I am Yuta Hasumi, serving as one of Medito Foundation's Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board members, as well as a big fan of Medito.
I lived in Tokyo for more than 30 years, and moved to London almost 4 years ago. Living in London, I am fascinated every day by the diverse people, culture, and backgrounds. In comparison, Japan is a bit homogeneous - Japan has a population of 128 million, but only 2 million are non-Japanese.
I am sure some of you enjoy being in bustling and colourful cities like me, or you might prefer being surrounded by nature. What does your daily life look like?
Personally, having lived in Tokyo and London, both metropolitan cities, I am used to a fast-paced lifestyle, juggling business and personal tasks, and I regret making excuses like “I just don’t have the time to think.” In my job as an HR consultant, I have regularly provided career advice and guidance.
Often, people pause when they are asked about their career aspirations unless they intentionally think about them on a regular basis. I usually tell them that we should take time to DO NOTHING on purpose in order to refresh our minds to deeply think about ourselves - our life priorities, career aspirations, personal ambitions and dreams.
Nowadays, we are always online (especially with the meteoric rise of remote working during the pandemic). We are increasingly expected to be constantly available to our work, while also feeling pressure to be active on social media, all on top of taking care of ourselves and our families… We feel pressure that we have to be connected to the world all the time.
Although I enjoy my urban lifestyle, I often become anxious that I am pressed for time and swamped with what is cluttered in front of me. I always feel busy and concerned if I don’t have enough time, which makes me feel like I can’t think clearly. Have you ever experienced the same feelings?
“The Beauty of Silence”
For the first 6 months after moving to London, I was excited, but I felt like I had NO time to breathe. Eventually I became exhausted. I asked myself how I normally refresh my mind; what I would have done if I was back in Tokyo, but I have not been doing in my hectic new London routine. I remembered the importance of appreciating “the beauty of silence” - this is something that is ingrained in Japanese culture.
It is also a core component of meditation, and something that I could apply in my daily life. This is something which is common sense in Japan, but I hadn’t fully noticed or appreciated it until being outside of Japan, experiencing a new culture. Do you often listen to silence?
Do you know a famous Haiku by Basho Matsuo? There are some different English interpretations:
The ancient pond
A frog leaps in
The sound of the water.
– Donald Keene
An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond, splash! Silence again.
– Harry Behn
There is an old pond deep in a mountain. In this soundless scene, a frog breaks silence with plop sounds by jumping into the water, then silence comes back again.
Here is another Haiku of his.
The voices of the cicadas
Penetrate the rocks.
– Reginald Horace Blyth
Penetrating the very rock,
a cicada's voice.
– Helen Craig Mccullough
This Haiku is a similar concept to the first one. When the poet was walking in the mountains up to the Risshaku-dera temple in summertime, a cicada shrills. He found the silence elegant once it stopped singing.
Japan loves stillness and has integrated it into our culture in practices such as Zen, Haiku, Noh dance and calligraphy - all of which could form part of a meditation practice. They organically take a moment for meditation in Japan’s tradition.
It is a pity that people of today tend to forget that. This is why meditation & mindfulness are crucial around the world to find the soundless moments to focus on ourselves.
How can we apply this to daily lives?
I practically integrate the Japanese beauty of silence into my daily routine, and I encourage you to do the same. One method I use is a tea ceremony, where I mindfully prepare and drink a cup of matcha tea. This keeps me silent for 30 minutes every day.
To enjoy your own mindful tea ceremony, pour 1 tsp matcha into a cup, add 100ml hot water, whisk vigorously in a zigzag motion until the tea turns smooth without crumbles.
Whilst whisking the matcha tea, notice the sound of the water swirling in the bowl, opening your mind to a clear awareness of the present moment. Be mindful of the aroma of the freshly ground tea leaves and the matcha - allow it to relax and center you.
Take some quiet, undistracted time to enjoy each sip of your tea and the sensations and emotions it evokes.
I sometimes miss sitting down for a formal meditation session, but almost anything can become a meditation if you bring your full attention to it with clarity and presence. Away from the hustle and bustle of work, home and social life, Try integrating meditation into your lifestyle by taking some time in silence to make matcha tea every day? Traditionally, tea ceremonies are hosted for our important guests. Why not practice making matcha tea now and invite your meditation friends for a ceremony once this pandemic situation is over!