A call for the ancestors

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”So… okay… wait” my friend draws out a notepad and a pen. And writes the words ‘mother’, ‘father’ and ‘Mie’ and asks me to explain again the structure of my family.

”Mum and dad had me, and my brother. Also my mum had two sons from a previous marriage. Then mum and dad got divorced, dad married again, and this one becomes my step mother. Then they divorce and she adopts me” a thin line grows deeper between my friend’s eyebrows. He is concentrated for a while, then looks up again.

”Whose name did you put down for the ancestor ceremony?”

”The father of my father…” I write ‘father’s father’ above ‘father’ in the notebook and circle it .

”Oh I see. And why did you chose to pray for him?”

”My father’s father participated in the second world war, not fighting, but as an administrative worker. He was editor of a newspaper and made propaganda to get young Germans to join the army.. I feel like my father’s family has a strong charge form this involvement with the Nazis, an intellectual hardness without connection to the heart”

”Was he kind to you?”

”When I was born he was already a very old man, and I remember him vaguely as a little child. I think he treated me well, I was a small child anyway, when he died”

When I had done the research to find out the needed information about my grandad in order to put his name down for the ancestor ceremony and found a photo of him online, looking at it had made me shake nervously. For some reason. I never had any special strong sentiment towards my grandfather, but I felt reconnecting with the whole field of my father’s family was quite significant – just as it had been to break it.

I feel my grandfather still carries some of the energetic charge from the war with him on the other side, and all this apart, there was much pain and violence between my father and his parents…

I went to Shumei one last time before leaving for Japan last week, to change the pouch on my Ohikari and share Jyorei (healing). I first received Jyorei, and as the energy surrounded me my pappa suddenly popped into my mind.

When we changed and I started giving Jyorei I became aware of the field between my pappa and my granpa, and felt light flowing into a deep pain, I started to cry and tried not to sniffle too much to not distract my friend who was on the receiving end of the energy.

At the ancestor ceremony in Misono, many people came. We queued in neat lines half an hour before the start. The ancestors were called collectively, with four men dressed in white calling them with ghostly moans, then they were offered food and flowers. One woman fainted. The transformation had already happened for me – time does not exist in a linear way in the dimension of the spirits, intention opened way for love… and I felt so much lighter

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Ko-hee, friends and trees

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”sleepy?”

”yess… no coffee in Misono, I never really wake up!”

”ooh, here you can have ko-hee every day, just ask someone to make it. Every afternoon you can drink ko-hee”

– And such was the conversation that gave me very strong and warm sisterly feelings towards Hide. While Misono is a bit claustrophobic for my taste, with all its elegant meticulousity, the little model farm upholds a sane level of beauty and elegance, the snip of the toilet paper is still neatly folded, and every inside surface cleaned several times per day, but in the farm work it is like anywhere else. We throw around things and some fall on the side, people exchange roles fluently and each person moves to the role which is needed, there is chit chat about everything and nothing, with shy laughs when things get lost in translation, and every once in a while a song.

” Hide I have something to ask that you might find weird because it is not in your culture.
You see, for my spirituality it is very important to go into nature, and touch the soil, hug the trees to really connect, now I see all this amazing forest around and I really really want to take a walk inside it…”

Hide’s face goes blank, then he translates to the others, laughing.

”so you want to go into the forest? For me its fine, I think there are no bears… it might be the only problem if trees fall… maybe its a problem”

Hide needs to call Taka, who is my official caretaker on the trip, to get approval. Then comes back to me.

”so… tomorrow afternoon after lunch you can go have a walk. How long would you like to stay in the forest?”

”maybe some two hours?”

”two hours?!” Hide laughs again…

Later same day after lunch cooked on the traditional wood-stove Eri brings me a whole thermus of ko-hee, and sits down next to me to chat until she is called back into the kitchen. I stay seated on my pillow on the floor and pour myself a second cup and a third, and keep the cup close to my face as I change between inhaling and sipping, as I fall into the gentle music and the fresh air coming from the open door.

The house’s sensei brings me three little packages of ready to use drip filter kohee.

”special gift”

Indeed it is

”Arigatooo gozaimasu”

Next day indeed I go into the forest, in the pouring rain, to the one temple where I truly feel at home. And Eri brings me more ko-hee, more beautiful, beautiful ko-hee.

Peace quietens the space around me, and my heart expands into the great one-life.

Arigato gozaimasu….

 

 

 

 

 

Misono days

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With a babbling brook outside our bamboo covered windows, and all the simplicity I have been yearning for my whole live in our bamboo mat covered room with two futons and a low table a night in Misono could not be any more peaceful.

The days however can leave you out of breath. Morning call is at 6:00 am but in order to perform the mandatory ritual cleaning of the bathroom before breakfast 5:45 is more realistic. After the cleaning a clothes change is required as you cannot enter the temple in work clothes or jeans. Then breakfast is served in the canteen two floors up – our meals are rice, soups and tea three times a day. After washing the adorable little bowls and placing each part back in its original place, and head towards the temple were you wash hands and mouth in the fountain, and bow in all the right places on the way to the entrance where you cover your shoes with plastic slippers before coming inside Meishusama’s hall (which reminds me of Mariko Mori’s imaginary of a space ship: elegant, feminine, bright and deliciously beautiful, though less colourful – no photos allowed inside so you will have to trust me xD).

After morning service with chanting and Jyorei (healing sharing) we change clothes to work and go for dedicated hoshi activity. The point is not what work you do, but to focus the mind on selfless service for the happiness of all beings – in my case means turning over soil and making compost outside in the fresh mountain air. NOT BAD. (most of the other hoshi tasks are Cinderella inspired jobs such as cleaning floor or mattresses on your knees, scrubbing the kitchen etc.)

After hoshi the clothes change again and we venture back into the temple for evening service, followed by bowing, rice, greetings, and my dear Brazilian friend with much eloquence extorting sexy Japanese phrases from our very shy Japanese friend.

After all this left is only to roam around the reception area to pick some wifi to talk to my boo, or finding our Sensei to see if he will break the tea monotony with a oh so beautiful whiff of coffee, or as we say ”ko-hee”. I haven’t made it to a ko-hee encounter yet though, I have mere managed to collapse on futon, and as it says in the sleeping instruction manual (because everything in japan comes with a manual): ”lastly please get into bed and sweet dreams”

Tomorrow 05:45 repeat…

Blue hair, Body glitter, Black Blazer

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”MIIIIIIEEEEE……. !? Where are you?” I ask the mirror image of a scruppy little puppy dog who looks like someone who hasn’t had coffee or a proper hug in a year.

There is no answer, except for two expanding pupils wanting to give me all the space in the world and a wet glare on my eye balls, wanting to wash out the greyness of my soul.

I have always shrugged it off when my friends get the birthday blues. Getting older is great! I keep telling you, savor!

…..but then suddenly its sneaking and creaking, those ghostly voices in the corners that whisper that I’m gonna be 30 soon, and I am not where I’m supposed to be, that I let my moment pass me by, that my glamour has fallen off, that this is, as good as it gets….

And then I, I just…. feel colour slowly being drained out of my visions of life and the world until all I’m left with is a grey, windy tunnel narrowing in front of me as the world gets less and less exciting….. :’-O

HELP. You need to be a kick ass human being to still feel meaning, love and joy after spending year after year being a mind numbingly responsible adult. You carry getting worried about paying rent, freezing your butt off to manage the bills, and being tired, hung up and frustrated about work, violence, ignorant media, wars, menstrual cramps, male chauvinism, bad music and all the sourass holes you meet on your way, who bump into you in the metro, cut in front of you in the queue, disappear with your rent deposits, and grieving the fact that you every day turn more and more into one of those sour-assed bastardettes yourself O.O

I need a break. And then they still tell me not to complain because I have a job, and I don’t get bitten on it (my friend does, and she also gets paid half of what I do).

In either case 3 0 is coming for me and with all this crap around I felt the need to prepare a bit to avoid the Birthday blues turning into any kind of tragic self hating events of putting myself down for succumbing to our uggously ageist society.

So I went ahead and bought a 75 pound lack blazer from Benetton. Oh me so snazzy, if I must wear grown up clothes let them be gorgeous!

Got my first pair of glasses – I will finally once again be able to find my gate at the airport without use of a seeing eye dog

….and of course I coloured my hair green and blue and went to Camden’s most awesome rave store Cyberdog to retrieve my life’s most beautiful and expensive little pot of multi coloured body glitter, followed by a trip in the rain to get too big canvasses to so tender and lovingly destroy. Because I truly feel responsible for painting any grey object with colour and sparkle, that’s why Goddess made me, and all the rest is just passing time.

 

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Also, I got a ticket for Japan, but that’s another story…

 

 

Highly Sensitive in London: survival and other rambles

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HSP or highly sensitive person is a personality trait which essentially means that your nervous system picks up on more input from your senses than the majority of people, and you process it cognitively in a deeper way.

Soo in few words: your brain processes more data plus it processes it more. All this processing can cause overload, which can be experienced in a number of ways, as a feeling of being overwhelmed, feeling dizzy or emotional or sudden exhaustion…. or, you know, fun times, as a full blown panic attack.

I tried explaining how my high sensitivity works to my partner-in-London-crime, to which he responded ”oh wow, I’m really, really, REALLY glad I’m not like that”.

It went something like: If I’m forced to be around people for two long, don’t get enough sleep, or the right food, or enough alone time and silence everything starts feeling uncomfortable, like I have no skin on. I get in a ”doom” sort of emotional state where I feel like the whole world is coming crashing down on me, I don’t like me, I don’t like anybody else, I’m anxious, and if the pressure isn’t relieved I get aggressive, explosively and with no warning.

Really its not a lot of fun. And living in London as an HSP is a big challenge. I have to other highly sensitive friends with London experiences (they are both exiled now) and while we experience our sensitivities in different ways, the red thread in all our three narratives is exhaustion.

Processing London for a highly sensitive person is mind numbing.

A simple thing like getting to and from work can be a monstrous task. The way home from work in rush hour may include getting overloaded, claustrophobic or anxious underground where the only way to the surface is through a massive crowd stuffed into tiny low lofted passage ways.

There is no mobile signal to call a friend, and the whole thing just starts to feel more and more like a grave. When this happens I know I cannot let this blow full out, or I will have a massive trauma and never manage to get back in the metro.

I tend to pick the far corner of the platform, pop in my head phones (and Goddess help me if they are not in my pocket) and turn on some calming music. Then look to my feet, so I cannot see anything else around me, breath deeply and tell myself over and over again ”there is no one here, I am all alone, there is no one here, I am all alone” and when I am able to, make my way towards the queue to exit, never taking my eyes of my feet until I can breathe fresh air around me (and then I will still have to go back underground to take my connecting train home). Also I always carry emergency chocolate in my bag (thanks Teresa).

That’s plenty of stress for me in a day, but it comes after 9 hours at the office, and sitting through the same crowded trip in the morning.

Then when I come home, at least some of my four flat mates will be in the kitchen, and some interaction is necessary if I want to eat.

My love is gonna wanna talk to me, like normal people do. Only instead of it being casual, regenerative conversation with my most confided person in the world, for me at this point any sound is like heavy metal blasting my skull open, brains splattering all over the wall, and all my cells imploding.

To the phrase ”the funniest thing happened today at work…” my emotional response is likely to be ”why are you doing this to me, can’t you see I’m just barely holding it together?!” which of course, in that moment I can’t any more. So I burst into tears like a dammed up river and barely manage to squeeze out between sobs that ”sorry, its not you, its just, everything was too much today” to the puzzled person next to me (by now he knows to not get worried but hold me down in a firm cuddle until everything stops spinning and we can have a normal conversation – as far as normal conversations go between us anyway).

Being alone and in relative peace is like drinking from a clear spring of happiness. Yes little butterflies and baby unicorns swarm around my head sometimes…

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but also it is a deep, real, honest peace, an instant feeling of purpose, connection and happiness. In this space I have peace with the past and can see the future, the dead and the unborn. I communicate freely with trees and I deeply feel the beauty in everything. Then its not so shabby to be sensitive.

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So why on Earth London?

Because of the high number of people who colour their hair blue, because of rock music and African immigrants, because the police crosses the red light and you’d never get fined for something silly like that, because there is always someone to bless you if you sneeze on the bus, because all my coworkers come from different countries, and because no one expects me to behave in any particular way, except say sorry and thanks and how are you doing.

And because I also have a very explicit personality trait called high sensation seeker or HSS (yes, going all in with acronyms and putting stuff in boxes today, bare with me). HSS is the nightmare of HSP, because HSS loves all these kind of experiences which are tough on an HSPersonality: novelty, unpredictability, and even a bit of danger.

A high sensation seeking personality suffers most in boredom. Boredom can be completely insufferable and appear whenever the person isn’t engaged in something new and unknown. For me this is true for anything which does not qualify as an adventure. London is an adventure, and it is saving me from the incredible boredom I feel when my work, location, circle of friends, routine etc. get too static.

Also, I was the weird kid everywhere, I was the weird kid in Waldorf school and in the world social forum. I never seem to live up to anyone’s expectations, but in London I’m not a lonely outsider, because we all are. Everybody are not from here, and few are truly fulfilled, but almost all go out of their way to be nice to each other. This makes me severely happy and relaxed, I found some kind of connected togetherness along with a blissful anonymity and freedom which is brand new, and oh so sweet.

So that’s the why…. but then how?

How on Earth London?

I got a job where I am not obliged to constantly face people – most of the time it is just me, my brain and my computer, and the call volume is limited to some max. 5 per day. I think most HSP’s will feel like me that written communication is a lot less exhaustive than oral. You have time to think, and you are able to stay more in your own bubble. A phone call can almost feel like giving a performance, especially if you need to push back at someone pressuring you.

Nr. 2 – energy work. Since I came to London I got serious about yoga, took two Reiki initiations, and also became a member of a spiritual organization called Shumei. Here I get healing once per week, and this recharge feels like a soothing bubble of light around my torn nerves.

3. I have no social life. I hardly see people outside work, and I have just accepted that my social life (outside the house, Shumei, work and yoga, which is already a substantial amount of interaction) takes place once per week, generally on Sunday when I had a good 24 hours rest through Saturday and start feeling human again.

4. I go to the park whenever I can, I walk barefoot in the grass and touch the ground with my hands (Also I hug trees while people stare at me, this is a new level of maturity for me), the physical contact with the Earth feels like an instant electric re-calibration – like all the energies in my system are put back into place, harmonized, recharged and discharged in the right proportion.

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5. I don’t expect myself to complete any other projects than simply surviving, putting off setting up my own businesses, writing my book, or any other kind of creative baby-having for later. Basically keeping my expectations for self at a minimum and being very patient and compassionate towards Mie.

6. I spend as much time in places that recharge me as possible – the multicultural bustle in Brixton, the yoga sessions at international sunshine arts café, the unashamed hippie cafés in Camden.

7. I go for a deeper connection in my relations, and whenever I do spend my precious time away from the fresh-spring-of-solitude inside I make it count, and stay truly present with the person I am with inviting for a honest and nurturing exchange.

8. I kindly put my loverman on 24h on call hugging duty – cuddles bring me back down, soothe my nerves and make me feel whole, strong and happy.

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9. I laugh as much as I can, life is wonderfully absurd, and joy can make the most unbearable things okay in a matter of seconds.

… and most importantly I am constantly checking in with what I really really feel like, and then doing it as much as possible in all my free minutes. Also if it means lying in bed watching cartoons and eating sprouts and chocolate for 48 hours (don’t judge, and don’t touch my sprouts, thanks)

The End

Here are some links to tests for HSP and HSS personality trait from Dr. Elaine Aron who made some great research on HSP since the beginning of the description and the recognition of that concept. You know, in case you’re a freak like me, or know someone who is^^

HSS:

hsperson.com/test/high-sensation-seeker-test/

HSP:

hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/

HSP for your child, or the child you were, when you were a child:

hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-child-test/

South-West-home-best: NørreBronxXton

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WP_20150707_001dsdsHometowns for me have come as pearls on a string. Each one perfect, beautiful and complete unto itself in a defined period of time, where the place expands into a space – of daily routines, friendships and fases. I grow attached to the places where I eat, as if I were in fact becoming part of them, by taking them into my body.

So, what are you eating these days? I am eating Brixton, and here is a post about what it tasts like!

We landed in Brixton 10 months ago, and during all the difficulties we had trying to get established in London, Brixton fit around us like a warm blanket. We both felt instantly home in the narrow streets with Nigerian, Jamaican and Pakistani music blasting from the open doors to the butcher shops, black hair salons and green grocers where all our favorite comfort foods are for sale: mandioc flower to make farofa, maiz flower to make arepas and xima, black beans for feijão and two-meters-tall-heavily-build-man-fist.sized avocados.

After our latest move we now live next door to the place where Cherry Dorothy Groce was shot dead by the police in 1985 setting off the second round of Brixton riots. The worn yellow stone building holds a round, blue plack as a memorial which never seems to be affected by the patina of its surroundings .

We live in a large apartment complex consisting of some twenty buildings of 3-5 floors, closed inside a low bluepainted iron fence. Between the buildings are tall trees with squirrels and a lone fox romes around at night. Several of of neighbours have elaborately lush flower pot arrangements out front, and I as soon as the temperature reaches 20 degrees the evenings fill with smell of barbacue and the laughter of the kids running around in small flocks. We live in a 16 m2 room which sets us back 845 pounds each month and share the rest of the flat with two Columbian guys an two Australian girls.

On the entrance to our staircase is an invitation for free tai chi, coffee meetings, along with a notice that any group assembly in the cort yard between 8pm and 2pm is not allowed along with an informational sheet about what to do if you see any activity related to drug sales take place in the neighbourhood.

On the other side of the road is an islamic association which holds a clothes bazar for charity in the afternoons, and further down the street is an elegant eritrean restaurant, with a Kizomba place in the basement. The libraries host various groups for aspiring writers and revolutionaries, and Ritzy puts on alternative Cinema and black music events. Brixton is bursting with Jamaican music and food, and on every corner is a fried chicken shop where you can get a special of 4 chicken legs on top of a serving of french fries and a pop for 3 pounds. Chicken bones are sprinkled everywhere in the street, it is the after school favorite.

Further away from Brixton towards Oval station, which is now our closest tube, is St. Mark’s church where a ”get a life – bin your knife” box stands at the corner. Here you can safely deposit any weapon you may wish to part from, and receive a help kit in return. Brixton is completely safe to walk around in alone any time at night, but its better not to be in a gang. Inide the station is a book shelf where you can take a book and leave a book, it is alwas full and the underground staff writes an inspirational quote in swung letters on a white board above it every morning

The transformation of Brixton during the last decade has definitively lifted it out of ghettodom, and all the creative and cultural energy which is present in the area has already attracted so many hipsters that it has started losing its economic accesibility along with some of the ambience, like it happens in so many cases. Brixton is, in either case, a very special place to have meal after meal of comfort food from other continents, until it feels like home.

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