This post is going to sound a bit strange.
Today I am dipping my toes into the realm of spirituality, but it is not about zen temples, sacred shrines or hidden power spots. It is something… beyond. Or actually, within.
“Why do you love Japan?” is a constant topic I explore within myself. Other than nosy outsiders trying to pry into this peculiar head hoping find an explanation, often I myself am too constantly baffled by this intense feeling I have for this one specific country, and most of the time it didn’t even make sense to myself. It is also scary to think that this fervent love affair could at some point lead to immense misery just like many other emotional attachments in life, if what you so desire suddenly vanishes. Of course, Japan will always be here, and I can always choose to be here for the rest of my life, but the possibility is there and very real.
So, every now and then, I try to reflect on this mysterious relationship. A relationship that’s unlike any other I have with mortal beings. A relationship that I – in the best expression from my limited vocabulary – call as “love”. But… is it really love? Or is it addiction? Obsession? Infatuation? Or as some people like to put it… delusion?
Last October, I published this post ,expressing my thoughts about the reasons behind this inexplicable sentiment I have for Japan. I talked about recalling my “shoshin“, and Japan as the “dokodemo door” to happiness. But somehow there’s this lingering feeling that sometime is missing still… So this year, I dug deeper.
In that previous post, I talked about my biggest fear moving to Japan: disillusion. I was so afraid that not unlike the many people who told me how the magical bubbles burst the moment they were rudely awaken by the cruelty of reality that differed from their imagination, which was what brought them here in the first place, that I, would also suffer the same fate. Many times I replayed in my head that how once I move to the land of my dream, everything too would slowly stopped looking… dreamy.
But as I go into my third year living here, I have come to know dead sure in me that this anxiety is not even worth my slightest concern. I think I have made that very clear pretty much on a daily basis if anyone haven’t already noticed. =D
To elaborate my post last year through a deeper understanding, I think what’s happening to me is that…
I am constantly in a meditative state in Japan. (In other words, I live in Bliss Prefecture haha.)
I always feel intoxicated, no matter where I am (even before the ingestion of the finest Junmai Daiginjo). Even during times when something goes wrong, I can always fall back to the very comforting cult mantra “At least there’s Daikon” – an SOS on my mental speed dial to promptly buzz gratefulness into my mind for the solace that right this moment, I am at the best place that I could be, both literally and metaphorically. And then I am drunk with love all over again…
Now, I have never considered myself a sensitive individual when it comes to spirituality. But lately more and more, I feel that something akin that of spirituality has played a big part in explaining my not at all secret love affair with Japan, especially if I really observe it closely. I pondered long and hard why what I am feeling could only happen particularly when I am physically in this far eastern archipelago and not anywhere else. Maybe there’s really such thing as how my soul was longing for a place it could belong, and finally it has found harmony by being in tune with the energies of this land. I honestly don’t know for sure.
As farfetched as it may sound, life in Japan is unfolding as a series of curious serendipity ever since I move here. Things falling into place when I was not expecting it to be; forgotten wishes manifesting just when I stopped paying attention; desires fulfilling just right after I completely let go… not to mention the ridiculous rate of sunny skies and vivid rainbows appearing at new places I visit… So much is happening that I can no longer dismiss them as coincidences or even destiny.
Recently, I have been having a really strong urge to take my life outside of the electric rectangle powered by Instagram likes. Strangely, the more I stay away from fantastical virtual life happening inside a screen, the more I have lost my appetite for everything materialistic. I couldn’t figure out a damn thing I want for my birthday. I am even seeing the gradual vanishing of lust, desire, even ambition… My wanting has waned. So much so I stopped going for many things that once appeared to be immensely pleasurable. Shall I say… I am mostly okay with things they way they are – good or bad in the majority’s definition, and even sometimes think to myself, that it is okay if I drop dead right this moment. It was a little alarming because it sounded like hopeless surrender to mediocracy, depression, or even loss of desire for life, but it may be just the opposite… Maybe now that I am finally so at peace with myself that I started realizing that there may be something more significant that I don’t know of…
That’s when I started to look really closely, trying to get a grasp of what all of these really means for me.
Let’s re-examine the question of “how do you love a place so wholeheartedly despite of all its negative sides” that I often get. Half a year earlier I would have just answered “there’s no negative side. Next question.”, but I think I finally have a possibly satisfying answer for those who are still curious. Or you can stick to the conclusion that “nah she’s just nuts”, which is totally fine with me too.
So here you are.
The answer is acceptance.
In Shugendo practiced by the Yamabushi in Japan, it is called “uketamo“. But that’s a cool story for another time.
If I dissect everything to the core, the only logical reason I can come up with for this unconditional love I have and how never even once have I felt troubled by any “negative sides” throughout my entire relationship with Japan, is because I accept Japan as what it is, completely. Because it is what it is. When you accept something so completely, nothing is neither positive nor negative, nothing is neither good nor bad, it is just what it is. It is only the judgement of mind that perceives something as good or bad. When you step away from judgmental perception and embrace total acceptance, you can see that things are just what they are. Or you can stick to the conclusion that this is “blind love”, which is totally fine with me too. =D
Acceptance does not mean resignation to an unfortunate fate, or turning a blind eye towards troubling situations. Acceptance is to accept the fact that whatever happened in the past, there’s no way we can change; whatever that is happening right now is happening just the way it is, but know that we have every power in our hand to decide our action for the very next moment.
Acceptance is also to accept the fact that you are the only person responsible for every single thought and feeling you have (that you generate in your mind – nobody put it there, unless incepted by your bitter ex lover stalking you on the same flight), irregardless of external factors. If you are angry, miserable, depressed, know that you are the only person who is responsible for generating that thought and feeling within you, and you are the only person who has the power to change the way you feel. In other words, one has to stop putting the blame in someone else and start seeing that emotions and thoughts are generated from within by youself, and take full responsibility for that. And also be careful about possibly spiked beverages during long flights. We’ll never know.
As great ancient wisdom has put it so wisely: The only two things humans are suffering are their memories and their imagination. Other than physical pain that’s causing misery right this moment, any other emotional pain we experience are not real. We are only suffering what has traumatized us in the past (memories), and fearing what is going to happen to us in the future (imagination). Both of which does not exist at this present moment.
In that sense, total acceptance liberates us from clinging onto the past (this and that crap happened to me), and worrying about the future (this and that crap is going to happen anyway). But it offers us a chance to decide what we want to do the very next moment, for whatever we are in control of. For things that are out of our control, there’s nothing we can do anyway.
Everyone is capable of making sense of that, but honestly when it comes to actually putting it into practice, everything comes tumbling down… Modern society has turn healing, therapy, meditation a solution for suffering into such complicated, marketable products they mostly don’t work the way we wish they would…
For many years, to address all the life problems I too, tried healing, tried therapy, tried meditation, only to my frustration that it all didn’t work. Only when I be physically here in Japan that I could reach for that longed after solace… that everything will be okay again. Alright now I sound like a total junkie on the drug called Japan. So… was it just a temporary escape from the darkness of the mind? Or was I indeed delusional?
When I combined all the bits and pieces of very real, intense blissfulness I experience with Japan like a puzzle, I suddenly realized that it is all along there. This spirituality that I did not know of, was all along there. And always there. Not in Japan. In me.
When I looked back at my blog articles a decade ago back in 2012, I can see that what I was feeling has not changed a single bit, only the depth of my perception has. Now I understand what the old me 10 years ago meant when she said…
“Just breathing Japan air makes me happy.”
Now the dots are starting to connect… Don’t all the meditation guru always mention breath, breath, and breath? How ironic that one thing that I struggle with when it comes to meditation, I have actually mastered it 10 years ago…
It was not Japan. It was the state that I was. To want to seek this constant bliss and stay that way forever. And Japan was that door to this other world. The gateway. The ambience. The way which grants me instant access to this bliss that my subconsciousness has always sought for.
So… is this “blind love” a delusion? If one can feel blissful by just breathing the air around oneself (osmanthus-scented would be a bonus), I think that’s closer to clarity than anything else.
Japan is my sustainable bliss, as long as I allow myself to consciously reach for that door.
The thing is… Right now that I have solved a huge puzzle by digging real deep, a much bigger problem reared its ugly head, actually.
Now that it is all loud and clear, I can see a new challenge presented before me. My ultimate challenge now, is to get past the boundary I set for my ability to expand my love. Or should we call it acceptance. My acceptance for Japan is limitless and infinitely expandable, but the problem is, it stopped at Japan. The love I have for Japan is so intense it has made me so protective and defensive I have built a strong electrical fence around it. Whenever someone comes close and throws rotten non-love for Japan into the backyard, they get shocked and pushed out of my territory immediately.
Usually, it breaks my heart that this intense joy and bliss I want to so eagerly share with everyone is not always well-received, as all I wanted is for this love to be passed on and snowball into something so enormous that it can’t be ignored, so that Japan can always stay this beautiful place on earth that has only joyful and blissful people.
But I realized that it is obviously a wishful thinking beyond my control, and it would be foolish to think that I can change how others feel. Only they can change how they feel. So… it is not anyone, it is me. Learning to accept in totality is liberating. It helps me see that the choice is mine.
Next time, instead of feeling upset, angry or defensive, I would just wish everyone who is still stuck at the misery of non-love the wisdom to see that they too, have every power to make every moment a pleasure experience for their lives. May they too, know the bliss and love that’s life transforming. Otherwise, I think a real inception machine is good business opportunity too.
Meanwhile, I am taking on the challenge to expand my love and acceptance in totality for Japan, and into the beyond…