Japan tidbits; 3 months in…

Posted on June 2, 2009

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November 2008, after three months in Japan…
“Things are just incredible and I am having trouble putting it all into words. I am incredibly busy, but not stressed out in the least, an interesting new combination of seemingly incompatible states. I can’t just say “wow, Japan is really great everyone!”. My mind is boggled. I could spend as long writing as I spend experiencing.

I am overwhelmed by the brimming over of every moment here with a richness and depth previously only experienced from time to time.

Maybe it is the meditation. Maybe the newness of it all. But I notice things now that I have never noticed before. I never realized before how long and densely packed a second could be.

I have read about the experience of the protraction of time, discussed by meditators of all traditions around the world. This is a commonality of experience in all meditative styles. The stretching out of time. One minute seeming like three, or five… not just during meditation itself, but in everything. And the possible extension of that? One lifetime seeming like five lifetimes. Some might think it would get boring, but no. Richness, detail, calm, and thought also expand.

I sometimes miss the vibrancy and gusto of latin america. Cuba is the opposite of Japan. (I spent 10 weeks living in Havana in early 2008, and have taken numerous other trips to latin america) Cuba; dirty, touchyfeely, loud, emotional, odiferous, colorful, broken, extroverted. As opposed to the predominant but not absolute Japanese ideals of form, formality, courtesy, interpersonal non-physicality, subdued color, subdued emotion, cleanliness, … but I found Cuba difficult often. Japan is mostly easy, clean, and well-stocked. The challenges here are more psycho-spiritual than practical, and they are chosen, not enforced. The biggest challenge here at the temple and the only one I have no control over are the omnipresent GIANT BUGS; huge spiders, centipedes, flying things!!! They are indoors and out, day and night, and I just have to deal with it.

Temple life:
The day typically starts at 6am with sitting meditation. I wake up to the sound of chanting, drink a cup of weak tea, and in dim morning light, staggering silence, and the incense imbued air, I tiptoe into the main hall where all the others have usually arrived before me. We sit for 60-90 minutes. I am inconsistent, un-Buddhist in my thoughts, but I am here and doing this. There is magic. After, I eat a small breakfast, followed by a few hours of gardening or temple maintenance. Lunch at 11:30. Afternoons are more varied; sometimes more of the same, or excursions with temple guests, shopping, errands, yoga, running, walking, onsens (hot springs), etc. I have also started teaching English in the City three afternoons a week…”

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