2 years ago (pre-covid) I took myself over to Japan for some self care amidst a really tough emotional, mental and physical time in my life. After spending a few days walking around Tokyo and Kyoto admiring the architecture, design and food, off I went to the very bottom of Japan to spend a week in a zen buddhist temple. I was told before I arrived that the temple only accepted 5 visitors at a time and the resident monk, Jiho-San, spoke little to no English.
Zen Buddhism is a beautiful tradition, rich in dedication, discipline and contemplation. Koans are riddle-like questions passed down from head monks to learning monks which they often sit with for weeks, ruminating on an answer to present back. Some of my favourite koans are:
What is the colour of wind?
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
When you can do nothing, what can you do?
Along with sitting for hours in deep thought, we also sat for hours in meditation. Around three hours a day. This might sound like a lot and I often couldn’t feel my legs afterwards but hearing the sounds of soft rain fall on the old temple roof or the gentle smack of a fellow meditator being hit with a stick by the monk for slouching (this actually happens) was truly one of the most peaceful times of my life.
These rituals have been developed and practiced for centuries. The temple is over 100 years old and while there is now a TV for watching sumo wrestling at dinner time and a car for driving to the market, Jiho-san still observes and encouraged us to participate in traditional customs such as community service, fasting from 6pm until 12pm, chanting every morning and sitting still for long periods of time.
Since this trip I have incorporated meditation into my daily routine and I often visualise the sounds, smells and energy of that temple which makes time just melt away. It might not be your cup of matcha but it certainly is mine.