Friday, November 24, 2006

Bathroom Surprise, My Daily Schedule, and Thanksgiving

I was at a bar the other day singing Karaoke with the Yanagis (my Japanese “God Family”) and I found this picture in the bathroom. It's a print of one of my paintings. The owner bought it at my exhibition last summer. Also, here are some photo pieces I have hanging around my apartment.

And for those of you who need to know, here is my schedule.
I wake up round 6 usually, right before the sun gets up. I like to be present for the beginning of the day. I imagine it’s like being present when a baby is born. I get to meet the day right as it begins. If I don't lie in bed for an hour listening to classical music,
I sit up, get into child’s pose, and think about my dreams and recite my morning prayer: “May I enter into this new dream with kindness, compassion, care and consciousness. May I use the day to benefit others.” Then, I do kryia yoga, (breathing exercises/ pranayama), brush my teeth, turn on the stove for tea, and then I meditate in front of the shrine in my room for about 30 minutes (sometimes only like five min. And sometimes I only do some walking or biking meditation on my may to school). However, meditation is not just done on the cushion, and I try to bring attention to my breathing and be as mindful as possible through the entire day.

My meditation always begins with anna-panna and zazen, and then I will sometimes chant and do visualizations like guru yoga or deity yoga. I might also do tonglen. And sometimes I just sit and watch my mind think about stuff.

After sitting meditation I usually check the news and my email, drink my favorite kind of green tea, eat breakfast (usually cereal or nuts and fruit) after which I take a shower and/or shave, if I need to. It’s cold here now so I like to take a shower to warm up (even though the pranayama and yoga really warms me up and enlivens/clears my mind. I’m really awake after the “lion breathing” and kriya, more than any coffee could make me.

So then, around 7:30, I take out the trash of the day (either paper, plastics, pet bottles, cans and glass, burnanbles (food and old clothes), or non-burnable items such as batteries, broken ceramics, or dirt.) Then it’s off to school on my bike. I must be at school by 8. I usually have 3 or 4 classes all day, and the rest of the time I'm either studying Japanese, reading, napping, or hanging with the kids. At 4 I go home, relax, read, paint, email, write. I might go to the public bathhouse with a friend or alone. I might go shopping for food. If it’s Monday, I go to a restaurant to teach the owner’s eleven-year-old son English for an hour, and then I eat a free dinner (a bagel sandwich with pepper and cream cheese and egg and vegetables, salad, and pumpkin soup. Yum yum!) . If it’s Tuesday I will go to a private Japanese lesson at the community center (five bucks for an hour!) and, if it’s Wednesday or Friday I’ll try to go to Shorinji Kempo. Oh, and every Wednesday I visit an elementary school during the day.

You could say I have lots of free time. FREE TIME! Sounds like a kind of spiritual protest slogan. But I usually feel like I don't have much free time. I always have something to do. Especially with this blog and a painting show to prepare for in January and a solo show next fall. And re-reading the Harry Potter books is also very time consuming.

I had the Yanagis over for Thanksgiving dinner. They gave me a beautiful sweater and lots of food. I made a vegetable curry, bbq tofu, fruit salad, rice, and trail mix. Mrs. Yanagi, this beautiful woman who is always laughing and smiling, showed me photo albums of her wedding, pictures of their father (who died last year of cancer) and of there other son (who died about ten years ago when he was four. A drunk driver hit him after the fireworks festival). Their 15-year-old son, who is also one of my students, is the only man in the house now. He lost his brother and his father. So Sad. And yet he is one of the most charming guys I know. The entire family seems happy and peaceful. And they sure are generous. It’s incredible.

I woke up early Friday morning to meet my American family with the I-cam for Thanksgiving and it was kind of sad because I could imagine how much fun they were going to have seeing all the extended family later that night. I had to go to school. However, I realized for the first time that it isn’t just talking to family that is so wonderful. It’s just standing next to them in the food line. Handing them a plate. Smiling at them. Being with them. Feeling the atmosphere of family.
I missed out this year, but I at least got to spend time with a family here in Japan. And thankfulness still filled me up and sent tears running down my face.

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May all beings be Free and in Love.

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