Before entering a temple in Japan, visitors stop by a chozuya, a small trough of water that serves to "cleanse and purify a person's hands and mouth so that they can give offerings and prayers with a clean body and mind." There are many such spots of repose all over Tokyo - places of worship and the smaller structures that surround them where visitors can cleanse, purify, leave prayers and walk in quiet meditation. As expansive and neon-crazy as Tokyo is, there are plenty of places to get lost in one's thoughts and take a moment to pour water over one's hands before entering a place of worship, to think about what it means to "cleanse one's mind".
This month has been a time filled with many beautiful moments mixed in with a few morsels of strange and scary, the unique combination of which has put me on a path where tears arise unexpectedly and disappear just as quickly. Yesterday afternoon one such moment occurred, and instead of resisting, I focused all my attention on the back of my eyeballs, in that layer of space where I could feel the tears rising, pushing their way forward to the corners of my eyes. It was strangely gratifying to soften that part of my body and give my tears as much room as possible to go where they needed to go. They stayed in that place of limbo, where, unless you looked closely, you wouldn't know I was on the verge of tears. It seems as though my tears were content to give my eyes just the barest hint of a gloss, and then they settled back down, waiting until we were in the middle of a crowded restaurant an hour or so later to spill forth quietly.
And right now, in this exact moment, I feel them again, coming up to the surface for the briefest instance, and now, at the end of this sentence, they are gone again.
This is how it has been.
Overall, I cannot say I am sad or despondent or fearful or anxious; I am simply moving through my days and trying to take whatever they have to offer me with grace and composure. I am trying to stay in a place of observation, of thinking about how difficult it is to describe that precise moment when tears arise instead of labeling my tears as a sign that something must be really wrong. Instead of looking at tears as a symbol of something negative - as reason to worry and fret (if I'm crying, something bad must be happening) - I can learn to appreciate their movement. In letting them rise up and spill forth, I experience a release, a cleansing, a washing away of the smog that has been hovering over my heart, my mind, my thoughts.
As 2009 winds down and I walk towards a new year, I am stepping up to my own symbolic chozuya. I will take a moment to cleanse my mind as much as possible, to think about what stories I want to continue to release and which ones I want to fortify. This time of year inspires people around the world to take stock, look behind and look ahead, to step up to their own interpretation of this trough of water for a brief instance and pour a ladle of water over their souls. My cleansing as of late looks to be connected to my tears, and if these tears are intended to help me enter a new year with even just a few cobwebs swept away, then I'll let them spill, and say a quiet thank you for every salty drop.