By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock
We’re all scanning the dark clouds of COVID-19 for a silver lining – a silvery puff to float us above the anguish of this nightmare disease and the madness it has brought.
I’ve found mine. It’s called ‘hitting mung.’ Sounds crazy but no crazier than the craziness devouring our world.
Mung are beans that Taoists used as a natural medicine. They would fill a sock with mung and use it as a club to beat tendons and muscles in their legs and arms. They believed this helped to repair injured parts and strengthen others.
South Koreans have given hitting mung a different twist. To them it is a slang expression meaning to reach a state of total blankness. Zoning out completely and rising above the mad world of COVID.
The Japanese also have been studying the art of zoning out and promote sitting in a forest as good medicine. They call it shinrin-yoku, which means taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing.
Hitting mung has become so popular in South Korea that there are places where you pay to sit and do nothing. You pay to sit on a chair or blanket and stare over a pond. Or into a forest, or a campfire. No talking, no music, no cellphones, no noise, period. Just staring.
If the weather turns nasty, hitting mung can be achieved in a movie theatre. ‘Flight,’ a film simulating a 40-minute airplane ride through the clouds is available in theatres across the country. It is advertised as a chance to “take a brief rest through the fluffy clouds.”
A ticket to sit and pretend you are flying through the clouds costs roughly $10 Canadian.
‘Flight’ is a sequel to ‘Fire Mung,’ which is 31 minutes of footage of a flaming campfire.
Hitting mung sounded like a great escape, so I took it up seriously. I am known to be a bit frugal, however, so I’m not paying for my hitting mung sessions. I simply walk into the woods behind our place, sit, stare and do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The forest is the best place to hit your mung. I thought about staring into a campfire, or out onto the lake, but decided that would just bring back bad memories of last summer’s wildfires, and the recent floods out West.
Trees make it easier to blank out your bad thoughts and anxieties because they are totally open-minded and relaxed. They live together happily, not discriminating because of species, size or colour.
The mighty oaks don’t look down on their weak and pulpy poplar neighbours. The gorgeous green balsams don’t snigger at the tamaracks turning yellow just before Christmas when people are paying big bucks for evergreens.
Trees are well rooted so they don’t run about hysterically like we humans. Sure, they may sway and moan when things get really windy but overall, they are calm and quiet creatures.
They remind me of mothers. They are nurturers, providing shelter and food to insects, birds and small animals. They don’t get the respect they deserve sometimes but they don’t complain.
The common sense and mothering aspects of trees is seen occasionally in human populations. One example is the calm and caring approach taken toward the pandemic by women.
During the early days of COVID-19 women leaders like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Finland’s Sanna Marin, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen certainly outperformed macho male poster boys Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.
Meanwhile, hitting mung is believed to be good for your body as well as your mind. Research indicates that chemicals released by forest plants boost human immune systems.
Family and friends don’t understand my enthusiasm for hitting mung. They can’t fathom how just staring and doing nothing for 45 minutes or an hour is healthy.
So, I don’t tell anyone when I go into the forest to hit my mung. I just sneak away quietly, perhaps carrying an axe, chainsaw or anything that makes it look like I am going out to work.
I know that if I told them what I was really going to do, someone would suggest that time spent hitting mung could be spent more beneficially hitting the woodpile. Or the snow shovel.