Dr Jenelle Kim talks on The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, about her new book Myung Sung, The Korean Art Of Living Meditation.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Dr Jenelle Kim about her life and career, what inspired her new book, Myung Sung, and the work that went into writing it.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I believe I was destined to write this book. I come from a long lineage of doctors, practitioners, and philosophers who dedicated their lives to understanding the human condition in order for us to live our happiest and most balanced lives possible.
I am the first woman in my lineage to be the custodian of the herbal formulas and principles/philosophies that have been handed down through the centuries. I am also the first to share them so openly with what I hope will be the entire world. I chose this path－ this role, and it is sacred to me. I have committed my life to sharing all that I can to help as many as I can with the knowledge and wisdom that has helped countless other people throughout time.
So, I feel that this book started to manifest from the time I was very young and my heart started to feel the pull to assume my role. My father, my everything, and my greatest mentor, told me when I was 13 that I was going to write a book.
At the time I could not wrap my head around this, but 20 years later when I suddenly lost my father, I knew that it was time.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When I was about 20 years old, I started writing with the insight and guidance of my father. We would speak for hours. I would sit and write pages of notes and stories of him and his master while they were residing in the mountains, studying and training in the ways of the Tao (the universe).
We would speak and I would write about principles of the universe, the human condition, and the connection between the two; about the mind, body, spirit connection, balancing with the challenges of life－ mentally and physically－ and anything and everything else that pertained to living a fulfilling and balanced life.
However, it wasn’t until I was 33 years old that I knew these notes, which contained all of the love and wisdom of my ancestors and the transference of the deep mission passed from one generation to the next, had to go out into the world. I lost my father suddenly and in my haze of sorrow and suffering the one thing I knew was that I was going to share all that he taught me with as many as possible. No matter what it took, I would achieve this.
After leaving my father’s “garden” as we call it, I felt compelled to reach out to one of the first people I spoke to outside of my immediate family during this fragile time. I had spoken to her years before when I had first begun to compile information that would help me start building my platform and prepare for the possibility of writing a book.
She heard my voice and told me, “Jenelle, I would be happy to help in any way to get the book writing process in motion for you, but I think it is too soon. Heal for a bit and then you will be ready.” In that moment, I politely accepted her advice, but in my mind, I thought, “that’s nice but she doesn’t know me, I will do this NOW…”
I sat down to start writing and wrote a “letter to my father,” which actually starts the entire book. It was too overwhelming, it hurt too much…I had to wait to heal.
About four years later, I decided it was time to start my book proposal which I had to have in order to present my idea. I had hope of securing a good agent and traditional publisher, all of which I was told was a serious uphill battle that takes a LONG time. All I knew was that I was finally ready to speak about my father and everything that had been passed down to me without falling apart. So, I set out on my next journey…
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
From the moment I first started writing my book proposal, it took about two years before I was signed by my wonderful agent, Bill Gladstone of Waterside Productions, received my book deal from Watkins Publishing/Penguin Random House, and handed in my manuscript to my brilliant and beautiful editor, Anya Hayes. One of my greatest wishes had come true. I am forever grateful.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Myung Sung?
My biggest challenge was the idea of putting such profound principles that have existed for centuries into words and onto permanent pieces of paper. The most important thing is that I stay true to the principles that have been passed down for so long from generation to generation and make them digestible to readers; including those who are not necessarily familiar with the Tao and East Asian philosophy.
These principles are true for every human, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age. It was so important to me, almost paralyzing, to make sure that I did everything I could to make them understandable and relatable.
How did you plan the structure of Myung Sung?
I knew in my mind that the book – with its beautiful stories that exemplified the 8 Key principles would be like a movie in the mind’s eye of the reader, with scenes that move back and forth through time.
This transition was important in order to communicate the fact that these principles have been passed down for so long, from teacher to student for generations, and that they applied to everyone, whether we live in the mountains of East Asia, or if we are in the midst of our fast-paced life as we know it.
Principles don’t change. As long as this universe and humans exist, these principles exist for all of us equally. It is up to each and every one of us to choose whether we plug into the Tao, the universe, or not. I wanted the reader to clearly see that each of these principles can and has to be absorbed by each person, in their specific way. As my father used to tell me– “Make them your own. Absorb them, live them, and put them into action. No one can do it for you.”
My greatest wish for the structure of the book was that it could be used as a tool and pulled out at any moment to help readers calm their minds, gain perspective, know that they are never alone, and know that as human beings we can and must truly connect within ourselves – mind, body, spirit, with those around us, and with the universe.
All of the answers we need in this life can be found within ourselves and in the universe around us. So, each chapter starts with a short and direct understanding of one of the 8 Keys, or 8 main principles of Myung Sung Living Meditation. Each chapter or key then transitions into the principle, exemplified through a lesson between my father and his teacher.
The chapter then walks the reader through a deeper explanation of the principle; with examples that I pull from the present day, including examples of how I apply them in my everyday life as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and owner of several businesses.
My hope is that the reader walks away with a good understanding of Myung Sung Living Meditation and that they can apply these principles and tools immediately to live a more balanced and happy life, no matter what is happening around them.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Myung Sung need?
I did. I felt it was very important to have a few sets of trusted eyes on the manuscript. Especially considering the fact that from the moment I came into this world I was surrounded by Myung Sung Living Meditation; so, sometimes it is hard to decipher what is not commonly understood by those who are not familiar.
Having the 8 Keys of Myung Sung resonate in a relatable and applicable way to the reader’s/listener’s life is the most important thing to me. Hearing others’ perspectives and ways of communicating these profound principles is vital for me.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Just start. Move with your heart. Don’t think about it, just do it. When you begin connecting your mind with your heart, your finger on the pen, and pen to the paper, whatever is meant to come out will. The structure and format can easily come later.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am committed to sharing the 3 Ms or 3 Pillars of Myung Sung – Meditation, Medicine & Movement, which means there are SO many aspects and ways to share, and I plan to delve into all of them! I have a strong passion for children and leaving something good behind for future generations.
I also have much to share about how these principles have helped shape the success of my businesses over the last 20 years.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am and yes, it absolutely was and is. Due to the fact that I am standing on the shoulders of my ancestors, I always feel like my mission is limitless. I am so honored for having the opportunity to assume this role. So, naturally, when one accomplishment is achieved I am already moving to the next. Life is short and I have so much that I would like to give.
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