I believe in the power of holding space for the stories that need to be shared, and for some of us even shed.  When we tell our stories and they are acknowledged, this honest exchange becomes an opportunity.  If we can stand back, not immediately jumping in to “fix” what’s wounded, we create space for healing.  And even more powerful is when we combine the willingness to sit with the whole experience and the ability to actually withstand it.

Adopted by a Polish American family, I completed my first transformation from Jeong Hwa Moon to Kristin Marie Krupa in 1986. I was 2 ½.


I earned the nickname “Kristin Kaboom” from my family for giving them plenty of grief growing up with countless explosions.  The truth was as fortunate as I felt for the great life I was given, I was also hurting and pretty pissed.  But I felt that if I admitted I was sad over my separation, then somehow it would take away from all that I’d received from my adoptive family*.


*I wouldn’t really call them that.  To me, I always had a family.  No qualifier needed.


It’s a pretty common pickle adoptees often find themselves in. Instead of being able to feel sad and grateful, I chose one.  Somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago, where comfort and convenience are coveted, I learned that I couldn’t be both. It’s not all that surprising that this choice to cage what I was really feeling manifested into frustration and rage.  And like humans tend to do, I took it out on the ones closest to me.


Eventually I traded my shadow side for a much brighter mask so I could play the “strong survivor”.  I didn’t know this at the time, but in an effort to survive my truth, I began to harden myself from it.


I learned young how to tell a story that made people feel comfortable.  Or perhaps I told stories that made me feel comfortable.


I had figured out a formula that seemed to work. Tell nice stories and people will stay.  Tell bad stories and people will leave.


For most of my life I did what most of us do with the stuff we wish wasn’t true –  I stuffed the stuff that made me uncomfortable and I wished my darkness away.


I got really good at succeeding the way society defines success.  But my life felt awfully inauthentic.  Everything I did came from a need to prove my worth, to show that I was in fact deserving of all that I’d been given. I graduated from college and easily found work.  As I ascended each rung of the corporate climb, and stuffed more money in my pockets, my heart’s cries grew louder.  I felt completely confused.  I had done so much “right,”  yet I had this nagging sense that I was still wrong.


With a black Sharpie I circled the date: March 26, 2010.  2 days before my 26th birthday.  I would quit my job and set off on a year of doing nothing for money and exploring what it was that my heart truly loved.  I went on a yoga and meditation retreat.  I volunteered as a tour guide and learned about environmental sustainability.  I visited friends I hadn’t seen in years and I traveled across the country.  I sat silently in Nature, temples and sacred spaces and listened…  I listened, kept being called, and continued to answer. I surrendered needing to know and let my life unfold.  I headed East.


I thought that a trip to India would be the end of a year-long journey.  Instead it was another beginning.  In a small tropical village in Southern India, I met Sinduma, my spiritual mother, and I reunited with mySelf.  Sinduma guided me through ancient techniques rooted in the tradition of yoga. In the traditional gurukula samprthaya method, where the student stays with the guru, she taught me yoga philosophy using the Bible, Koran, Dhamma Pada, the Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita.  I studied the traditional eight-limbed path of yoga and practiced through the art of living in balance with nature.


Under the canopy of green, I understood for the first time that all I was seeking was seeking me. I had traveled thousands of miles looking for a home that had always been inside of me.


Chained to a warped sense of worth for way too long. I woke up from the nightmare of believing that if I wasn’t the best then I would somehow fail as the adopted daughter.  As I let go of this heavy hogwash, imagine the feeling of freedom as I accepted my truth: Right here in this moment, I am enough. In fact, I am more than enough. I am whole.


Then in 2012, Mi Amor and I sold all our belongings and took a one-way flight to India. Our intention was simple: to carry less & experience more. As we traded in “things” for experiences, we set out on a journey to Asia with loose plans built around yoga, meditation, journalism, friends, family.


We focused our energy on slowing down and helping others. In the process we found peace in nature, in others and in ourselves. After 6 months of surrendering to the unknown, trusting life & believing with our whole hearts that anything was possible it became quite clear – we were fated for Seoul.


I told myself that going to Korea was not about finding answers from my past. I never set out to search for anything more than delicious kimchi. Instead I thought I could combine my interest in environmental and social change with my desire to reconnect to my Korean roots by volunteering on organic farms. It all seemed very logical. Almost symbolic.  

I’d chuckle with friends when talking about the irony of rediscovering my roots while pulling up weeds. But when the plane touched down, a rush of emotion ran through me. As unexpected tears filled my eyes, I felt overwhelmed by the dichotomy of emotions.  Joy and sadness. Excitement and fear. I smiled because I was there, but my heart hurt for having left. As I tasted tears, I felt the weight of returning to the beginning.


I closed my eyes, practiced mindful breathing – taking a deep breath in and out of my nose and another one.  Each breath gave me a glimpse of the freedom I could have by simply letting go of any expectation about what would or would not happen here.  Strengthened by the wisdom and guidance given to me by my many teachers, I entered this experience with no cherished outcomes. I embraced the mantra, “Open to accept, ready to let go.”


The thing with letting go is this – each time you let go of something you are holding on to, new space opens up for more growing, more learning, more loving.  Each step I took became a release, and I began relaxing into my life.  Instead of questioning, “this is it?”  An acceptance and appreciation that – this is it. Insert swirling heart and prayer hands emojis.


Of course people wanted to know if I planned to look for my birth mother. I used the same response I used when facing the same question countless times as a kid: “If I had the opportunity, then I would take it.  If only to thank her and let her know I was well.”  Of course, I was always curious to see someone who looks like me, to maybe discover from who I got my perfectly circular nostrils or who was responsible for my dry cracked heels.  Aside from that, I never thought a reunion was possible and therefore I wouldn’t allow myself to want it.


During the first 3 weeks taking our turn as farmers, I couldn’t help but think of my, also adopted, sister Sherrie, whose urge to return to Korea was always much stronger than mine.  I called home and told my parents, “ Sher has to come back.”  I didn’t know what “it” was and couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but I knew there was something very healing about finally returning to a place that had been a mystery in both of our personal narratives.  It felt like untying an anchor.


Then it was time for my partner Paul and I to return to Seoul for a post-adoption meeting. I admit that I started to doubt the value of the meeting.  I wondered what more I could possibly receive after already experiencing what felt like a significant healing from just returning to where I was born.  


It’s funny the things we tell ourselves to protect our fragile hearts. How often we don’t answer the call, too afraid of the response.


I arrived at the adoption agency feeling that I had already reconciled my past, though I still remained open to whatever would come (or not come) from the meeting.  I could not have imagined all that would follow.


The social worker, Mrs. Kim, facilitated our meeting with a professional equanimity.  With no emotion in her voice, she stated that she had spoken to my maternal grandmother.  Yesterday.  The day before we sat in the conference room, Mrs. Kim and woman who helped raise me during the first 2 years of my life chatted it up on the phone.


Within moments of this stunning news, the social worker was on the phone, first calling my maternal grandmother to arrange a reunion in two days time.


“Would my birth mother be there?”  I asked.


“I don’t know. Let’s call her,” she said.

Within seconds, Mrs. Kim dialed my birth mother using the number given to her by my grandmother. And late on a Tuesday morning, Mrs. Kim blindsided my birth mother with a phone call to tell her that the daughter she had given up for adoption 26 years ago was standing by the phone.


Mrs. Kim held the nail polish red phone in her hand and extended it towards me.  She commanded, “Jeong Hwa, talk to your mother.”



Though there was no real common language between us, I did understand the heaviest sigh I’ve ever heard followed by restrained sobbing.


What followed was a 2-week reunion with my birth mom, or Omma in Korean, 2 uncles (Samchoons), 4 aunts (Emos), Halmonie or grandmother and 6 cousins.  The prophecy of deep healing made by my spiritual family in India was now realized.


I would watch my birth mom’s brothers dance around her chanting “1 family 1 family 1 family” and I would see it as such.  Not only was I a part of this family, I was a part of my family in Chicago, and I was part of the only family there is – all of humanity.


My birth family reunion reconfirmed my reunion with everyone and everything, our inherent oneness with all. It was as if everything that was happening outside of me was mirroring what had already happened inside of me. It was as if the reunion within myself was being reflected onto the screen of my life as this fairy-tale Hollywood reunion.


I now understood – first-hand – the importance of listening & following your heart.


As much light as there was, the sun would set.  It always does. That’s just the other side of it.  We get a sunrise and we get a sunset.  


10 months after our reunion, Omma passed away at the age of 49. Under the guidance of my mentor, I would descend into the darkness and confront my shadow side. I experimented with writing and the sharing of story as spiritual practice. 


This process of peeling the layers of the onion continued to reveal how much clearer and concentrated life could become. I had no idea how deep into the process of healing I would plunge.


Less than a year and a half after Omma, my Mom’s time as Geri Krupa would also end.


As I am grieving the loss of my mothers, another appeared before me:  Jeong Hwa. I descended deeper, feeling all the feelings, including the hurt & anger of the inner child.  I unexpectedly participated in a traditional Maya Temezcal ceremony and guided through 4 more doors of healing.


I believe my time on the yoga mat and sitting in silent meditation has prepared me for my time in the trenches. The battlefields of simply living as a human being has offered me many real-world opportunities to use these tools and skills. And in turn, these tools and skills help me embrace the darkness and withstand the fear that is also a part of this human experience as is joy.  


This does not mean I am healed, enlightened or done as in past tense. There’s a saying that goes, “Even the Buddha is still practicing.”


I’m far from an enlightened being in the way we symbolize the Buddha, and I’ve been in union with my Buddha Nature. I know that what the spiritual teachers say is true: All that you seek is within you.


After returning from Korea, I reflected on my yoga and adoption reunion journey. Like many seekers who discover the transformative power of the practice, there was a desire to connect to others on the path of healing and becoming. I knew I needed to share the gold I’d been given. The calling was too constant.


During this time I trained in Trauma Sensitive Yoga and learned about current scientific findings supporting new models and ways of viewing and treating trauma.


I also started to search online for connections between yoga and adoption, hoping to find others like me.   I noticed that many adoption stories seemed divided.  Your adoption was either a good thing or a bad thing.  It brought me back to my childhood of having to choose to be grateful or wounded.


Yoga has given me an understanding that these two sides are part of the same coin.  I believe we need to admit that there’s a shadow side to adoption, and not in an effort to eliminate adoption.  But as a necessary first step in acknowledging the stress and suffering that takes place when a child is separated from his or her mother. 


Yoga teaches us that awareness is the key to transformation.  Once we’re aware of something we can see it, work with it, and maybe even accept it.  And when we accept reality as it is, then we can begin to take the steps to let go of the stories we’re stuck in that do not serve us or others.  And instead of being told we should feel grateful, we’re given the space and freedom to let the appreciation we feel or don’t feel come from an honest place within.


Rather than denying the part of us we wish weren’t there, we can begin to accept it, maybe even appreciate it and ultimately let it go. Through this process we give ourselves the greatest reunion possible – union with our true, whole selves.


The battlefield is no joke.  The openness and willingness to ask for it means you have to be ready. And the good news is: We all have an inner warrior; and she’s braver than you’d ever think.

Thank you {sweet brothers & sisters} for reading my story.  

If you’d like to share yours, you’ve got my eyes, my ears, and my heart.

You’re welcome to connect here.