After some pretty negative experiences this year (only two or so in two years of living in Japan isn't bad right!?) I have been feeling slightly down.
But it's totally not in my nature to let things like this affect me, and frankly if people dislike my actions all I can do is say 'sorry' and try my hardest to grow and avoid these things happening in the future.
I was taught by my Zen teacher that the two most powerful actions a human can make are to APOLOGISE and to FORGIVE.
To say you are sorry for an action you have made can be extremely difficult depending on the circumstances. Even more so when you do not understand what you did wrong. But it takes a lot to apologise to someone and really mean it. The word itself means nothing. If you have offended someone and feel hurt inside that you did so, what more can you do than try to make it up to that person?
The only action that is harder than this is to FORGIVE.
If someone has treated you wrong it is extremely hard to let go of your negative feelings towards that person, but it is in doing so that we become empowered.
Both saying 'sorry' and saying 'I forgive you' are extremely tough, and I respect anyone who has been able to do so in times of difficulty.
In Zen they talk about how holding negative feelings because of someone elses actions can eat you up inside, and actually make you feel worse and therefore be of less service to others around us.
So it's essential to let go of these feelings and free yourself to make the world a better place. Back when I was studying Zen a few years ago, we did a fire ceremony in which you must meditate on your regrets, your negative feelings towards others and negative thoughts that you cling to, and they are written down and symbolically burned in a fire with a circle of others. You focus on the feelings of anger, hatred, sadness etc and realise that the past has already happened and is unchangeable. We can only focus on the present. By burning this we vow to let it go and move on. The feeling is incredibly powerful if taken seriously, and many people around me were moved to tears.
On a small scale, by letting go of 'negative charges' we can do the same on a daily basis.
There are many meditation techniques for doing so which are highly effective.
I'm not saying that it's an easy process to apologise or to forgive.
Not at all.
But remember - to hold on to negative feelings towards others is only hindering your own life and way you see the world.
Yesterday was such a happy day.
The sun was shining.
The sakura were beautiful.
I was with one of my best friends in the world out in nature.
Sitting at the top of Mt.Yoshino on the grass, looking out over the mountain and gazing at the pink hills in the distance I felt so incredibly full of joy and gratitude for how good these two years in Japan have been. I couldn't help but smile.
I am far too strong to be negatively affected by some of the negative interactions I've had, and if some people want to be racist, rude, aggressive, or simply unable to forgive - that is their choice.
I've already made mine.
As we walked back to the train station to head home in the evening after a wonderful day, I turned my phone on (I switch it off when with others!) and saw that I had a message from an unknown person.
At Nara station recently I started speaking with a Japanese girl who bakes her own healthy cakes (dairy, egg, sugar and gluten free!) and we ended up chatting for a long time!
We got on so well and I purchased some of her products for my girlfriend. We spoke for a while and I told her how thankful I was that people like her are trying their best to promote healthy eating in Japan. Even though it is very difficult to make money this way, it is her dream, and she works so hard to try and achieve it, and for this I give her so much respect.
We exchanged numbers and apart from sharing some photos of the cherry blossoms, I didn't think much more of the encounter (due to the fact that I have so many happy encounters with strangers in Japan!).
Back to the message!
It was from her saying that she wants to send me a special package of her foods as a gift before we leave!!!!
What a kind gesture from such a lovely human being.
I felt deeply touched and so blessed to be a part of this world.
My girlfriend and I are going to stay in contact with her and hopefully connect on our future travels to London and when returning to Japan.
One simple conversation could end up being a lifelong friendship.
And similarly - I have had so many experiences like this.
Even on Cafetalk I have met such wonderful people of all ages. I have young students and very old students - all of whom I am so deeply thankful to have in my life, and appreciate every conversation, photo of their town etc or message shared with them.
So to conclude - why have these few negative experiences been affecting me so much? In two years, there have been so very few. I think as humans we are inclined to focus on the negative. But in realising this we can make the change inside.
I have heard that for every 5 negative comments we remember only one positive comment.
This is why our morning, day, week, or year can seem like a 'bad' (morning/day/week/year etc) and far worse than it actually was!!!!
For the past 110 days I have kept a daily 'Gratitude Journal' (I will elaborate more on this in the future, or if anyone is interested, please feel free to ask!) in which I write my thoughts and feelings about what I am grateful for each day. This practice has been so highly beneficial, and looking back through it, I am filled with happy and positive memories from my amazing adventure.
I will continue this practice and refer to it at times of sadness, or when I stop seeing the positivity in the world.
Anyway - I'm sure you have had enough of reading this long post!
I want to thank you all dearly for reading (if you made it this far) and I wish you all a wonderful and happy 2019.
Thank you to my fantastic students who have stuck by me all of this time, and especially to those who have shown their support and appreciation.
Thank you also to those who simply read and enjoy my posts in any way, shape or form!
You are all highly appreciated, and I feel very fortunate to have you all in my life.
As always - please feel free to comment or message me if you have anything you want to share :-)
Have a HAPPY and HEALTHY day.....
and remember - if we are feeling that others are so nasty and unkind, people from certain other countries are bad, the world is so dangerous, everyone is trying to take advantage of me etc - stop and have a think, and you 'may' find that the issue is with YOU. Not with others around you.
Likewise, if you start to see the wonderful and positive things in life, suddenly your world view will change.
And after 30 days of living this way, if you don't like it - feel free to return to living your unforgiving, hatred and negativity filled life and see if this makes you feel any happier.
I seriously doubt it will!!!! :-)