Japan

My wife and I just spent the past ten days on a trip to Japan; a country that quickly rose to the top of my most favorite places in the world list! Despite things getting comedically dramatic as we tried to navigate our food allergies with translation cards, we ate well. And, thanks to miscommunication regarding whether or not clams and scallops count as shellfish, I accidentally ate both – and I’m still alive AND they were delicious. For my wife’s celiac disease, we had to opt out of soy sauce on our sushi adventures, but were able to find a local, non touristy spot in Kyoto, where the chef was willing to accommodate our high maintenance requests. My wife got a belly echoing “NO” when she tried to put ginger on her sushi, really capping off our culinary misadventures.

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Breakfast spread for days.

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By far our favorite place on the trip, and the world, was a gem of a ryokan suggested by a friend who travels to Tokyo monthly. We enjoyed hot springs under moonlight, and 12 course breakfast & dinner in our room. It was…magical.

What really struck me on the trip was the attention to detail – always. From coffee making, to drinks, to dinners, to ingredients, greetings and farewells, there was precision. Every movement, gesture, and act is filled with intention. The sushi chef we experienced in Kyoto was full of mastery. The tasting menu we had in Tokyo was from a chef who proudly said he was a 2nd generation chef. The time and energy put into mastery was a blessing to experience. We’re so often inclined to skate along the surface, not really penetrating the depth of knowledge available once time and energy’s put into really experiencing something so deeply true craftsmanship unfolds.

Taking a momentary break from work, we were able to turn things upside down the past few weeks diving into a new culture and experiencing the world through new lens. Maybe not so new…but a 14 hour flight and time difference defogged our personal lenses which have been caught up in routine these past few months. It was nice to shake things up a bit and see things a bit more clearly once again.

Good Tidings

Good tidings is an old fashioned way to say I’m bringing good news.  I’m not.  But I’m writing with the ocean in view and thinking of the tide, and well…”Good Tidings” felt like an appropriate title despite it being an inappropriate use of the phrase.

I’ve spent a lot of time near oceans in the past 6 months.  Last month I listened to a swami discuss the ocean and it’s waves, comparing life to the changing tides, currents, water temperature, etc.  Standing on the shore you can appreciate the beauty of the ocean.  Once inside, you’re tossed about; much like life.  You can be of the world, but not in the world.  He said it far more poetically, but tis the nature of the telephone game.

I’ve heard such analogies countless times and they had always bothered me, because I felt like I was being told to live life without passion.  But years later, and countless hours of thinking too much, I’ve realized it’s quite the opposite.

When we stand outside life’s drama without getting caught in the constantly shifting currents and tides of gossip, self doubt, constant worry, criticism, and all that chatter that occupies our minds with nonsense – THEN we can jump into the ocean with open arms because there’s space for joy. Despite the constant flux, we can always return to the larger beauty within the grand scheme of things without getting bogged down and pre occupied with all that is out of our control.

While anxieties might always pass before the forefront of our minds like passing clouds, instead of running with them on tangents, latch on to the vast ocean of joy running parallel, and know the personal freedom to choose joy is the life buoy always available when the ocean gets a little rough.

 

 

Stonehenge Adventure

I just returned from a family vacation with my parents and brother, celebrating the 30 years my Mom and Dad have been married.  They officially celebrated their 30th anniversary in August.  We visited London and Paris with day trips escaping both cities, enjoying the rural landscapes, and seeing a broader scope of the country outside the bustling city walls.

One such day trip took us to the English county of Wiltshire.  My Dad insisted on seeing Stonehenge.  As intriguing as the famous site is with the mystery it entails, the two of us had already seen it 2003, when my college roommate and I tagged along with him on a business trip to England.  We participated in the same 12 hr. day trip back then.  It took 12 hours of driving in circles to get to Stonehenge and back in 2003, and it took 12 hours of driving this time around (with the city of Bathe in between, which is where I’d now like to retire).  So, while most of the Brits I’ve asked have never been to Stonehenge, I’ve spent a whopping 24 hours on the site.  An entire day of my life was spent on a landmark that’s famous for having little explanation and killer solstice festivals.

“We are visiting a giant question mark,” – my half complaint.  “It looks like Giants were playing dominos, and that’s what we’re left with.  And it’s somehow connected to Venus.”

“But we are getting INSIDE the circle this time,” my dad explained, like a kid filled with the excitement of Christmas morning.

Let me just explain.

The “fence” that keeps visitors outside the inner circle is a rope that’s strung together on sticks, THAT COMES UP TO MY SHINS (maybe ankles). I’ve seen more challenging hurdles in my day.  I could literally skip into the inner circle if it weren’t for the security guards.

Alas, we arrived at sunset.  It was beautiful.  We were in the middle of nowhere and since we were there after hours, there were only about 15 of us.  Let’s be honest, who the hell else is traveling 12 hours from London to drive in circles to visit a giant stone circle?  It’s a cyclical cycle of torment and car sickness.  I JOKE, I joke.

Standing in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of an inexplicable stone configuration, was a marvelous experience.  Miles away from everything, within a literal mystery, enjoying a breathtaking sunset, I was reminded how small we all are.  Life is a wondrous mystery with or without giant stones as a reminder.  BUT, it was nice having one.  Breathtaking moments are around every corner when we’re open to the divine mystery within all.

The “fences” we perceive, may momentarily keep us from enjoying the wondrous mystery, until we realize the mysterious supreme is omnipresent .  Inside or outside the “circle,” we’re all within the same giant circle.  With time, the fences become mere rope boundaries that can simply be walked over given the right timing and circumstances, or perhaps, perseverance.