I've just returned home to New York after my sixth trip to Japan in three years. Having spent in total nearly a year in Japan, I've built a new relationship with the idea of impermanence. We all struggle with change from time to time, some of us more than others. Through my many visits to Japan I've straddled a fine line between savoring the newness of my experiences and the terrifying feeling of having my familiar rug pulled out from under me.
In Tokyo, there is a collection of supplies for the traveling YogaWorks trainers that has made the rounds to each of the temporary apartments we've occupied. Two bowls, two plates, a mug and two glasses, a small collection of flatware, chopsticks and cooking utensils, dish towels. Some of these things have been around since my first trip to Tokyo in 2010. Each visit I'm reunited with a handful of familiar artifacts. Every time I pack up the apartment at the end of my stay I wonder, will I ever see them again? These nothing-special 100 yen store objects hold such significance for me in my practice of letting go.
We as humans hold onto things. Our relationships to familiar objects, people, and places form a tapestry of self-identity. And while it's often scary to do so, we must shed as much as we acquire as we move through life. Each of my departures from Japan is a process of letting go. Letting go of the temporary apartment I've occupied, the streets and favorite restaurants that surround it, the people with whom I've shared countless walks and meals and conversations. Letting go of what is no longer needed can be refreshing. Dropping off the bags of apartment supplies at the end of a visit has become my definition of freedom. I've learned to embrace the lightness that comes from traveling with few possessions and a willingness, an eagerness even, to let it all go.
During my final week in Tokyo I visited Gaienmae, famous in the fall for its street lined with ginko trees. The ginkos change color rapidly and shed all of their leaves in just a few days. I had the pleasure of viewing these trees in stunning transition. Talk about letting go!
At the end of her book Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri writes, “Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
I hope this Holiday season brings you sweet bewilderment at the moment-to-moment unfolding of your life's story and joys beyond your imagination.