Grave Bowing Practice

In the forests on Korean mountains, especially those near towns and cities, there are often small clearings in the trees, with one or more mounds of dirt covered with grassy sod, indicating graves. You pass them by, along the trail, as you are ascending or descending the mountain. However, it has always felt somehow too cold and unfeeling, to skip past, in a carefree way, without acknowledging the human life each grave represents. In order to remedy this, despite my initial self-consciousness and embarrassment, I finally started what I call “grave bowing practice”.

Grave bowing practice is simple. One comes to a brief halt. You bring your hands up to the level of your chest. You press your palms together, with your fingers pointing upward, with no gaps between them. Then, facing the grave, you do a half bow. If you do this every time you go hiking, it then becomes a practice rather than a haphazard, random act.

I think grave bowing practice is adaptable to any religious beliefs, or none at all. For example, for Christians, one could bow while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. For atheists, one could bow (or another, culturally-appropriate physical act) while remembering that prayers or bows need not be communication with a deity, but can merely serve as way of putting a symbolic stamp on one’s feeling, in this case a feeling of respect for a previous human life.


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