			Rather than choosing a life in which you do nothing

			for fear of making a mistake,

			choose a life that improves through failure and pain.

			And shout out loud to your struggling self,

			“I love you so much.”



			In our hearts we all carry secrets

			that we cannot easily share with others.

			They can be about illness, money, sexuality, relationships, or family.

			They can evoke a deep sense of

			inferiority, shame, anxiety, or guilt.

			But because of the weight of the secrets,

			we become more humble and understanding.

			Don’t judge people based on how they appear,

			as they may have difficulties that nobody can see.



			Seeing on social media how your friends are enjoying themselves,

			have you ever felt envious?

			One of our common mistakes is

			to compare how we feel inside with how our friends appear outside.

			We don’t know what is going on inside of our friends,

			but we are well aware of what is going on inside of ourselves.

			Your friends might be envying you based on your social media posts,

			without knowing what is really going on in your life.



			Have you ever felt a sense of inferiority

			because of a cousin who is doing better than you?

			She may be smarter than you, attend a better school,

			work at a better company. But remember that

			none of us can know how our lives will turn out in the end.

			Though school and work might be measures of success,

			the older you get, the less important they will be.

			The true winner is the one who is happy with his life.



			You may appear unattractive

			not because you have many unattractive qualities

			but because you think you do and look so uncomfortable.

			Even if you have unattractive qualities,

			if you are confident and at ease with yourself,

			you won’t have such a problem.

			Remember that the most attractive quality is your confidence.



			It’s okay not to be ranked

			first, second, or even third.

			Compare yourself not with others,

			but with the old you.

			Like yourself for making an honest effort.

			And continue to have faith in yourself.



			If you keep letting criticism upset you,

			then you will gradually wither,

			and in the end you will not be able to do anything.

			And that is exactly what your critics are hoping for.

			Do not let those who criticize you determine your destiny.

			Every time you hear from your critics, shout more loudly:

			“No matter what you say, I won’t give up.

			Let’s see who is right in the end.”



			“Why should your life be destroyed

			by the easy criticism of those

			who do not know you or care about you?”




			If you begin to believe what others say about you,

			they will begin to control you.

			Not everything that appears in your mind is true.

			Do not let someone else’s opinion rule your life.



			“If you hear a voice within you say,

			‘You cannot paint,’

			then by all means paint,

			and that voice will be silenced.”




			We are worthy of being loved

			not because of what we do well

			but because we are precious living beings.

			Even if you don’t achieve

			the perfection the world demands,

			your existence already has value

			and is worthy of love.



			In India, “Namaste” is a common greeting, like “Hello.”

			But there is a beautiful meaning to “Namaste.”

			It means, “The divine being within me

			bows to the divine being within you.”

			We are much greater and more sacred than we think.


				[image: ]

			When the waves of an ordeal roll in,

			do not act out of desperation.

			Instead, go to a peaceful place

			and dwell on the silence within yourself.

			When your mind touches its deep silence,

			you realize that you have enough

			inner strength and wisdom

			to go through with this.


				[image: ]


			AFTER TWO DAYS OF SUMMER rain speeding the advance of autumn, the sky finally cleared, poking its blue face out from between the clouds. With the blue sky for a backdrop, the trees’ leaves danced excitedly in the wind, like red and yellow waving hands. For me, early autumn is always a time to go on a meditation retreat. I usually go to a mountain monastery in Korea, but this year I went to Plum Village, the Buddhist community near Bordeaux, France, established by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. When Thich Nhat Hanh visited Korea in 2013 along with his disciples, I served as his interpreter for his public talks and formed a precious relationship with him. I had always wanted to see for myself how his wonderful teachings were put into practice in Plum Village, so when the opportunity presented itself to visit, I seized it.

			At the time of the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh led the antiwar movement inside and outside of Vietnam. Seeing his efforts, Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly moved and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. After the war, Thich Nhat Hanh was unable to return to Vietnam, so he settled in France, where he started a small Buddhist community together with those who came to seek his teachings. As time passed, what had originally been a small commune attracted ever larger numbers of visiting practitioners. Unfortunately, Thich Nhat Hanh’s health has been in decline since 2014, and he has been unable to give public teachings. In spite of this, many people from all over the world still visit Plum Village in order to practice mindfulness meditation.



			WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED AT PLUM VILLAGE, I was immediately struck by how slowly everybody walked. It was a marked contrast with daily life in towns and cities, where everybody is always in a rush. The monks and lay practitioners of Plum Village walk slowly not only to deepen their mindfulness but also to enjoy the act of walking itself. And I discovered that it wasn’t just walking; they also eat very slowly, a mouthful at a time, quietly savoring the meal. No matter what delicacy we might have in front of us, if our mind wanders while we are eating, then we won’t be able to taste a thing. But if our mind is fully alert, even a mouthful of tea can taste like nothing we have ever experienced before.



			THICH NHAT HANH’S MOST IMPORTANT teaching is that the mind must be fully present in the here and now, including while we walk and eat. Rather than getting caught up in its own thoughts, mulling over past memories or future worries, the mind stays in the present moment because the place of enlightenment that practitioners seek is in the here and now, the mind’s true home. When our mind is fully present, it naturally becomes calm and centered, without many distracting thoughts, allowing us to enjoy our lives fully and focus on what we do—whether it is having a conversation with our friends, cooking a meal for family, or cleaning floors.

			Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches that we should be mindful of our breathing, as it is an important bridge between body and mind. If our breathing is calm, our mind will be calm, and if our breathing is agitated, our mind will be agitated. The same goes the other way around: Frantic minds make for frantic breathing, and peaceful minds produce peaceful breathing. In addition, breathing always happens in the here and now and thus anchors our mind in the present. As we breathe more calmly and deeply, the mind follows suit, savoring deep and peaceful silence.



			AS MY PRACTICE OF MINDFUL breathing deepens, the door of wisdom begins to open. People typically equate the mind with thoughts, as if thoughts are the only things there. However, once experiencing the peaceful silence that lies in the gap between one thought and the next, I see how a thought appears from that silence and also disappears into it by itself. Consequently, I don’t attach too much importance to each thought but pay more attention to the quiet space in between thoughts. The space of silence then gradually expands, and I begin to feel that even a good thought is not as pleasant as the peaceful silence.

			Eventually I come to realize that this peaceful silence exists not only inside my body, but outside it as well, as it is impossible to pinpoint precisely where the silence begins and ends. The conceptual division between the self and the world collapses, and I come to realize that the silence is the mind’s unshakable true nature as well as the unmanifested ground of the universe before its creation. I finally come to understand the Zen proverb “There is no difference whatsoever among the mind, the world, and the Buddha.”



			WHILE THE SKY IS DYED ORANGE and red by the sunset, a monk solemnly rings the evening bell. The sound echoes reverently throughout the grounds of Plum Village. It is accompanied by the sounds of gentle footsteps, as people make their way toward the meditation hall. Seeing all this, my heart blooms into a flower of gratitude and contentment.


				[image: ]


			[image: Cover for Love for Imperfect Things]

			True freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection.

			—Sixth-century Zen master Sengchan


			[image: ]

			If you love someone:

			Embrace him,

			like the Holy Mother embraces Her one and only Son.

			Listen attentively,

			like there is no one else but him in the whole universe.

			Look into his eyes,

			like a soul trying to communicate after losing language.

			Dance together,

			like tomorrow is your final day on earth.


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			MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD it said that each time someone embraces you warmly, your life is extended by one more day? Of course there is no way of verifying whether this is actually the case, but none of us will have any trouble understanding the message. When we find that things are getting tough, a warm, wordless embrace can have more healing power than a logical, point-by-point explanation of why things are so difficult. Although I cannot get rid of your pain, I will still stand by your side and stick with you even during the most difficult times. The warmest way of expressing this is through a hug.



			WHEN I FIRST CAME to the United States, it took a long time for me to get used to the Western way of greeting someone. Instead of bowing politely in the traditional Korean way, I had to learn the casual, unreserved way that friends greet each other—a quick nod and a “hi” when you pass each other on the street. I had to learn that a handshake is not just clasping the other’s hand but also involves smiling, looking the other straight in the eye, and ensuring that your grip is not too strong and not too weak. But of all the various methods of greeting someone, the one that took me the longest to get used to was the hug. Especially since becoming a monk, I had become used to greeting people by hapjang—putting my palms together in front of my chest and bowing from the waist. Opening my arms wide and embracing someone made me feel somewhat shy and awkward.

			But of course a greeting is not something that one does alone. If you are parting from someone and she opens her arms to hug you, holding out your hand for a handshake not only will make her flustered, but also suggests that you want to keep some distance, which could seem impolite. But after a while, once my relationship with a friend or colleague had become sufficiently close, I learned to hug. Mysteriously, the initial awkwardness has gradually disappeared, replaced with a sense of fellowship, intimacy, and warmth.



			RECENTLY I HEARD about some interesting studies about hugs—scientific verification that they do indeed have health benefits. Anthony Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Sydney, presented research results showing that, in addition to reducing anxiety and loneliness, hugs lower our levels of the hormone cortisol, which gets secreted as a response to stress; this, in turn, strengthens immunity to pathogens and lowers blood pressure. And according to Karen Grewen of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, if a couple holds hands and hugs for twenty seconds before leaving the house in the morning, their stress index will be only half that of couples who do not do this. In other words, a brief, warm morning hug with someone we love provides us with a protective layer, insulating us from the stress of the day.



			AS A MONK, THERE ARE TIMES when I have to offer people such a protective layer. One such instance still lingers in my memory. It was at a book signing in a large bookstore in Seoul; I was signing one woman’s book when she suddenly said in a choked voice:

			“Haemin Sunim, two months ago my children’s father passed away in a car accident. I’ve been in such a state of shock that I’ve barely been outside these past two months. My younger brother gave me your book as a present, probably because he felt sorry for me; I cried so much while reading it, right from the first chapter. For some reason I got the idea that if only I could meet you, that would give me the courage to go on, and to look after my two children properly. I live in the countryside, but I got the train early this morning to come up to meet you in person.”

			Her voice was shaking, and her face was streaked with tears. In that moment, without realizing what I was doing, I got up from my seat, moved toward her, and opened my arms. After embracing her warmly for a while, I said: “I, too, will pray for your children’s departed father. His spirit will probably be watching you from the other world, seeing how you go on living, how well you look after the children. Right now you are terribly lonely, and life is very hard, but through this experience you will become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. From now on, things will gradually get better. Don’t worry too much.”

			I held her as she wept, and thought to myself: Though I am lacking in many ways, I want to be a person who can bring some small comfort to people, who can give them courage, like a ray of warm sunshine. If there is someone who needs a hug from me, I will do it willingly, gladly, and as often as they need. Those of you who are reading this, if you have family or friends who are going through a hard time, please remember to give them a warm hug now and then. Who knows, you really might extend their lives—and yours, too.


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			EARLY LAST YEAR I was contacted by Shin-soo Choo, a Major League Baseball player for the Texas Rangers. He had read my first book, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, and wanted to meet me. Since then, we have formed a close bond, exchanging occasional messages and phone calls. If he had a game in New York, sometimes I would go to cheer him on. In the first half of the year, his batting score wasn’t as high as it had been, so he asked me how he might try to get out of his slump. I worried about him, struggling alone in a foreign country like I did, as if he were my younger brother. He was under enormous pressure to help his team win games and live up to the fans’ expectations. When I told him what he might consider doing, he said he’d already tried everything he could think of, including my suggestions, but had been unable to find the exact cause of the slump. All of this was weighing heavily on him.



			EACH OF US WILL EXPERIENCE something similar in our lives—a situation in which nothing seems to improve, despite our best efforts. I’d recently had a similar experience myself, related to my health. After suffering from a severe cold the previous winter, most of the symptoms had disappeared, but the pain in my throat still lingered. I gargled with salt water and took various medications prescribed by my doctor, including antibiotics, but nothing seemed to help. After several months of this, I even had a CT scan and acupuncture, but the pain still didn’t go away, and no one could say exactly why.

			Many people who ask me questions via social media or after a public talk find themselves in similar circumstances. When your grades don’t improve even though you study hard; when you’ve spent months putting all your efforts into your business but it doesn’t take off; when you’ve made efforts to improve your relationships at home and at work but nothing changes; when you’ve done everything the doctor recommended but your illness persists—at such times it’s inevitable that we become frustrated and depressed.

			We may try going to church, temple, mosque, or synagogue, to pray for help and ask advice, but this doesn’t result in the quick fix we were hoping for. When advice like “Just do your best and things will turn out fine” no longer brings us comfort, what should we do?

			First, we need to take a step back and get a broader perspective. There are times when the sea is rough, and other times when it’s smooth. There are days when the sun shines bright, and days of torrential rain. Why do we consider good weather to be the norm that bad weather disrupts? Why should the sun always shine on us? The bumpy patch you’re on is part of a longer road; we have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, and see both as equal parts of our lives. When we take a broader view, the present slump can be seen as the trough of a wave, which sinks down to gather the energy it needs in order to rise again. It’s thanks to these low points that, when we’re again riding