Friday, December 13, 2013

Too much of everything...


For years I have been decluttering, giving away,
Pruning, selecting, dumping, and yet
Everywhere I look, I see
Too much of everything.

Maybe it is time that passes,
Maybe it is a small personal crisis,
Maybe it is, too, that craving
For a fresh start...

I love objects, I love presents, I am not denying
All the beauties and comfort of the times
I live in. No, I am not an extremist,
I shun extremes as they don't usually
Avail too much good.

But when it comes to stuff, I think
We have too much, far too much
Of everything. Sometimes my heart
Skips a little beat, when I read things
Like this...and that...or this..

Do you feel this, too? Do you feel you have
Too much? In a way that stuff hides stuff,
Objects are buried beneath objects,
Clothes beneath clothes. As I look around,
I see too many beauty products in my bathroom,
Too many clothes in the closet,
Too many papers in my desk drawers,
Too many toys in my kids' room.
I don't want my house to be a desert,
A barren land following strict rules,
I don't want to lack in anything, but...

What do these objects represent, once there are
Too many of them: easily thrown away, piled or
Forgotten? Easily lost? Not to mention all the work,
Cost and waste they might entail...

When I have less things, I find my way
More easily, my mind is more at rest,
My kids find again toys they had tucked away,
My daughters enjoying wearing again that jumper
That had been stashed under a shelf.
The house breathes, and each object we have
Recovers its deserved value: emotional,
Sentimental, possibly financial.
Every object finds again the place
It owns in our home. None is hidden,
Neglected, forlorn.

Maybe I am drifting more and more
To a zen-aspiring place, in my mind,
In my home. I realize tons of money
Are spent on useless stuff, tons of
Time are wasted on meaningless stuff.
While our real riches are our time,
And the way we spend it. And how can
Our kids grow up in a balanced way, in a world
Dominated by consumption, advertising, competition?
There is not only working to make money,
There is also a whole world of appreciating
Really, deeply, the things we have. Giving them
Real value, consideration.

It's like, you know, the tree that hides
The forest...We lose track of things.
Do you also feel, that you have too much
Of everything?


This is a picture of the dojo where I take two of my kids.
It has brought us lots of happiness over the last few months. 
See...an empty space, but vibrant and alive with many, many laughters and memories.
 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Getting a fresh start


I am so sorry that I have kept silent for a month or more.  My brain has not worked well enough to write something in English.(To tell the truth, I couldn't feel like writing even in Japanese.)  I could write some excuses, but this would be negative, so instead, I would like to get a fresh start by sharing my recent awareness and the encouragement I got from one of my friends.

Let me start from the aspect of my awareness.
"Me-centered" makes me unhappy and negative.  "Centering myself" makes me happy and positive.
When I refer to "me-centered", I am talking about an inward-looking attitude, worrying about ME being hurt, or caring about myself.  While when I refer to "centering myself", I talk about focusing "love" at the center of my heart.  When I succeed in staying in the "centering myself" phase, the world looks different; it is beautiful and bright.

Another awareness is from my father's words.  He has been suffering from lung emphysema for years.  He told me the other day that he had found a comfortable way of breathing: "breathe-out-out-and in", two times of "out" and one time of "in".  This brings me to some awareness.  We tend to "ask for" love, but I realized how comfortable it is to give love to someone or being love itself.  I've decided to give love without holding back.

I know it is not always successful, but the following quote (one of my friends wrote this in her blog) from Mother Teresa encouraged me.  So lastly, let me share it with you here.


People Are Often Unreasonable
                         - Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered:
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies:
Succeed anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jeolous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough:
Give the world the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
its's all between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.


Monday, October 21, 2013

On taking decisions... and making choices

So recently, I took up a new course on Coursera.
I haven't spoken about Coursera yet. But this web place is absolutely awesome.
If you like to learn and if you are curious, be sure to check it. No, I am not sponsored. They don't know me, but I have tested them.
I have taken Coursera courses already, on gastronomy, the history of Internet, etc. And four weeks ago, I signed up for a C++ course. For those who might not be fond of computing, it's a programming language.
You see, I am an 'artist' deep in my soul. I dream, I often do things out of intuition and feeling. I even went through a huge chunck of my studies with this 'method'. Feeling. Intuition. This is how I live, work, cook, craft. Not that I don't like to think and ponder (I do that all the time, probably way too much!), but I often end up acting like I breathe, without a predetermined plan. I'm also, even if that's close to caricature, much of the literary type, and I suck at anything that's related with mathematics.
So I thought this type of course would boost my neurons; yes, it would stimulate my tired neuronal connexions! :-)  And of course, I am much of a geek too, so I'd have fun and muscle my brain at the same time...
Turned out I indeed had a blast. And spent hours...at night, and worse for a family girl like me, during daytime too. I racked my brains, I submitted dozens of papers, did tons of exercises, caught myself doing the assignments over again.
I raced on to respect deadlines, and ended up consuming my whole saturday afternoon..so that in the evening there was no dinner, and the house was in a complete mess!
I had originally taken a decision that was good for me, but the good for me turned out to be outrageously bad for the rest of the family.
With food to buy, sleep to catch up with, kids to take care of, meals to plan and a job that demands lots of preparation, I ended up today shifting from that good decision to a more wholesome choice.
I used what was left of my weekend to cook a real dinner, fly a kite with my kids and drink tea with my daughters in their doll's tea set. Oh yes, I did the washing up too.
Ten years ago, I'd  have spent weeks on this course. Drinking coffee. Talking passionately for hours. Burning the midnight oil. Now I have a different life. Now my decisions affect not only me, but my dear ones. My choices are my responsibility.
I ended the day happier and at peace. But before that, I felt the dark clouds of frustration and bitter disappointment gather round me.
Giving up on this fun thing for me was hard. Finding appropriate leisure for me is not that common: not enough money. Not enough logistic support. And time is not really expandable, is it?
But this is what life is about. Moving on.
Moving along with our life and our choices, making the best of what we have.
And surrendering gracefully whenever necessary, in order to be able to evolve and move to the next step.
Finding contentment in the little things. They always matter. They are always here.
I am moving to the next step, accordingly. I pass on, move, and smile.
Today my fun was made of precious moments spent laughing with my kids. Picking fresh eggs in our recently built chicken coop. And rejoicing in the simplicity of it.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Beauty May I Walk



I've been feeling the true importance of centering meditation.
I feel as though it helps my balance; 
in order to see things from a neutral position 
or in order to achieve harmony
with people, nature, work, and everything around me.

*

Several years ago, I had a chance to learn Navojo prayer,
In Beauty May I Walk, which touched my heart.

When I do centering meditation, 
my heart seems to reach a state that is something like this prayer.
Let me share that Navojo prayer with you.

"In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifullly will I possess again
Beautifully birds, 
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grashoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty."

It would be wonderful if each one of us walk in beauty,
then beauty and harmony would be brought to our world.

May all of you walk in beauty:)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Freedom

 

 

Freedom

 

Oh to dive into this blissful,
Heavenly second,
To watch and hear
What my soul cherishes
With awe!
Let the air stand still
And the waves die
Smoothly
Right here.
Let my heart soak in
This warm october
Afternoon.
Let my eyes be
Dazzled.
Today I'm racing
And swirling
With the leaves.
Today I am
Free.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Making a dried flower wreath


I posted this in my other blog steps to the sky, but I would like to share this here too.
I hope you can enjoy her beautiful photos. Photos are universal language, aren't they?:) 

I have often visited the blog "Nature's 工房 -晶- " since I had happened to find it.
That photos are all beautiful and the wreaths she makes are full of purity, 
tenderness and warmth goes without saying of course,
however, what caught me the most is the owner's strong sense of love for nature
and her warm thoughts of protecting the earth.
Besides, the fact that her favorites (Ms.Venesia and Ms. Rachel Carlson)
are the same as mine is one of the reasons that I have visited her occasionally.

Last Saturday, I participated in her work-shop at Cafe Slow Gallery
and learned how to make a dried flower wreath.
I wanted express my love of nature, with a sense of protecting our earth like her,
but oh my! I failed to make a wreath like hers with a sense of clarity.
I'll challenge myself again, maybe using the flowers and leaves from my tiny garden.
Apart from the disappointing result, it was really nice to finally meet her face to face.


In the event space at Cafe Slow, I looked at an exhibition 
through which some young art students expressed their feelings 
after visiting Fukushima following the disaster March.11, 2011.
 I chatted with two of the exhibitors for a while.
One of them told me that he felt some distance among people 
who live far away from Fukushima;
he sensed a different feeling between the people 
who live far away from Fukushima and the people who live in Fukushima.
In his work he expressed the difference by making two life-sized boys;
 one of them has a placard written "No"(to nuclear energy) and the other has "Yes".
Oh, I should have taken some pictures of their works.I'm sorry for the lack of the pictures.
Somehow, it was so encouraging to me to know there are young people
who have visited the field and caught a sense of the need 
to express their feelings for the sake of a better future. 
After all it's each of them and each of us who possess the ability
to change our world into a beautiful and peaceful place.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Zen temple

I think that Val's idea of sharing beauty and peace in this way is great!
So I'm happy to share my peace with you today.

This is one of Zen temples.  I visited it at the end of last month.
There weren't so many people there at that time and I could enjoy the serenity with the sounds of water flowing.  I heard that the water there is taken from melting snow in the mountains surrounding the temple, and it takes so many years to reach there.  Don't you think it's amazing?

Calming my mind there, I thought :  Mu in the Zen world is described as "nothingness" or "emptiness".  But I think that being the state of Mu is getting to the state of mind of "infinity" or "abundance", kind of  embracing or full of acceptance.  It might be said that real love is that state.

It would have been better if I could share the water sounds without music, but instead I used the music on which I have been hooked these days.  The music is a cover version of classic music (Rakhmaninov Symphony No.2 ) by Japanese instruments (Shamisen and Shakuhachi) players, Hide-Hide.


video

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sharing the beauty

So I've been thinking we could go a step further together, and share the beauty. All the beauties that surround us: the beautiful skyscraper in front of your office, kids laughing at a party, a music playing on the car radio, a long line of birds in the sky, a pot softly simmering on your stove, a page of your favourite magazine, a word said in a funny way by your work mate...What is your beauty today? What is making your heart skip a beat? What is sending warm fuzzy feelings of comfort to your mind and body? What is bringing a smile to your lips?
And more importantly: how about sharing it?
How about using this modest cozy place to rejoice in the beauties we can share?
It always makes us feel better, to see the beauty, and to share.
We all crave for it, I see that. Beauty, peace, connections. We never get enough, do we?
I'll make the first step, of course: in the small video below, I've included two of my favourite spots. The first one is the view I get to see every morning, the second one is a place I often go to with my kids. It is almost a draft, the videos are a little bit shaky (hastily taken with my smartphone). But it doesn't really matter.
What matters is: I love those views, the peace and joy they bring me...I'd like to share them with you.
And I'd love to get to see more joy, peace and comfort, in whatever pictures, videos, poems you'd be willing to link up or post in the comments below.
And I'd love to make a gallery here, of the beauties you'd like to share...like a peace bank we could visit any time we need a little credit :)


Thursday, September 19, 2013

On being grateful


Like many of you I suppose, I come across posts and articles about gratitude. Some even assert that gratitude is good for health. Gratitude can't be a forced thing, yet I believe it can be gently nurtured and favoured.
Several months ago, I caught myself on my way to work, complaining and feeling terribly grumpy. My car had broken down, and the garage had agreed to lend us a car for a few days, time to repair our own. That car was old, and lacking in the usual comfort we enjoy.
There I was, lost in feelings of mild anger and frustration, and then it struck me: there was a ray of sunlight, it was morning, I was healthy, my family was, and I - was - complaining - because - I - was  - on - my - way - to work - in a car. I was going to work in a car, and I found ground for complaining!
It instantly flipped over, that whole perspective. Hello sunshine, I was going to work in a car, awesome!
Indeed, I could be unemployed. I could NOT have a car. Not only was I wrong to complain, but I saw things in negative, I had a completely upside down vision at that moment.
Long time ago, I wrote this poem, entitled 'Merci'. True, I was completely unaware at the time of the crap that would befall me later on in life (sorry for this language, but crap is crap, isn't it?). It went like this:

Merci en passant, merci en revenant,
Merci enfin et pour toujours,
Merci pour toutes les fleurs,
Les baisers, les sourires,
Merci pour les amis, même perdus
De vue, de vie, ou d'envie,
Merci pour les amis de toujours, et les amours,
Merci pour les senteurs,
Le sucre, le sel, et l'amer,
Merci pour la tendresse, merci
Pour la musique, les échos d'une voix,
Merci pour les chemins, les questions,
Merci pour les réponses, parfois, merci
Pour les chagrins qui mordent la vie,
Merci encore et à nouveau, pour les matins,
Les nuits, les petits matins, et les nuits blanches,
Merci aussi pour les envols, les voyages, et les retours,
Merci pour les départs, les multiples départs,
Pour les détours aussi, merci pour les arrêts,
Les pauses et les immersions, merci
Pour les lacs, les étangs, et les flaques,
Les océans, les rivières, les ruisseaux,
Merci pour tant d'oiseaux, de lumières
Et d'éclats, merci pour tant de spectacles,
Merci pour l'infini, les livres et les poèmes,
Merci pour ces leçons jamais terminées, sans cesse
Renouvelées, merci, pour les rencontres,
Les regards, merci pour les souvenirs, les belles
Histoires, merci pour les vastes espaces, merci
Pour tout ce qui ne pourra jamais être décrit
En simples mots, merci pour ce coeur débordant
De vie et de rêves, merci pour ces fleurs qui fleurissent
En hiver, et pour ces neiges éternelles,
Merci encore, pour le goût et l'envie,
Merci pour les poètes et les peintres, pour ce
Besoin d'apprendre, pour ce monde insondable,
Merci pour cette humaine envie d'aimer, merci,
Car infime je suis sur cette terre, dans l'univers,
Et il m'est impossible de tout saisir,
Immortelle, je ne le suis pas, et de tout cela,
Naît le bonheur de dépasser l'horizon,
D'écrire toujours et à n'en plus finir,
De frôler l'éternité...
Alors merci encore, merci vers l'infini,
merci à l'invisible, merci à l'indicible.
Merci pour ce tout petit mot, qui en dit tant : merci.

Boy was I right. That was a long list of things to be thankful for, and truly enough, the world is packed with so many wonders. I know the horrors of this world are equally overwhelming, and I've always struggled with explanations (chance, bad luck, evil?), though most of it comes back to man's choices.

I am not a religious person, though I am deeply spiritual. I see souls and spirit, I don't really see God. I struggle with the existence of horror, too much to actually see or find God. Sometimes I visit this blog: Ann Voskamp is very religious, and her passion for God almost scares me I must admit. Yet the beauty is that although we don't share the same beliefs, we share the same love for gratitude. In this report she explains that there was horror in her life, and that she found the true way to God through the sudden realization that there was so much to be thankful for, at every moment of the day. Horror and hardship must not eclipse all the wonders of this world. A.Voskamp sees all the things I mention in my poem as gifts of God. I see them as gifts, anyway.

Gifts mean that someone gave something, right? I know, I'm a sucker for paradoxes. I find life very paradoxical anyway. It doesn't keep me from deeply loving and acknowledging all the beauties surrounding us: smiles, friends, sugar, mountains, salt, departures, hearts, suitcases, beverages and books, music, sun...Oh once the list starts, it doesn't stop...

I hope you have a beautiful, unlimited list in mind. Or that you are starting one, right away ;)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inter-connectedness


Oh dear, what a grand title...
It sounds a little bit bombastic, yet it means so much, doesn't it?
I wanted to share with you this text I have stumbled upon, written by a great man who passed away recently, Albert Jacquard.
In this letter to a future, not born yet at the time of writing, great-grand-child, Albert Jacquart shared a number of beautiful thoughts, as you should expect. It is a moving text (I haven't found the translation in English I'm afraid), and this particular line struck me: "Je est les liens que je tisse [...] C'est à ce niveau qu'il faut situer la révolution nécessaire : chaque membre de notre espèce est "plus que lui-même" par son appartenance au réseau des rencontres." That is to say, in a very approximate translation: "I am the links I create with the rest of the world [...] This is how you have to finetune a necessary revolution: each member of our species is "more than themselves" insofar as they create connections. A. Jacquard says in the letter that we have made so much progress in many domains, yet we also live in an era of massacres, wars and environmental disasters. He says the problem comes from us, because we have a wrong definition of ourselves. The problem stems from the way we behave and treat others, when really cooperation is the only key. If we realize that we are the links we create with others, then behaviours like competition and fighting against our peers appear clearly mad and suicidal.
I was moved by this, and it reminded me, among other things, of some posts by Sachi, mentionning interconnectedness.
The more I think of it, the more it strikes me as the right attitude to be adopted. We are in the same boat. We share the same universe. We all have so much in common. Yet so many humans hurt each other. They fight, often for futile aims and purposes. Yes, I think money is futile as soon as it doesn't serve its purpose in our society (allowing to live with decent food, shelter and education). Well we hurt ourselves when we hurt others. I believe too, in some karma kind of way, that the good and bad things we do come back to us. They show. We really are the links we create (and have naturally) with the rest of the world.
Which brings me to something else I want to share, a song by a guy I love. Great words that reflect great thoughts. Deep soft voice and beautiful articulation.
In this song Grand Corps Malade (nicknamed himself Big Sick Body because of an accident that crippled him) compares a human life to a play on stage. He says after all, all plays/lives are more or less alike (with only differences of budget and casting), and when the play gets tricky and complicated, you have to rely on your partners. He says: "n'oublie jamais cet adjectif, théâtre est un art collectif" (3:30-3:35), that is to say "never forget this adjective, the art in a theatre is collective". See, interconnectedness is everywhere to be found.
I wish you to create beautiful, meaningful links.
 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Protecting our planet

I am so glad to know that Val met a lovely family and that her daughter became friends with their daughter.  In the world of the Internet, one click gives us various windows on the world, and if we want, it also gives us the chance to make friends with people all over the world. What a fascinating modern age we are living in right now!
I have thought about using this great tool for world peace for years.  Actually, the reason why I started blogging was because I desired to be some help, even in a small way, to further world peace.  I know that there are many blogs/homepages that have culitvated gathering voices hoping for world peace already and there are many people who support world peace.



Wishing for world peace and healing the earth together...
The other day, one of my friends told me about an article that she happen to read.  
According to her, the message in the article was suggesting that people all over the world pray to heal the earth, at the same time together.  The procedure of the pray is as follows:
1. Imagine a perfect and healthy earth.
2. Imagine the earth full of green, and all of our families full of happiness.
3. Bless the earth for ten minutes.
4. Do it for about ten minutes at 22:00 every day.

The message also appeals to people by the following message:  We are all members of a spaceship called "Mother Earth".  Each of us has different beliefs, culture, and religion.  However, everyone has the same four DNA base structures of ATCG.  We all have the same feelings of happiness or sadness.  At the core, we are all one!  So fighting each other is absurd!  It is sad to see our Mother Earth (our home) being hurt and destroyed.  That is why the earth healing project has been started.
I think this prayer is worth doing.

The weather this summer here was totally abnormal; not only this summer and not only Japan, also the weather throughout the year, all over the world, has been abnormal!  I feel a sense of crisis and some sense of responsibility as a human-being.

As Val mentioned in her previous post, we mothers wish for our children's happiness, now and forever.  
My daughter is a grown-up already, but I still worry about her a lot and it seems that the worrying never ends.  So I wish for world peace and a healthy earth from the bottom of my heart.  Therefore, I have decided to do this earth healing prayer for about ten minutes at 22:00.

Protecting our ocean...
I would also like to share this TED DVD with you.
Her presentation is one of those that urged me to do something to protect our planet.  I strongly feel that now is the time that more people strongly desire world peace and to protect our planet with a unified voice.


video

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Expanding our worlds...

Internet is a most fascinating thing.
Like in real life, the web is full of vanity; like in real life, it is full of beauty.
When I first started looking into the blogging world more particularly, I was searching for precise information. I was in a phase of intense learning on how to cook better, how to organize my home more efficiently. And I googled some key words.
And I stumbled/came across a few blogs, and I started reading instead of only collecting information.
And I started enjoying some of these blogs as much as I loved consulting web sites.
I started visiting a few of them, regularly.
And I became fond of them.
And I became fond of blogging people.
And I became friends with Sachi. 
Our true friendship expanded into another blog, Beautify Pacify.
I discovered different people, different lives, different countries. So different, yet so alike.
There are a few blogs I check on regularly, and Kristel's is one of them. 
She is so talented and does all sorts of beautiful things, I love her blog.
Recently we did a swap, and this swap lead to our daughters corresponding together.
And oh this morning, my daughter received a letter from Kristel's sweet daughter, with the most beautiful little gift inside: Kristel has already used a fabric I sent her, and as I knew she would, she came up with an exquisite creation and even sent a part of it back!


This piece of fabric came from my ancestors. I don't like keeping objects for the sake of keeping them, when I know these things can be better off somewhere else, in someone else's hands. Kristel has proved me right on that point!

There are so many ways the blogging world, like the real world, can enrich and expand our lives.
This is something I didn't know a few years back.
I am glad I know it now.


Friday, August 23, 2013

How many heartaches?

How many heartaches in their life, I wonder?
Feed and educate them, I can; clean their clothes, encourage them, teach and pamper, I can.
Protect, I can only a little. And as they grow older, spread their wings and fly away, it will only get more difficult, let alone impossible.
And I wonder, how many heartaches? How many falls, blows and injuries, tears and disappointments?
I can do so much in their young lives, and yet, I cannot stop them from being hurt by the insensitive, the manipulative, the gross and the selfish.
It took me ages, as a truly candid and confident individual, ages to realize how some people think and behave along particular lines of interest. How some people can act in the name of love or friendship in order to achieve their goals. How some people can therefore use the good in you and then ditch you, how insensitive and opportunist some of them can be.
I have had a few friends who turned out to be interested in me only for the help or connection or support I could give them. For a long time I gave unconditional affection and faith to people who didn't deserve that. Only to feel the pain of being left alone, only to feel the nastiness generated by jealousy or greed or selfishness. Was I innocent? I slowly recovered from heartless friends and made fewer but better connections. I chose not to close my heart, but surely I became more cautious and less spontaneously trusting.
Now, I've had the opportunity to see the friendly connections my kids make, and how, in their turn, they so genuinely and spontaneously love their friends. And how the love and affection we give sends us over the moon and makes us fragile at the same time.
And I watch...and see the cuteness, the innocence, the beauty. Alas from the grown-ups who try to control their kids' lives, I also see manipulation and opportunism, competition and jealousy. In older kids I sometimes see the seeds of rivalry and aggressiveness.
And I am left with the helpless knowledge that my beautiful children will also come across those heartaches.
Not only any mother, but any woman with motherly feelings will know how it feels. The fear and the anger beginning to groan and moan deep inside, when our sweet beloved little one is faced with darkness. When we see them starting to doubt, hoping in vain, being disappointed, or sometimes worse, being hit or insulted or harassed. Or when we see them ignorant of the manipulation or arrogance around them.
A mother's life is made of these fears too. I want to use my past experiences, good and bad, to become a better person. All those heartaches in a lifetime must mean something. Maybe simply the assurance that worthless people make good people even better. That building a beautiful life for my family and me, means loving every minute of it and acknowledging every minute of it. Including the ones that hurt. Because if you survive them while keeping a good heart, you'll only get stronger and wiser and happier. You'll be a free individual. Because you've got to accept the bad as well as the good, and draw your own conclusions and walk your own path.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Centering myself


I am glad to say that I was lucky enough to have met Val in this blog world.
Reading her previous two posts, I feel that it is getting stronger.
I have the same view as her.  Comparing ourselves with others and feeling bad boesn't achieve anything.
The same can be said of our children; comparing them to other children and pushing them will not accomplish anything.  The important thing is accepting ourselves for what we are or accepting them for what they are and also loving ourselves and loving them. That brings us confidence and peace.  If you accept them, they will accept you.  If you love them, they will love you.




There is something I do regularly these days.  That's "centering myself"; it's like a kind of meditation.
First, I focus on the center of my heart.  Next, I imagine letting my mind empty as much as possible, and imagine filling my center with something that makes me feel happiness, peace and love (such as nature, sunlight, animals, birds, etc.), for about five minutes in the morning.  Then, it's funny, I find myself filled with love, and I can handle anyone or anything, with a smile and without any negative feelings.  If possible, I do this in the afternoon and also before going to bed, focusing on feeling love at the center of my heart.




"Walden; Or, Life in the Woods" by Henry David Thoreau is a book I read when I was young and I loved it.  I would like to share the following quotes from this book, because whenever I read this book, I deeply feel centering myself is important:

Let us spend one day in the same slow way that nature spends it. Let us rise early without hurry or rush.
Let us not get excited over the small things that lie in our way. Let company come, let company go.
Let children cry, let bells ring.  But we will still have our day.

Let us be steady and stable. Let us plant our feet on the hard rock of the earth. Let us not get caught up in the mud and mess of opinion and prejudice and tradition and delusion and appearance, wherever we find it.Whether it is religion or politics or poetry or philosophy, let us find the place we can call reality, where we can simply say, This is.

If you stand in front of a fact, face to face, you will see it shining with the light of the sun.  You will see it shining with the light of the sun.  You will feel it in your heart of hearts, and you will then be happy to end your time on this earth.  Whether in life or in death, what we want is reality.  If we are dying, then let us face that fact.  If we are alive, let us go about our business.

Time is a stream I fish in.  I drink its waters.  As I watch the thin current flow by, I see how shallow it is.  Only never-ending time remains.  I would like to drink deeper.  I would like to be as wise as the day I was born.

My deepest feeling tells me that my mind is a tool for digging into the heart of things.  It digs deep until it gets to the secret center.  I do not wish to use my hands.  My mind is my hands and my feet.  My mind wants to dig its way through these hills.  Gold is to be found there, and Walden is where I will begin my search.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What competition?

Do you sometimes feel it, I wonder? Do you sometimes feel
The competition? The race? The urge? It comes in a sly package,
Wrapped with pretence and excuses, it comes also
With temptation, stress, it is never far.
As a mother, it hurts far more than it did before,
Before being a mum. I've known competition
For my work, my studies, I've known it also
In more personal domains, disguised as rivalry,
Lack of self-confidence, hesitation, fear. But it never
Was a big deal. I sometimes joined in, when I had to,
And that's that. But as a mother, it raises new questions
About my children, myself, and the world.
This world I live in, where cherished creatures make their 
First steps, stumble, and soar and dance again. And I see it,
At school, at riding lessons... whenever kids innocently
Engage in a new activity, learn and have fun, I happen to hear it:
Comparing, pushing up the limits, encouraging the fight, asking
Only for the very best. But is being the best at anything
An aim in itself? Don't get me wrong, I love a healthy competition
Where the adrenaline never wipes out friendship and pure enjoyment.
But I believe the only competition that's worth is the competition
With oneself...


One of my kids is learning how to swim these days, and I see it again,
Those parents pushing, asking their kid to be the first, throwing babies into the race.
But is life a race against others? That is of course not how
I see it myself. I do not care whether my little child will be 
The best of her swimming class, what I do care about is
Whether she enjoys it, whether she learns and makes progress.
I do not want her to focus on what others do or don't do, I love to see her
Participate, improve, be brave and laugh, and that's how every day, like my other kids,
She grows a little more independent, that's how I hope she and I
Remember that we are all different, that all accomplishments are fine and complementary,
That it doesn't take us very far to compare with others or try to be someone else,
Because really, improving and getting better is nothing without true enjoyment,
And the only competition there might be, is taking place within our bodies and minds.


 

Monday, August 5, 2013

I am enough

I have enjoyed Sachi's last posts so much, and there is a lot I want to write about my own country's traditions too. Yet today I want to share this bold statement above: I am enough.
There couldn't be a bolder statement for a person like me, and maybe for a person like you, too?
Yet this is something that has grown on me over the last few months, and something that has taken a more precise, definite shape, tone and meaning since I've started reading Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection.
The subtitle in itself will tell you a lot: 'Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are'. That says it all (almost!), folks!
 These last months, what with health worries, personal challenges to face, and beloved ones to take care of,  I've had to slow down temporarily my pace, I've had to accept the reality of time that passes, the necessity of simplifying daily routines. I've found out that sometimes one trying moment paves the way to an energizing one, that troubled times can lead to another era, a better one. I've had to admit that I had to take care of myself too, if not for me, for my family's sake. And then I started reading Brené Brown's book and I thought, 'oh my God, she is right!'
It all boils down, really, to the simple fact that we are enouh, no matter how much we accomplish. It is not about giving up and becoming slothful creatures; it is about acknowledging our worth. For me it spells out what I've been discovering on my own: I don't need to overdo it or be a super mom/wife/friend to be worth something. I don't have to earn the love I can receive.
The way we are brought up, the pressure society puts on us, all this leads us to fight for worth. Plus, I've been a perfectionist for so long. Now I realize perfectionism can stem from an unfocused vision of our objectives. As the author points out, perfectionism often isn't self-focused (how can I improve?), it is other-focused (what will they think?). It usually lies on the belief that if we are perfect, we will minimize the pain of being criticized or judged. As she points out too, this is a lost battle. You are never going to be totally perfect or avoid all negative comments. And you won't avoid the pain of being judged either. Approval, recognition, acceptance, those are not to be looked for in the first place.
Brené Brown also insists that 'we are a nation of exhausted adults raising overscheduled children'. We forget our natural, biological rhythms. At the end of her work she explains how she and her husband made a practical 'joy and meaning' list (the things that made them happy, basically) and a 'dream list' (things to accomplish). Here is what she says, when they compared both lists: 'we realized that by merely letting go of the list of things we want to accomplish, we would actually be living our dream - not striving to make it happen in the future, but living it right now'. As she says, this is rather counterculture. We produce, we consume, we accomplish, we race, we compare, we aim at perfection and achievement. She and her husband decided to cut down on extracurricular activities for their daughter, to work less (and earn less, but gain time as a consequence). 
This makes my heart full because this is how I and my husband have chosen to live. I have made the unpopular decision to allow my kids to have only one activity outside school. At home, we sleep late when we can. We linger, we play, we talk, any time we can. We cook. We read. We take care of our garden.
I don't want to rush my kids from school to class, from here to there. I don't want to rush myself. I don't want to earn money at the expense of the time spent with my children. I can't be bothered with having the coolest clothes and acitivities. As Brené Brown writes: 'What if we're normal and quiet and happy? Does that count?'
No judgement here. Some families might have the logistics to do otherwise. Or some may be happier otherwise. But normal people should be valued too. People who take time, don't exhaust themselves, don't earn tons of money, don't learn 6 languages and get the highest scores at whatever they do.
I love to read that what matters in our lives is not what other people think or say or value.
It might sound simple, but it isn't that simple, both as a concept and as a reality.
I have often exhausted myself, I realize that now more clearly than ever, to gain acceptance or approval or affection or consideration. Yet, I am enough.
Most of the things I've done, I'd do again. But for many of them, I'd change one thing: I'd leave other people's comments and criticism out of the picture. And of course there are a few things I'd skip altogether. This makes choices and connections much easier. This helps acknowledging and accepting other people's opinions. This helps trusting oneself.
The beauty of this is that it works both ways.
Everyone else is enough, too. Any kid, any adult, however cool or uncool they are.
Any dude, with or without cool accessories or great achievements, is equally enough.
This leaves mighty room for simple enjoyment.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Some ways to live cool

Last time, I wrote that there are other ways to live cool in order to survive the hot and humid summer, but I'm happy to introduce some of them this time.


Most Japanese are likely to feel cool when they look at the flag above.  The Chinese character drawn in red in the middle means "ice" and the one in blue in the bottom represents "wave".  The tiny green objects drawn near the Chinese character represent  a lot of birds flying over the sea.   The wave and houndstooth designs are drawn as a symbol of coolness for Kimono, cotton kimono for summer, and pottery as well.
Morning groly and golden fish in the picture below are also popular design to represent the summer, and they are used for various things dating back to the olden times.


Now, I'll also introduce popular food in the summer. 
First one is shaved ice!  I introduced the flag of the ice earlier, and if you see this flag hung in front of a restaurant, that means you can eat a bowl of shaved ice as in the photo below. Right? You will probably understand it's becoming cool when you see the "ice" flag.
The shaved ice of this photo has combination of toppings; adzuki beans (we call this Anko) with sweetened condenced milk on top, powdered green tea sauce (Maccha sauce), and white bolls made of rice powder.  However, it used to be simpler in the past; there is no topping but only with the sauce of strawberry, melon, and lemon.
They really help you to feel cool, but please be careful not to eat a mouthful of it, or your head gets pounding!


Next one is Soumen, white Japanse noodles made of wheet flour. This is a common dish in the summer.  They are served cold and eaten with Tsuyu, kind of a light seasoning soy sauce. We dip the Soumen into the sauce.  I often make this dish for lunch.  They go down well even when there is no appetite.


The last one is eel (Unagi).  It has been eaten by Midsummer Day of the Ox (Doyo) for a long time...
It is said that Doyo is the name for the special period that separates each four season from the next; which came from the ancient Chinese five elements idea.  In the very hot dog days of summer, we eat nutritious eel, which has been thought as good for our health in the summer.
It is very tasty and makes me feel healthy for sure, but recently, it is no longer readily available.
This Monday was the Ox of the dog day and we were able to eat eel for the first time in a long time, and I've got the energy to update the blog.




Friday, July 12, 2013

Make it cool!

I really agree with making it as simple as Val says.
Year by year, too many things have gathered in rooms. Too many thoughts have been accumulated in minds. Most of them are not indispensable. They just end up sufforcating us. A simpler life gives us space in which a nice breeze can go through.




It's the height of summer right now. You know, Japanese summer is incredibly hot and humid. So we need to contrive some ways to live cool and comfortably to survive the summer. Making the room simple is surely one of them!  Sitting in a simple, clean room and setting a wind chime at the window, it can make you feel a bit cooler. The room full of things won't be very successful.




Space is a crucial point to survive the terrible summer.
Come to think of it, cutting thick plants before the midsummer is my every year task.  After cutting the plants, I plant some blue-colored flowers and cool looking foliage.  Visually, it helps to feel cool.
(By the way, morning glory, bell-shaped flowers, is very popular in Japan as summer flowers.  They open their flowers in the morning and give us their lovely refreshing smiles. We call it Asagao and write in Kanji as "morning face")

Shaping our daily lives comfortably is associated with our blog's main idea, right?
There are many more ways to tell you, but  it would become very long, so I will write them another time.

I hope you all enjoy your summer!



Monday, July 1, 2013

Make it simple


There are tons of things I'd like to tell, say or explain on this blog.
Yet I am wrestling with time and issues and errands and...
You see what I mean... but today, I'd like to share
What these past months have prompted me to do:
Aiming at what is simple.
There are tons of things I am glad I have done,
Tons of things I wouldn't change,
Yet there is one thing, for sure,
That needs improvement with me.
I am a perfectionist, and I wouldn't like
To give up completely on that.
Still, my craving for making things better,
Nicer, my need to improve, beautify,
Sometimes pushes me to do the opposite.
Sometimes I just do too much.
This is me, this is what I am,
And I love it.
I love doing far more things than what I am supposed to do.
But yes, sometimes, it is too much,
Or too complicated,
Or too many things at the same time too.
And even if I get a kick out of it,
Sometimes it leaves me
Bitter, reproachful, or exhausted.
As I mentioned before, I've had a hard time recently.
And the spring months that usually are the sweetest,
Turned out to be the worst.
Yet, I learned a little more about myself,
About my life and the way I lead it.
In my passion for doing well
I forget that you can never control everything,
You can't make everything beautiful or great,
You have to accept to do less,
Accept to say 'No, I can't',
You must let go, let flow,
Stop worrying about what's meaningless.
In short you can also
Make it simple.

I have learnt, again, that too much and too many
Can lead you to be unfocused.
I have realized, too, that
Everything we choose to do
Not only on a philosophical level
But in our daily lives, on a practical level,
Every little thing we do has a consequence. 
Time spent on one thing will not be spent on another,
Therefore it is important not to do everything all the time
And at the same time,
But to choose and focus.
This has meant for me, in the past weeks, less time
Spent on laundry, work and errands,
And more time spent lingering and chilling out
With my beloved kids.
As the photos hint at, I've been blessed
With a little week end near the Atlantic ocean.
And the occean always does this trick on me:
It is huge, it is vast, it is strong,
Yet inspires freedom and simplicity.
And that's the trick,
Simple is Beauty!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Letting out


I am very sorry to hear that May was so bad for Val.  I really hope June has been the opposite for her.

My daughter has been also in a stressful situation at work, as a new employee, and it seems to have started to affect her health.  The other day, we went to a bedrock bath, which are popular in Japan now, to detox, and talked a lot so that she could let all her stress out.  She told me she felt that she had lost her genuine self due to extreme stress.  She was urged to solve her problems but it seemed to me as if she ended up wallowing in her stress.  It is hard to solve all the problems she has at once, but I believe that being able to let out her feelings may have been of some help for her to recuperate her positive energy and deal with her difficulties.

Breathing starts from exhaling.  If you breathe out as much as you can, you will breathe in a lot of new fresh air.  Letting it out gets rid of all the bad things, then you will be able to let new, good things in, just like Val says in her post, "Bad brings out good".

It is quite heartbreaking for me to see my daughter suffering from stress, but every time she experiences hardship, I see her growing stronger.  Hardships might be the seeds that grow into beautiful flowers.  As a mother, what I can do is limited; just puring out my love energy and praying for her is all I can do.  As can Val.

Lots of love to Val and you all.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dodging the bullets

I've been away for quite a while, haven't I?
Reading with delight Sachi's gracious posts, and feeling a little apart from it all.
Truth is, May has been..ahem, atrocious. In many ways.
I hadn't been through so much stress for ages, and stress is no stranger to me.
Then the sunlight hit again. Then health and radiant days came back again.
And in the midst of it all, I've been witness these last days to a number of casual,  mean events.
I've been reminded that although Man is given the beautiful gift of life - LIFE! - he too often, too readily uses this magnificent gift for petty crusades, low arguments, meaningless fights.
I've been witness these last days to cowardly revenge, linguistic integrism (hello, anti-English crowds, what a fight you're having here!), wrong accusations, small country town gossip, racism and rejection of someone different. And this is an open-ended list...
And it all boils down to such a loss of time.
Such carelessness for that gift we were all given.
To such negativity.
Turning petty details into fights. Cajoling revenge like a newborn.
Attacking the weakest. Teaming with the strongest, often happening to be the dumbest.
Enjoying to annoy, avoiding to help, focusing on antagonism.
Refusing to breathe, refusing to understand, refusing to let go, refusing to be kind, refusing to listen.
But Valerie, this doesn't sound like you!? Usually, not.
But May was bad, and bad brings out good.
And seeing what good I have, what good I may not have always been aware of, I see what good is spoiled.
How Man is too often daft. What a mess he makes of so many beautiful things.
What a waste. What a shame. How violent.
And it feels like all these little petty events I've been witness to surround us like bullets.
Being dragged into fights, having to speak up to defend rights, feels like dodging bullets.
I've been dodging a few bullets. I've had to shoot a few. And I dislike this.so.much!
Except flying to the rescue of the oppressed. That, I love :)
But at least I'm thinking that this blog's idea - enhancing, praising, favouring beauty and peace - wasn't such a bad idea. Wasn't it?
Love to all of you folks.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Butterfly


Whenever I see butterflies, I remember all the butterfulies 
that spent their whole lives in my tiny garden 
until they fluttered away in to the blue sky.

They had a really big appetite during their caterpillar stage
and it seemed to me that they looked so hard to find places to spend their pupa stage.
One day after a long, long pupa stage, 
they emerged as beautiful butterflies and fluttered away, up into the blue sky.
It was an absolutely amazing scene.

(These are my posts in which I wrote about them.)


Looking at butterflies fluttering in the air,
resting for a moment on flowers,
or consuming nectar from flowers,
I feel a warm, loving affection.


We experience good and bad in our lives, 
and sometimes, it feels both physically and spiritually too tough.
However, one day we come through the hardest times
and eventually, catch the sunshine like those butterflies.

Everything goes round and round.  
We are all connected to each other.
Everything is ONE.
So there is nothing to worry about.