A Little Travel Contemplation in Japan…

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Today was one of those days that couldn’t be better. I am in Japan and vsited the Tofukuji Temple. I have to admit that when I arrived and saw the swarm of humanity scrambling like ants on an apple, I thought ‘oh dear…’ Well I may have thought stronger words than that but Tofukuji Temple was an religious place and profanities were not appropriate.

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The scene could be described as people soup. That soup had all descended on the same location to get those travel photos… The initial part of the temple climb was slow because it was with the mass. Everyone wanted a picture and unintentionally bombed everyone elses selfie-tastic moment. Previously I would wait for a space to photograph but now I embrace the myriads of people and photograph the reality of people visiting tourist locations in mass. In some ways the touristico-not-so- magnifico is evidence of how accessible the world is for everyone – me included.

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The thing is I now have my new toy which photographs 360 degrees. This means that I can photograph from above and capture all directions. What a joy and what a toy to play with. In fact it has inspired me to create and to adventure more – of course I need that! Ha! So I was talking about contemplation before I deviated…thetaplus_20180329195501932

While I was walking the mountain I took opportunity to meander off course to some of the quiet places I spotted along the way. In truth I wanted to be away from the crowd. When I travel I love to just sit and take in where I am. Yet so few people choose to do that – especially on this particular journey. In some cases it appeared they wanted to just get the experience done – to say they had been there, got the selfie and then posted it on social media. Why were they rushing to experience? Were they simply on auto-pilot? This got me thinking because there is a metaphor for life within that journey to the top of the mountain. How do we approach it? The journey and life… So there we are all in a mass, all moving as one. Some keep moving as one because it keeps them safe. They are safe in being normal, in being the same. Many are on auto-pilot and many don’t realise there are choices. Some don’t have the confidence to move away from the crowd. None of these are judgements, instead they are observations.

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When I stepped away, I stepped into the forest. I could see a different perspective of the temple. It was perfectly placed in nature and the air was crisp while lichen thrived. For a little while I felt at peace. After a short time a few elderly Japanese tottered to the same area and had a picnic. One little old lady, who apppeared to in her late eighties, snuck off and stood amongst the trees. There she practiced Chi Kung (an energy art like Tai Chi). She was mobile, flexible and could balance on one leg effortlessly. I thought what an inspiration for her age. Anyway she returned to the group and they helped her sit down. She certainly didn’t need that help. In fact I had just witnessed ‘old lady acrobatics’ and then she was helped. I guessed they must of helped her as a mark of respect because that little old dear was bendy, balanced and blooming marvellous. This then made me think how I desire to maintain my health and flexibility. What made her more of an inspiration was that she was climbing a mountain that many of the younger generations were challenged by…

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Now this ascension was quite a walk. When I arrived at a rest platform I had a look at the map. I had walked for a couple of hours and was only half way! Now what made that all the more amusing was that fellow international ascenders all looked at the map and exclaimed horror in their own languages. It was hilarious. The French were very amusing in their general shock and expression of it. Anyway a little further along the path we were faced with a choice: a direct route to the top or the more scenic route. I chose that latter. I wasn’t in any rush, instead I intended to enjoy the journey rather than race to get to the end. Does that sound like life? What are we rushing towards? What are we keeping ourselves busy for? Why not simply enjoy and take your time? Who makes you rush?

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On the journey I stumbled across a cemetary and had a sit amongst it. Death inevitably makes one contemplate life. The moss-embued stones had been there a very long time and for numerous souls that was their legacy on earth. There were symbols on the stones leaving messages that I could not read. For a moment the thought ‘well we are just here for a moment. Enjoy that moment to the best of your ability. Enjoy that journey. Enjoy your physicality because no one escapes death.’ Then that was it. The thought evaporated. It is funny how walking up a very steep hill can evoke such thoughts.

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As the journey continued many gave up and fell away. The crowded throng diminished and I could actually take photos without anyone ‘photo-bombing’ them. After a final ascent I reached the top. The summit revealed a lovely shrine with blossom trees. I spent some time taking it all in and wondered how many people made it. Well of course then I the mental churn began: why did I need to get to the top? What was the point? Actually I desired to get to the top to see what was there. Curiosity had driven me, yet the journey had provided insights. I chatted to one couple and commented on how few people there were at the top. The American chap replied ‘The lame never last.’ My response bemused him: ‘the lame are a pain and that can be a shame’. It made me smile. The metaphor for life was so evident in that moment. We stood at the summit, we had experienced the journey and we knew what was possible. Others had given up, others weren’t driven and many weren’t fit enough to make it. That was the reality and it applied to life.

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‘So once you reach the top then what do you do?’ Asked the American chap. I smiled, ‘you take what you have learned, descend the mountain a better person and share what you learned.’ He raised an eyebrow, it was the essence of the Hero’s journey. One takes a journey to grow and then returns to their origin transformed, wiser and able to share their insights. In this case my insights were: enjoy the journey, take your time, experience it all and enjoy it. The level of how much you enjoy it (and this is deep) is how you filter life and how much you like yourself. Oh yes. You see every journey you take yourself with you. If you don’t like yourself then you filter the world through that dislike. If you accept and even love (not in the self-kissing sense) yourself then the same applies. Finally, when you reach the top – be the example… Share your knowledge with others and inspire them to enjoy that journey because it is their journey, their way and they can make their own choices of how to experience it… Love to you all!

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