YK’s 365 Release: Day 46

In Korean school (see Day 9 for more on Korean school) each teacher had their own method of and reasons for punishing us.

One common punishment was called the “duck walk” where we had to go outside into the courtyard squat and walk, while pinching our ears, squat walking around and around sometimes for an hour.

Another one was to make us kneel and hold our chairs straight above our heads the entire class period.

Sometimes the entire class would be punished for the doings of a few, and other times a few would get punished for the collective.

Many teachers would hit us as many times corresponding to how many we got wrong on a test. This basically meant that everyone always knew how you did on your exams and that some got hit an exorbitant amount, often.

Some teachers used rulers, others used attendance rosters, some used bamboo switches and still others used their bare hands.

I learned Korean through immersion, which means I didn’t speak at all when I arrived. I remember sitting in class, trying to be observant of the characters that the teacher was drawing on the chalkboard, hearing them speak but not understanding a word. I was a bright student in the States and knew enough to try to take notes. So I literally copied the shapes I saw onto my notebooks, knowing very little about the structure or shapes of what I was writing. This usually ended up being indecipherable half sentences because they would wipe the board before I could get everything down.

The first few times exam time came around, the only thing I could do was circle random letters in the multiple choice and leave the essay questions blank. This meant I got most of the test wrong, and therefore meant I also got excoriating lashings, often.

In the beginning I would get hit and not even know why because I couldn’t even understand what was going on. I would come home from school and try to tell my mother random words I remembered to have her translate for me.

Eventually, I became fluent.

It was an interesting approach to disciplining. Some of the methods were based in shame, others were based in pure physical fatigue and pain.

Rewards were rare. Come to think of it, I don’t remember any reward ever being offered out. The entire existence of a Korean student was to study and get the highest possible grades.

It was all about suffering. There was no reprieve, no moment to relax, no moment to let your guard down. Getting hit was a part of quotidian life. I learned to deal with a high amount of physical discomfort and torment. I frequently had bruises or lash marks on my shins.

The way I arrived at today’s entry is through a meditative thought moment. Bear with me while I thread the thought bubbles together into a cohesive path. I had a car in New York (see Day 7 for more on my relationship with cars), and anyone with a car in this city should have a Club. I was going through my belongings and found this in an art supply box, oddly enough. What a strange thing to hold onto. It made me think about how I used to use it everyday to secure my car, and as I gazed at it, I thought about the name. And then I thought about how it would probably kill someone if it was actually used to club them, and how I was glad none of my teachers used an actual club on us. Morbid. Finally, my train of thought led to how I gauge physical pain myself. And how Korean school taught me how I can train my mind to endure even severe physical pain.

Hence, the extensive way I arrived at the point where I have been talking about punishment in Korean school. When I meditate I see how the mind works like this. Wandering from thought to thought, until you pull yourself back to your breath.

So on Day 46 of my 365 Release, I am letting go of a car Club, which I have held onto because I thought I could use it for my next car. But I’ll think about that when I actually get my next car.

I’m using this release to remind myself that physical pain can be used as a lesson in being present. Pain evokes sensation, and reminds us we have bodies that can experience sensations. It snaps, or rather, slaps us into this moment. I’ve endured abundant physical punishment in my school days, and I know that that kind of pain can teach lasting lessons. Now when I feel pain, I notice my threshold is exceptionally high, because school punishment trained me.

For now, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned through pain. Perhaps because of that entire experience, life seems simple and easy now. Nothing is really physically painful because I’ve been through so much suffering already. What is astounding is the resilience of the human spirit, because even through all of that, I have managed to keep my heart open. I am willing to love, to give, to learn and listen with my entire being. And I will do everything in my power to ameliorate suffering for others. May we all live with ease.


[I created the 365 Release Project to practice non-attachment, letting go and change by giving away 1 thing a day for 1 year. The background, vision and guidelines to the 365 RELEASE project are here. The running list of everything I have released is here.]

One response to “YK’s 365 Release: Day 46”

  1. […] Day 46 (10/23/10): car club [pragmatism/habit] […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *