I recently had a most surreal experience. I traded headgear with a Buddhist monk—my dashing British driving hat for his plain stocking cap. I think he got the better end of the deal; he looked a lot smarter when he had commandeered by cap. But how many people can say they exchanged hats with a Buddhist monk?
This exchange happened after thirty of us traveled by chartered bus from Daegu, South Korea to Tongdosa, a temple near the city of Yangsan, a building which dates back to 646 A.D. While most of the buildings have been destroyed and then rebuilt over the last 1,368 years, it is said that the temple candle has never gone out.
It was raining on us as we traveled from Daegu, so I thought seriously about not going at all. The tour host said we had the opportunity to opt out of the trip at no charge. But in the end I decided to stay on board and take the trip. As the day wore on, I was so very glad I did.
It took us about two hours to get to the temple gates. The rain stopped when we got arrived. We toured the grounds and took many pictures. At noon we found our way into the free lunch area. The monks feed all comers a meal of rice, soup and many vegetables each day for lunch and dinner. During the meal, we were befriended by the monk in charge at the temple. He took twelve of us on a contemplative walk, then served us tea for over an hour in another lesson in contemplating life, slowing down and ceasing to hurry.
It was after the walk that he suggested the trade—my hat for his skull cap. At first I thought he was kidding, then I thought the swop would be temporary. But he had taken a liking to me, to us, and as it turned out, to my black hat. He was delightful and gracious; how could I deny his request?
While I can’t embrace his theology, I did relish his calm and mindful way of living. And, while I won’t wear it often, when I see my simple, knitted skull cap, I’ll remember the trip, our meeting, the intersection of cultures, and the exchange of head covering that occurred today.
The thing is, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t left my hotel, braved the weather and gotten on the bus that took us to the temple. All of these “serendipities” happened because I got up and got out.
I wonder what opportunities I might have missed in the past because I didn’t risk. What experiences did I NOT have because I was too lazy or uneducated, or frightened to step out? When I graduated from high school I didn’t go off to college with my friends because I was too frightened to load up the VW bug and move to another city. I defaulted to the “sure thing,” which turned out to be a coward’s way to live. I’m determined not to let that be the way I make my choices today.
What risk would you like to take? Is there something you’d like to do that you haven’t? Are you living under the weight of an unrealized dream? I encourage you to step out. Do what you’ve wanted to do, now, while you have time and health.
Get out there and it might happen, whatever “it” might turn out to be.