may peace prevail

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace. Survivors of the August 6, 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima have spent their lives dedicated to the abolishment of nuclear weapons, to educating succeeding generations about the horrors of war, to peace movements around the world. We do not hear of survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) advocating a retaliation against the U.S. “Never Again” is the widespread mantra among survivors of atrocities worldwide: the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Nanjing massacre, to name a few. 

Likewise, on a more individual level, the expression, “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy” is used by those who have endured some form of extreme pain or hardship. It could be surviving an excruciating illness or a traumatic act of violence. Having experienced something so painful, the natural human response is compassion. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. We don’t go about scheming how to inflict similar suffering upon others simply because we’ve suffered ourselves. On the contrary, we seek to prevent similar experiences of suffering. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, March For Our Lives, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, to name a few. 

The only thing that makes any sense, is peace. 

Many women, and #MeToo, have survived some form of domestic violence. Over my dead body, would I wish anyone the same experience—including the very man who committed the violence, including any perpetrator of violence, including, everyone. It never occurred to me to try to make the one who assaulted me suffer in some way. To respect my boundaries, my choices, my freedom—yes, to be held accountable—yes; but to inflict harm upon him—never. It simply is not worth it. What we do to others, we do to ourselves. 

The only thing that makes sense is peace. 

So what propels some of us to commit acts of violence? The answer ultimately is fear—its irrationality and ignorance. No wise sage ever, said, “Let’s bomb the @#¥%&! out of those weird people!” 

For comfort, fear seeks control; for control, fear hordes power. The power and brilliance of the sun, hijacked and desecrated, by the hands of men gone mad. In a single blinding flash at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a fifteen meter per second firestorm in the thousands of degrees celsius ripped through Hiroshima incinerating some one hundred and forty thousand lives. Three days later on August 9, at 11:02 a.m., repeat.
Why? Why, why… why… how…..   

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace.

Americans were scared of the “Japs”, and the Japanese were scared of the “foriegn devils”. In wartime, humans cease to be humane, seeing in one another only danger, forces of evil, and one’s own demise. Fear raises its monstrous head and slaughters everyone—indiscriminately. Everyone, every single one of us. 

My American grandfather, in WWII frenzy, derided those Japs, his future family and his own descendants—his cute granddaughters who giggled in delight when sitting in his chair anticipating being lifted out by their doting grandfather who never tired of playing the same game.

Children, in their innocence, are wiser.

ONE

Look into my eyes,
and you will see a shadow of Hiroshima.
You will see a dark room, illuminated by its single stream of
WHITE light
flowing from the humming projector as it reels GREY, WHITE, BLACK 
images onto a screen.
You will see ten silent rows of seated people,
formless figures in the darkness.
And you will hear the rusty recording,
as it comments on BLACK, WHITE, GREY
images thrown onto the cold square screen:

Atomic bomb “Little Boy” explodes at 8:15 a.m. August 6, 1945… Epicenter reaches several million degrees centigrade… ground temperature reaches 3,000 – 4,000 degrees centigrade… thirteen square kilometers completely destroyed… three hour firestorm with velocity of 15 meters per second… over one hundred and forty thousand deaths caused by “Little Boy”… 
(etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) 

b u t
the ears of a small girl have forgotten sound
listening only to naked terror run over the screen
h e l l 
Her eyes stare wide open in innocence tainted with blood, 
as the screen throws daggers into her eyes. 
Daggers of broken, burnt and twisted bodies lay strewn across an old wooden floor.

LOOK! 

s i l e n c e

Pale white light reflects from the screen
softly illuminates her tired eyes, her confusion, her small clenched fists. 
She tries with one fist, to grasp that “Little Boy” that Daddy’s country dropped, and she tries with the other fist, to grasp that firestorm that burned in Mommy’s country.
But a life of six short years knew only how to reach 
One hand to hold her mother’s
One hand to hold her father’s.

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace.
The only thing that ever makes any sense, is peace.

Reclaim your innocence, like my grandfather did. 
Chose love. 
Be peace. 
Peace, is a verb.
Peace.

May peace prevail on earth.
May peace prevail.

hope

purified, clear light
everywhere in darkness shines
music for the deaf
vision for eyes wanting sight
and for my heart, the road home
(waka poem: 5-7-5-7-7)

What is hope, other than a beacon of clear light in the darkness? Wind behind sails crossing unknown seas. The moon in a sky of desolation. And, a heartbeat in the chamber of silence and stillness.

When we struggle, when we fall and despair, are utterly broken and feel lost, hope is the very thing that sees us through. 

How does hope come to you—in your darkness? What is your moon, and from where do the winds blow? What sound causes your heart to beat?

Even if we cannot see it, hope is that eternally rising sun on the eastern horizon—bringing with it, daylight into the night. Whether we like it or not, are ready or not, whether we open our eyes—or not… hope rises, again and again. For sometimes there is a certain comfort in the blanket of darkness, in being unseen and seeing not. We would rather evade, than wake up to our own hearts’ desires and truth. 

But hope, in its benevolence and persistence, will inevitably pierce that shell of illusive security and cast all shadows into the light. So go ahead already—shine. It is your birthright, and your destiny.

禊 Purification

Since ancient times, summer has been the season for purification in Japan. And according to the 79th Grand Master of Yamakage Shinto, Motohisa Yamakage, the earliest forms of ceremonial purification, or misogi 禊, most likely took place in the ocean—particularly where the river flowed into the sea. The two waters, conceived as masculine and feminine, symbolize in their merging, creation and rebirth. In this way, we can see that purification is intimately linked with the union of the feminine and the masculine, and the ensuing worlds of creation and growth.

Like death in the cycle of life, misogi is essential to the act of creation, and to growth. The goal of misogi is to cultivate a balanced self (body, mind, heart, spirit) that is pure and bright. This may be similar to some meditation and spiritual practices that speak of “raising one’s vibration” so as to merge with expanded levels of consciousness. However, misogi is not simply a mental exercise, it is embodied practice which resonates into every aspect of being and life.  

Misogi is the central tenet of Japanese Shinto, the indigenous, nature-based spiritual culture predating Buddhism in Japan. As such, misogi expresses itself in a myriad of ways both sacred and secular, in the daily life of contemporary Japan. At the entrance of every Shinto shrine, you will find a place to rinse your hands and mouth before entering. The physical act of cleaning one’s body is a ritual act of purification of the heart, mind, and spirit as well. Before entering a home, one removes one’s shoes at the door to prevent tracking in dirt from the outside. Japanese school children help clean their school buildings every day, and one often sees the elderly sweeping the streets outside their homes. Maintaining physical cleanliness is an all-pervasive feature of Japanese culture. It is the outer manifestation of an inner pure and bright self. 

In summer, we often long to go to the sea—as a place to rest and recuperate, to have fun and play, to release stress and to heal. We instinctively feel the purifying and healing energy in the salty air and water. It is a kind of home-coming to our ancient selves, birthed eons ago in those same waters. Reunited, refreshed, and replenished, we experience renewal. Rebirth. We can go forth, at peace with our selves and at peace with the worlds around us. We can be, a pure and bright light. 

"purification"

can i collapse
avalanche-like
into light
into wild windswept skies
and fly,
finally?

every shard of my sweet self
crumbled
and dissolved 
refined white sugar-like
into crystalline waters
transparent 
and pure,
holy

flowing and flowing
flowing finally,
to
into the open arms of 
my sea

on song

Everything is alive and has its own song.
Do you not see, hear, and feel, the song of the sea? Of the seagulls, the sun, and of the cirrus clouds as they fly through the sky? All singing together in a symphony of light, wind, waves… and love. Yes, love—especially love. If not for love, for what do we actually live? For what do we sing? Love is our raison d’être, ikigai, entire purpose. We are love itself and we sing to know ourselves.

Following is an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

On Love
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. 
To know the pain of too much tenderness. 
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; 
To return home at eventide with gratitude; 
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

If this understanding of love remains elusive, seek it out. I promise, it is worth everything that you have ever had, that you have now, and that you will ever have. And if you wonder where to start or to seek, remember this always: You are love💛

Star Festival

The seventh night of the seventh month (July 7) is Tanabata, or the “Star Festival” in Japan. This festival originates with an ancient story imported from China in the eighth century. According to legend, the two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by stars Altair and Vega, are separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once a year. 

Orihime, once a hardworking weaver, and Hikoboshi, once a hardworking cowherd, neglected their work altogether after falling in love and getting married. This so angered Orihime’s father that he banished them to separate sides of Amanogawa (Heaven’s River, the Milky Way) and forbade them to see one another. Distraught, Orihime pleaded with her father to let her be with her beloved husband again. Orihime’s father then allowed the two lovers to meet once a year on July 7. 

Thus July 7 came to symbolize the fulfillment of wishes, and nowadays during the Tanabata festival, people write their wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches. Wishes are usually written in prose, but there is also a tradition of writing them as poems. Following is my Tanabata poem-wish.

七夕・Star Festival

on the seventh of the seventh
i wish for a river raft
for my love and i to sail the starry skies
—not for a one night rendezvous
across a river three hundred and sixty four days wide—
rather i wish
each and every night be
a festival of dreams and of desires
dancing into light
and dawning
each and every new day

Journey

Where are you going, little one? Little home-carrying snail crossing my path? If not home itself, what destination or desire guides your way?

We all journey. Life itself, is movement. Unlike the birds, we don’t necessarily have to fly from here to there, but our inner worlds as much as our outer worlds, are never entirely still. And whether we are literal travelers of the world or content to stay put in one place, we all traverse worlds of imagination and experience. What is the world otherwise, anyway—if not for this ongoing interplay between inner worlds of imagination and outer worlds of experience? For essentially, the imaginary and the experienced, are one dance.

Where do you dance? And what music brings you to your feet? What inner fire guides your way?

In the introduction to my recently published collection of poetry and photography, Twelve Moons & The Sea ~ A Journey Home, I describe the nature of journeying, and how each poem is like one step along the path:

Some journeys embarked on in life begin with very clear and intentional destinations or goals, charts plotted out from the very start. Other journeys reveal themselves seemingly on their own accord, with an agenda unbeknownst to the journeyer. It is precisely these most surreptitious of journeys that awaken the soul, heal the heart, and bring the journeyer into entirely new and magical terrain. Upon arrival, one discovers that each moment of the journey itself had always been destination. Likewise, each poem along the journey's path is both point of arrival and of departure, containing its own particular locus of revelation and longing. 

How do you give expression to your life’s journey? What is your poetry; what is your dance? Indeed, what is the destination in your heart, awaiting discovery and arrival?

If you are interested in my book, Twelve Moons & The Sea ~ A Journey Home, please check the link below or on the publications page of this website.

Twelve Moons And The Sea

Twelve Moons A… A Journey Home By Michiru Adrienne

Photo book

Book Preview

a cloud is a cloud is a cloud

Or not? Like me, do you see a dragon in these clouds? If you don’t, does that mean that my dragon doesn’t exist despite my having seen it? Something in the clouds which you see is indeed seen by you, even if I can’t see it. Your perception is not dependent on my agreement. And likewise, my dragon doesn’t need to exist in your mind for it to exist in mine. So what is the reality of perception?

“Pareidolia” is the perception of recognizable things and/or patterns in random visual data. Seeing a rabbit on the moon (Japan), a face in a few lines and dots :- ) or faces in the clouds, are examples of common shared pareidolia. If it is not shared or collective, does that make it less real? Even the words which you read here are a system of agreed upon meaning imposed upon abstract form, but are not necessarily any more “real” in of themselves, than my dragon in the clouds.

In an article from Psyche digital magazine, a team of neuroscientists investigate the link between pareidolia and creativity, and by extension, the nature of perception and consciousness itself. They ask the questions, “Is all of perception an illusion? … How can we distinguish a complete illusion, or delusion, from a useful creative interpretation?” Does usefulness correlate with the degree to which the pareidolia or said perception is shared? Is meaning a matter of collectiveness and community, whereas delusion is a form of isolation? 

For example, every Japanese person can see a rabbit on the moon pounding mochi (rice cake), and mochi-pounding events are part of traditional autumn festivities related to celebrating the harvest moon. Thus, the collective pareidolia has had significant meaning and usefulness to an entire culture of people for millennia. Furthermore, a Japanese person who claimed to be unable to see a rabbit on the moon pounding mochi, I dare say, would be perceived as delusional in Japan. 

But does that mean there actually are rabbits on the moon—pounding mochi? Does it matter?

Buddhism and the sages of India have long declared that everything is maya, or illusion. A notion similarly and somewhat humorously expressed in “western” terms by British psychologist Richard Gregory: “It seems to be profoundly true that all perceptions are loosely controlled hallucinations.” 

Perhaps reality is not a matter of collective versus individual perception. And if not perception itself nor the thing in of itself, like Gertude Stein’s a rose is a rose is a rose, then what is it? Is it the cloud or the dragon, both or neither? After all, both cloud and dragon do not exist outside the realm of my experiential perception.

Could it be that reality is essentially a matter of belief? And that when it comes to understanding the world in which we live, the heart is a more powerful instrument of perception than the brain? Afterall, if I don’t believe in my dragon in the clouds, how can he bring me gifts of rainbows and messages from the gods? Perhaps reality—the world and our experience of it—is simply a poem in the making… nothing more or less than a beautiful song or a delicate dance… an ongoing creative work of art.

What is your art? and the nature of your craft?

Who are you?

Though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.  
—Rumi

Who are you? Not what is your name, job title, or societal roles… which are but outer expressions of the self. But who are you, actually? Surely there is an inner self with which you came into this world before family and culture could mold you; and with which you will eventually depart this world, shed of all its trappings. Who is this self?

Another way to contemplate the same question might be to ask, “What brings you joy?” Naturally, we will generally reply with references to people in our lives, our partners or children, for example. Or our favorite activities and things or accomplishments. It is true that dancing and chocolate cake bring me joy, as well as roses, poetry, and my loved ones. But why? How is it that for me joy arises while dancing but not while running, while eating chocolate but not licorice? The self that derives joy from dancing but not from running, is indeed the very same self. So underneath the particularities of the whats is something more fundamental—joy itself. 

Or perhaps we might be startled back to the truth of who we are by considering our raison d’être. Why are you here? For what reason do you exist? Surely joy is intimately intertwined with one’s own raison d’être. But like joy, it is not exactly the particular whats that is of most significance, not necessarily the raison but the d’être that is more fundamental. 

Être. Just being. What arises when you sit quietly, listening to your heartbeat? What do you feel? In the characteristic excitement and chaos of life, we may feel an entire spectrum of emotions… sadness, delight, fear, worry, happiness, melancholy, anger, and so on. But if we keep listening, keep paying attention and being present, we will eventually discern something fundamental underneath it all.
When all the clouds in the sky have passed by, what remains? Light.
When the monsters of fear step out of the shadows and into the light, what is revealed? Love. 

Can it be that the dance of our likes and dislikes, our preferences and particularities, our biases themselves, are the garden in which love grows to discover itself? The garden in which the fundamental joy of being is the light which startles us back to nothing other than the truth of who we are? To nothing other than Love its self. 

Walk In Beauty

Many years ago I was on a road trip through the American southwest and in a bookstore somewhere, stumbled across a small square book titled: Navajo, Walking in Beauty. It was then that I was first introduced to the Navajo word hózhó. Roughly translated into English as “beauty”, hózhó encompasses the concepts of harmony, balance, and reciprocal relations. Instantly, I fell in love. I was deeply moved by the possibility that beauty is an expression of harmony and profound spiritual realization—a perception that understands beauty to be both embodied aesthetic expression, as well as ineffable and transcendent sensibility.

Hózhó is realized by aligning one’s self with the forces of nature. It is a dynamic and ongoing process of harmonizing the self with the world and the entirety of the universe and existence. To “walk in beauty” is in essence, to live a life of harmony and peace.  

Following is the concluding refrain from a Navajo ceremonial song:

Beauty before me, I walk with.
Beauty behind me, I walk with.
Beauty above me, I walk with.
Beauty below me, I walk with.
Beauty all around me, I walk with.
In old age, the beautiful trail, I walk with.
It is I, I walk with.

Not only is one blessed to walk in a world of beauty, but in the end one becomes beauty itself. Hózhó. It is with this understanding of beauty by which I am most inspired to express myself in the world. Through my writing, photography, dance and poetry, I hope to invoke this world of hózhó. Whether on this website and blog, my social media pages or publications, I hope you will find inspiration and hózhó for your own journey through life. May you walk in beauty.

if today i die
may beauty be my only 
footprints in the sand

Dance & Art

Dance, like sunlight, is a fundamental art. Who has never danced? The world of nature and the worlds of art coexist to create expressive ecologies in which the stories of our human lives play out on the world stage. Nature, of which we are a part, is intelligent design—an ever unfolding artistic expression. When we recognize nature itself as artist, it may become easier to access and express our own inherent creative life force and expression. 

So go ahead and throw open wide, the windows of your heart and soul—dance with the sun and stars, sing with the wind and waves.

舞 dance

after passing so many moons
my feet
reunited with tabi and tatami
delight, in mosslike spring of steps
while the folds of my kimono
breathe, together with this dancing body
and obi’s embrace
yields floating spaces
in the light orbits of wrists
elbows and hip creases,
and knees lowering to the floor

i raise my mai-ohgi skywards
leaving trails of sparkles twinkling
in this room full of twilight
i am dancing my love
into prayer
my heart into song
my soul
into a poem
for this weary world,
and for my beloved
who, among the stars dances 
with me 

*tabi: a kind of Japanese sock with a split between the big toes and other toes
*tatami: traditional Japanese flooring made of straw
*kimono: traditional Japanese clothing
*obi: the belt-like sash worn to secure kimono in place
*mai-ohgi: dance fan (a close-up is pictured in the photo above)