The blessings of work….. and our last day on Miyakojima island Japan

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On our last day in the island of Miyakojima, we went snorkeling. The coral reefs were like an aquarium teaming with colorful fish that can only be seen in the warm waters of the tropics. We rented some snorkeling fins and masks, and I loved every minute of my time snorkeling. I noticed the way the rays of the sun played with the live coral, and illuminated the stripes and colors of the schools of fish… I floated above them like a gentle giant, and observed all their beauty and perfection. My mind was spontaneously generating thought of gratitude and joy to be alive and to be here…. Frolicking in the clean water and observing this underwater wonderland… The snorkeling beach that we went to is called Aragusuku beach and it is located next to the more famous Yoshino beach. Aragusuku beach has a laid back and cool feeling. Two big old trucks that convert to food and snack shops, offer ice cream, snorkeling gear, drinks and a lot of snacks. The shore had some wooden beach tables and chairs, and a large awning to shelter us from the sun. This shelter was a real blessings, because by now, I am a bit too sunburnt, and I have to avoid sitting in the sun for too long. We tried the island’s ice creams, made from brown sugar canes and from sweet purple potatoes. Both were delicious. There is a peaceful feeling that comes over me when I am at the beach with nothing to do and not much to think about….I just allow my mind to float and to find a place of restfulness and peace…. to wander off quietly, appreciating everything I see around me…the young children collecting shells filled with hermit crabs…. The caring and smiling adults…. The gentle air around me…the blessings in my life…. Nearby, is Cape Higashihennazaki. We went there after the beach to see the amazing views and the vegetation that is unique to this sun-swept windy area. We ate dinner at the same wonderful restaurant that we dined at last night. I reflected a lot about it, because it offers great lessons in devotion and in having admirable work ethics and attitude towards life. This man who owned the restaurant we dined at, is also the chef. He went that very morning to buy especially for our dinner, all the fresh ingredients. He does not buy the fresh produce in large bulk, because his restaurant has only two tables. Granted, if a party of six or eight showed up, those table are big enough to accommodate them, but alas, it was only Jules and I, and in the table next door, sat a couple of young women who were also staying at our guest house. The chef phoned our guesthouse to find out what we love to eat, what we do not like to eat and proceeded to prepared a wonderful menu for us, full of seasonal ingredients. When dinnertime came, he waited for our car outside of the restaurant, and when we left, he went into the street to guided us out of the parking area, and he waved us goodbye until we were no longer visible. The meal consisted of about fourteen small dishes, each bursting with flavors, presented in a very aesthetic way on carefully chosen decorated ceramics. It took us a little over two hours, to enjoy this wonderful meal. We, and the women sited in the next room, were his only customers for that evening. He bowed in gratitude at lease ten times, and often he came out of the kitchen to explain the dishes to us. For this delicious Kaiseki meal, we paid 5000 Yen, which is about $55 USD for two people. The women next to us had the same meal as we did. This means that this chef had worked all day, prepared a creative menu, shopped for fresh produce, cooked, prepared, cared, phoned ahead, waited outside the restaurant for us and hired a waitress to serve and to remove the empty plates……. All for only $110 USA for a working day of 14 hours, including his costs and taxes. Before you think that maybe this is a lot of money in rural Japanese standards, let me tell you that it is not… A lunch for two people of ice coffees with a pizza and a pasta, prepared in a microwave, will cost you about 5000 yen. But this chef looked absolutely radiant with pride and filled with a sense of accomplishment. He did not look dispirited as most people who do not earn a lot of money, feel and look in Western societies… He did not measure his days nor his self worth, by the amount of money he makes… He was an entrepreneurial person who earned an honest living doing what he loved. His self worth came from inside, and from doing his work with dignity, pride and joy. There is a deep sense of joy and satisfaction, in doing something with mindfulness and a sense of purpose. It is about cultivating a Zen-mind and becoming aware of what you think and of every movement you do, WHILE you do the work that you do… It is not WHAT we do for a living that counts, but HOW we do it….and what caring attitude we bring into everything that we do. This man was a master chef, and he felt creative, appreciated, and joyful to be doing his work and being good at it! His dishes reflected his care, and the energy that he put into cooking the food, made the food taste precious, gentle and delicious. This chef obviously does not look at his income as the main return for his efforts, nor as a measure of his value and as a motivating force in his life. He does not compare himself to famous world renowned chefs with fat bank accounts like Gordon Ramsey, and he does not feel bad about his own small earnings, because he does not measure his life by how much money he makes… He lives on a small island which he loves, in a stress free environment, filled with people who comes there to chill…. And he cooks for them the cuisine of his people using the local seaweed and tropical fruits that he learnt how to make. He does what he loves….. and he does it very WELL. Does it really matter in the overall perspective of a life well lived here on earth, how much he puts in the bank? On the other hand, think of all the people who go to work ONLY for the sake of earning money, so they can do the things they love, AFTER the workday is over… I once heard a saying related to people earning millions of dollars per year, by running major banks or managing large Mutual funds. It said: “No matter now much money you earn and how huge your bonus is, if all you are getting from your work is a large sum of money, you are UNDERPAID…” Think of all the wasted hours and days that people spend at the office, doing work that they do not like. Just for the money…. Think about how cold this must leave their hearts…. There is an old painting done by the artist Toby Rosenthal, showing a young boy who is sculpting a life-size sculpture of mother Mary in his workshop. The painting was titled “The blessings of work” and it shows the boy working on shaping Mary’s foot, while she is bestowing her open hands over him….. Blessing him while he works…. The light from the window behind him, is flooding the room, illuminating the sculpture and shining on the boy, which is totally absorbed and focused on the work that he does. The painting is saying in pictorial language, that the blessings are IN DOING the work itself…. The rewards are inherent IN the work, and do not come later, in monetary terms or in recognition As an artist, I can tell you that this is SO TRUE… I always feel that I get so much more from doing the art, than from the money or recognition that I get from selling it… I get hours of peace and meditative focus while painting, and I get a creative and expressive life, as an artist. I met my husband at an art show that I did, and I learnt so much from all the experiences that I had as an artist.

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