After twenty days on honeymoon in Japan, I’m finally back home again! Yes, it was a long trip, but a transformative one that has changed my perspective on a lot of things (too many to count just yet). But the most significant change for me lately has been gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’m often thankful for the amazing people and experiences I have in my life, but, like most, I find that it’s a rare moment when I actually feel content. To me, contentedness is like acceptance – accepting where we are, who we are, what we have, and knowing that it’s always enough. Do we need that new gadget? Can we live without that coveted handbag or cutesy memorabilia? Shouldn’t we constantly be improving our bodies, minds, and environments? Human nature leaves us continually wanting more, needing us to improve in some way, or wiggle an inch further from where we were a moment ago. It drives us to better things. But it also drives us crazy, because we’re left feeling like life is never good enough as it is.
So what brought on this more profound change? Let me explain…
While spending our time wandering in and out of Shinto temples and zen gardens in the beautiful city of Kyoto, we stopped at a large temple, frequently visited by many tourists. Most people come to see the main sight and wander back to their buses without looking at the sprawling gardens and hidden walkways, and it was there we came across a tiny shrine. Well, not a shrine exactly…more like a trimmed pine tree hiding down a narrow dirt path. The old tree, recently cut in places and looking a little demoralized, was decorated with a smattering of matte, 1 yen coin pieces. Worth less than a penny, the little silver disks were tucked into loosening bark and resting on top of a gnarled pine branch. The tree was just there among all the other trees. But people thought it was special enough to leave offerings. When Jon prompted me to make a wish and leave a coin, I took the light token and held it for a moment. Nothing came into my head. My mental flip book was coming up blank. And then, I realized quite clearly, as the forest stilled around me, that I didn’t need anything. That there was nothing missing. Nothing to wish or hope for. In fact, it felt selfish to even ask for more in the context of a lovely long, trip to a foreign land. How could I stand in that majestic pine forest and have the audacity to ask for something? I was lucky to just be there in front of that tree, experiencing its patterned bark and long emerald needles. So I didn’t wish for anything. Instead, I gave a silent moment of thanks and tucked the coin into a mossy nook of curling bark.
So today, on Thanksgiving, I’m thinking about that moment, and how that tree taught me to say thank you. When we step back and look at all the incredible things we’ve been given we can slow down and be present, enjoy life as it is, and maybe live life a little more zen. And that’s just one of the things I was gifted from our trip to Japan – I can’t wait to share more with you!
I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends, and may gratitude be your biggest inspiration this season. Happy Thanksgiving!