Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage, walking towards Cape Muroto and Temple 24

Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage, walking towards Cape Muroto and Temple 24

Did Kobo Daishi ever walk on water?
I have not read any stories about that.

He once jumped into a ravine in his desperation at his slow progress towards enlightenment, asking the Buddha to catch him if He at all loved and valued him, and Buddha caught him in mid fall and saved him.

But did he fly like Milarepa or walk on water like Jesus?
I do not know.... But I need help now.... 
My blisters are aching and oozing puss into my socks


"Right here girl!"

"Wow, that was quick.....I know that you always walk with me, but that was almost instantaneous."

"I am ALWAYS with you."

"I know... So ... Tell me, How did you walk on water?"

"I held my body in the Universal until it was one with the Light, as refined as the original thought that had created it in the Mind of the all loving God.
There was no pain, no anger, no individual identity in my Being.

I became ONE with the infinite.
I let go of the delusion of the separate ego, 
Let go of the confusing and mistaken idea of space and time being real....
I did not look down into the depths of the sea, but instead, I fixed my gaze on the perfection of the Universal, the infinite, the immortal.

I see that your eyes are glazing over as if you do not understand what I am saying.
Besides....We are not talking here about walking on water, are we......
Just walking on a hot asphalt road for many days.
It is a task that have been done by many, it is not a rare miracle.
What's up, girl?"

"It's the blisters.... They are throbbing like hell....
Just a while ago, a man stopped his car in the middle of the highway and came over to give us some rice crackers covered in caramel.....
He was SO angel......

He said that it must be SO HARD to walk in this heat....
He looked at me with so much compassion in his eyes...
I was waddling in my pain, and he must've thought that I was a crippled woman, doing this long and hard pilgrimage....

But I wasn't crippled when I started this pilgrimage....
Only two weeks ago I was a healthy and energetic person....optimistic.... Strong....
Now I am limping and my state of mind is as low as I can remember it...."

"Will it help if I tell you that it will get better very soon?
It is just one state of mind out of many, many that you will experience on this pilgrimage.
Will it help if I tell you that you do not have to do it?
Or that you are actually doing great?
That Jules is doing awesome and that you shouldn't be disheartened EVER?
Over anything?
Is there ANYTHING I can say or do to make you feel better?"

"Tell me how to think in order to heal the blisters and the pain that they are causing me...
How did you heal people?...."

"Well... It is not hard to explain, but you may not fully grasp it.
It is good that we have a long way to walk, so contemplate this well:

There was only one method of cure that I ever used.  
I erased the false image in the consciousness of the one to whom I ministered. 

I first raised the vibrations of my body by connecting my own thoughts with those of Divine Mind, and holding my thoughts steadfastly in accord with those of the perfection of the Divine Mind for man. 

Then the vibrations of my body became EQUAL to the vibrations of Divine Mind. 

After raising the vibrations of my own body by my resolute and fixed thought about the Divine Perfection, I was thus able to raise the vibrations of the body of the applicant with the withered arm, to the point where I could erase the image of the withered arm from my own consciousness. 
Then I could say to the man who thought he had a withered arm:`Stretch forth your hand.' 
He stretched it forth and it became whole. 

You see, I raised the vibrations of my own body by seeing the Divine Perfection for ALL.
This enabled me to raise the vibrations of the one I healed, until all images of imperfection were entirely erased.
The perfection was instantaneous and the forgiveness was complete."

"Ammmmm...... I do not understand.... But never mind, I am sure that one day I will.
Meantime it is getting late so I will recount my day before going to sleep.... But thank you anyway!"

The mind of a walking pilgrim fluctuates all day long.
Words of wisdom, good or silly ideas, come and go into my consciousness.

Walking by the coastline, I was surprised to see large flocks of birds of prey, instead of the usual seagulls and pelicans.

We only passed by a few other Henros today.
The weather is still sunny, although we are about to get some rain which will last for three days.

A beautiful walk.
Fishing boats, 
A kind man stops in the middle of the road to gift us caramel rice crackers.
They taste delicious when we stop to rest.

Fishermen are fixing their nets, 
Colorful flowers, 
Not enough water or tea with us to drink...
The ocean is so blue....

Our guest house looks simple, but the owner is so kind and sweet.
She helps us with making some bookings for a few more nights along the route and tells us about the upcoming rain.
She implies that we should not be walking on rainy days.
We say that we have rain coats and umbrellas and that we shall keep moving on.

Our Japanese style room is very large and it faces the ocean.
The ocean is full of surfers and they stay until the late afternoon.

The Yukatas she gave us are so clean and well ironed, 
She took our hiking clothes to launder them for free, and returned them an hour later neatly folded.

I take a shower and a soak in the Ofuru.
The Ofuru is so hot, I can only stay for a few moments.
I clean my blisters and apply antibiotic cream.
I put on my pink frilly socks that I got as a gift yesterday.

Dinner is a feast of local fresh seafood.
Many new dishes I had never tasted before.

Before I went to bed, I recalled a poem by a master who is believed to be 400 years old (a woman), and she looks like she is in her thirties.
She said:

"When you come to the Red-Sea-place in your life, 
When, in spite of all you can do, 
There is no way ‘round, 
there is no way back, 
There is no other way but THROUGH: 
Then know God with a soul serene, 
And the dark and the storm are gone. 
God stills the wind. 
God stills the waves. 
God says to your soul, “GO ON! 

I guess I too shall GO ON....

Jules adds:  "Even the very best amusement ride at Coney Island eventually comes to an end. 
Time to get off, go back to being me.  
The most engaging drama, seen on the big screen, almost lets me forget myself entirely.  
Until it ends, then back to being me.  
This road we're on, seems now to continue to the farthest horizon.  
Will this be any different this time around?  
Sure hope so..."

Day 14 (May 22nd 2016)
Our location on the earth:
33°22′15.41″N 134°12′22.79″E
Overnight at the Ozaki Lodge, about 7 kilometers south of Sakihama 

26,070 steps 
20 kilometers 
Active walking 4:30 hours
Active day 6 hours

Active walking grand total: 276 km

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage - Walking south along the Pacific Coastline

Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage - Walking south along the Pacific Coastline

This morning I woke up with a resolution not to listen to every discomfort in my mind or body, but instead to enjoy the walk, enjoy my days, be very humble and unimportant, kind, innocent and pure in my thinking, and to bless the world with every step I take.

In front of our bedroom window, surfers in wetsuits were already catching the morning waves.  This entire coastline has many, many surfers' beaches, with beautiful waves and smooth sands.
It looked like SO MUCH fun, that I craved to be there with them in my wetsuit, waiting for hours for a few good waves....
Not to be talking to anyone, not busy thinking, just letting the waves lull me into the quiet Universe within.... 
Nothing important to do but to catch a few waves here and there.
What a life....

Then I reminded myself that to everything there is a place and a time.
Today, this week, this month, and the next month, I am walking a pilgrimage.
There will be time to lay on the beach and time to dive, time to swim and time to surf.
Now is the time for our pilgrimage.

We ate breakfast like we were two hungry surfers who had spent the day on the waves without any drink or food.
We ate grilled Salmon and chips, a miso soup, steamed rice with pickles, a green salad, seaweed salad, potato salad, unsweetened yogurt with granola, fresh fruit and green tea.

We meditated in front of the ocean and the breeze revived my spirit.
We strapped on our backpacks, paid our hotel bill and started walking south along the water.

Jules wanted to get his hair cut and as we passed by a beauty salon, the friendly hairdresser wearing platform shoes, short shorts and long black stockings, opened the door to her shop and invited us in.
She said a man's haircut is ¥1500 ($15)

She gave me hot green tea and cookies while she cut Jules' hair.
When we left, she also gave us gifts. (All included in the $15 haircut, and they do not accept tips in Japan.)
What a difference between this kind hairdresser and the money oriented hair cutters back home.

Jules got a lovely bandana with dragons painted on it and I got a gift of a pair of frilly pink socks and two packages of tissues.

I was happy with the socks, because every night after rubbing my feet with facial cream mixed with essential oils, I have been thinking to myself that I should have simple socks to keep the cream on my feet and not to stain the clean sheets.
I prefer not to use my hiking socks, and every day I forget to buy a pair of cotton socks in a convenience store.

Our hotel for the night was located on a stretch of white sandy beach, and it is aptly called the "White Beach Hotel."

In the parking lot near the hotel, there are large public showers and toilets for the surfers who come to camp or surf on the beach.
Many had the backs of their minivans open, and they hang their wetsuits to dry from the doors.

One enterprising woman parked her car in the middle of the parking lot.
She had a folding table and a small grill and she was selling home made burgers with grilled avocado and tomatoes to the surfers.
She sat in her car when no one was around.

There was also a large shop selling farm vegetables, homemade products, and very fresh seafood from the local fishermen, along with a small restaurant that sold hot food.

We chose a table overlooking the beach and had a meal of local Shikoku specialities.
One of the famous foods in the area is called Chikuwa, which is a Surimi fish cake wrapped around a bamboo stick which is later grilled.
It was very good.

We also had a seafood tempura cake and an orange and vanilla ice cream.
It felt luxurious to sit by the ocean and take the time to enjoy lunch.

Because our walk today was short, we decided to walk more in order to cut off a few kilometers from tomorrow's longer walk.  

Even though all we walked today was 13 kilometers, my feet still felt tired.
I guess it will take awhile to get used to walking every day.

On an empty beach, I took off my shoes and soaked my feet in the salt water.
The water felt cool and nice, but walking on the rocky shore felt too tough on my blistered feet.

Our hotel offers only breakfast, so we checked what was available in Toyo town, but there are only three places to eat dinner, and almost no choices for vegetarians who are willing to eat some fish.
Instead of dining out, we bought large bento boxes at the farm shop upon our return from our walk and ate them in our room.  
They were "Oishkatta desu" (past tense of "delicious").  

Tomorrow we continue south along the coast - it will take another day before we will reach Temple 24 "Asate" (the day after tomorrow).  

A zen poem:

Nirvana Exists, 
But not the man who seeks it.
The Path exists, 
But not the traveller who walks on it.....

Day 13 (May 21st. 2016)
Our location on the earth:
33°32′36.78″N 134°17′43.31″E

Overnight at the White Beach Hotel in Toyo (North Kannoura)

17,650 steps 
13 kilometers 
Active walking 3:15 hours
Active day 5 hours
Active walking total: 256 km

Friday, May 20, 2016

Shikoku 88 Temple Foot Pilgrimage, Temple Saba Daishi

Shikoku 88 Temple Foot Pilgrimage, Temple Saba Daishi

Each day we have had a few choices of which route to walk on, towards our next destination.
Today in consideration of my tired feet, we chose the somewhat shorter and more direct route, that runs along Route 55.  

It is the first of three days it will take to cross into Kochi Prefecture and reach the next temple on our pilgrimage, at the southern tip of Muroto peninsula.  

Kochi prefecture symbolizes the "Discipline and Asceticism" part of our journey towards enlightenment, with long walks and little services or places to stay. 

My feet had recovered somewhat from the walk of the previous day, and I was feeling pretty "genki" (strong) when we started the day.
But the powerful sun, and walking on hot asphalt for hours, started to take their toll, and my feet started throbbing.

I had had enough by the 20th kilometer, but I had to make it an extra five kilometers to reach the conclusion of the day's walk, the Bengai temple, Saba Daishi.   
A Bengai temple is one of the twenty temples on Shikoku Island which have significant ties to Kobo Daishi, but are not part of the 88 Temple pilgrimage.

Blisters were forming on my right foot.
The surprising thing is, that the only part of my body that feels fatigued right now, are my feet.
As a hiker, I NEVER get blisters, but as a swimmer, I used to get leg cramps.
On this pilgrimage, I no longer have any sore leg muscles, my back is doing great and there is no leg cramping, only my feet are hurting and tired.

I stopped at as many rest areas as I could during the day, to rest my feet.
We passed by Mugi town and even though there were a handful of Ramen noodles places to eat, we did not go in.
The Ramen is always made with pork broth, so instead we bought fresh salads at the 7-Eleven and sat on a bench in the shade to eat them.

In another rest area, we met three ladies who were volunteering to help feed and support passing pilgrims.

Today we did not see any pilgrims in either direction, which leads us to think that less committed pilgrims, were taking the bus to avoid the long stretches of walking in the sun, with no temples and almost no services.

The ladies in the rest area gave us cold unsweetened ice green tea, roasted sweet potatoes, rice crackers and hard candy. 
They were so encouraging and their good hearts were overflowing with kindness.  

They have taken time out of their busy lives to be of service to Henros, setting a wonderful example of selfless giving to our brothers and sisters.
Their hospitality, combined with my throbbing feet, made me feel like crying.
How good people are......and how frail is my human form.
I wish to be stronger, yet at times, I feel so small.....

There were no temples to visit today, but we did stop at a temple called Saba Daishi to pay our respects.

Saba is the Japanese word for Mackerel fish. 
The story is that Kobo Daishi (in the 800's) met a dried Mackerel seller on the road.
He was hungry, and he asked the trader to spare a dried fish.
The trader thought that Kobo Daishi was a beggar, and he refused.
He said that it is his livelihood, and that he cannot give all of his supplies away.
A bit later the man's horse got very sick.
The trader realized that the beggar was the famous but humble Kobo Daishi, and he ran down the trail to ask Kobo Daishi for his forgiveness.

Kobo Daishi forgave him and healed his horse.
The man insisted that Kobo Daishi eat one of his mackerel.
Kobo Daishi ate the dried Mackerel and then excreted the fish, fully alive.

This temple is not one of the 88 temples on the pilgrimage, but it is one of the extra twenty temples that were informally added in later years, to make 108 temples.

108 is the number of beads in the Buddhist rosary.
The beads symbolize the 108 human faults that we need to correct or to overcome, in order to free ourselves from the sufferings of this world.

We booked the Riviera Onsen Hotel in the town of Shishikui, about 7km from Saba Daishi Temple.  
We took a rural, one-car railroad to cover these final 7 km.
The hotel sits right on the ocean, and the sound of the waves was very soothing to me.

Our room faces the ocean and is not Japanese style, which means that it has beds and furniture.
It actually looks like many ocean front hotel rooms in Florida.
It has pastel colored furniture, carpet and curtains. 

We did not book their half board deal, because we did not feel like eating a twenty course meal of mostly fish.
Instead, we bought in the local grocery shop some cherries, strawberries, kumquats, grapes, cherry tomatoes, a local melon and a package of very fresh local sashimi.

The Onsen might have been glorious at one time.
It has a cypress bath which is made entirely from cypress wood, and very soft feeling hot-spring water.
But nowadays it is a bit worn both on the inside and the outside.
You can see areas where the sea salt has caused the paint to peel and the concrete to start corroding. 

The Onsen is large and used by many of the locals who live around town.  
There are also many surfers who stay here during the summer months, to take advantage of the beautiful breaking waves along a picturesque stretch of beach.  

Beside the cypress bath, there was a very large marble bath overlooking the ocean.
Like all Onsens, men and women have separate baths and you are NOT allowed to wear bathing suits.

The women I met in the Onsen were both curious and very friendly towards me.
One women came over to help me "Navigate" the hot water taps, and almost burnt me by turning on the hot water too much.
I did not need help with the faucet, but I was touched by her caring and felt that it was a sign that I was not too guarded, that people felt comfortable coming over to me to start a conversation so easily.

The very hot water made me feel tender and raw....
I felt like crying, although I was not sure why....

Maybe it was the blisters on my feet or the hardship.... Maybe I just needed to vent.... Maybe it was because I felt saddened by our mortal limitations.... The beautiful woman with breast cancer who told me that she had once honeymooned in Hawaii.... The old shriveled woman who unashamedly followed me around, wanting to see and learn why I look so young, even though I am obviously an older woman....
She watched my every move and said that I look so young and so beautiful....
I felt neither...

I felt like crying from their kindness and my pain, but tears did not come out.
Instead, I soaked for a very long time, laid on the hard marble and elevated my feet up the wall.

I thanked my feet for doing so much for me and imagined them surrounded and pulsating with a bright light.
Later in the room, I rubbed my feet with a mixture of my facial cream and essential oils.
I brought no other cream, but the next time we are in a city, I will buy a foot cream. 

In our hotel room, we had a table and chairs, so we laid out our fruit and had a feast.
Unfortunately, while I peeled and halved the local melon that I had bought to remove its seeds in the bathroom, it slipped out of my hand and fell straight into the toilet.
So I won't be able to report how the local melons taste!

Normally I am very coordinated and precise in my movements.
It comes from years of practicing meditation and yoga.
You are not supposed to make too many clumsy moves, but to be efficient in your movements, get up in one swoop, be balanced and aware of your core.
But now, with my waddling around like Charlie Chaplin, the melon slipping out of my hand and falling into the toilet, I felt very comical.

The sound of the waves lulled me to sleep and I woke up to a pinkish red Universe which quickly turned yellow, and later the sky turned a gentle blue.

Tonight we will stay only eight kilometers south of this hotel, in the small surf town of Kannoura, because the next day we have more than twenty six kilometers to walk, and then the  day after we will reach Cape Muroto and Temple 24.

I wish we could divide the walk more evenly, but there are no places to stay midway, so we have to adapt to how far it is possible for us to walk each day.

Because we do not have a Japanese mobile phone and we have very basic language skills, we asked the very friendly person at the front desk of our hotel, to help us with booking the next three nights' reservations.

Our Japanese SIM cards came with only data, no phone plan.
To add a phone calling plan, we needed to be residents with a residency card, and to sign a year long contract.
The other option was to rent an iPhone at the airport, but we arrived at the airport so late and everything was closed, so we decided that when we do need to make phone calls, we will ask our brothers and sisters on this earth, for help.

We will use this short walking day to get Jules a haircut and to rest my precious and wonderful feet for our next walk.

Jules writes:  I just keep on walking...not to anywhere on this world, but to be absorbed into the eternal.  
It is no wonder that Kochi is the prefecture symbolizing sacrifice and asceticism on this pilgrimage to enlightenment.  
The sun is hot, and the path is difficult, but NO ONE fails who earnestly seeks enlightenment....

Mata Ashta 
(Japanese for "See You Tomorrow," or "See you later alligator....")

Day 12 (May 20th 2016)
Our location on the earth:
33°34′07.58″N 134°18′23.63″E
Temple Visited:
Saba Daishi Bengai Temple 
Overnight at the Riviera Onsen Hotel in Shishikui 

33,300 steps 
25 kilometers 
Active walking 5:47 hours
Active day 8 hours