Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kuan Yin Calling

One Sunday morning years ago, I was driving through a business district in Portland. Everything was closed, the street deserted. I drove past a store window full of Asian ceramics and furniture.

Let me pause here and tell you something about myself. I don’t like to shop. I never browse. And if I’m going somewhere, I rarely get sidetracked.

Okay, back to the story. As I drove past the store, I felt a sudden urge to go in. I dismissed it and continued on, mentally noting the location for future reference. But the urge grew more insistent, almost like a scene in a Western where the cowboy lassoes the girl or a bandit and reels them in. I shook it off, reminding myself that the store was no doubt closed and I had other things to do. I told myself I would come back another time.

Not good enough. The further I drove from the store, the more compelling the urge became until finally, feeling like a crazy person, I circled back and pulled up in front. Although there were no cars in sight, there were two people standing by the door. I rolled down the window and asked if the store was open. They said they had no idea; they were just passing by.

Feeling more foolish by the second, I parked and went to the door, which, amazingly, was unlocked. I walked in, and, seeing no one, called hello. A petite, elegant Chinese woman came out from the back, and in answer to my question, assured me that the store was open. She added that there were also things upstairs and downstairs. She invited me to look around and went back to whatever she was doing.

I have always been attracted to Asian art and decor, even before I lived in Bangkok. If you came to my home, you would see rugs from China and Nepal, tapestries from Burma, furniture from Thailand, and art from all over Asia. Several closets are full of paintings I have no wall space for in my small house. I had no room for more. Nevertheless, I did look around, appreciating the things I saw, wondering why was I there. I wandered aimlessly about, going upstairs to see the furniture displays, and then downstairs where things were haphazardly stacked and stored.

Having seen most everything, I started back upstairs to leave, still puzzled about what drew me there in the first place. Then I saw her, a statue of Kuan Yin, covered with dust, in the midst of piled up chairs and pillows, smiling serenely, unperturbed by her jumbled surroundings.

Her name is spelled many ways and there are many explanations of who she is, but most simply, she is identified as the goddess of mercy and compassion. Her name is sometimes translated as the one who hears the cries of the world. She is often depicted holding a vase containing the nectar of compassion which she pours out over the world to ease suffering.

Kuan Yin and I go way back. My history with her is too long to tell right now, but I think of her as my guardian angel. So there I was, in the basement of this store, facing this exquisitely beautiful (but huge!) bronze statue of Kuan Yin. Reminding myself of all my things I already didn’t have room for, I took one last look and turned to walk away....

She now sits on a sturdy wooden table in the corner of my living room. She is the first thing anyone sees when entering the front door. (She’s hard to miss!) I like to think she is blessing all who come, bringing peace to our troubled hearts, pouring her nectar of compassion over our spirits to ease our suffering.

So generous.


  1. I'd never heard of her, I had to google her name.

    What a beautiful story.

  2. What a lovely story. I adore Kuan Yin and used to have a very small statue of her. Must be somewhere...

  3. Oh Galen....thanks for this info on Kuan Yin, I, too, had never heard of her....but she must spread her compassion and peace over you...because of all the wonderful stories you share with us.



  4. Udara--I hope you find out some interesting things about her!

    Ellen--Maybe she's waiting for your to find her again.

    Jo--Thank you for the kind words. I think she does, at least when I'm open to it.

  5. In my twenties, i was infatuated with uncovering the stories of every Goddes from cultures around the world. They became my religion. I particularly love Sedna, an Inuit goddess. And A
    sherah. a goddess of agriculture. Amaterasu of Japan, lol. I coud go on.
    What a great story! I love how she called you. :-)

  6. I have a question about your inspiration-gathering for your posts. Do you carry a notebook or small recorder to remember something that inspires a post like this? Do you stop when something grabs your attention and immediately think of it as a possible topic for the blog?

    I am fascinated by the variety of things that prompt a post from you and wonder if you have a technique?

  7. Those ancient orientals know a thing or two about channeling emotions and ying/yang and fung shei and all that stuff. It calls to you. Kuan Ying was doing just that. She sensed your arrival in town and sent out the calling.You have a connection.

    No, I haven't been drinking.

    Wouldn't surprise me if they had the store blessed by some chinese prophet to lure people in. They do stuff like my friend burns sage and walks around the house with it to banish bad ju ju.

    I'm tellin' ya, they have stuff like that!! ;-D

  8. The oriental art is amazing. The lines, curves, grace... I could go on and on. My mother collected it when we lived in Aruba (free port) The art is lost today as there are not any more artisans to carry it on.

    Now I must research Kuan Yin

  9. Galen,
    I also discover special symbols and/or archetypes of the deepest parts of my heart and life. I appreciate you reminding [whomever listens] to always be open to these beauties as they come to us -- and to also not forget these joys -- Cathie

  10. Love this story Galen. I am such a believer in listening to your intuition and following the signs that are pointing you in a certain direction. Beautiful story.

  11. M--You must have lots of great information from your research. Thanks for your comment.

    Bob--I would love to tell you that I have a very organized approach, but in truth my approach looks more like the basement where I found Kuan Yin, with things haphazardly strewn and piled about. I do jot down notes when an idea occurs to me, since, as my daughter correctly observes, I have the memory of a gnat. Those ideas might come from something I'm reading or something that happens as I go through my day or some memory. I have a spiral notebook for recording these. I also have a file where I put articles or quotes or other things that might inspire a post. Sometimes, however, it is just a random idea that pops up as I'm thinking about writing a new post. Having some structure this year (focusing on one step a month) has helped me be a tad bit more organized in my approach. So, for example, this month I'm much more attuned to ideas that relate to compassion. I wish I did have a more organized approach because I know I jot down things or put things in the file and they get lost in the jumble. I would love to hear about your approach, and from anyone else who has ideas to share!

    For this particular post, writing about Kuan Yin was a no brainer since she is the goddess of compassion and that's the topic this month. However, I sat down to write a very different post, planning to talk more about what she symbolizes and how we might use that in our lives. But when I actually started to write, I was drawn back to the story of how I found her, not at all what I thought I would write! So sometimes I surprise myself!

    ryoko--Ha! I have a sage bundle, too! Every year or so, I bless the house with the smoke. My kids think it's too weird, though, and they tell me the smoke smells like pot. I don't even want to know how they know that!

    restoring--You might enjoy a book by John Blofeld titled Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin. I had the privilege of meeting John Blofeld when I was living in Thailand. He was a fascinating man.

    Cathie--We all need reminders sometimes. Thanks for your comment.

    Sibyl--Thanks. Experiences like this one have taught me to pay attention when I get those inner nudges. Well, this one was more of an inner two by four!

  12. Well now I hope you see the real lesson in your post - you need to spend more time browsing LOL. It's just another way of stopping and smelling the roses.

  13. Hi Galen,

    I'm just like you! I don't like to shop at all. What a wonderful story. How wonderful you followed your intuition. I love Kuan Yin and all she represents.

  14. I enjoyed your post. Your home sounds so nice with the oriental decor and I bet this statue fits right in.

  15. Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way and just go with our heart...glad you turned around and went back....a lovely story indeed...I too will have to check this statue out too! Have a beautiful week !

  16. Hey Galen, I have never heard of that kuan yin, the statue! Very nice story that you have shared on here about that kaun yin! Have a great and a blessed week!

  17. Like Udara I had to google her.
    The more I learn about asian culture and practises the more I feel compelled to be part of it. I seem to be compelled to come by your blog too!
    Lovely story. You always manage to convey calm and order in your posts.

  18. Hi Galen,

    That is an unusual revelation that you don't like to shop. I generally don't like to shop, but if it is for books or games, I can loiter around for hours trying to make up my mind. I guess it is what I am shopping for. Everything else, I decide what I want, arrive at the shop like lightning and disappear quickly.

    Ah I am aware of this compelling urge you speak of. I too have felt it many times before in my life. One of the most compelling experiences I had was when I discovered the Yijing 7 years ago. I have always been drawn to certain types of esoteric knowledge. When a friend mentioned in passing about this fortune-telling book, somehow I was drawn to it even though I was quite prejudiced against those Chinese fortune-telling done at temples. I can't remember if it was the next day, but soon enough I headed straight for my favourite bookshop and bought the book. Now 7 years later, I have many translations of the book and I never regretted listening to that compelling urge within me.

    I love how you say Kuan Yin and you go way back. There will always be certain things in this world that we are drawn to. It could be karma, it could be because of who we are. Who knows? What is important is that we do not ignore our inner calling.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  19. Riley--Ha! I would rather smell real roses!

    Sandra--So odd that my daughters love to shop! I don't know where they got that from!

    Cynthia--Thanks. The statue does fit in, I guess because she belonged here all along.

    Karen--I like that image of getting out of our own way. Great description of me most of the time!

    Tyler--You can Google Kuan Yin and see some various images and descriptions. I hope you have a good week, too.

    Carol--Thanks for the kind words. Perhaps you will find some practices that resonate for you. I'm glad you are "compelled" to stop by!

    Irving--Do you have a translation by John Blofeld? I'm asking because I met him in Bangkok years ago. I was wondering what you thought of his translation. Your story of being drawn to he Yijing is very powerful. Thank you for sharing it. I know it is an important part of your life now. And yes, Kuan Yin and I do go way back. Perhaps that is a story for another post!

  20. Wow, beautiful story. Kwan Yin wanted to come in your house to bring more joy.:) I am also an art lover; especially when it comes to ceramics.

  21. What an incredible story! Have you ever considered writing a book? You appear to have many inspirational stories in you.

    I'm not surprised to read your story. Did you check when the statue was made and where did it originally come from?

  22. Hi Galen,

    I do have a translation by John Blofeld. His introduction is a great read which I enjoyed. But I generally do not use his book for divinations. It is not sufficiently adequate for me and I do have other translations I prefer. Still it is interesting to know you met him. I would have been happy to have met and discussed the I-Ching with him. :)

  23. Sharda--Yes, apparently she did want to come live here!

    Evelyn--Thank you for the nice words. Yes, I would like to write a book. I haven't figured out how to organize my time and be self-disciplined enough to do that yet.

    Irving--He really was a fascinating person. When I met him, he was elderly and not in good health. I was invited to his traiditional Thai home on the outskirts of Bangkok along with a couple of other people. He served us tea and talked about his early years in China. I bet you both would have greatly enjoyed each other's company.


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