Rites of Passage in South Korea
After our 12-hour flight to Inchon, Linda and I drove the next morning to the Forest Retreat Center called Soop Chae Won, about 3 hours from Seoul. A day later, we began presenting a 10-day training program to 20 Korean staff members, age 21-65, about rites of passage in nature and the Vision Quest.
This place is hopping, with 320 youth visitors at a time, the dining hall filling up with buzzing conversation. We’re so impressed by the commitments made by management and staff to bring this work to the Korean people.
Our experiences here have confirmed the universal human truths held within all rite of passage traditions. This culture, with its deep Buddhist roots, is very different from the US, but we have found the same core of love, respect, mystery and care for community that marks our programs back home. One man, a group elder at 65, composed a poem for the last day of the training cycle. He spoke of the clouds and sky constantly changing and flowing, the earth changing and flowing, we ourselves changing and flowing, how there is no permanent self, we are part of the great creation. He shared this essentially Korean vision with us as teachers from America, affirming that there were no barriers to developing the work here: the two branches were part of one tree. He closed by saying that he wished all young Koreans could experience the work we were presenting.
Our young trainees have touched us so much! Heartfelt, enthusiastic, courageous and deeply respectful, they embody the gratitude and humility that are hallmarks of traditional Korean culture. We’ve grown to love them deeply, and consider our ties to them and to this land to be ongoing, forever in our hearts. What we’ve found here is that young people work very hard, feeling obligated to give deeply of themselves for the benefit of others. So we have introduced them to the Medicine Wheel teachings, and especially the need to discover and learn about themselves, to spend time alone in nature asking the important questions for their lives, to return to the community stronger and clearer about their gifts.
We had our group of trainees here practice “mirroring”, listening to and reflecting each others’ stories, over several days, but we never heard the contents of those talks. They were in small groups, and we had just one translator. But on the last day, in the full circle, we heard story after story about the impact of the teachings we’d presented on their own lives. One woman healed a long-time “hatred” for another person; another person spoke of using the day walk to revisit long-buried childhood wounds.
If we needed further proof of the impact of these teachings, it came via a group of our participants from 2 years ago, when we first came to Soop Chae Won to present a Vision Quest to 10 young adults. Several of those people came back to seek us out, then took us out to dinner, sharing the life-affirming impact of that program on their lives.
Next on our schedule is supervision of two groups of trainees as they lead their first Vision Quests, with college students and staff members here. We’ve also been asked to consult with management, using our Quest for Leadership approach, which we’ll be presenting back in the US, in Kansas City October 18-21.