▲ Participants in an Art of Living seminar at Joyville Resort. Photo courtesy Tracie Barrett
An occupational hazard of journalism is the suspicion with which one often questions the motives of others. We look for an agenda behind seemingly selfless acts and question when and if spirituality outside of organized religion (or even within) crosses into cultish behavior. Thus, it is truly refreshing when a writer finds spiritual teachers who live the principles they profess.
Such teachers are married couple Yujin Pak and Marsha Bogolin, who with Jae Hyoung Lee and others, run Art of Living seminars at Joyville Resort near Hamdeok Beach. The resort is owned and operated by the Art of Living Corporation, of which about six members reside in the village. Art of Living is run by members of International Emissaries, “an international network of people that are spiritually conscious and interested in assisting in transformation and awakening,” Pak said.
Both Pak and Bogolin joined the organization through different routes. “I was 21, having completed college,” Bogolin said. “I went into social work, thinking that I could help the world. Rather rapidly I saw that it really wasn’t addressing the cause of the problem so I was searching for something that would address why people have problems. That’s what led me to the Emissaries. And at a personal level I was looking for something that would address my longing for meaning in my life.”
Pak, who was born in Korea but grew up in Brazil, Canada and England, first learned of the group when he was 25 and an Outward Bound instructor. The first Korean-born Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, Pak was also studying psychoanalysis at the time. “I could see that people were trapped in prisons of fear and personality,” he said. “Outward Bound was a way of addressing that in a very practical way.
“Psychoanalysis was a way also. And then I met the Emissaries and upon first meeting I thought, ‘These people! For them to be as radiant as they were, they would have to have done at least 10 years of psychoanalysis.’ That’s how I began, because I saw that it was something that was working and I was interested to find out about it.” The couple moved to Korea about three years ago and now give seminars about four times a year for 20 to 35 participants at a time. The Wednesday evening through Sunday program costs 600,000 won, including meals and four night’s accommodation. Pak said the seminars teach “a deeper understanding of identity, of who you are, of purpose, and some very practical, simple skills that work to bring a change in a creative way in your life.”
“I think we assist people in discovering what their purpose in life is and in having a renewed sense of energy and excitement to continue to discover and fulfill that,” Bogolin said.
▲ The seminars are run by Marsha Bogolin and Yujin Pak. Photo courtesy Tracie Barrett
The network is trans-religious, Pak said. “We’re interested in universal principles of truth that are present in all the religions. Therefore, we have friendships with leaders of different religions.” A well-known Buddhist master sends people to their seminars and they send people to his, and some Christian ministers have also attended and encouraged their congregations to attend. “From our standpoint,” Bogolin said, “whatever religion a person is in is fine because we are interested in the finest truth within every religion. If I were to say what marks us as different, that would be one aspect. Rather than say it’s ‘either / or,’ we appreciate the value in each [religion].”
Currently the seminars are only available in Korean, although both Pak and Bogolin would love to offer them in English if the demand is there. Testimonials from previous participants speak of the awakenings they have experienced, and talking with Pak and Bogolin, it is obvious they are radiantly at peace with themselves and each other. Yet they laughed when asked if they have attained a state of bliss in their lives.
“Our goal is not that we should never have frustration, pain, agony, whatever,” Bogolin said, “but that in experiencing those things we handle it creatively. It’s not to detach from the world or to put insulation around us, but through what we experience to bring greater consciousness into the world.”
“Being in this world, in the condition that it is in,” Pak added, “some people have concepts about enlightenment and feeling bliss all the time - that is nonsense. You will feel pains that everybody feels. The difference is what you do with it and how creatively you handle it and actually use it to bless the world and bless people. That is one of the things we teach.”
Art of Living Seminars Joyville Resort 1398, Wasan-ri Jocheon-eup, Jeju City Tel: 010-2841-5939
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