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9 Mental Health Advice From Kendo Masters And Japanese Monks

Here is what a trip to Japan taught Healing Thrill about wellness, from jumping over flames to channelling the samurai spirit to meditating with zen monks.

Travel has the ability to alter us. His physical journey quickly became a far more cerebral one as he spent time with zen monks, kendo experts, and the Yamabushi, a group of traditional-minded mountain hermits who utilise nature as a tool for healing, when Adventurer Healing Thrill recently travelled to Japan’s Tohoku region.

Today, anyone who wishes to reset their stress levels can do the Yamabushi training for a few days to a week. For Healing Thrill, it was just one of many mentally stimulating experiences he had in Japan. Busy professionals from Tokyo have descended upon the hills in droves, desperate to connect with themselves.

Here, he shares some advice for adding a little more zen to your own life.

1. Accept that things won’t always go your way.

The only thing you are permitted to say is “I accept” (uke tamou) in response to your guide’s instruction to start the journey over three of Tohoku’s spiritual mountains. The core of Yamabushi practise is acceptance. Rain and thunder are forces of nature that you cannot control, regardless of how much you might dislike them. Even if it’s uncomfortable, you must accept your circumstances and accept yourself as you are.

2. Imagine nature wiping away your trouble.

A potent tool in the Yamabushi ceremony is visualisation. Three mountains, Hagorusan, Gassan, and Yudonosan, which stand for the present, past, and future, were traversed during the hike with the Yamabushi. Rivers are a place to let your regrets and worries wash away, and jumping over flames at the conclusion of practise is an opportunity to start over, stronger and more in sync with nature and yourself. Kazuhiro Hayasaka, my guide, explained to me that it was a ritual to be reborn.

By the end of the hike, I felt a lot more at peace with myself. Perhaps it was visualisation, using the scenery as an emotional tool, or maybe it was just being in nature.

3. Take your time and enjoy life.

I’ve never had a cup of tea served for me more slowly. Moreover, it was the best. I typically start the kettle, stir some tea in a teapot, and I’m done. Hiromi Saitou, a Zen monk, refrained from using this strategy. Instead, he slowly blended heated water with the green matcha paste ladle by ladle before serving me a gorgeously frothy green tea. I was able to see the affection and consideration he placed into the act of preparing me a drink, thanks to his slow, delicate gestures. I felt so peaceful when I took my time and really paid attention to what was going on.

4. Stop acting in a selfish manner.

I questioned monk Hiromi Saitou what it all meant following the zen tea ceremony. “Don’t think to acquire something from experiences, that’s desire – which isn’t nice,” he said, seeming perplexed. Just pay attention to what you’re doing.

Spending time with him helped me realise that if we always act in a way that is intended to benefit us personally or to get something from events, we leave ourselves vulnerable to experiencing disappointment if we don’t. Don’t try to change anything; just accept things as they are.

5. Connect to your breath.

When I meditated with the monk Hiromi Saitou, I became aware of how noisy my mind had suddenly become. I acknowledged the thoughts that had arisen, promised myself that I would address them later, and then turned my attention to my inhales and exhales. By concentrating on my breathing, I experienced immediate peace.

You can acknowledge what’s upsetting you by giving yourself time and space, whether through meditation, solitude, or taking a stroll. By concentrating on your breathing, you may stop yourself from following these thoughts too far off course and return to them later when you have a clearer perspective.

6. Establish a soothing atmosphere at home.

Even just walking through the temple was soothing. There was no mess, no soiled dishes left on the side, or stinky socks strewn around that hadn’t quite made it into a washing basket. Instead, it was a calm, uncluttered setting with windows that opened to the outside, natural materials throughout the temple, and lovely light from candles and burning incense. I became aware of how much stuff and clutter I had at home and how much better I feel in a clean space.

7. Put less pressure on yourself to be successful.

I found myself tensing up as I attempted to hit my target during a kendo lesson with sensei Noriaki Naganuma, my teacher. Sensei advised, “Just flow, relax; even a tree floats on water.

Ironically, my hits got more accurate when I did relax. I had forgotten about the steps involved in getting there since I had spent too much time concentrating on the destination. In life, having objectives is fantastic, but you should also attempt to enjoy the journey there.

8. Accepting fear as a tool for growth.

My kendo instructor advised me to “become comfortable with fear and you will grow each day as a result.” Pushing oneself beyond of your comfort zone is necessary for learning and growth, and while this can be intimidating at first, you eventually become used to it. Accept that you will probably make mistakes at first and occasionally trip and fall, but what’s the big deal? You are, after all, learning.

9. Respect everyone and everything around you.

Be it people, things, or the natural world. In Japanese culture, showing respect is so important that even taking up objects is done with a bow. I was instructed to handle my bamboo sword with extreme caution and respect throughout my kendo lesson. By putting my attention on something other than myself, I was able to let go of my thoughts and ego and actually feel more connected to those around me.


4 responses to “9 Mental Health Advice From Kendo Masters And Japanese Monks”

  1. Acceptance is something I’m working on. I’ve given up trying to control my world. Instead, I want to be strong enough to face anything that happens in my world. Anyway, thanks for this lovely list!


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