So Advent is amongst us…the first Christmas trees are popping up and the first cups of Glühwein are consumed on a Christmas market near you or far away from you. In these heck of the woods Sinterklaas is wandering around in the company of a white horse and his friend who I will not name out her because that will cause outrageous. And across the ocean many already did digest millions of turkeys and survived Black Friday! So the holiday season is at our doorstep
A loves this time of the year and he anticipated lots of things still with the same enthusiasm as when he was a toddler. This year he even wished for rather practical things to be found in his shoe that Sinterklaas is reminded daily to fill up. The magic of Sinterklaas en Santa Claus he still appreciates and I have to be honest that I am very happy that he never hold a grunge against me or anyone else when a few magical bubbles were bursted. He is aware how it works but he still embraces everything.
Yesterday he did point out that he can’t wait to travel to his grandmother for the Christmas festivities and meeting up with his cousins and the rest of the family. He did not mention the presents that will be awaiting for him. It seems the older he gets the more the materialistic advantages are replaced of something that is so much more complex and magical. It is something that is in the air… I bet that most of you know what I am trying to explain to you. And there might be some amongst my readers who do not celebrate Christmas then I do still think what I mean. That one sensation that you experience when there is something in the air that makes evaporate all those other feelings that take up so much of your time.
Myself I had magical Christmas celebrations as a child. My parents went the distance when it came down to trees,decorations, presents and food. There was abundance in so many ways and my dad who sometimes was on call on the Holy Night even then would put on the open fire and bake some sausages and he would faithfully put on that one record that I will for the rest of my life connect with the Christmas spirit. The house did fill up with cinnamon and vanilla. Our cat did hang out around the tree where she did decided one day that the manager was the best spot for her to take a nap. Who was I to blame her?
There are so many happy memories I can link up with the holiday season and I still create my own memories. It only seems a bit harder than it used to be. Lately many (global) issues have made it a bit harder to be positive. In a way it even seems that the holiday season is rather escapism instead of a time of celebration of peace and hope. Two main ingredients of the world I do wish my own son to grow up in and find his way around.
Being over 40 qualifies me to already being aware that gingerbread not always tastes that good as you wish for. The last 3 years I even wonder if I am allowed wandering around on a Christmas market and feeling festive while there is a terror alert that is unlikely to change in the near future. The government even warns us that it not be the best spots to hang out at due to those people that wish to ‘kill’ and spread terror. They have taken hostage that one feeling that I do consider so ultimate important in society and this is the cement and glue in our society and that is TRUST.
I have never felt so empty the last 6 months when it comes down to that sensation. It is still lingering around in the back of my mind and conscience but it is having a very hard time. Nobody seems to grant me a break and even dare to be hopeful anymore. The last few weeks have been rather down to earth when it came down to trying to find the positive and hopeful spirit I so much need to keep my faith going in mankind.
Do now now expect me to start about a certain entrepreneur or about a guy who makes jokes about the Russian borders. Nope, not this time I came across some things that just blew me of my feet and that made me wonder why I still even try. Not going into depth wat exactly happened but ever since my trip to Japan I do wonder sometimes why so many people have got trust issues. Yes, I had to trust some strangers on my trip and I had to let go. You might have noticed that I have not posted a post yet about my trip and that is due to the fact that for once I can not find enough words to describe what happened to me while being over there.
My mother predicted that it would be the best trip ever and that anxiety of having to face a nation whose language I will never understand fully would vanish quite soon. People have asked me what I liked best about it and even that is not a question that I can answer easily. What I experienced on the trip comes very close to the sensation I have during the holidays. That is how deep it travelled into my heart and mind. It touched me in unexpected ways and it made me feel hopeful. Totally zen and only living in the present. Facing only opportunity where one moment before was only obstacles to overcome.
That it did happen in Japan of all places I do consider a blessing. I had hoped I would experience it in that spot but there is no guarantee you will encounter it. Yes, meditation helps and it has saved me in the last few years to find a safe harbor in the very wild ‘mind’-storm. What you get return of going back to your own center and trying to find your balance is sometimes very hard to define.
So what did happen then exactly? I have tried to explain to my mother what happened to me when I walked out of that one temple so many people wish to see when they are in Japan. It is one of those spots in the land of the rising sun that speaks to the imagination of many: Kinkaku-ji . Enlightment and Budha are very much intertwined at this place. It is one of those temples that most guide books rave about and by the time you visit wonder if most travel book authors have been given gift vouchers to comment on in positive wording.
I had decided to keep myself low profile expectation wise. That sweat was running down my spine when I entered the place and my water bottle was already less cool made it a bit less appealing. The line of tourist is endless...so wonder I did wonder if would manage to even get to see the Kinkaku-ji temple visit so many talk about. Well? It did start very promising by the view of that one amazing looking Golden Pavilion. Even tough it is rather overcrowded in many ways my camera managed to capture the building itself in one of those images that I cherish for the rest of my life.
At that stage of that visit I was content and did I made a stop at one of these typical kiosks where they sell prayer cards in little wallets made of fabric. Yes, I had my doubts about spending precious yens in such places. In the land of Hello Kitty I rather felt tempted to spend money on a cat than a card with calligraphy that I was not even able to read once I got home. But hey, the big number of local tourists who lined up at this one did convince me that such a card might come in an handy on a rainy day. So I left the place with a few Yen less and a nice looking prayer card that I can not read. While heading for the exit I was already trying to find out how to get to the closest buss stop and then it happened…
I did walk into a magnetic field of positivism and I can only describe it as a mind blowing experience. Not a single word was exchanged at that moment. It happened unexpectedly and blew me almost of my feet. It filled up with warmth but also gave me goosebumps. It still haunts me on those days that I do wonder if it is still worth to keep trying and if I can trust strangers or even the people close to me. I was empty but at the same time so full of energy. My knees were about to give away and at the same time I was so much alive that fireworks went of.
Yes, I know it must sound like a lot of hocus-pocus. Nope, I don’t expect you to believe me. You were not there with me when it happened. I was all by myself and I was not able to share the moment with anyone else. In a way it filled me up with sadness that I was traveling all by myself. It has been my most intense travel experience ever mental wise. It is a very unique moment that I will never able to copy. All I can state that I was fully aware that all my senses were optimal at work in that state of mind.
Yes, I did try to stay as long as possible in that moment but you know what? That is exactly the mos challenging about it because it was due to an other human being that I experienced it in the first place. We were with two when it happened…. someone else seemed to have passed on this force field. It was in the most simple ways ever… and I still do not get my head around it… Getting the picture? It did not happen when I did look up to one of the biggest statues or washed my hands in once of the numerous water sources to cleanse my soul. Nope nothing of that sort.
I knew at that moment that I would snap out of it when the person would have lost eye contact with me and walked away… It did fill up me up with sadness and I wanted to scream out that I wished to stay one second longer in this paradise of serenity… but sadly it does not work that way. The status of zen expects practice and patience. So I had to let go… the only thing that I can now state is that from that moment on my trip even became more adventurous.
In Japan I suddenly was forced to do let go and keep calm when I was about loose it all together. I had no choice and I had to trust many times that I would get there. Yes, at a certain point I even had to trust total strangers. In Japan ethics are different than in many Western nations. Nothing is what it seems and you sometimes are forced to slow down and keep zen to get to the bottom of certain things. My friends and locals warned me that going back to where I came from would be harder than any trip I had to come back from.
Yes, they were and are so right. I now get even more annoyed but certain things that in Japan not seem to be an issue or are questioned. Not that this nation is perfect it does faces also big challenges and it is also fully aware that in the 21st century lots of things they take for granted are under attack. It are tiny things that make such a big difference. The nicest memories I have from my trip are not related to very exciting or adventurous things. More than once I found something in simplicity that I might have forgotten about while trying to stay ahead of the game at work and home.
Japan has caused a mind shift and I now face daily that the western world in which I try to function seems to have lost some of it’s moral compass. Last weekend even somebody told me that ethics is not essential anymore. Not kidding! While sipping from pink bubbles I was told by a very educated forty something that many values and principles do not stand a chance anymore. Now I am not 100% sure he was pulling my leg. Stallie does take everybody serious who she talks to and this person did not give me the impression that he/she was pulling my leg. Nope, it was like one of us had too much alcohol into our system either. The sensation that then filled up my body I can only describe as fear and anxiety. Shivers went to down my spine and I went very silent.
Hey, Stallie is fully aware that she might not sound as upbeat out here as I used to. Not that I do not try to find the silver lining in many issues and challenges. Many people now scream that they are fed up and wish to be taken serious. That they feel forgotten and left out. Like mentioned in my previous post I UNDERSTAND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU BUT…. and here comes now what I wish to get out of the open. Do you ever feel tired when you keep trying to understand everyone and wonder if you are even taken serious… Now do not start me that society does not work like that. Duh? Excuse me? Societies are made up by people. Diversity and multi culturalism have changed many nations and I still rather wish to consider this is a blessing rather than a curse.
Let me try to say in poetry what I mean and experience mentally:
You told me that it was useless
That the sun would only shine behind the dark clouds
That there is only destruction and rage to be found in ashes
That hope is an empty promise
That borders will consist of walls that go up high into the grey sky
That what your faith is is not mine and will divide us even more
That what I call a promise turns out to be lie or a disappointment
That love is hollow and will never last
That prejudice and pride have taken over from compassion and sincerity
That happiness is only a box filled up with chocolates
That safety needs guns, knives and soldiers in order to be guaranteed
That the minority needs to scream and shout to be heard by the majority
That to expect kindness and gratitude in return is naive
That trust is non existing and only exists when black on white
That running behind paper that blows in the wind is useless
That a smile is never what seems at first sight
That ethics are over due and old school
That facts are sometimes fairy tales
That religion justifies destructions and death
I have been told many things by others but still….
are my powers that I wish to use wisely
you were not there with me at Kinkaku-ji
but I was and someone else was with me
a total stranger, a human being, a kind person
who showed me the way to that one place that
I will never wish to leave….
The imprint it left on my heart will never be erased by any fierce storm.
Kinkaku-ji and I are now ‘lovers’
Every single cold rain shower and waterfall will remind me of this...
In case I won’t find that much time over the next few weeks… have a great Holiday Season. I love you all and I believe in all of you.
Thank you Japan and all the people I met on this trip for reminding me that it does take so much more to keep the faith but that it does start with a verys simple gesture and act: a smile!
C and J a big hug especially to you!!! Believe me you made this a trip of a life time. Even tempted to state the best one ever… I will never return home from it…