Living With Kami: All About Konkokyo and Shinto

Discover all about Konkokyo and Shinto; and other spiritual practices in Japan! Learn what it's like to follow “Kami no Michi” – Way of the Kami – day to day. A blog dedicated to sharing information, teaching about practices and various ceremonies, and about daily living of primarily Konkokyo and Jinja Shinto, as well as Buddhism, Onmyoudou, Shugendo, and other spiritualities which originate from Japan.

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Healing from my own heart

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Originally I wanted to write about the sacred mirror in Shinto for my next article. However, informational articles take some time as I have to research and make sure that all is accurate, containing the correct history and origins.

But, I felt to do a piece about some recent thoughts, an experience, and a recent dream before then. 

Now many don’t know, as I prefer to keep it private even to close friends — but my body struggles in many areas. I work through a lot of difficulties and some days it’s hard to even get out of bed. If it wasn’t for the support of my partner, family, friends, and practicing Konkokyo Shinto, I often don’t know where I’d be. 

Somehow I manage. I work on myself to be able to keep going and try my best for everyone around me. Unfortunately, I fail, make mistakes, and I often feel like I’m not a good person who hurts those I care about. I do my best to learn from my mistakes, to never forget, and keep doing my best moving forward. That’s always been my personal way through — just keep going forward no matter what life throws at you. It can’t work for everyone, and I don’t feel anyone else should do the same. But for me, it’s how I manage to survive. (Maybe it’s because I’m an Aries? Ha ha )

Despite this kind of go-getter attitude, and awareness and willingness to work on my faults, I still feel unworthy to call myself a priestess, and even think about quitting. I feel like I became ordained too early, or on accident. When I think about the weight, about the way you need to be mindful of everything you do considering your shrine community — I realize quickly this job isn’t an easy one. 

Thankfully in my faith, the priestess, priest; the minister, isn’t expected to be a perfect person, nor should be viewed as someone exalted or closer to Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama (our shrine deity). Clergy are growing alongside everyone, with an openness to be there when one asks for their help. Clergy learn from the parishioners and visitors too, and it’s why we also have a system of elders, to help guide the clergy as well. 

The only thing that is different than a layperson and someone ordained is not in terms of bond to the divine, but mostly on a functional level. A duty to caretake the shrine, perform ceremonies, prayers for other’s requests, and be a mediator when needed between the deity and the parishioner. 

Even then, the parishioner can directly pray to the deity as well, so it is not so strict. We are all working together to polish our hearts to reflect the nature of Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama, the spirit that is nature and the universe — within us. It is a mutual, rounded community and not a hierarchy.

Even so, it can be tough sometimes. Not on the faith side, not at all. Only on the societal side, especially in Japan, I still have to work on myself.

 I am responsible to help many people who ask for my help. Even though my faith says I don’t need to be perfect, just keep working toward polishing my heart and faith; I still need to recognize in society that I am in a position to be there for the entire community and caretake the shrine as well.

 It’s not only my own self, or my own life anymore — I need to take care of myself, but also act together with Kami-sama, and consider the shrine, the community, and helping those who ask of my help. It’s a lot of responsibility.

Often this is overwhelming. But at the end of the day, I’m really happy to be able and allowed to do this work. Despite not feeling worthy, I swallow my fear and keep going. I have to follow the way of Kami, because it feels like my calling.

 On the societal side, I must work on myself and be mindful of how I am and what I do; but even then, I don’t feel restricted by it, because it feels like this is the path I want to do more than anything. This path means so much to me.

That being said, I hope someday, society (whether it’s Japan, or elsewhere in the world) and the teachings and view of Konkokyo Shinto can match. 

That there can be mutual understandings between everyone. That we build each other up, and work on a harmonious community for all. Not matter our race, religion, background, profession, etc. That we can all come to accept each other and mutually work together. 

I want our society to match the ideals of my faith someday. And, I am actively working towards trying to make changes as well — keeping up my blogs is one such way. 

Until that day however, I will have to be mindful of what I do as a priestess for the sake to keep a harmonious society and community around me, and do my best each day.

Now, in a recent situation in relation to the topic above, of responsibilites and having to keep pushing forward and do my best, I have not been doing too well recently.

 I have Thalassemia, a type of anemia, which makes me very weak. Iron pills make me more ill, so I have to be careful about my diet. Even considering my diet, I have off days where I get severe aches, pains, tiredness, and this has been exacerbated by the recent storms and heatwaves in Japan, affecting my body condition severely while trying to work amidst it all.

It prevented me from being able to keep up with work, e-mails, and even update my blog. I cried often, ashamed and feeling so weak. I finally began to feel better yesterday, but I was hit with my time of the month today. I was in so much pain from menses, I couldn’t keep food nor even a painkiller down.

This is where my faith, Konkokyo Shinto’s core teachings helped me through a rough time. As I mentioned, for me, my faith and the deity in my faith, Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama, is one of the main supporters how I make it through in the world. This is an experience I had of it that I wanted to share.

To be honest, I was curled up in bed, crying in immense pain. I kept saying in my head “Make it stop, I hate this” and understandably being angry, frustrated, and sad at the situation I was in. Who wouldn’t be? In times like this, I often repeat the Tenchi Kakitsuke, or Divine Reminder. It is the core of Konkokyo Shinto teachings. It goes:


Ikigami Konko Daijin 
Tenchi Kane no Kami

生神金光大神 

天地金乃神

Isshin ni negae

一心に願

Okage wa waga kokoro ni ari

おかげは和賀心にあり

Kongetsu konnichi de tanomei

今月今日でたのめい

。。。。。

Pray sincerely,

With all your heart, be one with Kami.

Blessings begin within our own hearts, in harmony and joy.

On this very day, this very moment, pray


I kept repeating that, the Japanese, over and over, until a part stuck out. “Okage wa waga kokoro ni ari”, or “Blessings begin within our own hearts, in harmony and joy”

I thought, for a moment in silence from the pain, “My heart isn’t feeling very much of either right now, is it? But is it possible to change even in such pain?”

So I began to try and change my current thoughts amidst the stabbing, horrific pain going through my body. I began to think to myself, instead of repeating “It hurts, it hurts, Kami-sama, please make it stop. I hate this. I want to die. Why is this happening to me. I’m so weak, I hate myself.” I changed to think, “I’ll be okay. Everything will be okay. I’m sure to be okay.” and tried to take slower, calmer breaths.

I began to think, not focusing on the pain, or my sadness, or asking Kami-sama to make it stop, but to create my own healing, from my own heart. Just like the Tenchi Kakitsuke is teaching me, the blessing will be created from my own heart.

So I worked on it. Despite the searing pain and tears, and pushing back nausea, I kept repeating, “It’s okay. I’ll be okay. I promise, I’ll be okay. This pain will go away. Everything will be alright.” and kept repeating it. I figured it would be better than repeating harsh words to myself or to Kami-sama.

And honestly, eventually, the pain began to subside. My thoughts changed to gratitude, they became, “Thank you, you’re [referring to my body] doing great. It feels a lot better. I can rest. I’ll rest to heal.” And eventually could fall asleep. 

It was like a meter going from high and burning, to slowly cooling down. I wasn’t forcing “positive thinking”, but I was simply changing the things my heart was saying. 

To calm down my sad, in pain, angry heart and mind, I began to say the words of comfort, to help myself. Not to force myself to be happy — far from it. I did not want to smile and laugh necessarily, but to rest. To heal myself. To comfort myself. To calm myself down from this immense pain.

This is a way the Tenchi Kakitsuke helped me in such a critical time, and I was really grateful and amazed at the whole experience. I don’t know if it’s anything necessarily spiritual-only.

 I feel the spiritual and physical are intertwined, two sides of the same coin. I’m sure saying calm and healing words to myself, and taking deep breaths calmed my nerves and muscles, which opened a path to feeling better. But to me, the technical theory behind it isn’t what is important necessarily, what matters is that it helped me, and I was so grateful for that. 

That being said — physical care is of utmost importance. Of course, I took a painkiller once my body was okay enough to keep it down. Never forego medicine. 

I’m not saying this can work for everyone, but I wanted to write about my own experience, and how it helped me. It doesn’t hurt to try yourself, but remember always do what’s best for your body and take the proper medications and dosage as well. 

In Konkokyo Shinto, we offer our medications on the altar to Kami-sama, and to always respect and heal hand in hand with modern medicine and spirituality. After all, if Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama is the spirit and energy of the universe, that includes modern medicine. 

Now, for the final part in this article, I wanted to share the dream I had after falling asleep, and my reflections on it. 


In the dream, I was at a sort of house party in a building that was a cross between Spadina House (a historical building in my hometown) and my shrine. I was making a lot of friends there, and so happy to meet new people. 

Unfortunately, something strange was going on, a sort of item like sewing needles with vials in them were being thrown at people, and absorbing their blood through thin threads. It looked like a sewing needle with a thread, but imagine the needle is hollow and filled with blood, and the threads are thin and made of blood. It was strange and anxiety inducing. 

By the time I noticed what was going on, I tried to get the new friends I met to escape. There must have been over 500 people in the building, and so it was quite chaotic. I kept telling my new friends to stay low, be quiet, but don’t be too obvious because we didn’t want the perpetrators to realize we knew what they were doing.

Well unfortunately one of us tripped on a blood line, and all chaos broke loose. There was shootings, screamings, people being dragged by the threads, and just extremely horrific scene. It was at this point I realized something.

I could turn into a raven.

So I suddenly leaped into the air and flew away outside onto the roof. It was so freeing, and felt so real. 

At that point, I had two options. I could fly away, freely, and never look back. Or I could go back inside, and try to save the friends I just made.

This was a critical point in my dream. I really, really wanted to fly away. Especially hearing the screams below and the gunshots. But I swallowed my fear, and flew back down the chimney. I pecked my friends and somehow could speak, and told them to escape, and bring as many as they could. 

We ran to the front door, but thousands of needs were sticking out, as if it catch anyone who tried to run outside. So we went through the side door, and managed to save about 50 people. I told them, in my human form,

“Just fly! Just imagine you are free, and then fly! Don’t be bound by these threads! Just fly!” and I kept repeating that. And suddenly, everyone jumped, and was able to turn into a different type of bird, some even bats, or other flying animals, and we all flew away. 

I remember threads kept trying to catch us, but we had to keep saying, “Just fly, just fly, you’re free, you’re free.” and then, when all seemed to calm down, I woke up.


And I woke up, completely pain free. 

I took a deep breath, and quickly realized the many meanings in that dream. Namely, about the recent dilemma of either wanting to quit being a priestess, or continue trying doing my best. I had discussions with a lot of friends about this topic in the waking world, and in my mind I thought about it. After all, it looks like in the dream I made the decision to come back into the house. To make the decision despite not being a superhero in my dream; only limited to just a medium sized corvid, I had tried my best regardless. 

I had screamed with the desire, the urgency, to show others how to fly, how to become a bird, a bat, a bee, a butterfly, whatever they wanted, to fly away and be free. 

Well, to be frank, I’m still not quite sure the meaning on that, but I will think about it too. 

And so — that is all I had been thinking about, experienced, and learned over this past month. 

I wanted to write out my experience, my thoughts, my dream, and share with you all. I hope that, by sharing this, maybe you the reader can glean something worthy to glean from it, but if not, I hope at least it was an interesting read that passed the time.

Thank you for reading!

 b2ap3_thumbnail_16508366_10158693811530131_4994028455089308960_n_20180804-063839_1.jpg

Raven atop Kasa Jinja, Okayama, Japan. Photo by me

 

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Hello! I am Olivia. Nice to meet you. I am an ordained Konkokyo priestess since October 22nd, 2015. My hometown is Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but I'm currently working as an associate minister/priestess and miko at the Konkokyo Yokosuka Kyoukai in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan. During my training, I went to various shrines and temples, and regions all around Japan, and I want to share all the spiritual knowledge I was able to learn with many others all around the world. I hope to help others as much as I can!

Comments

  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife Saturday, 04 August 2018

    Great post! I struggle with my own limitations and my desire to do more, and be more, than I am at any given point, too. At those points, I try to do something similar to what you expressed here: to be gentle with myself, the way I would be if it were someone else in my place. I think we often expect too much of ourselves, not realizing that we are already doing so much, and that we are already making such a difference in others' lives. Of course everyone has room for improvement, but acknowledging the value of who and where we are in the present is important, too. I really enjoy your blog posts, both the informative ones about your shrine and religion and your personal, daily experiences. Thanks for doing this work!

  • Olivia
    Olivia Saturday, 04 August 2018

    Thank you very much! Yes, I agree ;; It is so easy to get caught up in expectations of ourselves. Thank you so much for your gentle and kind words, I deeply appreciate it! Thank you so much too!

  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis Monday, 06 August 2018

    I want to start by saying I also really appreciate your continued posts here on PaganSquare and am very glad for the extra perspectives you offer. I think you're doing great work and I don't think anyone here is disappointed or unhappy with your content or what you choose to focus on. Thank you very much for sharing your life experience and the teachings of Shinto and Konkokyo with us.

    Additionally, I think you speak to an experience that a lot of us have, not just in the greater Pagan community but the world in general. There is a constant struggle between the ideal self we wish we were and the flawed, imperfect self we fear that we actually are. The trick I think is to understand we're all imperfect, flawed individuals and that virtue is in striving to be better and actualizing our ideal selves rather than actually being perfect or flawless. If you struggle and you sometimes err that's okay, so long as you continue to try and do good by yourself and others.

  • Olivia
    Olivia Sunday, 12 August 2018

    Thank you so much Aryós!! I deeply appreciate your kind words and support always, and I am very humbled.;; Thank you, thank you !

    That is very true words of wisdom. Yes, as long as we do our best to keep growing, to keep changing for the better, like a state of constant metamorphose. I think that is best. Perhaps this is why I have an affinity to snakes and butterflies? Snakes constantly grow and shed their old skin, and butterflies transform into a self beyond their old self. I want to emulate and grow myself, never stopping to grow and learn.
    Thank you so much again!!

  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis Friday, 17 August 2018

    You're quite welcome, Olivia!

    I never thought about that bit about snakes haha. I mostly just identify with them because they happen to be my Chinese zodiac sign and (rather coincidentally) they're also a sacred animal for Benzaiten-sama.

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