My relationship with mindfulness began over two decades ago, while living in Shikoku, Japan. My experience of this very rural part of Japan was one of opposing, often extremely contradictory, forces. On the one hand, there was a buzzing, electric, fast-paced reality. Technology I'd never seen before; vending machines, selling cans of hot coffee, flashing, pastel neon lights, gadgets designed to make the easy things in life easier, flashing casinos, kitsch, over-sized, plastic trinkets & buzzing shopping malls. All of which seemed to collide and fuse in a glaring haze of flashing neon. Yet, on the other hand, it seemed to overlay something deep, enduring, simple and timeless.
As I journeyed further into Shikoku I learnt it was a land of temples, mountains, mist and monks, who wandered the landscape in brilliant white. I woke each morning, feeling the soles of my feet, against the cool tatami flooring. The smell of incense, from a cemetery, built in to the bottom of the huge majestic mountain. I watched, silently, as people tended to their ancestors. There was something deep and still in the morning air, as if held by the very landscape itself.
The longer I spent in Shikoku the more I noticed, noticed how everyone else noticed. Noticed the passing of the seasons, the revering and savouring of the parts of nature with the shortest life span, the cherry blossoms, the fire flies, that whizzed and sparkled gleefully in the dark night sky. The delicate slow tending to the gardens, which looked to me like meditation. Even tea! ~ especially tea! — Making it & drinking it became a moment to step into 'being'.
My formal mindfulness practice began some years later in the UK, but I learnt how to stop, to pause, and experience my life, if only for fleeting moments, in Shikoku.
I practice because as, Jon Kabat-Zinn says, 'your life depends on it,' — indeed it does.
Author, Nicki Wright