Rethinking obligations

Have you ever had an oblitation?  An oblitation is an obligation that’s disguised as an invitation—something that you’ve been invited to do but really don’t want to do.  In the fall of 2019, I received an oblitation, and it turned out a lot better than I expected.  The provincial office of education for my Korean high school organized a trip for a group of foreign teachers for an overnight stay at a Buddhist temple in the town of Haeinsa, about an hour away.  I was “invited” to participate, and since the vice-principal of my school was insistent that I take part, off I went, though not without some trepidation.  This outing promised to be both spiritual—which I’m not—and cultural—which doesn’t interest me.  Some of the temples in Korea are run sort of like guesthouses, where people can come to meditate, learn about the Buddhist lifestyle, or just to relax.  

With a packed bag and closed mind I set off for Haeinsa, and discovered a gorgeous temple on a quiet mountainside.  The leaves were changing to autumn colors and the air was crisp.  This was really a perfect time for a visit. The accommodations were comfortable and warm.  We had some free time during our stay, and I got out for a few walks in the woods (more on that later).

Our group of about 40 foreign teachers was led by a female monk of about 55 years old, who introduced Buddhism, taught meditation, and told about her life.  She was a really delightful, charming woman, and made everyone feel very welcome and comfortable.  We awoke at 4:00 am to attend the morning chanting ceremony.  The food was fair for vegan cuisine. Buddhists don’t cook with garlic, because it’s thought to enflame the libido!  Meals are eaten in silence, because this is a time for giving thanks and meditation.  It was strange to be in a cafeteria full of people and nobody saying a word!  After dinner was a bell ceremony; the sound of the bells and drums resonating down the mountainside was captivating.

One of the revelations of this temple visit was learning about meditation.  We were first introduced to the traditional, cross-legged-on-the-floor type, focusing on breathing and clearing of thoughts. The idea of uncluttering one’s mind enables a person to think clearly. Then came the second form of meditation: walking. It made me realize something that I have already been doing.  I’ve always been a firm believer that a long walk leads to clearer thinking.  In fact, I composed most of this blog while I was walking earlier today.  Knowing that the social media program requires plenty of blogging means that I’ll be scheduling more walks in the coming months.

Maybe I should stop using the word oblitation and use invitunity instead—I should look at every invitation as an opportunity. 

My visit to the Haeinsa temple. That’s me, far right, at the back, admiring the paintwork.

3 thoughts on “Rethinking obligations

  1. What a delightul story, and in the process I learned two news words “oblitation” and “invitunity” I reflect on your story and I could not agree more, meditation, walking, running, anything that you can do away from the neon screens flashing at us constantly is so beneficial. It also rings true that sometimes life gives you “invitunities” when you least expect them. De-cluttering the mind is as important as de-cluttering your home. Pleased to learn an “oblitation” that you thought would be meaningless turned out to be a great experience. I am a jogger and it is a form of mediation for me, I run with no music, no gadgets, it clears my thoughts and at the same time I develop ideas, as a fact, much of the material I write and share come from personal experience and while I am out there jogging. “You can not change your destiny from one day to the next, but you can change your direction from one day to the next” (Jim Rohn)

  2. Koreans are not unlike Japanese society. It is one thing I remarked about the Japanese people that they were very quiet. Even crossing them in this huge mall that I visited, where there were thousands of people, all was very sedated, almost noiseless, as they went about their business.

    Personally, I meditate twice daily, sometimes while I go for my walk. I never wear earbuds as the sound of nature, the wind blowing against my body, they all have a calming and meditative effect on me.

  3. I agree with you about long walks. Whenever I feel a little overwhelmed or can’t seem to focus on what task I need to complete (like blogging) I try to get outside in the fresh air. It can work wonders. I also learned a new word today, “oblitation”! As an introvert I can say my first reaction to an invite is usually no but once I get myself up and out the door I feel much better and most of the time am glad that I made the choice to participate. Great post!

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