Archive for June, 2009

OMM…OMM…

Since coming to Japan, I’ve dabbled in a few things: I’ve banged taiko drums with elementary kids; I’ve been thrown to the ground by middle schoolers; I’ve done  yoga with grandmothers. As fun as these activities are, what I’ve really stuck with (besides Mama-san Club Volleyball on Thursdays) is meditation. I guess it all started about four months ago while reading online chapters from UVa Psychology Professor Jonathan Haidt’s (who teaches PSYC 101 – one of the most interesting classes I took) book, The Happiness Hypothesis. In it, he discusses what we can learn from both ancient wisdom and modern research to lead happy, meaningful lives. Usually not a big fan of self-help books, I really enjoyed reading this one, particularly when he mentioned meditation. Don’t get me wrong, I do think I lead a happy, meaningful life – I’m greeted daily by ridiculously genki Japanese kids, after all – but I’ve always wanted to try meditation. My roommate in college and I had talked about meditating (and I think tried once, before getting distracted by DDR), but it wasn’t until reading Haidt’s book that I was reminded of it. That, and going to monthly Zen meditations at the local Buddhist temple here, convinced me to try meditating daily. And four months later, I am surprised to discover that I am still at it. From what I’ve heard, meditation results are very gradual, and I’m still at the very beginning, but I definitely notice some changes – calmer, relaxed, more…Hakuna matata.

If you’re at all interested in meditation, there are a ton of online resources, but I found WildMind.org to be the most informative. It’s there that I read this funny warning, which pretty much sums up why I meditate:

Symptoms of Inner Peace

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to inner peace and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs and symptoms of inner peace:

A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

A loss of interest in judging other people.

A loss of interest in judging self.

A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

A loss of interest in conflict.

A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.

Frequent attacks of smiling.

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the
uncontrollable urge to extend it.

WARNING: If you have some or all of the above symptoms, please be advised that your condition of inner peace may be so far advanced as to not be curable. If you are exposed to anyone exhibiting any of these symptoms, remain exposed only at your own risk.

Copyright © 1984 Saskia Davis.

And I don’t actually do any OMMing. Just makes for a catchy title.

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The Place of the Wild Things’ Residence

I’ve been in Japan for nearly a year now, and I’m happy to say that almost everyday, I have studied at least a little Japanese. One day at my elementary school, I decided to put my ten months of diligence to the test. During a free class period, I headed for the school library, dictionary in hand, determined to read something a Japanese elementary schooler could handle. Not wanting to set my sights too high, I went straight to the first grade section. As I browsed the various picture books, my eyes lit up when I recognized a classic: かいじゅうたちのいるところ – Where The Wild Things Are. I immediately found a vacant tiny chair and turned to the first page…

At the sound of the bell forty five minutes later, the main character, Max, had just been sent to his room. That’s right, readers – I hadn’t even gotten to where the wild things are. For you WTWTA fans, you’ll know that the entire book comprises about twenty pages, with Max being grounded somewhere around page 5. You’ll also know that each page has approximately three sentences; simple sentences, no more than seven words each. That puts me at…just over two words per minute. This includes:
1) Reading the word.
2) Sighing because it’s a word in a book for first graders and I don’t know it.
3) Looking it up.
4) Repeating Steps 1-3 for all words in a sentence.
5) Trying to make sense of the sentence because Japanese syntax is very different from English (Ex. E: I put the book in the bag, J: I in the bag the book put).

Needless to say, I quickly flipped through the rest of the pictures (being illiterate doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the awesomeness of the wild things), put the book back in its proper slot, gently placed my self esteem beside it, and exited the room.

Back in January, I was asked what my New Year’s Resolution was. I said I wanted my Japanese to be better than a kindergartener’s. Looks like I’ve got a’ways to go.