I still clearly remember the day when was working as a volunteer in East Timor, the youngest Asian country in Southeast Asia. On that day I tried to talk about suicide, one of the biggest issues in Japan, with my Timorese colleagues at the office. However, I failed it. The first response from them was that “so Japanese people don’t have families?”. They were serious. They really didn’t understand the concept of suicide at all and we couldn't even discuss it.
This is one of my life-changing experiences in East Timor, that made me believe that people there in a developing country still keep something important what we, those who live in a developed country are losing.
Here is another story: my sad experience every month in Tokyo. Once every month, I take my 89-year-old grandmother to a hospital 40 min away from our house by train. We get on a train. Most of the time all the seats are taken. We find a spot to stay in front of the seats. People in the seats give a glance at her… and … that’s it. Unfortunately, it is not usual that people sitting in front of her are willing to offer their seats… and mostly a kind person sitting away gives her/his seat for my grandma.
Maybe it's her fault because she doesn't go to the priority seats...? Really? I feel sad every time I see young people and healthy workers pretend not to notice her by listening to music, playing with smartphones or sleeping.
In East Timor, people were always smiling and so pleased to help me. By contrast, in Tokyo, people look exhausted and don’t care for my grandma on the train.
Are Japanese bad people? I don’t think so but obviously, something is wrong.
I thought we had been pursuing happiness by developing our countries. Are we going toward the right direction?
You might be feeling everything is out of control as if you were in the crazy strom as our current lives are hard with full of stress and so many negative factors that can make you exhausted and frustrated easily.
If that is true, I believe the most important thing for you now is to become aware of your condition objectively and accept as it is without judging like “Oh no, I hate myself in an awful mess”.
Our countries and societies have kept developing. While many people worship the progress in technology, its harmful side effects are making us tired with an increase in multitasking and information overload.
However, don’t rush to a conclusion like “ok so the technology development is evil”. All sorts of things have positives and negatives and this is a fact that won’t change in the next 10 years or 100 years.
So at first, why don’t you break your habit of making an assumption by judging and becoming emotional such as, “I am sure this should be the problem”, or “I feel terrible as it always gives me trouble”? Accepting yourself and the situation around you will be one huge step for you. It won’t be too late to work out bigger issues after that.
I make it a rule to spend 15 min on making tea to take good care of myself as much as possible everyday. And I actually feel it working and only this short time boosts the quality of my daily life and warms my mind.
By the way I am not saying that you should avoid facing big problems.
It is always hard to change the external environment and other people in the adverse circumstances and the difficult situations. On the other hand, easiest thing is changing yourself because it’s up to you and you can even make it happen today.
Plus once you know how to keep your peace of mind, the way how you see the world will not be the same as it used to be and you will become more flexible to deal with any type of things.
So this is the goal that I want to realize through Ocha Mindfulness.
My family had run a retail shop in Higashikurume, Tokyo in 1915. They started selling tea since my grandmother who had worked for a research institute of tea, married my grandfather and moved to Tokyo from Irumashi, Saitama which is one of the biggest tea producers in Japan. Since I was young I was crazy about tea and without asking would take tea leaves from the store. After elementary school, I usually went to the store and said to our staff and my family working there "ok it's time for tea and rest!". Often my grandmother or I made tea for them and we talked about our days such as, "Rica how was the school today? How did you like it?" with a cup of tea in our hands. I really loved the time spent conversing with them over a cup of tea. Since then I have grown to like the time with spent over a cup of tea as much as the tea itself. However, in 2013, our family had to close the store due to financial difficulty after 98 years since grandfather opened the store. I had been at the store since I was a child and continue to be there every day during its final weeks. During the store’s final days, there was a daily long queue of customers visiting our shop, and they would give us beautiful words of encouragement, such as "you guys should continue the store", "your store helped us", "we will miss the store" and so on. What's more, the most shocking experience for me was a customer cried for us. That scene is still vivid in my memory.
The following year our family’s store closed, I joined a project by Japan International Cooperation Agency as a volunteer and I was assigned to work for the Marketing Department of the Ministry Tourism of East Timor for 2 and a half years. While I was working there I tried very hard for East Timor's development and future. However, during my time in East Timor I came to understand that as an outsider I was not the one who would be able to change the country. I came to believe that the answer was that only locals could change the situation of their own country through dedication and hard work.
For these experiences, I have found CHA-Link as a person with Japan’s spirit. During my stay in East Timor, people were always happy to helped me live there without any trouble while I was working for their country. This experience taught me that we cannot live alone in this world. So I would like to realize a world that people are harmonized over countries, cultures, religions or any different backgrounds because we need to live together and help each other anyway. People may think I am crazy but I believe I can make it happen with Japanese tea.