Japanese culture has had a profound impact on my life. Raised as an outspoken and independent American woman, I got quite a dose of culture shock when I first moved to the rural outskirts of Hamamatsu in my early 20s. It seemed there was a “right way” and a “wrong way” to do even the simplest tasks, and of course I did everything the wrong way… One time in my calligraphy class, the teacher suddenly came flying out of nowhere clucking, damedamedame! I squealed as she slapped my left hand with her fingertips, grabbed the brush, and placed it firmly in my right hand instead. (Of course I tried to sneak the brush back into my left hand when she wasn’t looking… I can’t even write in English with my right hand, forget those vexing characters.)
Even though I was always doing things wrong, there was something undeniably comforting about being in Hamamatsu. People were incredibly gentle and helpful and sweet. I felt extremely safe everywhere I went, at any time of day or night, even in the big cities. It really seemed like someone was always there to take care of me, from random people on the street who wanted to make sure I wasn’t lost, to the busdriver who wanted make personally sure that I didn’t miss my stop. At my job, two women were actually assigned to the task of making sure the young American woman (me) wasn’t feeling lonely or excluded. Taking care of people is really a team effort in Japan – it’s difficult to grasp until you’ve really experienced it.
Japanese people taught me by example what I never really learned in my own country: how to listen. Listening is exalted so highly that Japanese people actually prefer to listen so well that nothing ever needs to be said.
My heart is breaking for Japan right now. It’s so painful to see all the images of suffering and destruction, and frankly I’m not sure it’s useful to focus on those. I believe one of the most powerful things we can do is to meditate together in a spirit of love and healing. Would you like to join me? If so, I invite you to log on to http://www.doasone.com at 12:00 noon (PST) any day this week. People are gathering from around the world to do conscious breathing exercises for peace and harmony, and many of us are focusing specifically on Japan right now. Tell me if you will be there, as I would love to know you are participating.
Love and light,