Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Many people think of peace and quiet when they think of Japan. They think of tea ceremonies, bonsai, and perfectly landscaped gardens with waterscapes,  and tea ceremonies. I think of those things too, but what I experience most of the time is not Zen, and when it is Zen, it’s because I’ve learned how to make a space, or I’ve found a space that is quiet and peaceful.

Incence burning at Yakuoin Tample on Mt. Takao
One of these places is at a neighborhood Hachioji Temple near where I lived last year. The traffic roars by, horns honk, pedestrians chat, and dogs bark, but in the park-like setting near the temple, there are benches, and trees, and a waterscape that trickles a lovey little fall of water into a crystal clear pond. I went there more and more often last year after I found it.
Kyoto, Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion
I do not feel Zen on a daily basis. I feel stressed, trying to do my job without access to the Internet, or access to a printer, or access to a phone that dials out of the country (which my rental is supposed to do but doesn’t). That’s when I go in search of the temple. A student needs to print out a form for financial aid, sign it and fax it within 24 hours. Great! Except we have a field trip the next day, and there won’t be anyone on campus to help us until next Tuesday. Some how we get it done, then I run in search of the temple.
This is Dotonbori Dori in Osaka. I'm using it to represent chaos!

Zen is surprisingly hard to find here, but nearing the end of year two, I’m at least used to the roadblocks to serenity. I’ve found a few places where I can escape and take a breather, and this year my apartment was one of them. I can’t wait for next year, to do this all over again because Zen is really a state of mind, and I’m getting a lot of good practice. :)
Itsukushima Torri Gate on Miyajima

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