Years ago, I suffered a trauma that turned into PTSD. I didn’t go straight to a cure, so it became what I’ve best heard described as the disorder creating a filter -or screen- through which you view everything. Suddenly, life as you knew it is entirely different.
Once the trauma turned physical, I decided to heal by earning back my strength. I turned toward what gives me focus and comfort: Japan. I learned about dō 道, the path forward, and began to walk. I walked everywhere – long distance, all day, every day, or small quick speed walks, I walked it all, no matter if I had somewhere or nowhere to be. Walking I could set goals, and a rhythm of achievement. The failures and successes became patterns that allowed me to push harder, and better.
Eventually, I wondered where this walking could go, and that took me back to Japan. I read of the Tendai monks of Mount Hiei, who run the kaihōgyō, generally accepted as the most difficult physical feat in the history of humanity, which only 46 men have completed. The monks walk 30 kilometers for 1000 days, or 7 years. They walk the forest from midnight to midday, through 🌧️, ⚡, ❄️, earthquakes and 🌪️, 🐗 and 🐻❄️, and 🤕. They circle the mountain and return to the temple.
They walk 100 days the first three years, then another 200 days in the years 4-5 that end with a 9-day fast. Since humans can only survive 7 days without water, 9 pushes them to the limit of death. The remaining two years are 200 days of walking, plus another 48k to visit shrines. The entire journey is done with straw sandals and a white drape, in preparation for death since most die along the way.
Every day after their walk they return to sweep the temple. This detail shook me so greatly that it became my 道. I taught myself to sweep, every day. After working and studying and walking and eating, there was always one last thing to do – sweep. I hated it every time –because I am not a monk– but slowly suddenly, it changed the way forward. You’re cleaning something that will return tomorrow, in another form.
I found there isn’t much room for a filter when it’s just you staring at your dirt. All that you can do it greet it each day and sweep it away.