Miyajima: heaven in Japan

Dear readers,

you may have wondered why I haven’t posted in over a week. Last summer we travelled through Japan for three weeks. Great memories which I wanted to capture in a picture book. This has been my project over the last several days. Going through all those different places we have had the joy of visiting so many great places and meet such nice people. Today I am writing about my favourite place among favourites in Japan, which is a small island of the south coast of Japan. It is called Miyajima and it is the home to the most fantastic sunset location. But there is more than meets the eye at first sight. Let me share the most amazing spots and must tries we enjoyed on this beautiful island.

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How would you describe what you call home? This is an interesting concept to explore. Are you one of those people who has moved a lot or have you been living in the same place for a long time? Is it a country, a neighbourhood, a house or a room? Or is it more the people you live with or a state of mind?

Definitions you may find are: 1) the place where one lives permanently, especially as member of a family or household, 2) the place where a person was born or grew up, 3) the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered. Or is it more then just a place, it is also an idea – where one’s heart is.

Where I was born
The town where I was born was several hours drive from where my parents grew up. They lived there for several years due to my dad’s job. We moved when I was three. I do not have any recollection of the place. I have visited it when I was a teenager. Our neighbours had a daughter the same age and we ended up being pen palls for a while. A spend a few days at her place during one of the school breaks. I cannot imagine living there now, and it is certainly not home.

Where I grew up
The town where I grew up is where my parents still live. I was twelve who we moved in the house they live in now. We did have another home in the same town before that. I have stopped by, but I do not feel any connection. I do have childhood memories from that place, but they are dearer to me than the actual location. But where my parents live now is where I come regularly. It is a base, and much more a base than any other place I do no longer live. It isn’t so much my room, which has changed, but I guess it is the people and the familiarity of the place. There are very few people other than family that I have stayed in touch with in this town.  To be honest I fancy it much more now than when I was in school to actually live here.

Exploring the world
After finishing school I lived many different places for studies and work. I had the great opportunity to live in different countries and travel quite a few places. I always enjoyed where I was. No matter whether I had some pretty big hurdles to take in my life. I was with my partner and later also children, but away from the rest of the family. The great thing was that we had much more intense contact when people came to visit or when we went ‘home’. Perhaps just because we would spend more time together, vacation together. Any holidays abroad we always had our local ‘family’, often neighbours to celebrate with. Spending time together was our home and feeling welcome and appreciated. Especially with all the very friendly people we met during travel or living abroad. It has really enriched my life.

Moving ‘home’
As the children had been abroad all their lives I decided to move back to my ‘home’ country before their teenage years. I think there is a sense of home with the country and the culture you grow up in, or where you are ‘from’. And I really wanted to give them that experience. Perhaps because you hear to many times people do not feel at home anywhere when they have been living in many places. I moved into a new town which I am very fond off. I have great neighbours. Though we have been here a few years I do not have a desire to move again. There is so much more to explore, especially my own connections in whatever way shape or form. What if the kids move out? Will I no longer feel at home? I am sure I will feel like a part of me is missing, but I will be so proud of them for taking up their adventures in life. And we will always stay connected.

Home is where my heart is
Over the years I have started to realise that you feel at home, when you feel at ease. At ease with yourself, with the people around you and the place you are at. If you feel safe, appreciated and at peace it doesn’t matter how long you are in a certain location, who you are with or what your are doing. You feel connected with what is good in life. For example if you are travelling and you are watching this beautiful sunset on a warm summer night. Or enjoying the a nice meal with family or friends. Isn’t that like a homea-feeling? I believe that home is where your heart is. You just need to make sure you are connected with it.

Abundance 
It is quite amazing how we can complain about things if you consider what a good life we have. Living in a peaceful country, having a nice roof above our heads, having plenty to eat and many things to wear. The abundance is sometime such that we take it so for granted. And then there are the social aspects, family and friends, hobbies and many enjoyable things to do. It is probably such that having less rather than more of all this would make you appreciate it more.

Habits and thoughts
But if we are safe, taken care of and loved, what else do we really need? It is our habits and our constant thoughts that tend to make us miserable at times. The habits that make our lives to busy and do not help us focus our time and energy on what is really important. The thoughts that make us sorry, about bad things that may have happened to us or make us feel nervous about everything that still needs to be done. The constant distractions by the constant media and information available, the pressure of staying on top of information and requests that come in any time of day. We seem to feel that the expectations people have of us continue to rise and we try really hard to be as perfect as possible.

Grateful
I have tried now for a while to slow things down. And even without a job at the moment I experience sometimes how these habits and thoughts can bug me down. The great thing is, that I have now created time to reflect during the day. This really helps in understanding why I do what I do, so I can slowly start to change these. One important part of this is to realise, how great the current moment is. I am so grateful that I have the possibility to write this blog for example. It helps me sort my thoughts and express some of my feelings. I am also very grateful I have the time to spend with my children, to work through some more complex topics, like deciding which school to go to and discuss issues   teenagers deal with these days. I can so enjoy going to a concert or for a nice walk and let the experience really sink in. Looking back over the last 4-5 weeks I am amazed at my progress doing yoga and learning the piano. I should be more grateful for that when I am in the middle of my practice and struggling sometimes. We work so hard to get things right and try to keep so many balls in the air, but too often forget to enjoy the moment.

What is next
How can I not be at peace with where I am at? Because there is one more thing on my list of what I considered my focus areas? This month I will be focussing on meeting new people and getting more connected with my family and friends. Isn’t that a great topic for the month of December? It may be a stretch for my introverted self, but I am sure I will enjoy being more relaxed around people. Hearing their points of view and opinions is what inspires me in many ways. May it be to be less hard on myself or to take the next steps in my journey. To learn something new or to just enjoy life more and have a good laugh. My life is so rich and there is so much more to be grateful for. Perhaps all it takes is just being aware of it more often. And being grateful is a great basis for being more compassionate, which makes you more connected with others.

12. Tidying up

There are so many things I have been wanting to tidy up. And the good thing is, I have made a start. Off course my ambition level was much higher. But that holds true mostly for the physical aspects of it. I have made great strides in working on negative thoughts and feelings, have been steadily working through those activities that have been on my to do list for too long and lastly I have already moved two loads of stuff out of my house. And as I start to become more detached from the physical stuff and find the peace of mind to decide what stays and what goes I am sure there is more to come. And yeah, I did nor buy anything during black friday (weekend).

Many years ago I was already interested in the principles of feng shui. It seems so calming if you only have the things you need and everything has it’s place. For some reason however over thebperiod of a decade you can accumulate so much stuff. It is not that my house is untidy, but what do you do when the books don’t fit anymore on the book shelfs, if your keep stuffing cloths in the drawers that are overfull and the kids schoolmaterials keep on piling and piling. Then you have those things that you have kept for many years because you think they have some emotional value, are nice keepsakes for whatever reason. Oh yes and what about those video cassettes and cd’s you do no longer have a player for and piles of dvd’s from before Europe had access to Netflix.

There is still much to do and it seems very time consuming, but it is cleansing and calming once you see that empty space and order reappearing. What I understand now is that certain things I have to do in stages, like my books. What do Inwant to keep and why. I never read novels twice and there are such great ressources like the library and the reading room. So I am destined to only keep the books I cannot get there or that I will likely have a look at again. Then there is the self control of not buying more books, unless it is something I will read more then once or can not get in the library and asking for e-books in case of gifts.

This seems like a clear way to go, so what about kids toys and games? Let’s keep the toys and games that we really enjoy(ed) playing and donate the rest. It seems like a shame to get rid of stuff that is in perfectly good order, but it doesn’t have any value collecting dust on the shelf.

We have been getting piles of beauty and wellness products as gifts. It might take a decade to use them all. How do we make sure we do not get any more? It seems unfriendly, but does feel better to be clear that you do prefer not to get these types of gifts. That you’d prefer a donation to a good cause or a gift card maybe? And for the products, let’s out them all in one place so we have an overview and just continue using them one by one.

Step-by-step I will get through it. But it does seem it will take much more time than I anticipated. But I have that time now, so just keep going at it. Interestingly I do already feel much less cluttered, because my increased peace of mind helps me be less annoyed. Things are the way they are. Nothing more and nothing less. And if I want the situation to change I will have to take action, step by step.

11. The fear of blogging

Writing my personal story in this blog has been a way to do self-reflection and to get some focus. Once it is written down it seems more real. At the same time I have been afraid to share my story. The question is why?

I do want to write, but do feel a bit embarressed. How do people interpret what I write? Do they feel I am this foggy person now, with my head in the clouds? Do they think I am selfish for taking this time for myself? What if people don’t take me serious anymore at work? Do they think it is unprofessional to write about your feelings? Is it any good what I am writing? Would anybody be even interested in it? Why post it online and not keep it for myself?

Does all of that really matter is what I need to ask myself. To begin and get over the first hurddle I made my blog site under a pseudonym and shared it with a few people I trust. They were positive about my first two posts. This got me to the next step to spread the word more. Mostly to people that I do not know in anonymous groups online. I have nagging thoughts about yes or no to use my personal and professional network to post it to, but I haven’t so far.

Which fear is holding me back? Is it the fear of not being good enough. I am this perfectionist and can be really hard on myself if it is not 100% in order. Can I not just see this as something I just started doing and evolve as I progress? Look at it now, this is my 11th post and there are so many more topics I like to write about. Also, the interactions and posts of others give me new ideas to reflect upon. Isn’t it great to get some different views on life and try things out? I have had posts where there were spelling errors and wrong numbering in the title, a storyline that doesn’t quite flow or I forget to upload the feature photo. Big deal! I don’t think so now. It helps me be more forgiving to myself. I am doing this because I want and like to do it. And it may be a big deal for me if it isn’t perfect, somebody else may think it is just human. Or doesn’t even notice.

Then there is the fear of not being understood or respected. I question really hard what appearance am I trying to keep up to people around me, family, friends, acquintances, colleagues, bosses, …. Why am I afraid to bring more of myself into those relations? Why do I hold back and only show whatever seems approvable, acceptable and the perfect version of my self? On too many occassions I have had harsh responses when I wasn’t my perfect self. As a child already I felt like the odd one out. Not standing out and being agreeable seemed to avoid those negative responses in some cases. In contrast when it came to my results in terms of schoolwork or in my job, I did get positive responses. Maybe I started to believe that this was the only thing I was good at. Always trying to please others. Be professional and delivering good work started to be the top priority. What I ask myself now is whether I can be content with myself when being a bit more self-confident about all the other things that I am, do, think and enjoy. Accept my imperfections and just be in the moment. So what if people do not like my blog. So what if people don’t want to read it. But it is one thing I am doing right now and it is part of me. That still doesn’t mean I need to share it with everyone, but it is out there. And I am surely not that unique that I am the only one having these thoughts.

This leads to the thought that I need to justify myself. What fear is that? And whom and for what do I need to justify myself? Is it that I have tried so hard to be the responsable one, the person that keeps everything afloat and solves the problem. And I am. And I think I like it that way. But why do I continue to fomulate justifications in my head or verbally to others if I decide for me. I seem to have a constant guilt and feel selfish. Is it that, the fear of being seen as selfish. Why is it so hard to choose for me rather than living up to the perceived expectations of myself and others. I do thing this is a vital one. And it is getting in the way of choosing my hearts desires. If I am more at ease with myself can I be a better person? And what does this better person look like? More food for thought…

Curious to hear from you if you think I should get out there to all those people that know me in real life. I still do not have the courage.

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