The 26th of November had rolled around. Winter was peaking around the corner, yukimushi were dancing around in the nipping autumn air, and yet another wellbeing workshop took place here at Miyama Saroyama-sha. As is customary, Dr. Ito and his students were present, the gomoen-bath and sauna were prepped and ready for use, and the warm tendrils of fire were gently licking the inside of the wood-burning stove, keeping us all warm.
Stretch That Body!
Once the participants had taken part in the usual health-check, it was time for another one of Dr. Ito’s lectures, filled to the brim with helpful health advice. The focus, once more, was on the importance of stretching, and soon all off Miyama Satoyama-sha was full of people in all sorts of complex looking stretches, quite the sight really. If our participants keep up the stretching they will be as bendy as rubber in no time, despite the chilly autumn doing its best to freeze our muscles solid.
Keeping Up the Heat with Hot Pot
After a brief walk in the mountains, and some more stretching, everyone gathered around the big table, eagerly awaiting to get some food into their growling tummies. Not soon after, lunch was underway, served up with delish potato-salad, okowa (a rice dish made of steamed sticky rice) with beans, a steaming pot of stew and a bowl of rice topped with umeboshi pickled plums. Dr. Ito made a comment on the benefits of eating hot pot throughout winter, as this is a type of food that truly heats the body from the inside.
As the conversation was already broaching the subject of food and lifestyle, and the setting inviting for a group discussion, this was an ample opportunity to get to know the other participants, as well as Dr. Ito and his students a bit better. Eating habits, free-time activities as well as sleeping habits were some of the topics brought up. There was a healthy exchange of information, and participants could also find relief in the fact that no one is perfect when it comes to managing the balance between lifestyle and working life, not even the professionals.
Implementing small changes over an extensive period of time is the way to go. Tackling all bad habits at once will most likely only lead to failure and exhaustion. Moreover, when having turned a new leaf towards the healthy, active life one aspires, it is important to keep in mind that slip-ups will happen. And they won’t kill you! Believe it or not, but it is human to error and there is no sense beating oneself up about it. As long as we don’t lose sight of our goals, indulging once in a while will not deter or nullify the positive changes we achieve in the long run.
Externalise Your Inner
With our stomachs full, it was time for a trip back up the winding mountain road, to look for bright and colourful autumn leaves. This task did, surprisingly, prove harder than one might imagine. Not because of a lack of actual autumn leaves, you only had to look around and bright colours would flood you vision, but many of these leaves could be found in places that only the most hardcore mountaineers would dare venture to. The purpose of the mountain walk was also one of exercise, but only in moderation, without the participants feeling the need to wear themselves out. Luckily, more easily accessible leaves could be found if one were patient enough to look for them.
We all made it back safely to the warm interior of Satoyama-sha, where the tables lay prepared for leafy a art session; a collage of leaves meant to express and bring forth the participants inner thoughts and feelings. Although the first few moments around the crafting table were filled with hesitation, no one quite knowing how to externalize their inner, as the first tentative hands reached out for the leaves others soon followed. In a matter of moments the tension at the table had been whisked away, replaced by the merry crowd who had braved the mountain. Some were deeply focused on their work, while others perhaps took the task more lightly, conversing with their adjacents and exchanging commentary on each other’s artworks.
When our program leader declared that the participants only had a few minutes left till presentation, everyone hustled and bustled to put the finishing touches to their piece of art. While some opted to leave their works open to change, others chose to glue their leaves into place, thus leaving a lasting imprint. Then began the presentation round. In turn the participants gave a short explanation of their respective piece of art, explaining the thoughts behind it and their choices of colour. After this, Dr. Ito took the floor to explain how the choice and placement of colour can be interpreted as signs and pointers to our moods and internal balance.
Ending the day
The sky had already started growing darker as the participants underwent today’s final health check-up and self-evaluation. We then sat down for a last invigorating cup of tea, with ripe persimmons and home made mochi rice cakes grilled in the wood burning stove. While some chose to partake in additional acupuncture treatment, the staff at Satoyama-sha started clearing away and packing up the leaf art. Yet another day, and a successful workshop, was brought to an end. We hope to see you all soon again!