My friend and good neighbour, Jan, taught me a new word yesterday...Gaman. In Japanese, she told me, it means fortitude, perseverance...and something deeper, something deeper indeed. Generations still live who lost all as they knew life to be, blown away from underneath them, in funneling valleys from the blasts. They have seen sorrow irradiated, in what must have seemed like the near end of days. Gaman.
Those of us living around the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire" know something about a heaving, living earth. But at this magnitude of devastation (more becoming apparent every day) madness would ensue in so many other countries, our own included; looting and lawlessness would be our shifting lay of the land, anger a mere scratch under the surface. In Japan they have Gaman, and a people persevere together.
I remember a story in the Tribune, after the Kyoto earthquake, in which a young woman was buried under rubble for eight days. When they found her she was in amazing shape, barely dehydrated. She spoke of a vision she had daily, in which a monk came to her and offered a bright green apple. Outside, rescuers kept digging stoically. Gaman.
Yesterday, in our water exercise class, we dedicated each movement in the water as a prayer for Japan. Water was a major part of this earthquake's destruction and is the slim hope against nuclear meltdown. Water is all over the world, a conductor even under the earth in all its channels. Each in our own way, we gave prayers, comfort, tears, and our love; feeling the water move in waves from our intent, through pool, Sound, and Ocean, to Japan. I hold the Darumas today, made by my friend and colleague Mizu. She taught me that a Daruma symbolizes perseverance; with rounded bottom, they can be pushed down seven times, to rise eight. Tomorrow we will swim our meditation again, while we search for other tangible ways to help. Tomorrow we will send our prayers and comfort through the water once more. But this time we can use just one word as our mantra.