stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kyoto Diary : One

This feels like a different type of visit to Kyoto and its wonderful temples and Japanese gardens.

I have been three times before – in a small group, organised by the same non-profit company and with the same guide and staying in the same excellent hotel. And each time it was a real compunction to come, the place was calling to me to visit. Sounds weird, but some who suffer similarly, laughingly call it an addiction. On a deep level.

But this time it is different.

I had never thought to come again, and said goodbye for ever in 2006. However, I sold some signed first editions of Philip Pullman’s “Northern Lights” trilogy so decided to spend the money on something that I really wanted to do, rather than (as fellow sufferer from New Mexico said yesterday) on healthcare or security in the future). I have seen enough people in my community and among my friends suffer from the effects of old age and sickness to know that I must appreciate the good things in life while I can. When you retire it does focus the mind on the present. The Buddhist scriptures of all traditions emphasise that man is of the nature – like all things – to suffer change, decay and death. Its very liberating once you accept it!

There may well be a parallel set of diary posts and photos over on the Dewy Path, which will try to capture the underlying experiences of Kyoto and her gardens. It was on my last visit that I learned to look more deeply at Japanese gardens. Ididn’t search out that experience, it just happened.

Although I have studied Japanese gardens and their history on an intellectual and academic level (a three year distance learning course) I will view them and understand them this time with the heart not the head – and this spiritual journey is something I may – or may not – chronicle over on The Dewy Path.

Talking of living in the present moment - I just had an interesting experience. Talk about coming with no preconceptions or a clean slate! I had taken only a couple of photos of Kyoto yesterday – street scenes and the modern railway station – and was tidying up the old images on the camera before saving the new ones to the laptop. While I am sure I have saved them all carefully at home, there are a few that I like to keep with me on the camera for nostalgia. But I accidentally deleted them ALL from the camera. Tabula rasa! So no photos with this post!

Normally I am very out of touch here too – a long walk to a copy shop that has expensive internet access, no UK mobile phones would work here and no English language TV channels in the hotel. For this visit, I have a new phone which works here (and is not hugely expensive because Vodafone have a special deal here) and also I brought the laptop with me and the hotel has free internet access in all rooms.

So the circumstances feel different all around.

Maybe it was also the year of Japanese conversation evening classes that I did a couple of years ago? I don’t really remember any of it, but conversations around me in buses today sound familiar somehow. Oh and I didn’t need to take a taxi from the station, I just hopped on a bus! I do feel at home.

Just the food is still a bit of a mystery. Its all delicious, but I don’t know sometimes what I have eaten! Especially in the smaller working men’s restaurants where you can just point at a lifelike plastic replica of your plate of food in the window rather than struggle through a written menu.

I went for a walk tonight in the busy elegant shopping area (shops stay open till at least 8pm) and thought that I saw lot more westerners than two years ago. But realised on closer inspection as they passed me on the pavement, that some were Japanese anyway. I think my perceptions of race are getting blurred. A good sign. Would that the world would follow.

So my lovely and cheap Finnair flight touched down in relaxed style mid morning, and I sauntered along in a casual manner and bought my tickets for the Limited Express to Kyoto. A potentially complicated procedure that used to fill me with dread – two tickets instead of one; non-reserved/reserved carriages; strange currency; strange language etc etc. Although like many countries with tourist areas, the announcements on trains and buses are spoken in English and are written up in lights inside. But I saw this in Kyoto before London! But I just sailed along, not hurrying, enjoying everything.

While walking along I had seen my first autumnal colours on the trees, and smelled the air, and saw the mountains. And realised my cheeks felt strange. It was from the smile that had been on my face since I arrived. Must look like a grinning idiot!

I had happily dozed lightly on the plane for a couple of hours, and felt very refreshed when I got here after the fourteen hour journey, broken in Helsinki for a change of planes. The excitement and adrenalin, I suppose. And although I have lost nine hours somewhere, I don’t feel tired yet.

I went to sleep earlier easily, having tried to stay up in my new time zone. But woke up after three hours, ready to roll even though the clock said 3am! *sigh* So I gave up, and decided to write up my diary (oh and completely clean out my camera ready for new stuff as I said!)

Now I must do the same for my mind – no preconceptions, look through clean eyes ……. though that of course is impossible for us mere mortals. Maybe a life time in a Zen monastery with meditation and mindful living might help. Into the present moment we bring all the tiny yet deep conditionings of past moments, whispering in our ears. But to hear them is a step in the right direction along the path.


At 12:44 pm, Blogger Tabor said...

You are traveling with much more focus and passivity than I did when I was in Japan. Of course out of about 4 trips only one was a vacation!
The rest were spent with a heavy schedule of travel and meetings. I look forward to the pictures. Looks like retirement is starting to fit you well.

At 7:13 am, Blogger Zen said...

wonderful post!


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