In Japanese tradition, the morning of New Year’s Day = “Hatsumōde”, the first (hatsu) shrine visit (mode) to pray for good luck for the new year. My parents, who are both buddhist, have had this tradition of going to their church on January 1st every year and so, like clockwork, I feel the need to go each year, when possible, on January 1st.
During the last few weeks of December leading up to January 1st, I was starting to feel a strong pull towards change, like a cocooned butterfly, readying to spread its wings, or more so, a caterpillar attempting to transform. The desire to create art that connects more strongly, more genuinely, more directly, with others, continues to deepen. I love abstract art, but was starting to feel like something was missing, lost in translation between the strokes and process. So, I started to dig. The more I searched, the more vast and larger the hole became, and felt myself squirming with discomfort.
Did I want to go in a new direction? What is it that I’m trying to do, trying to say? Or, do I just stick to what I’ve been doing?
After the morning prayer service and sermon, I went downstairs to greet others who were there for Hatsumōde. Most of the conversations consisted of Happy New Year! and How are things going?, but one lady, who I’ve known for as long as I can remember, caught me off guard:
“How is your art practice going?”
The automatic button inside me was just about to reply with a “Good!” when I caught myself and remembered a promise I had made for this coming year: To be more honest, more sincere, and voice my thoughts as clearly as possible.
So, I took a breath, and as vulnerable and naked as I felt inside, said:
“Actually, I’m squirming.” (In Japanese, the word is もがく, mōgaku, which translates to struggling, but this translation feels a bit negative as my experience of being in this space was/is not negative. More explorative, with a mix of unease.)
She looked shocked and said:
“Satsuki! I’m surprised to hear so. You always look so peaceful and sure of yourself. I thought you had it all figured out!”
She’s not the first person who has said this to me, but not sure why. Perhaps it may be because when I am on a path which I believe in 100%, my focus becomes razor sharp, accompanied by a flow, and together could come off on the outside as confidence? If it is, then, I can attest — this is most definitely not always the case or the norm.
When I told her my true situation, without any sugarcoating, there was a sense of relief. Even though a part of me wished I could run off into the hills and never look back, I knew it was the right decision to share my honest feelings. Of course, though, there is a time and place for everything, including putting ourselves in vulnerable situations.
Reading a letter written by LEAH today about envy, there was much that connected with what had been going on internally. One of the thoughts mentioned was this idea of envy being created because of our heightened awareness with the lives of others. Some may say envy fuels them to fight harder, but personally, it’s an energy killer. As Leah says, it’s exhausting. Something about constantly feeling “less than” is taxing, not only on our psyche, but also on our physical wellbeing as well.
Although I don’t watch too much tv, I am very much engaged in social media and during this time of mōgaku, I found myself going head on with the feeling of envy — others who seemed to have figured it all out. It’s not jealousy, or anger. Maybe closer to the feeling of longing, with a few drops of why not me too? FOMO? I’m not sure, but I think you get the picture.
And I began to wonder if social media really is good for us or deteriorating our overall sense of happiness. I found myself teeter-tottering between the good and the bad, still sensing the positive outweighing the negative. Or, “bad” in my own terms as nothing is really “bad” by nature, only based upon our own definitions. Leah continues to talk about how although there are many articles written about how social media is a curation of one’s so-called perfect life or gives an illusion of desire for the unattainable, and that we may know intellectually not to let such things affect us, in reality, it does. The mind and heart are not always in sync and many times, it takes the heart a heck of a longer time to catch up to what my mind is deeming as the right direction to go.
Whatever the case may be, the only answer I’ve come up with so far is to keep sailing towards the direction of one’s inner North Star. If we were to block out all external input and tune into our souls, most of the time the answer is right there waiting for us, like a loving, patient friend. We may not know all the answers, but we do know what feels right and what feels forced. And what aligns may not be what others would understand or agree with, but if the other option is to live life like a zombie, waiting for the next thing to come in front of us, devouring it only for survival and nothing more, are we truly, living?
Envy and the discussion of social media on our psyche will most likely continue as long as we are humans since both play into: insecurity, fear, worry, acceptance, and more.
As for myself, I am like a dog on a hunt, looking for clues that will lead me towards my next step and don’t have all the answers yet, but what I do know is, the more I am honest with myself — the air feels clearer, the heart feels lighter, and the spirit feels freer.