“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” ~The Peace Pilgrim
As spring approaches, I found myself waiting for something and was reminded that each day will always bring new experiences and “bring up” old memories. I also was reminded that each day will create new memories, friendly advice and suggestions, and a need for a little preparation.
I spent a day with Kate, Kipp and my grandchildren on Salt Spring Island. There was a lull in the snow. I sat on Chris’s memorial bench by the shore. It was a beautiful sunny day. As I sat and looked out at the water, I thought how much she loved the water and sunshine and I knew it was a place she would like. I told her I was taking her to Japan for a little walk.
On March 7th, I left for Japan and Shikoku Island to walk the path of The 88 Temples. It will be a monstrous undertaking. Some say much harder than the Camino. The interesting thing is that the advice being offered from people is to approach this walk from the same perspective as the Camino- Be prepared, pack lightly, train and have a purpose.
As I walk this journey, I am walking it with Chris. We enter this world alone and we leave it alone. It is the in between times that matter most. We can do it alone or we can do it together. Doing this thing called life is definitely better when we do it with someone else.
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” ~Rumi
Walking the Henro Path
The Henro Michi is one of the oldest and most famous pilgrimage routes in Japan. It consists of a circuit of eighty-eight temples around the perimeter of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Every henro, or pilgrim, is said to follow in the footsteps of K?b? Daishi. Over the course of about 45 days, I plan to walk 1200km (roughly 800 miles), visiting the sacred sites and performing the prescribed rituals.
As a gaijin, or foreigner, I may not see another pilgrim on the trail who is not Japanese. I hope to share my observations and emotions as I explore the natural surroundings, the customs and etiquette, the temples and guesthouses I will visit.
“But your loss brought you here to walk
under one name and to walk under one name only,
and to find the guise under which all loss can live;
remember, you were given that name every day
along the way, remember, you were greeted as such,
and treated as such, and you needed no other name,
other people seemed to know you even before you gave up
being a shadow on the road and came into the light,
even before you sat down,
broke bread and drank wine,
wiped the wind-tears from your eyes:
pilgrim they called you again and again. Pilgrim.”
Excerpt from the poem ‘CAMINO’
From ‘PILGRIM’: Poems by David Whyte
Chris once wrote, “Defensiveness is simply the ego getting in the way of letting go. In truth, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that if you have a partner in your life who treasures the cruises upon which you have the good fortune to sail together. We have no idea how many there are on this nautical journey.”
Circumstances have left me without a life partner, so I will hold fast to all my friends, my family, and most importantly myself. I have learned that there has never been a friend as good a friend as myself.
My goal this time is the same as my last walk – live as if I have no idea how long my time on this earthly plane will last. I will breathe in the air, try to learn more Japanese, perhaps read a good mystery or novel, walk around an island, and just maybe forget myself for a moment and instead ‘be’ in the moment.
This is my travel poem- my mantra that I will chant 88 times in 45 days…
Time To Travel
Travel in your mind.
Travel in your heart.
Pack a bag and travel out of your comfort zone.
It’s all an illusion.
Travel in time.
Redo those awkward moments.
Redo your life’s story.
Create a new ending.
Start at the beginning.
It’s a very good place to start.
Cast a shadow and follow the sun.
Go by planes, trains, and automobiles.
Stick out your thumb or walk a mile in our shoes.
It’s all up to you.
We are an experiment of two.
Begin the countdown.
Two weeks and counting and we’re leaving on a jet plane.
To be continued . . .
*Chris Gay-Dec 21 2013
Chris taught me that, “opening myself up to others is a gift and openly receiving the love of others is a gift to them. We are all worthy, we are all deserving, we all want to feel and be acknowledged in love. And the more we open ourselves to that love and share it, how those around us behave and act towards us shifts. Positive energy begets positive energy”.
Yes, I will share my travels. To continue to write, will honour Chris, her love of writing or thrill for adventure and her desire to share her feelings with all the people she held dear and close.
As the country western song starts off,
“One thing ’bout this heart of mine
All my hurt’s gonna mend in time…”
I don’t believe that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Grief is natural and we all grieve. We need to grieve. At times I want to withdraw from talking about her death – to just forget. And other times I want to talk to everyone. I want to hold on to her and keep her close.
Each and every one of us will face the loss of someone we love. Allow yourself to be sad, but more importantly, allow yourself to be happy. This will be the gift you give to that someone you love and to those still in your life.
Walking is “distracting”, helping to slow down my thoughts, connecting me to my breath and reminding me to breathe more deeply and slowly, and to feel more control over my emotions.
Each day as my walks get longer I realize that moments spent in walking meditation bring stillness and allow my emotions to flow and to surface.
Affirmations in life:
- I only have to face one day at a time
- I surrender to the emotions and loss
- I am in control of creating the life I wish for, even if it means being alone
- I choose how I react to every situation.
- I will start each day positively
- I will forgive the cancer, for forgiveness is important in letting go and moving on.
- I will forgive myself for all the guilt I feel for all the times I didn’t tell her I loved her or hold her.
- I will free my life of anger and hurt, and allow love, peace, and hope to enter my heart.
In peace and healing my thoughts are with you,
“Wash every bowl, every dish as if you are bathing a baby – breathing in, feeling joy; breathing out, smiling. Every minute can be a holy, sacred minute. Where do you seek the spiritual? You seek the spiritual in every ordinary thing that you do every day. Sweeping the floor, watering the vegetables, and washing the dishes become holy and sacred if mindfulness is there. With mindfulness and concentration, everything becomes spiritual.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh