By Phyllis Myung
It seems like it was just yesterday that Ninjette and I got back from Japan. We had quiet early mornings because of the time change and lovely sunsets that lulled us to sleep while in Japan. We had been in a haze of jet lag until recently. I definitely forgot how the pace of life in summer can almost be as hectic as the school year. My daughter is a good about slowing down and not over-scheduling herself. I should take a cue from my kid about relaxing and enjoying summer for my own life. We’ve been trying to keep it slower, but it seems like we dove right back in with both feet.
In the midst of diving right back into life, I can tell them my head is in a hundred different places at once. For example: I’ve left my wallet at home several times – in fact, I seem to be forgetting all sorts of things all over the place. I’ve had to schedule, reschedule and reschedule again for everything in the next two weeks and in the fall. Most importantly, I haven’t given myself time to reflect and be thoughtful for the upcoming school year or even for the past month. All my habits I started at the beginning of the year have been unraveling at a fast pace as well. It’s hard to write or to keep my concentration when there are a million things in my head and my to-do lists are overflowing and never ending. I have been trying to find moments of quiet and stillness this past week and they seem to elude me. For a brief hour, my music playlist helps me to escape, but then I am snapped out of it by the fact that I had to go pick up my daughter from camp. The whiplash back to reality reminded me of my visit to the Meiji Shrine in Japan just a few short weeks ago.
The Meiji Shrine is located in Harajuku on the other side of a very busy main street. Once you enter the gates, you are surrounded by a thick forest of trees that blocks out the sounds of the city. For the time that you are walking around the grounds of the shrine, you forget that you are not far from cars, thousands of people and all things modern in Japan. The shrine is full of tourists, but as you get closer to the prayer area and the shrine itself, there is a stillness and quiet that blankets you. Calmness, stillness, quiet and peace sit on your shoulders.
I found it fascinating that in the midst of a busy city like Tokyo, there were shrines and temples. Another popular tourist site and temple was the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple, in Asakusa. Not too far from this temple sits the very modern and relatively new Tokyo Skytree Tower. The juxtaposition was striking to me because as soon as you got closer to the inner parts of the shrine or temple, a stillness and quiet would come over you. It didn’t matter that there were hundreds of people milling around right outside – just steps away from you.
It is that stillness that I have been searching for since I’ve come back. It is the first time that I’ve really been searching for it. As a mostly-extroverted person, I’ve always searched for the crowds and the energy that comes from groups of people. My younger self thrived on it and was motivated by it. Lately, though, I’ve been finding that those things sometimes distract me and prevent me from reflecting and focusing. It’s been my excuse to not write and to not pursue the goals that I’ve set for myself. I believe it’s time to change that and revel in stillness rather than fill it or run away from it.
How do you find stillness in the midst of your busy life?
This post first appeared on The Napkin Hoarder.
Phyllis Myung is a freelance writer, consultant and speaker. Through her personal blog, The Napkin Hoarder, she shares her experience ranging from growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents to raising a child of her own.