2 Mar 2012

厄年 Unlucky Years

In Japan there is a belief that certain years are unlucky, bad things will come. One belief is that if you have done many bad deeds then they will come to haunt you in your unlucky years.  These years are different for men and women.  They are called Yakudoshi  厄年.  The big ones are 33rd year for women and 42nd year  for men (so this would be age 32 and 41), there is also a pre, and post year, so it amounts to three years of bad luck. I am on my second batch of Yakudoshi, 37th year. I made it through the 33rd year, just.  It is thought to be essential to visit a Shinto shrine to be, for want of a better English word, exorcised.

This year I suffered from a very extensive cold, which is unusual for me, topped off with a heavy dose of sinusitis and a slight chest infection, I've been tired, worried and generally melancholic.  This is not the normal state of affairs for me in winter.  I've been feeling irritable and angry, especially while driving and cycling.  I totally lost my temper when a bus nearly ran me off the road, flipped out like a crazy woman. I've also been very critical of the driving skills of my fellow road users.

Thus it seems karmically fitting that, the day before I planned to visit the Shrine for my Yakudoshi ritual,   I do the most stupid thing one can do while driving, rear end someone at a traffic light.  Totally my fault.  Still now do not know why this happened.  I wasn't rushing, eating, talking on the phone, drinking, mailing, sleepy, or tired.  In fact I was having a great relaxed day. Finally feeling healthy and happy. Who knows.  It was a slight bump.  But the lady feels she has back pain.  I have apologised and am waiting to see how big the fine from the police will be (I never knew I'd have to pay a huge fine too), and just before I'm due to go to India.

I did go to the Shrine the next day.  First I practised Primary series, then visited a hot spring.  The aim was to purify myself before visiting the sacred mountain.  Wanted this exorcism to be as potent as possible and Mt. Haguro is reputed to give the most effective Yakudoshi ceremony.

The ceremony itself is impressive. The Shinto priests dressed in all their finery perform intricate, beautiful, and precisely performed rituals with sonorous chants.  But it's the drumming that rocks my boat. The huge taiko drums sound like thunder in the cavernous Shrine, it's dark, and very very atmospheric.  We all bow down and the priest shakes, what I can only describe as a jangly wand over our backs.  This is ridding us of any bad luck spirits that have attached themselves to us.  It feels cold and sends a shiver down my spine.  I used to be cynical, but now I am taking a Pascal Wager view of these things.  The ritual reassures me.  I should have done it at the beginning of the year.

Guess this is a good lesson.  It's bad enough, my car is slightly damaged and shall remain that way for a while, but it could have been much much worse.  A cautionary note before I set off to India.

I was feeling so down that I have potentially caused another person pain (perhaps) and damage to their car and facing a huge fine at the same time I'm taking a month long trip to India.  My hard earned savings zapped in a moment of idiocy.

But then it's not all about the money.  OK so I shall be poor and pulling in the belt strings.
I came home from yoga class where I could meditate with beautiful souls around me, to have warm hearted and kind people come to yoga class, to come home to lovingly prepared food on the table, this made me realise the true meaning of the the phrase 'Count your blessings.'  I may not have money for a while, but I am blessed, and I can still go to India, on a shoe string.

I have been humbled and taught a few lessons, perfect for pre-India experience.

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