Mindfulness in Japan - Activities
We all understand the importance of mindfulness, but I hear you asking 'Why in Japan??!!' After all, Japan is so crowded and busy. There are so many people in Tokyo and other major cities.
Japan has a long history of mindful activities. As one of the countries with the lowest rates of violence in the world while still being very crowded, they must have some strategies. I am the first to admit that not all of these strategies work for everyone, hence the high suicide rate, but I am sure we can all find some value in practicing the mindfulness itself or seeing the result of mindfulness in action.
In Matsushima, we practiced the mindfulness of bathing in hot springs and observed the results of mindfulness in the preparation of food. Then, in the morning, we practiced yoga on one of Matsushima's most sacred islands, Oshima, famous for the caves where monks used to meditate.
On return to Tokyo, we practiced Shodo, Japanese calligraphy, with Honda Soufu. Letting go of outcome and just focusing on each stroke, each breath to bring the character for 'life' to life with each individual's own nuance.
We observed the mindfulness that goes into dressing someone in a kimono, matching a one-size-basically-fits-all garment to a variety of people, followed by tea ceremony in Asakusa. Observing the slow deliberate steps in the preparation of the tea, following the required protocols of entering the room, eating and drinking the tea, breathing, just being in the moment.
Yoga at a temple in Kawagoe with the lovely Harumi, before quickly becoming mindful of how much we use and abuse our feet as we walked the reflexology path. Then we saw the preservation of traditional buildings and the Shogun's summer retreat and observed mindfulness in the design of buildings and gardens throughout the town.
Seeing mindfulness for others on peak hour trains as people are quiet and do not speak on their phones.
Learning the techniques of ink painting and once again being reminded to let go of outcome as there is no such thing as a good or bad picture. There are only lines to define where no lines actually exist in reality and these lines give us an impression of that thing.
Martial arts and horseback archery at Meijijingu, an enormous temple in central Tokyo. Watching the mindfulness required to avoid injuring your sparring partners. The mindfulness required to hit a target form a moving horse in traditional armour.
Off to the countryside, where we witnessed people's mindfulness of nature through the design and construction of the houses built to deal with the strong winds and deep snows. Once again we saw the outcome of the mindfulness put into the preparation and presentation of food - even Japanese bar food and farm-style cooking. We witnessed the thoughtfulness in the reduction of waste through the use of each part of each product.
More hot springs were taken advantage of and a foot bath hot spring became our place of morning meditation. Relaxing and refreshing.
In Kyoto, mindfulness was observed in the pottery, art, garden designs, traditional entertainment and Kyudo (traditional mindful archery). It was experienced in the scripture copying (shakyo), Buddhist chanting, wandering the gardens, practicing Yuzen (traditional kimono stencil) dyeing and in the incense ceremony. We also had the opportunity to try some traditional vegetarian temple fare - so mindfully prepared and presented.
On the final day, those who went to the temple in Narita had a chance to watch and listen to Buddhist chanting and a ceremony involving fire. So centreing and relaxing to listen to.
While we were not allowed to take photos at every activity, we had an amazing experience and are looking forward to our next trip, probably in the spring of 2018. We already have a group of people interested, so let us know ASAP if you are keen so we can get a list together and get the information out to everyone.