Friday, July 8, 2016

Coming Home, and my dream about healing


Coming Home, and my dream about healing 

The day after we finished walking our pilgrimage, the rain that I was hoping would break the heatwave we had been having the past week, finally came.

The streets were covered in rain puddles, and the temperature was twelve degrees cooler than on the last day of our pilgrimage.

We started the day with a leisurely breakfast at our hotel where theq vast choice of healthy food was a delight.

The Clement Hotel is located on the waterfront in Takamatsu, and from our bedroom, we could see the ferries that take people to nearby islands in the Seto Inland Sea.

Years ago, the Benesse corporation created wonderful, innovative art museums and installations on some of these small fishing islands.
They used prominent architects to design buildings, or to renovate older buildings into modern art sites.

Fifteen years ago, we visited the island of Naoshima, and stayed overnight at its museum hotel.
We were the only guests at the time, and we had the museum to ourselves.
Years later, a handful of other museums and art spaces have opened on Naoshima, but we had only one extra day to see art, before we left for Ōsaka and our flight back to America. 

We took the late morning high speed ferry to an island called Teshima, which also has some very creative art spaces, set among its rice fields and small fishing villages.

On the ferry, I sat next to a lady who spoke very good English, and she told me about all the places that we must see, the strawberry desserts we could eat at a farmer's cafe, the few places to eat around the island and the exhibitions we could see.

She also told me that Teshima island's name is composed of two Kanji Characters which mean : "A Rich Island."

This name was given to the island because Teshima has a lot of natural spring water that allows the people living on the island to cultivate rice fields, and to grow olives and citrus trees.
In addition, the sea has always offered an abundance of fish.

Once we arrived at Teshima harbor, after about an hour's ferry ride from Takamatsu, we took the local community bus to the Teshima Art Museum.
It would have been only about an hour and a half walk, but we had no time to walk around the island and to make it to the last ferry on time.
Plus, it was raining all day long.

The Teshima museum is a stunning piece of modern architecture, integrating the landscape around it with the raindrop design of the building.

The whole museum consists of three structures.
The first one is just a small room built into the hill.
It houses the museum's ticket office and the toilets.

After you buy your ticket and promise to take off your shoes and not to take photos inside the museum, you walk along an outdoor circular path to arrive at the museum.

The museum is built of white concrete with no supporting beams, shaped like a teardrop or a raindrop.

It feels like a very large concrete bubble, with circular openings to the sky that .
allow both rain and light to pour in.

There are invisible speakers in the ceiling emitting the sounds of birds singing.
Drops of water ooze out of tiny holes in the floor and blend in with the raindrops coming from the rain outdoors.

Because the floor is well waxed, the raindrops glide on the waxed floor which is also tilted. 
The raindrops form little rivulets that look and move like shimmering snakes.
It has a spectacular effect.

The third structure is the museum's cafe and shop.
It is also built from concrete in a circular shape with no supporting beams, but it is more rounded and not as curvy as the museum building.

At the cafe, we had a lunch of olive rice and a strawberry soda.
The rice was cooked with olives grown on the island, mixed with a small amount of pickled olive leaves.
It was very tasty.

From there, we visited the Yokoo House Museum.
Located in a restored old farm house, the museum is truly beautiful.

The old wood and adobe farmhouse was restored with modern elements, like large panels of red colored glass, a glass floor above a Koi pond, and skylights.

The stone garden has a pond that runs from the garden into the adjacent building.
It was filled with gold fish.  

The old Warehouse and the Outhouse had wonderful contemporary art.

My favorite art piece was inside its cylindrical tower.
It featured hundreds of postcards of waterfalls from all over the world.
Both the ceiling and the floor are mirrors, which gives the sense that you are standing in a never-ending tube, that stretches into infinity both above and below you.

We did not get to try the desserts at the farmer's strawberry cafe, because it was closed.
Some of the small island galleries were also closed, in preparation for the upcoming Setouchi Art Triennale that will be taking place there and on the surrounding islands, starting July 18th. 

We did relax in two small cafes on the island and had some tea, coffee, lemon cake and a soy-milk pudding. 
It was a slow and fun day on the island, resting and enjoying some very good contemporary art.

I have to admit that after the intensity of the past two months' walking pilgrimage, the experience of looking at art paled in comparison.
Art does not, and cannot, give you the same elevated experience that a spiritual pilgrimage gives you every single day.

The next day we left to Osaka on the Shinkansen (bullet) train.
In Osaka we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott near the Shin Osaka station.

In the USA, the Courtyard by Marriott chain of hotels is not really great, but in Shin Osaka, it is a fabulous luxury hotel with a good Italian restaurant, modern design and spacious rooms.

But after being on the move every day, we realized that the feeling of comfort and luxury only amounts to a little more space to move around the room, a piece of art on a clean wall, or a big window that embraces the outdoors.
It is all just an ILLUSION of comfort, and not anything real.

We spent some time selecting a new travel camera and buying a few things that we had kept in mind, but did not buy when we had to walk every day, carrying all of our belongings on our backs.

It was a long journey back to our home in the mountains of Colorado, taking a couple of days in all.
We slept overnight in Denver and drove home the next day.

There is always a lot to do once we return home.
We have to sort through months of accumulated mail, do loads of laundry, clean the house, shop for groceries, update our computers, pack art, carry the outdoor furniture back outside, and much more.

The first few nights I slept in our house I had lots of dreams.
When I closed my eyes, I could still see the ancient temples, the big bells ringing, the pilgrims chanting the sutras and my movement through the countryside.....

One night I dreamt a version of the same dream six times.
In the dream, a blind old woman came to me asking for healing and rejuvenation of her youth.
She reached her arms toward me, saying that she had destroyed her physical body and that it was now beyond repair.

In the dream, I told her that it is never too late to correct her mind, to embrace higher ways of thinking, to let go of her anger and instead to dwell on thoughts of LIFE and joy, of blessings and of eternal youth.

I told her that health and youth could be restored in minutes, and that the body's eyes   are misleading.
She could still learn to see with her heart, to see the core of goodness in herself and others, and to look beyond appearances.

The dream repeated itself six times, each time with another person, an old man, or a very sick woman, coming to me asking for healing.

The next morning I woke up puzzled.
Who were those people and why did they come to me?
Was the old woman someone I know, or a version of my future self?

In the morning, I saw an email from my mother.
She sent me a link to a video about instantaneous healing at a holistic medical center in Beijing, China.

Three practitioners who were trained to FEEL in their hearts the essence of love and joy that permeates all life beyond illusions, chanted above a woman who had bladder cancer.

They chanted the mantra Wa-Sa, which translates to "Already Done."
This means that the chant was not a supplication to the universe to "please, please, heal this woman," but a recognition that the Universe is all compassionate and all loving, and that life is eternal and everlasting.

Death, sickness and decay, are illusions created by a collective human belief, and a mistaken body consciousness.
They were not really created, just appear to happen.

The affirmation of "Wa Sa - Already Done!"  is a recognition that if we were to let go of our belief in death and give no power to the idea of sickness, they would lose their hold on us.

Healing is instantaneous and has already been accomplished.
It is our minds alone that need to catch up and to see that it is so.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is only because our minds refuse to accept that life is eternal and everlasting.

The appearance of sickness and death might occur, but you cannot really die.
You simply take on another human form and reincarnate to start again, but with the same level of consciousness that you had before.

You keep on going, creating a new life, full of new connections and new lessons.
This is why working on ridding your mind of lower ideas and embracing higher consciousness, is never a waste of time.
Your consciousness goes with you to create a new and better life the next time.

On the other hand, if a person have the tendency to be discouraged, moody, cynical, harsh, disheartened and unloving, those states of mind will stay with them and will go on creating an unhappy life the next time as well.  

Ultimately, like the masters, it is possible to master the ability to rejuvenate your mind with higher truths so your physical form, which is nothing more than an outer manifestations of the ideas and beliefs you hold, vibrates at a higher, a finer rate.... At one with the Spirit of the Divine.

The ultimate lesson is to know beyond all doubt that you are an eternal-life-being and one with ALL.

The appearance of sickness is just an illusion.
Once during our pilgrimage, I got sick.
I woke up achy, feverish and with a sore throat, so infected that I could not speak a word.
I did not give the sickness any power.
I did not try to figure out how it happened, if it was due to the smoke in the tunnels we walked through, the water, the food I ate or exhaustion.

I did not stay in bed and I did not "nurse" my aches.
I was not alarmed.
I kept on walking, kept on going, refusing to acknowledge the sickness which I knew my lower mind was manufacturing to keep its hold on me.

And so within a short two days, the fever and the sore throat were completely gone. 

To see the video click here:

Gregg Braden, Bladder Cancer dissolves in less than 3 minutes using The Language of Emotions

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shikoku Japan, 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Closing The Circle, Back To Temple #1

Shikoku Japan, 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Closing The Circle, Back To Temple #1

There was no drumroll and no marching band when we re-entered Ryōzenji, Temple #1, from which we had started our long pilgrimage two months ago.

We began our pilgrimage very unceremoniously in this busy temple by the noisy road, and it ended with the same lack of ceremony.

Back then, we were disoriented and confused about the enormity of this task... Now when we walk without our heavy backpacks, we feel like two agile gazelles. 

Nobody but us can truly know how far we have come, how much insight we have realized, how many inner waves we have surfed....

A pilgrimage is indeed an inner journey, and you have nothing external to show for it, because most of the terrain, mountains, coastlines and obstacles that you have walked and had to overcome, were always inside of you.

On the surface, this was a long walk along an ancient countryside stringed with myths, legends, ancient temples, stories and historical facts.

But a pilgrimage is very much like life - it is a never ending journey.
It is not about a destination nor about arriving somewhere in particular, but about the richness and depth of the journey.... And the journey never ends....

Jules adds:  "I have been a life long reader and I love reading about inspiring adventures.
But I have found that reading about an experience, is not the same thing as having that experience yourself.  

Feeling like a spiritually advanced person from the comfort of our big sofa, is not at all the same thing as seeing which of the 10,000 states of mind, I find myself occupying while on a long walk in the stifling heat.  

The pilgrimage doesn't reveal itself as a series of one day hikes, which, after all, sound simple.  
It's the day after day of a never ending walk in all weather conditions that leads to going deep within.  
I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a Henro on this journey."

Today we walked between Temples #3, #2 and back to #1, but we did not wear our pilgrim's jacket or hat.
The woman in the office at Temple #3, was surprised and delighted to see our book full of stamps.
She said: "Oh, you are O'Henro San!"

"Yes," we said, "We are O'Henro, and today we have finished walking the pilgrimage. It took us two months."

Then when we left, I told Jules that it will be hard for us to speak of ourselves in the past tense, as if we WERE pilgrims.
It just does not feel right.
We ARE pilgrims and will stay pilgrims for life....
The journey never ends....

Just like I will never be able to say that I used to study metaphysics and spirituality, I will not be able to say that we used to be pilgrims.... We ARE pilgrims... Always looking for higher truths....

From temple #1, we took the bus to Tokushima city.
Since we had no breakfast when we left Takamatsu, Jules went into the Starbucks and ordered us tea with soy milk and vegetable wraps.

I walked over to the Daiwa Roynet hotel in which we stayed two months ago, and reclaimed our bag that we left there for safekeeping.

Then I walked over to the Uniqlo store and bought myself a new white shirt and a casual jacket.  
When I wore the shirt tonight as we walked to have dinner, I felt like I had reentered normal society.

For the first time in months, I looked presentable and I even noticed that people looked at me differently.... Without pity and with more respect..... 

It is funny that they say that clothes do not make the person.
It is undoubtedly and absolutely true, but we do live in a world where the way you dress, is very much judged by others.

After we finished our tea at Starbucks, we left Tokushima and took the express train back to Takamatsu.
It took only one hour, and we were back in our hotel in Takamatsu.

We have one more day in Takamatsu, which we plan to spend as tourists, taking the day ferry to Teshima Island to see some art.

Then we will take the express train to Osaka where we will stay two nights and try to find me a new camera.
The one I have is experiencing an electrical short when I try to use the flash.
It is very new, but it was damaged by water from the many days that we walked in the rain.

We decided to go home to Colorado early, instead of going diving in the Philippines or staying in Japan.

The beach idea does not appeal to me now, since I feel that I have had enough sun to last me a long time....

In fact.....My hair is burnt even though I did my best to cover it daily with a hat 
and to oil it as best I could, but the parts of it that were in the sun daily, got burnt. Sweating under a hat for two months, also does not make for healthy hair.

My arms and face are a little sunburnt and I am very tired.

I have art to ship to collectors, and we need to apply for our Indian Visas, for our upcoming trip to Ladakh, Kashmir and Rishikesh. 

It costs us to change our ticket to go home early.
We had to cancel the one way tickets that we had for a refund, and then we booked new tickets to fly earlier from Osaka to Denver.

We will still fly to Los Angeles to be with my sister and mother as scheduled, only we will do it from Colorado, instead of coming from Japan.

I am looking forward to doing a juice fast and a detox, to cooking my own food and to sleeping in my own bed, to laying down and reading a book for days, to being in my studio and painting again....

I am also looking forward to the quiet of the Rocky Mountains and for the dry mountain air.... Even if we will only have a short month and a half to enjoy it this time....

Day 60 (July 7th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
34°21′35.78″N 134°08′23.49″E

Temples visited:
T1, T2, T3
Overnight at JR Clement Hotel in Takamatsu City

14,417 steps 
11 kilometers 
Active walking 2:35 hours
Active day 7 hours

Walking grand total: 1202 km

The journey never ends....
We are O'Henro for life....

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Shikoku Japan, 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; The Last Temples, Numbers 87 and 88, And Meeting The Men Who Walk With The Same Shoes

Shikoku Japan, 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; The Last Temples, Numbers 87 and 88, And Meeting The Men Who Walk With The Same Shoes 

I was very grateful to see that all the mosquito bites that I had gotten while walking through the bush a few days ago, have disappeared without a trace.
My arms, legs and face do not even show the remnants of any bite marks, as if they had never happened.

I have been a bit nervous about the walk from Temple 87 to Temple 88, Ōkuboji, The Temple of the Large Hollow.  

Not because of any difficulty in climbing a mountain, since we have climbed so many mountains on this pilgrimage, but because of the heatwave that has gripped Shikoku since the beginning of July.  

The heat index, which is a combination of the humidity level and the temperature, was over 105 degrees, and the city looked covered in a thick haze, even early in the morning as I opened the curtains in our room.

It has been so hot in the past few days, that my fully charged iPhone has lost its charge within three hours of my walking outdoors in the heat.

After a few hours of walking in the sun, we have been starting to get dizzy, and my vision has been blurred.

Nagaoji Temple, number 87, is located south of Sanuki City on a flat stretch of road in the small town of Nagao.

From there, there are three routes to get to the mountaintop temple, Ōkuboji- Temple 88.
There are two walking trails which traverse the mountains, and there is a longer car road, which has a gradual ascent and descent but is about 4 kilometers longer.

As we have often seen on this pilgrimage, most Japanese Henros follow the roads.
It is along the roads that you get restaurants and cafes, vending machines for cold drinks, and rest areas with places to sit down, eat ice cream and places that sell farmers market produce.

The hardcore foreign pilgrims all walk on the trails, and camp along the trails as well.
Until halfway through our pilgrimage, we also walked ONLY on the footpaths.
We occasionally saw a fabulous small place to eat, with homemade noodles or some other local cooking, but we could not reach it, because we were walking on the other side of the trail with a wide river or guarded train tracks, separating us from those goodies.

Then, later on in our pilgrimage, we started choosing the trail on which to walk much more carefully.
It has become the difference between an enjoyable walk and a hard and tiring one with never enough water or food, because there is only a certain amount of water you can carry with you.

Walking along the car road means that we will have the chance of finding vending machines with water, or a cafe or a place to eat.

We left our backpacks at our hotel in Takamatsu, and decided to do the walk only one way.
This means that we will either walk from temple 87 to 88 and then take the bus and a train back to our hotel in Takamatsu, or take the bus to temple 88 and then walk the route backwards.

At the bus depot in Nagao, two friendly girls who work at a small travel agency located at the entrance, suggested that we take the bus to temple 88.
They were not happy about our desire to walk back, saying that it was just too hot this time of the year, and that almost nobody was walking as a result.

The last bus from Ōkuboji (temple 88) back to Nagao, was at 15:50, and if we were to walk towards the temple, we would almost certainly NOT have enough time to walk there, to enjoy the temple, get our pilgrim's book signed, celebrate our success and be on that last bus back.

Since it did not seem likely that we had the time to do all that, we took the bus there and decided to walk back, take our time and make it back to Takamatsu whenever we will.
After all, we were not staying in a Ryokan where they want you there for dinner at a certain time, we were staying at a hotel and we can have dinner at any time.

At the foot of temple 88, there are a few Udon restaurants and places to buy pilgrim's gear.
Many pilgrims start the pilgrimage at temple 88 and walk backwards, towards temple #1.

I bought two additional pilgrim's books which are lined with 88 pages of rice paper, just like the book we have been collecting our stamps in, to give as gifts to my mother and sister when we visit them in Los Angeles.

My mother and sister both like to paint and draw, and I thought it would be a good gift to use as a drawing book, with the first and last stamps collected from ancient temples, and the middle is empty, a blank canvas for them to fill as they wish...
It will be filled with their own life journey as they see fit......

Jules adds:  "We walked slowly around Ōkuboji, allowing the significance of the moment of reaching this final temple to sink in.  
We noticed that there are a large number of walking sticks that previous O'Henros have left, each paying 1000 yen ($10) for the privilege of giving their walking sticks a permanent home near the Hondo.  

The temple itself is a beautiful temple, nestled in an old growth forest, with many sculptures around the grounds.  
After we chanted the Heart Sutra, lit incense, and left our Osama-fudas, we went back down the stairs before beginning to make our way back."  

We met a Japanese man who spoke very good English, and engaged us in a friendly conversation.

He told us that he had walked in the past only one section of the pilgrimage, and now, only two months after his retirement, he had just successfully walked another section of the pilgrimage.

He said that he was 62 years young and that he had had a long career as a chemical engineer.
He said that he visited New Zealand when he had lived in Sydney, Australia for years. He also lived in Portland, Oregon, helping build factories there that manufactured MDF boards for commercial and residential construction. 

As we were chatting, he suddenly noticed that he and Jules were wearing the exact same Merrell trail shoes. 
He said that he had worn out his shoe laces and replaced them with red ones, but otherwise it was the exact same shoe.

This has been more than a coincidence.
We have now met during this pilgrimage two men who walked with EXACTLY the same shoes that Jules has.

I was also wearing Merrell shoes, but I have met no other woman who wore my exact shoes.
In fact, I have met so few women who walked the whole pilgrimage.
Most of the pilgrims who walked the whole route, were men in their mid sixties, looking to redefine themselves as powerful men, and not as men who had retired from their lifelong careers. 

Walking in the same shoes, have always been used in poetic metaphors.
Here we are, walking 1200 kilometers around a mountainous island in Japan, and we have met already TWO pilgrims, both about the same age as Jules, both with very different life stories, but both representing aspects of the psychology of Jules' mind.

Both of the men we have met are world travelers.
One had hitchhiked all over North America and Mexico for two years, had been all over the world and lived his entire life as a pilgrim, looking for exciting experiences as well as soul enriching truths.

This man had little money, but somehow he managed to have a very exciting life.
We met him again at a Ryokan that we spent the night.
He had paid to use their shower and bath.
We saw his shoes outside the door of the Ofuro bath, when we went to do the laundry, but he did not stay the night at the guesthouse.
He must have negotiated a special rate, to only use their shower and bath.

The other man who walked with the same shoes as Jules, was a successful businessman who told us that he loves to drink and that he drinks every night.
He also told us that he was happy that his sons are grown up now, and that he no longer needs to pay for their higher education.
He told us that he has been all over Asia and that Thailand is Heaven for men who love women and who have money, and he admittedly loves both.

Then he told us that even though he has lived all over the world, he has never taken his family with him.
His family always stayed in Japan.
When we asked him if he was divorced, he said: "NO! NO! I am married and my Japanese wife is a very good wife!"

I have benefited from this pilgrimage tremendously, and I am SO happy that we have done it, but I always had a sensation that I was doing this for Jules....
That he needed to do this pilgrimage and to come here.

I always felt that Jules needed to have the experience and to learn in his real flesh and bones, all the lessons that only a long distance walking pilgrimage can teach a man.

Why did we meet those two pilgrims who were walking in Jules' shoes?
What lessons were presented to us, and why did the Universe bring us together to meet these men?

Maybe we will get the answers to those questions, later down the road of life....

On our hot walk back, we stopped at the "O'Henro Salon."
It is actually a museum dedicated to the centuries-long tradition of walking pilgrims in Shikoku.

The lady at the O'Henro Salon was very friendly to us.
She hand wrote a certification of completion for us, filling in our names and countries.

The salon also has a fabulous exhibition of past O'Henro-San (pilgrim) photos, clothing,  stamp books, osama-fudas and other old artifacts.

We saw a photograph of a man who walked the entire pilgrimage 280 times over the course of 45 years.

I took the opportunity to enlist the help of the woman at the museum, who clearly was not too busy, since there are currently very few walking Henros completing the pilgrimage.  

Most are traveling by bus, car, or even motor homes!
At each temple we visited, they stamped our pilgrim book and also gave us two slips of paper.
One of the papers has a print of the temple's deity on it and the other has a Kanji Character of the temple's name.

At the beginning of our pilgrimage, we had not marked which paper we got from which temple, but just put them in an envelope.
Later we wised up, and decided to mark each print with the temple's number so we could later put them in an album.

We bought that album at temple 88, but we needed to match the temples with dozens of deities whose name and Kanji Characters we did not recognize.

We spread our book and printed papers all over her table, and she numbered each one for us and helped us to put them in our album.
It took more than an hour, but the museum was air conditioned and she was not too busy.

The many bus O'Henros sometimes stop to enjoy the museum, but they do not get a hand written certificate and a O'Henro pin with a tiny red walking pilgrim on it.

We were glad that we had a chance to enjoy the O'Henro Salon.  
It really gave us a very good feeling about what we had just accomplished.

It was way past lunchtime, so we had missed lunch, but we continued to walk towards  Nagao.
We stopped at a small building where an old lady runs a Cafe from her living room.
We asked for a toast and iced coffees with milk and honey.

In most of the rural cafes we have visited, they give you artificial creamers and not real milk, and they NEVER sweeten their iced coffee with honey.
Instead they use gum syrup, which is like liquid sugar that instantly blends into the iced coffee.

She looked at us with amazement as we added milk and honey to our ice coffee.

"Does EVERYONE in America drink coffee this way, with milk and honey?," she asked  us in Japanese, with astonishment.

"Yes!" I said in a confident voice, "Everyone drinks coffee with honey!"
I do not know why I said it.... Perhaps I was a bit out of my mind....perhaps it was the heat....Perhaps I was trying to start a new global trend of getting rid of gum syrup....

We walked farther from Nagao into Takamatsu.
On an exceptionally sunny and hot part of the road, we passed by a nice couple who were entering a restaurant.

We said hello to them and kept on walking in the heat like two dizzy zombies.
Moments later they called us to stop and ran after us, giving us an Osettai gift of two cold bottles of Coca Cola.

We normally do not drink sugary sodas, but we normally do not walk for 1200  kilometers on a pilgrimage.... So we bowed in gratitude and drank the Cokes like thirsty, dying men on a mission in a hot desert.

It was after dark when we arrived in Takamatsu.
We stopped at a small Nepali restaurant for dinner, which, for some reason, has a giant yellow teacup attached to its roof as decorative advertising.
They served us very delicious Nan Bread, three different vegetable curries and a veg Biryani, and all tasted wonderful.

When we left, we chatted with the owner and the chef.
He had never heard of the Shikoku pilgrimage, but a Japanese woman who dined there with her son, congratulated us on finishing the hard pilgrimage.

But we have not officially finished.
We need to close the circle of our journey by returning back to temple #1, from which we began two months ago.
We plan to take the train there tomorrow. 

Day 59 (July 6th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
Ōkuboji  - 34°11′28.91″N 134°12′24.74″E

Temples visited:
T87. Nagaoji (長尾寺) –Temple of the Long Tail 
T88. Ōkuboji (大窪寺) –Temple of the Large Hollow 

Overnight at JR Clement Hotel in Takamatsu City

23,527 steps 
18 kilometers 
Active walking 4:10 hours
Active day 9 hours

Walking grand total: 1191 km