日八番: Day 8
After a week of intense walking, exposure to a new culture and the cold, it was meant to be a day of relaxation…
But before the relaxation could begin, we had to hike a mountainside.
The day began with a trip to a Zen Buddhist shine, where we would participate in meditation practice atop a mountain, isolated from the city of Kochi below. Apparently, our presence in the city over the past week has been rather significant as a local news crew had come out to record us in our hike and visit (The one day I don’t put on make-up or brush out my hair >.< And I was one of the students they interviewed).
The hike wasn’t extremely long or extremely challenging, but it proved a little difficult for some, however we all made it up eventually, greeted by a marvelous view.
After a short break to catch our breaths, we were introduced to the monk residing over the shrine and found out that even isolated in the mountaintop in an area meant for meditation, the modern world had still reached out (he carried a digital camera and while he was introducing himself, his cell phone went off).
We were shown to the main shrine and were allowed to tour inside where monks will meditate in order to reach the final stage of Enlightenment.
Following that, we were led to the building where the meditation would be held and we were instructed on how to sit, how to hold our posture and how to breath properly in order to attempt to push all thoughts, worries and desires from our minds.
Daikon drying outside.
The meditation was held in two twenty minute session of (mostly) silence as during the second session the monk went around to “help” those who needed aid in clearing their mind. I was one such person, the process involving bowing, bending down and then receiving four sharp blows on each side on the back by a long, flat staff. Some of the students seemed frightened by the rather loud noise the contact made, however, I can say as being from on the receiving end that it was not painful and for some reason helped immensely.
After a lunch atop the mountainside with a spectacular view, a few of us volunteered to go on another short hike which turned out to be far more difficult on the way down. And after getting lost on the way back to the bus, we headed for a public bath.
We had some entertainment at lunch.
I can’t really speak for the gentlemen in the group but a few of the girls in the group were uncomfortable with the notion of being in a public bath, growing up in a society where exposing oneself to anyone outside of a private relationship in considered indecent. Another reflection on the influence of society and culture. However, after some time in the bath, the ones who were nervous began to relax as they adjusted to it.
As for myself, I was simply grateful to soak in the hot water and let all the soreness of my muscles just be melted away.