In the early morning light, about 5 am, the city is a pool of lights in the valley below us. This temple, on the hill overlooking Hiroshima, is new, only 30 years old, but it has the same tiled roofs and dancing fish and the other ornaments that adorn the older temples we have been visiting. From the front steps, you can see through the torii into the Seto Inland Sea. It is yet another sight, another moment, that makes me wonder how I can leave here.
My feet fell asleep on the second day. The first day, I worried about my nose running. Not an enlightened way to begin, but it has already brought me peace. I thought of nothing in particular; the first day, the light kept changing – dark, light, stripes on the wall – but I had no epiphanies, no recurring thoughts. Maybe it is just that I am doing something Japanese before I go. Something I can take with me to evoke this life I don’t want to lose.
Like most of what I learned in Japan, I learned form first – how to hold your hands when you walk into the room, how not to touch your feet on the wooden edge – nothing about my breath, or what to think about, or how I should feel. You sit in a quiet room and try to keep your back straight; you look down. That’s it. Forty-five minutes, as the world outside goes from dark to light. The monk will do it whether we are there or not. He reads the scriptures after we are gone because that’s his job. There are only three of us meditating, the monk and me and the friend who brought me here. There is no ceremony. They do it because they want to. Not because they need to be healed, or because they must change their lives. Once again, there is no overt goal. And of course, I want to be healed and to change my life or at least to know what to do and how to go forward with confidence. But mostly, I want some quiet. A time for me.