By Linda Macphee
I remember clearly, standing in my parent’s house, a few months before I was due to move out to my own married home. It was November 1979. I was aged 22, immature, ignorant of the ways of the world, insular in my NE of Scotland upbringing, very naive. I was leaning on the back of the sofa watching the news.
Despite being engaged, and therefore, should have been a very happy young woman, I was an unhappy, sad person. A great heaviness which seemed to have followed me from birth, perhaps even before then, belied my naturally optimistic and sunny nature.
The world, I felt, was a horrible place, with so much unhappiness, war and cruelty. What was it all about?
Watching the television segment of the interfaith prayers at Mount Sinai made me feel very excited. I can still remember it all very clearly, down to the way the fabric I was leaning on felt, looked, and smelled. My senses seemed more alive. I heard how, in the words of Onisaburo Deguchi, that to build an everlasting peace for mankind, we had to do away with the barriers that we put between us, especially the intangible ones of race and religion.
I respected and applauded that the teachings of Oomoto were, and are, not those of a single sect, but encouraging people to cultivate spirituality and to discover religious principles in harmony with our times.
All this caused an unknown, previously inexperienced, emotion to come rising up in me. I wanted to meet these people, to talk to them, to also help make a difference to the world.
My wedding came and went and life went on. There was a distinct lack of spirituality in my life, quite the reverse of what, at my core, I believed I wanted.
I compromised my beliefs in order to survive and be the same as everyone else, to be accepted amongst my peers
Good times, hard times, very hard times came and went and the happiest moment the birth of my son, my joy, my life.
I forgot the name Oomoto but my deep desire to have a connection with these people lived on, latent. In the life, that I perceived I should be living, there seemed to be no way that this would happen, would ever be a reality for me. I thought I was not that type of person.
I was raised in a loving family environment, cosseted in comfort and safety.
My mother, a great spirit, is talented, generous, very giving of herself, fiercely proud and protective of her young. My father, the salt of the earth, was also generous to a fault. I think his experience of war, at the tender age of 18, shook his very foundation and left him a quiet man, yet very deep. My parents were inseparable and gave us stability and solid family values.
My family members had no need to go looking for adventure. We lived an honest and honourable life, in our small space. We had the usual family concerns; life and death, trials and tribulations, achievements and failings. We nestled secure, insular, mostly self-sufficient, vaguely materialistic, without real want or need, day to day living in a fishing community in Scotland………existing.
I could not speak to anyone about this desire for something else in life; there was no one to speak to. Religion and its failings turned me cold.
The desire to reach out to Oomoto never went away, although I pushed it far from me,. It lay dormant, cocooned near my real self, my centre. I touched it now and again but it was so faint, after all those years of its first being kindled, it almost seemed to have never existed.
Sixteen years passed since watching the Shinto priests on television, strange creatures dressed in white with weird black hats. During this time I had become a very unwell person. The doctors and hospital could not do anything for me and told me to go away. I was suffering from the disparaged modern ailment, chronic fatigue, or so it appeared.
I came across an advert for a residential workshop with Akinobu Kishi Sensei. Why I should have been drawn to this I did not know. It was not the type of thing that I went to. Me, a married woman with a 6 year old son, who never went out on her own never mind to go for five days into the unknown.
For weeks I could not stop looking at the advert, but never did anything about it till the last moment when fate stepped in and a cancellation gave me my place. I could not believe I was doing this; I didn’t do this sort of thing.
My impression of the workshop on the first night was not favourable. This stuff wasn’t for me – yet I was the first person downstairs the next morning waiting for the next teaching. An unknown force, against my better judgement and nature, strongly bid me to lie down for a treatment of Sei Ki from Kishi Sensei.
Sei Ki, a method of communication beyond form, born out of Kishi Sensei’s Shinto practice, deep love and respect for nature, and on a practical healing side his knowledge of Zen Shiatsu and his profound understanding of our mortal vessel; spiritually, physically and energetically.
This experience in itself is another story but suffice to say that it had a hugely powerful effect on me and I felt well for the first time in years. I believe that he, Kishi Sensei, recognised the great sadness in me and the tiredness that has come to me from allowing some of the burden that the beautiful place that we live in goes mostly unrecognised and not respected, to rest on my shoulders.
I tentatively have allowed my interest in Japan and Shinto to grow slowly since that first meeting with Kishi Sensei, whom I now know to be a Shinto priest, and his beautiful wife Kyoko. My own self limiting beliefs have made the progress to enlightenment painfully slow. Each year I attend his annual workshop in the town where I live. Strange forces at work that he should bring his teachings so near me, which makes it possible, easy, for me to continue.
Yet I do not run full speed into learning, opening up to other ways and beliefs. I do not know why.
In 1999 a Japan trip is proposed. Again I felt that, for me, it would be improbable, impossible to attend. Yet I knew, deep inside, that I would be going. For a second time a last minute cancellation offered me the opportunity to go and I found myself relieved, but not quite sure why.
Sept 1999, twenty years after that first television broadcast on the news. In the library at Kameoka, not quite knowing WHY I was in Japan, I chance upon a copy of Bankyo Dokon.
My heart freezes. The picture on the front cover is already in my memory.
I cry out inwardly.
I cry tears, of joy, disbelief, relief.
I am here. At last.
It is 5.00 in the morning; the rhythm of the earth has changed. It is a magical hour.
We are cleaning the Banshoden, cleansing ourselves. I feel something move in me, a shift of perception, and I look up. All eyes follow mine. We stop, collectively immobilised.
The sky is pearlescent. I can reach out and touch the soft pinky blue of it, marvelling at the beauty of it. Yet it is ethereal, opalescent, intangible, beyond reach.
Nature quiets, the birds, insects, all are silent, nature respecting nature.
A brief moment, filled with awe and wonder, the way it should be, will stay with me forever.
I felt well in Oomoto and in the quiet areas of Japan, amongst nature.
I intend to return, to again allow the peace of the place and its people to wash over me, instilling in me the essence of life that, for me, is partially missing.
To marvel at the shrines, at calligraphy – to experience first hand the sense of overwhelming power that can emit from these – if you allow the sensation to penetrate your desensitised body.
The beautiful gardens at Ryo-Anji that hypnotised us with their simple beauty so that we sat mesmerised and silent, intoxicated by their impossibly sheer force.
To find a way
To be quiet
To be amongst like-minded people.
To learn, to adapt.
To embrace nature.
To have respect for all, including myself.
To open my eyes, my heart, and my soul to the possibility of a fair and just world where we can acknowledge and respect one another’s differences and similarities and the great power that suffuses all with life.
To know that there is continuing inter-religious activity at Oomoto. Thank You.