Spring is in the Air

March is the busiest time of year for us. As you might know, we run a chain of language schools here in Sunny Kagawa. We love the work we do, and we love working with students, meeting parents, and making a really interesting English language program for kids and teens.

This month is busy because the Japanese school year ends in March. There are a lot of graduation ceremonies, end of the year parties and meetings, and a lot of meetings too. We see lots of parents think about what they want for their kids for the next school year, so we have tons of trial lessons, meetings, phone conferences, hiring of new staff, training sessions, and curriculum preparation. It is a little wild, but still even in the midst of the craziness, I have been able to still get out and continue along with the 88 Buddhist Pilgrimage research and experience.

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The other week I went on the third installment of this years mission (to visit all 88 temples!) and it was simply spectacular. I really had no idea there was such a wealth of information and nature. The temples are spectacular, the people on the route are interesting and kind. Everyone has their own story. I really can’t express how lucky I feel to be doing this, and to learn something along the way. I think I am finding out some things for myself too. I feel a little calmer than I normally would, especially  at this time of year. I must also credit my wife, Kazuyo, for that. She centers me a lot. She “reels me in” when I am feeling a little hot under the collar.

I have been a school teacher for a long time. I have had the chance to do a few fun things along the way. I could go to grad school. I could practice and teach karate for a lot of years. I could see much of Japan. I could teach from day school to grad school, and everything in between. I could study Japanese. I could travel the world. But even so, even though I could have the incredibly privileged position of doing some of these things, there is still so much to learn and do along the way. Keeping a “student’s heart and mind” is really essential to my own happiness.

It is a good mental place to be too, I think. When we take the position in our lives as “learning as we go” it absolves us of the false belief that we need to be “experts” about everything, to talk like an “expert”, to always have all the right answers for everything. Taking the position of “I am going to learn something as I go along here….” gives us permission to lose the swagger we are expected to have. It gives us permission to be in the moment, to make friends, to laugh, to burp out loud, to have fun, to sing to yourself, to meet someone new…

I think that I would like this website and blog to keep this feeling, if possible. I must confess that I felt a little weary reading some other material on the Ohenro experience from “experts” who lecture, and tell us how we must behave and be, and all the intricacies of Buddhism and its many artifacts we must know intimately in order to be “worthy” to be on pilgrimage.

I resist this idea, and I think that it is antithetical to how we are naturally as people, and also from what I have heard from others who are on this path. Everyone comes to the pilgrimage in their own way, with their own knowledge and experience, with their own weaknesses and shortcomings. We are not given permission to qualify and “grade” those around us.

Mercy. Compassion. Thoughtfulness. Unconditional Love.

These are the things I believe have more value than being “right” or “overly clever”. Sometimes we feel cheated or unappreciated. Maybe we think that others should better appreciate our genius and tremendously unique personalities.

That is not going to happen, I guess. But rather than worrying what others do around us, maybe it is a better idea to be a little “selfish” and think about what you need to do for yourself.

Ok, enough for this blog today. I need to get busy and get more updates on the temples I have visited so far. Thanks so much for coming to visit. It is a privilege to have you here, and if you have comments or insights you would like to share, drop me a line.

Travel safe.

Mark

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A good day to be in Shikoku

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