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.
can i collapse
into wild windswept skies
every shard of my sweet self
refined white sugar-like
into crystalline waters
flowing and flowing
into the open arms of