In 2009, Laura Ling was captured by North Korean soldiers along the China-North Korea border, and detained in a North Korean prison for illegal entry into the country. She and her colleague, Euna Lee, had been filming a documentary on the Tumen River, commonly used by refugees defecting across the Chinese border.
They would end up spending 140 days in captivity, not knowing how, when, or if they would ever be able to go home. Laura recalls that in some of her darkest moments she had fears she would never see her family again, that she would never get the chance to become a mother, and that she would live out the rest of her days in a North Korean prison cell.
RELATED: Why Death and War Have Become a Tourist Industry
To take herself out of these dark moments, Laura began a ritual of practicing gratitude. She would find something to be thankful for every single day, even if it was seemingly insignificant, like seeing a butterfly outside her window, or being allowed to go outside for just a few minutes. She found that practicing gratitude made each day in captivity just a little bit more hopeful.
Thankfully, the rescue of Laura and Euna was secured when former President Bill Clinton came to the country to negotiate their release, at the request of Kim Jong Il. The two journalists were reunited with their families shortly after. Although Laura has been back in the U.S. for six years now, she continues to practice her ritual of gratitude every day. This ritual has helped her to truly cherish the things she considers most important in life.
Join Laura every week on Rituals, a new series from Seeker, as she embarks on a quest to discover the rituals that make human beings thrive.
Watch more by Laura Ling:
You Can Live Without Producing Trash
Read more about Laura's detainment in North Korea:
NPR: Ling Sisters Recount Laura's Capture In North Korea
Washington Post: During Visit by Bill Clinton, North Korea Releases American Journalists