“I will write peace in your wings, and fly you all over the world” – Sadako Sasaki
Over a decade ago, stepping out of an airplane at Kansai Airport, Osaka, I felt like I’d stepped into a different world. Little did I know that those few months would change the way I perceive the world.
In Japan, the present time of technology intertwines with the history of magnificent culture, where the red round pillars in shrines and pagodas adorned with kitsune (magical fox) and buddhas; the beautiful ochre-red autumn flows into the flaky whiteness of winter (my first ever winter and my first snow)… The Shinto rituals are practiced, however often without much acknowledgement. Shinto – originated and written using two Kanji characters: Shen and Dao, is often associated with the Buddhist Dao/Tao philosophy, although much earlier in history they existed as separate concepts.
As someone who loves understanding the ways in which societies express their belief and culture systems through the medium of language and the arts, I was completely absorbed in this intriguing phenomenon. I was astonished by the way the Japanese seemed to embrace polar opposites, using them to enrich their culture rather than abandoning them in conflict. The intricate layers of understanding co-exist harmoniously to accentuate each other. The understanding that to be in the light, we have to experience the dark, to be in high spirits we have to experience feeling down, in order to see the white we have to find our way through the black. The yin and yang, the harmonious balance. The understanding that absolute beauty is not the destination but rather the journey, i.e. the effort we put into the process of finding balance.
Sometimes in life, we reach a junction which becomes one of the major turning points, shaping our personality. Mine was the time I spent in Osaka. For the first time, I learned to follow my heart. The price I paid for it was to turn my world upside down and throw away EVERYTHING I knew previously. Then I realized I knew nothing, I had no-one except myself. The advantage of being ‘upside down’ was knowing that the only way out of it was up. Nothing will get worse, I just needed patience and perseverance. In Dao “pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice.” So after I finished grieving over my pain, I chose not to suffer any more. On my birthday that year, I wrote a quote from Sadako Sasaki in my diary, made a promise to myself, and took flight:
“I will write peace in your wings, and fly you all over the world.”
I was learning to follow my heart, to consciously choose not to suffer despite any pain coming my way. Accepting events lightly and patiently. Telling myself that any pain will eventually subside as long as I choose not to get attached to the suffering. Taking responsibility for creating my own happiness. Those were (and are) the greatest and hardest lessons I have ever learnt, and I am still learning them. Writing the words of peace and happiness over and over again in my heart and in my wings. The practise requires a lot of strength, perseverance, and integrity. Simply because “happiness is a choice, not a result. It lies in our own hands, we create it. It is not given by others”.