Summer is coming, your vacation is hopefully planned, and we are sending “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) – a common Japanese greeting that means “hello” from Japan to you, dear Green Heart Warrior. The month of June is not going to be about the Indigenous people, but about the philosophy of life that ancient Japan is known for. Hopefully, you will allow yourself to dive into Serenity with us and allow the summer and its stories to bring ZEN to you.
With Love from JAPAN, Sasa.
“Exploring the old and deducing the new makes a teacher,” said Confucius.
This beautiful Japanese term 温故知新 (“Onkochishin”) we are starting our Zen month in Japan with, comes down to one simple idea regarding life: “You can’t expect to move forward without understanding the past.” In this expression, 知新 means “new knowledge” while 温故 means “to visit the old”, thus making a connection between the “old” and the “new”.
This mindset is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and can be found in the way companies in Japan operate: they will look for past examples and facts in order to understand how they can go from there. And all the above truly aligns with our 365 Projects goal, i.e., to understand the past and learn from it, right?
Stay tuned, dear ALL. Japan is ready to be explored and we are going to take a deep dive into the Okinawan Secret to Living a Long and Fulfilled Life, starting Monday. Have a lovely weekend.
Landing at Osaka Airport in Japan, we immediately felt engulfed by a sense of calm and a distinct wholehearted energy. Although busy, everything seemed in a kind of flow. So, the decision for the keyword of the month was simple – Serenity.
Enjoy your Saturday and try to stay in your inner peace.
Japan – the land of the rising Sun. In Japanese, the country is called Nihon (Nippon). Both Nihon and Japan originate from the same words; they literally mean “where the sun rises”.
Happy SUNday, dear ALL.
The residents of Okinawa in Japan are known for their amazing longevity. One out of every 1,235 people in Okinawa lives beyond the age of 100. Not only do they lead long lives, but also happy and purposeful ones. Wouldn’t we like to know their secret, right?
Well, the answer comes in three parts, which we are going to address this week. The three main principles that Okinawans live by to lead a happy and long life are:
* Ikigai – translates to “finding your purpose (higher meaning) in life”,
* Hara hachi bu – roughly translates to “fill your stomach up to 80%” and
* Chanoyu or “the way of tea” which is a ritual performed across the whole of Japan.
But first things first. Tomorrow, we will first dive into Ikigai, dear Green Heart Warriors. Till then, much love to ALL.
The first principle that Okinawans live by for a happy and long life is Ikigai (which translates to finding your purpose in life), i.e., finding work that excites you every day, pays enough to make a decent living, and is something that you’re good at. Although this may sound very romantic, it’s also very rational.
You’re not going to have a joyful (and healthy) life if you spend most of it slaving away only to earn an eager income. When you work on things that you’re passionate about, time flies, and you enjoy every moment of it. This is commonly referred to as the FLOW state, which is often discussed in Positive Psychology, and is the best form of satisfaction you can get from your work or any other activity.
Okinawans tend to find flow in everything they do. And they do it by pursuing their Ikigai every day.
Are you aware of your Ikigai, dear Green Heart Warrior? What is the activity that brings you into a flow state where everything seems so effortless? If you’re not there yet, please join us tomorrow. We will share some advice from the Elders of Okinawa.
Are you aware of your Ikigai – your purpose and passion – dear Green Heart Warrior?
If not, here are some ideas on how to find and follow yours. Start by identifying work you enjoy doing as a hobby, even if you never got paid for it before. Then, ask yourself: Would someone need my services and pay for them? And if yes, find a way to package and sell your work by sharing your story.
Once you have those answers, you’ve come really close to finding your Ikigai. Of course, don’t expect a revolution overnight, but trying to find the sweet spot between your passion and your ability to make money from it is a great start. Even if you start out slowly, by only doing what you are passionate about on the side for a while, you will eventually get closer to living like the Okinawans and have a reason to jump out of bed every morning.
Everyone can earn money. But not everyone has the willpower and motivation to pursue their dreams. What would you choose?
The second principle that Okinawans live by to lead a happy and long life is Hara hachi bu (“fill your stomach up to 80%”). Have you ever felt tired after a large meal? We know we have. And science supports this claim. To help digest the food we just ate, our internal system transfers blood from the rest of our body to the digestive system. Less blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body equates to tiredness.
Okinawans understand this fact. A traditional Okinawan diet comprises a variety of food but in small, measured quantities. So, what do people in Okinawa usually eat? Apart from eating less, an Okinawan diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and sparse in meats.
Let’s dive into their diet tomorrow, dear Green Heart Warrior. We do want to learn from the old to enhance the new, right?
Enjoy your day and let’s meet tomorrow for the diet tips.
Having discussed the second principle that Okinawans live by to lead a happy and long life, i.e., “hara hachi” in yesterday’s post, we left off with the question, what do people in Okinawa usually eat?
Okinawans eat fish, meat, dairy, and grains like rice in much smaller amounts than we typically do. Some examples of foods common to the Okinawa diet include tofu, various green vegetables, orange sweet potato, purple sweet potato, seaweed, kelp, bamboo shoots, radish, bitter melon, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, papaya, and mushrooms with a lot of white & green tea.
These foods are rich in antioxidants which reduce cell damage in our body. You’re made of what you eat. And with some minor adjustments in what we eat and how much we eat, we can keep our body thriving, ultimately contributing to a long and healthy life. We’ll be addressing the third principle that Okinawans live by to lead a happy and long life on Monday – the famous Japanese ritual of preparing and drinking tea. There are so many healthy and happy aspects to it. Enjoy your weekend and stay tuned. Love to ALL.
Finding your Ikigai, the first principle that Okinawans live by for a happy and long life – which translates to finding your purpose in life – can be a long-winded process. Don’t give up if you can’t come up with what you want out of your life in the span of one weekend. But do keep asking yourself:
And, once you’ve found the answer to that question, work towards making it the core part of your life.
On Friday we wrote about the traditional Okinawan diet comprising a variety of food but consumed in small, measured quantities, and that one of the reasons for their long lifespan is the belief in filling their belly up to 80% only. But here’s the thing:
(The key here is to stop eating once you start feeling full.)
Enjoy your SUNday, dear ALL.
The third principle that Okinawans live by to lead a happy and long life is Chanoyu or “the way of tea” which is a ritual known and practiced all across Japan. And Okinawa is no exception.
Although a traditional tea ceremony in Japan is quite elaborate, the main idea of having tea within the longevity concept is to be with family and friends, to share stories, taking time off to forget about our stressful work, and truly connect, while sipping hot tea.
But why does this influence our health?
Humans are social creatures. We crave interactions with other humans. Loneliness is a major contributing factor to severe mental and physical health problems. A tea-time ritual or Chanoyu helps us combat isolation and loneliness by creating an opportunity to interact with the people around us. Meaningful interactions with close friends and family make us feel part of a tribe, melt stress away, and make us happier and more fulfilled. So, tea, anyone?
Religion in Japan is a wonderful mix of ideas from Shintoism and Buddhism. Unlike in the West, religion in Japan is rarely preached, nor is it a doctrine. Instead, it is a moral code, a way of living, almost indistinguishable from Japanese social and cultural values. Japanese religion is also a private, family affair. It is separate from the state; there are no religious prayers or symbols in a school graduation ceremony, for example. Religion is rarely discussed in everyday life and most Japanese do not worship regularly or claim to be religious.
Harumi, our dear Japanese Zen guide, told us that the most confusing thing for a Japanese is the question: ‘Are you a Shinto or a Buddhist?’ She said for them that’s not a topic they even think or talk about. Instead, they just simply live their life, not overthinking but feeling.
Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous spirituality. It is believed that every living thing in nature contains kami or gods. As our Zen guide Harumi said, there are more the 8 million of them in Nature. Shinto principles can be seen throughout Japanese culture, where nature and the turning of the seasons are cherished. This is reflected in arts such as ikebana (flower arranging) and bonsai, Japanese garden design, and the annual celebration of Sakura, i.e., the cherry blossom.
Buddhism arrived in Japan in the sixth century and over time split into several sects, the most popular being Zen Buddhism, which we are going to talk about more next week.
In essence, Shintoism is the spirituality of this world and this life, whereas Buddhism is concerned with the soul and the afterlife. This explains why for the Japanese the two religions exist so seamlessly together, without contradiction. That’s yet another example of pure serenity and flow, we have felt traveling through Japan.
Samurai was a warrior caste in Japan, consisting of women and men bearing arms as soldiers, guards, generals, i.e., the military nobility of Japan, during the feudalistic era, from the 14th century until they were disbanded by the order of the Emperor in the year 1868. The Samurai, a name derived from the verb “to serve”, is another way to name the Japanese warrior or bushi.
Today they keep their traditions alive by practicing the martial art called kendo, which originated from the experiences of the samurai who trained to use “nihonto” (Japanese swords) in combat. The samurai thereby acquired a distinctive appreciation for the “principles of the sword”. It is important to study the spirit of the samurai, which is related to these principles and can be learned through rigorous training. This is why the objective of kendo is referred to as being a way to develop the human character.
Practicing any kind of martial arts, dear Green Heart Warrior can have an incredible effect on your well-being. Patience, resilience, focus, and honor are the values connected to it and are much needed in the modern world.
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for the live interview with the Kazuki Ishizuka San, Kendo Samurai Martial Arts Instructor from the honorable Kensei School of Kendo in Kyoto. It’s been such an honor to practice and feel the Kendo philosophy under his guidance.
With Love from JAPAN, Sasa.
In Japan, many children learn the importance of regular cleaning from a young age, not only at home but also at school. Most Japanese schools have a philosophy of cleaning where students are responsible for cleaning the classrooms and facilities.
Enjoy your day. Much Love to ALL.
Japanese people are truly resilient, constantly having earthquakes, typhoons, floods…. And nobody complains. ‘It is how it is, living with nature’, they say. ‘Nothing can’t be done to tame the nature. Typhoons will be gone, snow will melt, we will go on.’
Dear ALL. Let’s enjoy SUNday. It’s time to hibernate.
Much Love to ALL.
Zen is an offshoot of Buddhism. Japanese Zen Buddhism focuses on the emptiness behind the ‘I’. The most commonly used technique for this is the sitting meditation, called Zazen, which is intended to calm the mind. An image that is often used in Zen meditation is that of the mind like a clear pool, so smooth that you can see everything lying at the bottom. Zen is minimalist in practice and strives for what we also call mindfulness: constantly being attentive and present in the moment.
Zen Monks usually perform it whilst sitting in a Zen rock garden which is minimally decorated with gravel raked in wave-like patterns around the rocks.
Sit down, dear Green Heart warrior, and try to focus on something in front of you that catches your eye. Stay in that position with your eyes open, not moving, just practicing being fully present with an empty mind.
It will work miracles on your concentration if you practice at least 15 minutes per day for 14 days or more. Let’s try it, shall we?
Sometimes a story can teach us more than entire philosophical treatises. Religions and spiritual traditions from all over the world have used storytelling as a medium to convey their messages of wisdom.
One such religion is Buddhism, which for centuries has used parables, anecdotes, fables, and tales to help spiritual seekers expand their consciousness by offering them enlightening insights and life lessons with a moral message. This culminates in Zen Buddhism, a tradition famous for using short stories to help Buddhist disciples develop a deeper understanding of reality.
For the next few days, we’ve prepared some of our favorite short Zen stories by Sofo Archon, all of them profoundly ZEN & meaningful. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, try storytelling to learn and to teach, on your journey to peace and contentment, dear Green Heart Warrior.
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it?”
The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”
The teacher thought for a moment, “Twenty years.”
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for the live interview with Harumi Yamanaka, our dear Zen guide from Power Places Tours in Kyoto, Japan.
With Love from JAPAN, Sasa.
Japanese people perceive ZEN as:
Enjoy the day, dear Green Heart Warrior. Go outside and experience ZEN.
Dear ALL. Let’s just enjoy SUNday.
It’s time to hibernate, consciously breathe and be present in the moment.
Much Love to ALL.
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868–1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the liquid overflow until he no longer could restrain himself, “It is spilling over. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier.
Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey, he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh Wise One, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”
The teacher ponders for a moment, looks up and down the river, and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side.”
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art that is also widely practiced in Japan. As Lama Rinpoche has explained, it is the second-best way—after ZEN Buddhism—to help people.
Feng shui stems from the Taoist belief in Chi or the life force that inhabits everything. Chi may be known more commonly as yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) elements – the opposing yet complementary forces that cannot be separated, and that bring balance. Feng shui is a method of balancing yin and yang in the spaces around us to harness and complement their balancing effects.
Diving into the wisdom of Feng shui, you can discover how to maximize your outer environment for the best outcomes in all areas of your life, implementing techniques that will help you transform your space so that it is conducive to manifesting good luck.
We highly suggest you give it a try, dear Green Heart Warrior. There are many good books, podcasts, and videos on the topic to give you a start.
Have you ever heard of the term “power spots”? In Japan, the term refers to places believed to enhance visitors’ life energy. Not only will you feel relaxed or refreshed and move with renewed energy, you might also experience miracles after you visit these places. Well, at least that’s what we wanted to believe as we boarded the 350 km/h bullet train from Kyoto to the Mt. Fuji area. There are many places thought to be power spots nationwide and Mt. Fuji itself is definitely one of the most potent.
Whether you climb it or view it from a distance, you will be in awe of its dignified beauty, and feel something beyond this world – as always when you connect with Nature and opens up to it, no matter where in the world you are. Am I right dear Green Heart Warriors? It’s a beautiful day today, we encourage you to embrace it in Nature.
Enjoy, dear ALL.
Visiting Mt. Fuji and climbing its powerful trails was our goodbye to an amazing month in Japan. Having started our journey with a deep feeling of Serenity as we first landed in Osaka, we are now leaving the Land of the Rising Sun full of gratitude, humbleness, and Zen.
Thank you, dear Japan, and thank you, to all calm and serene Japanese people we have met along the way who have molded our journey into ZEN.