By DON HANLON JOHNSON, professor in the Somatic Psychology program.
Don is currently in Japan to present a lecture and symposium for the Japanese Transpersonal Association meeting at Kyoto Bunkyo University. He will also visit Kyoto University to meet with faculty and present at lecture at Kansai University.
There are some very specific things that come up in trying to express why my experiences in Japan and with Japanese people over the years have been so meaningful in my life. One are devices for listening to the earth, literally. You see them everywhere–in gardens, shrines, temples, ordinary backyards: 2-inch diameter bamboo pipes sticking up from the ground, some sunk very deep into stream beds or hollows, others not so far under the surface. People are always stopping to bend over and listen. The sounds vary from the dramatic and contrapuntal to simple whispers.
Another is the commonplace practice of honoring roots of large trees. Because Japan is a country of slopes everywhere with little land that is level, the roots of large trees are often exposed. And you see people paying attention to these roots. Near where I am staying there is a ridge covered with rare old-growth sequoias. The summit is a web of very large exposed roots, and is a shrine, marked by flags and various ritual objects. People walk among them bowing and touching their intricate surfaces.
A recipe for sanity: listening to the earth, and paying homage to the roots of old growth, expressing gratitude for the wonders we are given.