There are those who decide on a pilgrimage heeding its call at some point in their lives. For me it whispered unexpectantly as an invitation to a Reiki Congress. A business trip.
Then it blew in as Santa Ana winds swirling a constant 99 degree temperature restricting my flight from its scheduled take off. Arrival into Tokyo became cloaked in night darkness. No luggage. It was removed the day before to lighten the load for takeoff.
Readjusting travel arrangements in a foreign land, in a foreign language, became part of the experience. A bump in the road-but the road was in Japan. And I was excited to be there.
The whisper grew louder as a typhoon traveled across Japan raising humidity levels into the 90’s over the next two days. It was Wednesday, and I began this journey on Monday morning, in the same clothes-sitting for hours on a plane at the gate, then on the tarmac, on a shuttle bus to a hotel in Tokyo, back to the airport hours later, onto another shuttle to a different airport, to catch a plane to Osaka. Now, I badly needed a change of clothes. Off to buy something to wear, but no. Kyoto shops only carry Japanese sizes. Keeping my spirits up, I made light of the situation.
Until the following morning. The heat, now pouring rain, and still in my travel clothes-I fell apart. I missed an important group tour. And I was hungry waiting for the dining room to clear so I wouldn’t put anyone into an unpleasant situation hugging me hello. Still not knowing if my packed clothes would arrive today or tomorrow or the day after, well into the Congress weekend.
For hours I walked and cried in the rain. And I walked some more. And I cried some more. Breaking down, falling into pieces with each step. Breaking away from my important public-self. I didn’t know it at the time, outwardly, trying to hold myself together. To be okay. To find peace with what was happening to me. Being separated from the group. Examining me as alone. How my physical self could indeed exist separate from my spirit self.
Sitting on a park bench, I watched a man hit a baseball. With each swing, observing the smooth arc of time and space he, and now I, was traveling. Watching him, I could breath again.
On Friday afternoon, my luggage arrived. Happy to have different clothes, I realized I was different and the window dressing didn’t really matter. At the Congress I felt invisible in a room of 200 colleagues. I had become more an observer than a participant. Empty but whole.
Staying on, I visited shrines, and temples, and parks and took long walks along the river and down side streets. Talked with shopkeepers and artisans. Walked behind a geisha, a few feet away, sensing the gentle yet intense presence she represented. Feeling gratitude for the brief shared space into tradition. I rode the train and subway with business people and families with young children. Visited a Kanji museum and played like a schoolgirl at the exhibit tables.
Mostly now, I stayed in awe at the quiet moments offered at empty temples housing large golden Buddha statues, spying a lone crane on a rock in a still lake, meeting Senju Kannon where time stopped and a sweet unspoken communication occurred. I inhaled the incense burning from street shrines, and bathed in the abundant lush of the green trees that filled my soul.
It has taken me 5 months to put words to my experience. Although it falls somewhat short. If I could only share the whisper I first heard . . .then Kyoto could also change you. Listen for it.