At 6:45 this morning, my colleague Marc Schulz and I arrived at Pembroke Arch to find all fifteen of our 360 students gathered, packed lightly for two weeks on the road. It’s not our first trip this semester, early this month we spent two night at the Jesuit Center outside Reading, Pennsylvania, trying out silence, so we’re already a practiced traveling band. Now we’re headed out for a longer experience, 15 days on the road, traveling to contemplative sites in Japan.
“Carry-on!” and “Hand wash!” were our motto, after four weeks of reading about simplicity in my course, we’re trying it out in the field. What comforts are you willing to leave behind if you’re going to live on top of a pillar as the desert ascetics did, or, in our case, fly at 34,000 feet and be pilgrims when we arrive?
Marc Schulz is teaching the course on the Psychology of Mindfulness in this cluster. He noted that as we rushed through the terminal this morning the irony of not being able to stop long enough to look in the meditation room.
In my course, we’ve been talking about built space and how it might not only provide the conditions for meditation, but perhaps induce meditative states, as artist James Turrell hopes his installations might. So now we’re off to the field to experience spaces purpose-built for meditation, and places that foster meditation alongside daily life.
We begin in Tokyo, and will visit temples in Kyoto, Koya and on Tokushima, an island in the Sea of Japan. We’ll walk parts of the 88-temple Shikuko pilgrimage trail (a UNESCO heritage trail, like the Camino del Santiago in Spain.) We’ll talk about meditation and practice zazen with Buddhist abbots and monks, and visit communities that privilege simplicity of life.
One of the Augustinian friars from the community that lives down the road from the college, who lived for many years in Japan, wished me a good trip yesterday after Lauds. “Itte irasshai!” Go and come back. And so we’re off, to go and come back, to see and to experience.
I’ll be writing about the trip as we go, and if you want to follow our adventures in real time watch for #Japan360bmc and #BMC360 on Twitter and Instagram.