Passionate Exodus

by Courtney Walker

I’d been hearing about the work done at Exodus week after week and finally got a chance to go and be a witness. It happened to be the same day our Tibetan Buddhist drupon (resident teacher) Chongwol came to speak.

At the height of the session, we had twelve guys there. All of them leaned in and engaged. We set up the discussion in a podcast style, with a young guy named Frank, who hosts the podcast sessions starting off. Matt gave Chongwol’s brief background, how he’s from South Korea but grew up in the States, his background as a monk. Everyone began checking in when Chongwol stopped it and asked if he could say a prayer. He then led with Refuge and Bodhicitta and the Four Immeasurables.

He opened the floor with, “You can ask me anything, even where I got my haircut, I don’t care.” Frank started off asking about Korea, what’s it like. The questions started broader and as Chongwol kept speaking, we could feel how engaged all the guys were. He spoke of how kindness is his religion, that U.S. culture and schooling, specifically, lack compassion. But compassion is what changes things. He talked about Jay Davis and how he used compassion in prison to completely change how everyone interacted with one another and created a sense of connection amongst the residents rather than separation.

Chongwol said that everyone meditates differently because we are all different. Then Frank asked, “Oh, so doing what makes me happy is my meditation, like if I like to bike and I get into a flow, then I get into a high state of meditation.” At that moment, one of the guys across the room said, “Oh my god, I feel like I just had a brain fart, this blows my mind.” Another guy then mentioned that it’s getting into the zone. Turns out, what we know as being in the zone from sports or music is actually a form of the highest level of meditation.

As we wrapped up, the checkouts highlighted how grateful and how much they got what he was saying. One guy said that he sees and believes too that compassion does change things and even if you don’t know someone, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and talk to somebody, to offer that compassion. One guy had been in the military and said that he learned how to embrace the suck, but what he got that day was that we have to embrace that it’s all about shifting your perspective and that’s what changes things.

Everyone came up to Chongwol and said thank you, it was nice to meet you, a few expressed interest in having him come back and wanted to work with him in programs they themselves run. Chongwol promised to come back and teach them how to do sitting meditation.

A week later, I was able to see more of the passionate side of Exodus. Where they were more reverent with Chongwol there, this day he was not able to make it. But you could feel his influence on the men in the room from the week prior. Young guy Tato checked in as a zero, which is how Chongwol always checks in about his state of being. He believes in how Chongwol described being a zero is the spot, where you are always at a state of emptiness and has started checking in that way.

Lively conversation that took a turn from seeing a different perspective around addiction to seeing relationships with “toxic women” as an addiction to seeing the need to love yourself first or learn what loving self even means. The man-woman dynamics proved to be a very dynamic, deep, powerful, and fiery interaction.

A new guy, Duvall, who we found out loves to cook, sees everything. He reminded me of my brother in Louisiana–feral and wild (according to societal standards at least), smartest person in the room more often than not, absolutely does not buy into cultural narratives, and is powered and outspoken.

A younger guy, Romell, spoke about how we are all kings and queens and that is how he carries himself and refuses to see himself any other way. One guy shared that his takeaway from the conversation was that in a relationship, you need to be with someone you can express your whole self with, and if you can’t, you shouldn’t be with that person. It was a very powerful, very unexpected conversation, particularly from the location of being the only woman in the room.

Raised in the South, Courtney searched for a sense of freedom at a young age. This quest took her in many different directions, reading and study, meditation, as well as high-level and extreme sports. Continuing on for her search for freedom, Courtney currently serves as Director/Creative Director of BlackBox, Author and Co-Lead, Women Over Dinner.

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