Read an Excerpt
1 THE DAWN OF A NEW ENLIGHTENMENT
IN EARLY 1996, I was reading a newspaper in Los Angeles when I saw a photo that immediately grabbed my attention. “Hey, where is this place?” I asked. The red rocks were so real they felt like they might jump out of the paper at me. I read the caption beneath the photo and learned it was a place called Sedona, in the state of Arizona.
I couldn’t get there fast enough; I wanted to see those red rocks, so I asked an acquaintance to come with me. It was a long drive, of nearly eight hours. We cruised along from Los Angeles to Flagstaff until we came to Sedona. It was the middle of the night, so we settled into a motel that hugged Oak Creek Canyon.
It was a dark night, so there was little chance to see the scenery aside from the sparkling stars that filled the night sky with their refreshing twinkling. I wondered what Sedona would look like when I opened my eyes in the morning. As I filled my lungs with its clean, crisp air, I went to sleep with excitement and anticipation in my heart.
As soon as I opened my eyes the next morning, I threw back the curtains. The view was of a mountain of blended red and white rocks, standing tall above the verdant juniper trees. At the top of the mountain were large and small rocks shaped like various animals. Then I saw one that caught my attention. At a flat part on the top, there was a modest rock whose form resembled a person meditating while seated in the lotus position.
I thought, “Wow, even the rocks in Sedona meditate!”
I couldn’t tell whether that was true or whether those were the only rocks my eyes could see, no matter where I looked, but my initial feeling was very good.
After a simple breakfast, I wandered about Sedona, here and there, wherever I felt like going. It seemed like the entire city was embraced by arms of red rock. The green of the junipers and cacti that dotted the red turf proffered a dramatic contrast of color. The sky of Sedona, wrapped around the red burnt earth, seemed clearer and bluer than any sky I’d seen. There was a sanctity circulating in the air between earth and heaven. Though it was winter, warm sunlight was shining down through the clear air. As I looked at the dazzling beauty of Sedona’s earth and sky awash with the morning sun, my heart skipped a beat, and it occurred to me that this just might be the place for which I had been searching for so long.
I came to the United States from Korea in 1993 to share the traditional Korean mind-body training methods known as Dahnhak (which became Dahn Yoga in the United States). At the time, the Dahn Centers that I had established in Korea had increased to around fifty and I was sharing a modernized and systematized form of Dahnhak with many people.
I handed over the management of the Korean Dahn Centers to my students and started anew in the United States with a pioneering spirit. The place where I first settled with my students was New Jersey. It was not easy, however, to put our roots down in a land where the culture and even the language were so unfamiliar. Our first attempts were ones of trial and error.
During that time, I would sometimes walk on the banks of a lake near Bear Mountain, New York. One day, as I gazed out across the surface of the lake reflecting the light of the setting sun, I asked myself, “What should I do?” What occurred to me then was that I should get to know the United States inside and out. I felt that I really needed to experience the United States for myself, with my own two eyes and feet.
I decided to get a car and travel across the country from east to west. Our itinerary would take us from New York to California, along the western coast up to Vancouver, through Toronto, and then back to New York. For several months, I wandered among the beautiful mountains and valleys of the United States. I went inside the busy metropolitan areas as well, and felt the confusion of their people’s hearts. It was a good opportunity for me to feel the energy of this massive land with my own body, mind, and senses.
As I crossed the country, there was one thing I was looking for: a new land where I could put down my roots and thrive. The moment I saw Sedona, I felt a strong intuition that this would be that very place. However, although I stayed in Sedona for three days, I was still unable to make a final decision.
One of the reasons I hesitated was that Sedona was a desert. According to the Eastern practice of feng shui, a harmony of the five energies—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—is essential.
Certainly, wood energy was coming from the forests of juniper trees and shrubs; there was obviously plenty of fire energy since it was a desert where the sun beat down strongly; judging by the power pouring from the ground of Sedona, nothing needed to be said about earth energy; and since it was iron that gave to the earth its deep red color, it was also full of metal energy. However, since it was a desert terrain where water was scarce, the thought that water energy might be insufficient kept bothering me.
I went back to Los Angeles and returned to Sedona after a few days. It was then I saw something that blew away all my concerns—Oak Creek Canyon, where the creek flowed right alongside the highway going up from Sedona to Flagstaff. During my first visit I couldn’t see it closely, but there was clear water flowing abundantly through the canyon. I realized then that Sedona had the necessary amount of water energy, too. With this in mind, I found a desire to make a new start in Sedona, where, although it was desert terrain, the energy of the five elements were harmonized so well. And I started to feel certain that, in a place like this, I could establish the meditation center of which I had dreamed.
It took me a few more days to look around the Native American reservations and nearby famous locations in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. I also visited Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the canyons of Zion National Park. All of them were places that not only had been regarded as sacred by Native Americans but also displayed the beauty and dignity of nature without restraint. I was also pleased with the fact that Sedona was not too far from many of these places. Having resolved upon my second visit to move there, I rented a modest place that I could use as a home and office.
As I drove back to Los Angeles to prepare for my move, I had a premonition that something good was going to happen, and I felt a nervous excitement. I kept repeating the name of the land, Sedona, over and over in my mind. Se-do-na. Se-do-na. Se . . . do . . . na. Then, all of a sudden, a thought came to me: Se-do-na, a place where a new Tao or enlightenment would emerge. Viewing these syllables in Korean, Se sounds like sae and means “new”; do means “Tao” or “enlightenment”; and na means “is coming out.” If you put the three parts together, then Sedona means “the land where a new enlightenment will emerge.”
From that point onward, every time I pronounced Sedona’s name, every time I told other people about Sedona, and every time I practiced meditation in Sedona, I started to believe that a new enlightenment would arise from this place. That was my belief and it was also my profound hope. And this is how my Sedona story began.