You know that feeling... the ache between your ribs, the pang of a present moment seeping into your being... emotional quick sand pulling you ever deeper.
Returning to Japan felt this way for me.
A full year came and went since first landing in Tokyo. This time around we traveled to Nagoya and Osaka briefly before we took a bullet train back to the loud, bright, hustling streets of Tokyo. (I say we because I am traveling with a group for work...)
When returning somewhere after so long it forces you to reflect on the year that has come to pass; and what I realized is that I am a very different person from who I was at the start of last year.
I am stronger, more defined, more settled in my being and more open.
This fact hit me like a tidal wave on the second to last day of our time in Japan.
I was out late Wednesday night. The day had been airless and strange, stuck in doors. By the time night rolled around my friend Lee and I needed to do something. We needed to go where good people would be, have a nice drink, and let the day melt from our bodies. Bonobos was everything we needed (and in Lees case, perhaps a little bit more).
Sliding open the front door, we were greeted by bohemian dj music floating out of the back room. We walked in and found the cutest, tiniest bar, vines hanging over head in a small lantern lit room. Red wine in hand we swayed to the rhythm of the music- this is what life is- red wine and good music.
A group of Australians chatted us up at the bar and we passed the rest of our time talking over life and travel until the early hours of the morning...
My eyes batted open, a butterfly stretching their wings; slowly, slowly. As I could no longer sleep I did let my body flow saluting the sun, chaturanga, up dog, down dog, breath and motion; connecting the mind and body. I showered and ventured out into the cold gray Tokyo morning.
The Roastery by Nozy was my first stop. Hot coffee seeping into the cracks the wine had carved into my being the night before, restoration with every sip.
I think, perhaps, I awoke so early because my heart was whispering that it needed something... as I walked from the coffee shop toward Meiji Shrine I felt the whisper growing louder.
The gravel crunched beneath my feet, brittle bones being broken down by thousands of travelers passing through. The cold enveloped my body and carried me down the path, the rhythm of my footsteps serving as a meditation, a reminder of the moment- be present, be present, be here.
Ice cold water stung my hands as I cleansed at the well before entering the temple gates. One year ago I was taught how to wash, enter, and pray at the holy sight by a group of Japanese students learning to speak english- left, right, drink, clean, bow, respect.
There is something about Meiji. Even though it is full of people, the spirit, the energy, the soul of the place radiates from every surface. The veil between this world and the beyond is thin, the divine is present and if you are still, if you listen, you will feel it settle into your bones.
I left the temple to go on with my day feeling very ‘in my body’ a gift I can not begin to explain. I often struggle with feeling present, as I think many of us do. My mind wanders, rushing from thought to thought; freeways crossing, orderly chaos, and I stand in the middle trapped by the noise. But when I stop, breath, ‘find my center’, the chaos slows, I feel the hum of the present, the connection between me and everything (and everyone) and I forget the chaos of ‘me’.
I could not have explained this a year ago and I’m not sure that I can explain it even now.
I will simply say this- Japan, you are good, you are beautiful. Arigato Gozaimas.