Mae and I just returned from a 4-day trip to Miyazaki, which is located in the southernmost part of the island of Kyushu. The purpose of the trip was to explore the possibility of making a new home there and to explore possible retreat sites.
I have always wanted to have a home in the countryside, where I could be closer to forests and rivers and mountains. I have always wanted to grow my own food and to be close to the very best and the very cleanest sources of water.
The more one purifies oneself through the practice of yoga, the more one naturally is drawn to having a life and a lifestyle that is more in tune with the natural rhythms of the earth and of deep nature. It usually starts with taking more care of one's body and diet. Then, as one becomes more sensitive, it is natural that you begin to think about reducing the overall amount of stress in your life. Now, this does not necessarily mean that you move to the countryside, but I have found that this is a logical progression for many people.
In the countryside, there is more natural harmony and it is easier to live in a minimally stressful way. Also, by being closer and more intimate with the source of your food and water, you can more easily grow much more in tune with the natural rhythms of nature and with your own self.
The fact that we are now expecting our first child also makes me more aware and sensitive to the impact of our living situation. As soon as Mae became pregnant, I felt a much more heightened sense of urgency to move to the countryside. There is something magical about being able to raise a young child in the midst of beautiful forests, pristine rivers and streams and powerful mountain ranges. This has always been my dream as long as I can remember.
There are many Japanese creation myths that come from Miyazaki and the area is considered to be a favorite place of the Gods.
When we first arrived in Kirishima (Island of Mist), it was easy to see why these myths arose out of this area. There is a feeling of such magic in the forests and mountains there. Sulphurous clouds were rising everywhere from the onsen that seemed to be everywhere you looked. The thick forests that covered the landscape had a kind of unreal type of beauty to it. And the air that we breathed seemed cleaner than most any air that I had breathed anywhere before. Nearly every person that we met from the area seemed extra kind and had a very spiritual air about them.
Being in Miyazaki made me realize just how special a country Japan is. I have been to so many magical places in the Japanese countryside. The quality of the nature and especially the quality of the water is extraordinary. Sometimes I wonder if the Japanese people really are aware and appreciate just how special the country is. Of all the places I have visited all over the world, Japan has some of the most amazing, magical and spiritual places I have ever been to.
As many people know, I am a great lover of onsen and of sacred spring water. Not surprisingly, I was not disappointed in Miyazaki. I found incredible onsen there and a wide range of variety of onsen. All the onsen water that I found was very powerful. There was onsen water that was heavily infused with iron (red in color) and there was water that was heavily infused with sulphur (white in color). There was even an onsen river! Onsen water flows so strongly out of the earth that it formed a hot, white river. It was all so incredible.
We were also able to drive along the coastline of Miyazaki that fronts the Pacific Ocean. The coastline there was absolutely stunning. Because it has the warmest climate in Japan (with the exception of Okinawa), there was a kind of a tropical feel to Miyazaki. It is incredible to have both the mountains in Miyazaki that have four complete seasons and the coastline, which reminded me a little of Hawaii. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed with the entire prefecture of Miyazaki.
I still don't know if we will move to Miyazaki, as we are actively exploring other parts of the Japanese countryside to live and to raise our family, but this trip certainly made an impression on me. I can easily imagine living in such a magical place. I do know that I will return to Miyazaki many times in this life, both to teach and simply to spend time in such a special place.
I encourage everyone to get out of the cities and to visit these kinds of places as much as possible. Japan has so many national treasures like Miyazaki, which are places that nourish and heal body, mind and soul. Immersing oneself in these kinds of places is as much a part of yoga practice as is getting on one's yoga mat everyday.