Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cranes and Dragons

Tuesday: 10/31.
Another beautiful day in the mountains of Shikoku.

Climbed up to Temple 20, then after dtoppjng all the way back down to sea level repeated with the climb up to Temple 21 for a total climb of a little over 3,000 ft for the day.

Fall colors are just starting to appear but not enough for a picture. Hopefully the colors will show up in full over the next several weeks. Off to Temples 22 and 23 tomorrow.

The Daishi Hall at Temple 21:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Crying On The Mountain

Th: 10/27
Very, very tough climb up to Temple 12, Shosanji. Took us over two hours longer than i usually take. But, hats off to the person i'm with --- she never caved in and kept plodding; even though she did admit to wanting to sit down and cry a coiple of times.

At Temple 12, two guys offered us a ride down to our lodging so we eliminated that hour of walking. We arrived safely, but very, very tired. 

The typhoon last week did quite a bit of damage to the trees, with many down across the trail. Crews are already out cleaning them up and we only had to walk over or around a half dozen of them. The trail itself is still in fine condition. As usual a beauhiful walk/climb.

Today, after walking about 8km, a woman pulled over and offered us a ride to Temple 13, our final destination for the day. We accepted and not only got the ride but a bottle of cold tea as well. 

Tomorrow afternoon or evening Typhoon 22 is suposed to get close enough to bring mire rain to the area, with the worst to arrive on Sunday. We still don't know how much that will be, but the owner of tonight's lodging is suggesting that we hold up in Tokushima City both Saturday and Sunday nights and start walking again on Monday. It's not just the rain in her opinion, it's the potential flooding we could walk into down by Temple 18. We'll watch the weather tomorrow before deciding.

Overall, we've had beauyiful weather ever since Monday with cloudless skies and high temperatures around 68 every day

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Rainy Starts

Tu:10/24 First day of sunshine for several weeks. The Kumano Kodo walk was spectacular, with incredibly beautiful scenery, but was walked almost entirely in the rain. 

For several of the last days of that walk all the news was of Typhoon 21's imminent strike on Japan --- passing the coast right where we were walking on our last day.

It did hit on Sunday, cancelling many people's flights home, but i was able to get one of the last trains still running to run north, away from the coast and to the hotel where I was meeting the woman i am guiding around Shikoku for a few weeks. 

We managed to get another train up to Mt. Koya before the typhoon rains caught up with us; but barely. The rain Sunday night and into Monday morning was awe inspiring. A deluge is putting it mildly. In fact on the way back off the mountain on Monday afternoon we had to be shuttled by bus because the train tracks coming off the mountain were either damaged or washed out. 

In the end we got to Tokushima Monday evening and started walking Tuesday morning, walking from Temple 1 to Temple 5. 

We're spending the night in Kotobuki Shokudo just before Temple 6 because i love the nabe pot dinner they give us. A huge pot of boiling stock in which you cook cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, mushrooms, and other "stuff" i don't remember. Plus you add a jumbo shrimp, a small filet of salmon, oysters, and some slices of pork. It is sooooo delicious. 

Then, to top it off, the owner asked if she should call ahead and make our next two night's reservations for us. Of course i gladly accepted. 

Tomorrow off to Temple 11 so we are set up for the climb to Temple 12 on Thursday. The rest of the week is supposed to be sunny, but Typhoon 22 seems to be working it's way here, aiming for landfall next week. Hopefully it will turn north and spare us more rain.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Don't Walk Backwards

Somewhere between Temples 23 and 24 a wonderful sight can be seen. The walk typically takes about three days and for the entire time you walk along the side of the main highway running down the east coast of the island. For those that aren't particularly fond of walking with traffic flying by within arm's reach, this isn't one of the best sections of the pilgrimage. Especially if it is raining every day. Doubly especially if it is raining and hot, so inside your rain suit it feels like a sauna. Days like this can be loud, uncomfortable, and monotonous.

One way to deal with the monotony is to turn inwards, to take the backwards step and turn this section of the walk into a three day walking meditation practice. Put the feet on autopilot, set the senses aside, and simly walk. This doesn't mean turning the senses off, tuning out everything you hear, see, and smell; it only means turning off your attachment to what comes in through the sense gates. What comes in, comes in. What the eye sees, it sees. What the ears hear, they hear. If your feet are wet, they are wet. All this means is giving up any attachment to what comes in. Giving up any expectation for sense experiences you want to have. What comes in, comes in. Accept it and let it go. Don't hold on to it or dwell on it. Just walk, letting experiences take care of themselves. Notice everything but attach to nothing.

As you settle in, there will come a time when this practice is just as sacred as any time you spend on your meditation cushion at home.

But, there is another way to approach this section of the trail, which can also be taken back home when you return. Instead of tuning everything out, tune everything in. Instead of looking for the sacred inside, in an attempt to avoid what is without, notice the sacred in everything. Notice that there is nothing that is not sacred, no matter how mundane it may appear on the surface.

Instead of trying to cross that threshold into the world of the sacred, see that there is no threshold, there is no 'this side' or 'that side,' that there is no sacred or mundane. There is only This. There is only what is. And that 'what is' encompasses everything in existence; nothing is, or can be, excluded.

It takes a lot of effort, but it can be done. Look at everything and see that its existence is just as wonderful as that of a newborn baby, alive and just beginning this journey we call being alive. Look at the waves crashing on the shore and say 'how marvelous.' Look at the mountains to your right and say 'how marvelous.' Look at the rain splashing on the sidewalk, or the puddles that you inevitably have to walk through and say 'how marvelous.' Look at the cars, trucks, and buses on the road and say 'how marvelous.' Notice the pain from the blister on your foot and say 'how marvelous.' Instead of tuning out, tune in. Tune into everything, every perception, and marvel at its existence. Marvel at the beauty of exitence in all its shapes, forms, and colors.

Marvel at the wonderfulness of existence. Marvel at the oneness of everything that manifests as existence. Instead of noticing nothing, notice everything. Notice that that everything is one thing, but not even a thing. Everything is one. Existnece. Even though it appears to be manifesting as many.

As you walk along the highway between Temples 23 and 24, spend your three days marveling at the wonderousness of existence. At this amazing thing called Being. And this ability we were granted at birth to see it, to experience it, to grow into it, to melt into it. As you walk along this stretch of highway thank life for granting you this opportunity to step out of the beautiful scenery of the mountains and into this beautiful scenery of existence.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Did You See That?

As i get ready to leave for a couple of weeks on the Kumano Kodō and a month on the henro trail, i've been looking over some of what i have written over the years on the website. This morning, these words from the "Why To Go" page resonated for some reason.

"If you go as a pilgrim, meet as many people as you can. Talk to all who will talk to you. Take thousands of pictures. Have fun. But remember why you are there. Many of the scholars who write about pilgrimages write about liminal experiences. Victor Turner points out that liminality is as much about potentiality as about thresholds. Liminal experiences are about both discovering your true potential and experiencing that threshold state you must progress through to get there. Shikoku, like other pilgrimages around the world, offers the possibility of coming to understand both. When and where each pilgrim finds his/her threshold is different. What they find on the other side may also vary, but it is certain that you can only find it if you remember that during each and every day, each and every minute, each and every step, each and every breath, you are on a path of discovery. Enjoy yourself but don't lose your focus."

It's the overlapping concepts of liminality and potentiality that made me stop and think. Not just in relation to the Ohenro, but in relation to that, yoga, and life in general. Sooner or later everyone who is on the spiritual path will find themselves approaching a threshold which marks the boundary between life on this side and life on the other side; between life as we currently live it and life as we have come to understand that it really is. And the longer i tread this path and the more often i dance back and forth across that threshold, never committing to one side or the other, the more clear it becomes that it's not the dance around the threshold that i find attractive, but the potentiality that appears right at that line.

The funny part is, why does it appear there. That potentiality is not found on the "other" side of the threshold. It's not isolated and available only to those who have passed over. It is everywhere, on both sides. It's in the absolute realm on "that" side and it's in the relative realm on "this" side. It is everywhere. There is nowhere it is not. In fact, it is all that there is, anywhere. The Buddhists would call it Dharmakaya. Depending on the school, a yogi would call it Brahman. Call it what you will, you don't have to cross any thresholds to get to it. You can't get away from it.

Pilgrimage, whether on Shikoku or anywhere else, is one way to open yourself to seeing that you are already that which you are seeking. Pilgrimage, whether in a pair of hiking boots or barefoot on a yoga mat, is where you stop the mind long enough for that potentiality to make itself known. For that which is to manifest so clearly, so loudly, so in your facely, that even you can't stop but notice. And occasionally you are tempted to look at someone next to you and say "did you see that?" because you aren't really sure what you saw, but it was so clear that you know it has changed your life.