Spent a day in self reflection (自己対話) in a beautiful old house in downtown Tokyo. We started with a tea ceremony, instilling a sense of 一期一会 (ichi-go, ichi-e) bringing attention to the reality that this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and can be treasured with that awareness, as can all moments in life. The theme of the day is expressed in the scroll, 明珠在掌 (myoujutanagokoroniari), meaning that what you treasure is already in the palm of your hand (宝は手の中にありますよ). In reminds us of the truth that in all our searching outside for what we think we are lacking, we find that we can return home to discover peace inside ourselves.
I then led a session on heartfulness, beginning by reflecting on how I had once studied early childhood education and worked in a day care center with kids as young as 18 months. I was determined to intervene as early as possible, filled with a sense of urgency by Freud's dire warning that we mostly formed by three years old, and the similar Japanese expression, 三つ子の魂百まで. But now I am heartened by our greater understanding of the infinite possibilities for growth throughout our lives, bolstered by neuroscience and cognitive science evidence.
We did a mindful eating exercise which many found amazingly revealing about such a common activity. In our loving kindness meditation some participants were moved to tears by mindfully extending compassion to themselves and loved ones. Others were stuck in judgmental and cognitive thought processes, unable to move beyond their common consciousness. Some people find it ironic that I teach mindfulness in Japan, because they think its roots are in the culture that is immersed in Zen. While there are roots in Japan there is also a great disconnect for many contemporary Japanese, many of whom have never practiced meditation or other kinds of mindfulness. But those for whom it was a new experience told me later that they were moved to explore this kind of self reflection further.
An artist then led us in a creative drawing activity. We first focused on simply drawing, bringing our attention to the act of putting lines on paper, then on examining and drawing a rock that we held. Most impactful was making dyads and drawing each other's faces. I felt a growing sense of familiarity and intimacy with the person as I drew her face. I was present as I looked at her with such intensity and then drew what felt like a loving image of her. Though she wore black, I drew her blouse red, in what seemed like an attempt to make her in a more ideal image in which she was less dulled and more vibrant.
We concluded with a group exercise in which we found our themes for the day. My group felt renewed strength and commitment to do more of what we are already doing. We also felt moved to be more mindful of what we are doing every day without reflection and appreciation, even the most mundane things. And we felt a desire to do new things that will bring us closer to others and help us to realize our connectedness. At the end of the day, we returned to the theme of the tea ceremony, with greater clarity and gratitude for the treasures that we already have in the palm of our hand.