Japan is great for cycling. Safe, good infrastructure, beautiful nature, food, and an extraordinary culture with kind people. And there’s respect, a lot of respect. I cycled one month in Japan. Too short.
My goal? Learn from Japanese discipline. Learn from the monks and use the abundance of temples along the way to take my moments who would help me through cold, rain and loneliness. Because that’s how I felt in Japan.
Discipline helps to make a change. It helps to reach a goal. Comes in handy cycling the world. If you want to improve behaviour in the direction of your goal then in many cases you have to do new things, do things you are not used to. Also things you don’t want to do. And you can’t say “well that’s just who I am, and I can’t do that.” that’s nonsense. It’s more like: what can I do to change this behaviour? I can either teach and tell myself that I’m a good climber or I can constantly complain about those high mountains along the way. It’s a choice. Who’s gonna make the day? You or the fixed routine in your brain? If you want to start the day stretching instead of checking the likes and shares on your phone then that might feel uncomfortable and after a week or so you might fall back into the old habit although you know it’s not good for you. Therefore you need discipline. And it’s not easy but it can be learned, there are tools.
The Japanese are well known for their discipline. Especially in their work which can get pretty extreme. In Tokyo I have seen many people sleeping during their lunch break in a coffee shop. They’re tired, and there are many of them. A 60-hour working week is not an exception. This doesn’t really coincide with the Japanese concept of Ikigai which stands for: A reason for being. In short Ikigai is a balance between your passion, your calling, doing good for others, and earning a good income. Didn’t see much Ikigai in Tokyo.
There are different levels of discipline. One is more extreme than the other. Perhaps the most extreme on our planet is Kaihogy, a test, a challenge that the Tendai monks of Mount Hiei do. They are also known as the marathon monks. It’s an extreme test to reach enlightenment in this life. To reach enlightenment through self denial and to get as close to death as possible.
I recommend you read this article, it’s truly amazing. But in short it goes like this:
– 1st year, 30 km per day, for 100 days straight.
– 2nd year also, 30 km per day, for 100 days straight.
– 3rd year also, 30 km per day, for 100 days straight.
– In the 4th year, 30 km per day, but then 200 days straight.
– In the 5th year, 30 km per day for 200 days. Then after completion the monk has to meditate for 9 days straight without food, no or limited water and without sleep (2 other monks help him not fal asleep).
– In the 6th year, 60 km per day, 100 days straight.
– In year 7, it’s 84 km per day, 100 days straight and another 100 days of 30 km.
Is there anything more extreme? Fact is that I got fascinated by it. Fascinated about the abilities of our mind, about the power of faith and believe in oneself. I decided to cycle to Mount Hiei do. which took me a couple of hundred extra km’s. I cycled there to feel it, to absorb it. To strengthen my own commitment and discipline, to write this mental software even deeper in my brain. Why? Because I am personally aiming for Ikigai and because we as humans can do so much more with our brain than we realise. In the process I didn’t have a moment in which I had the illusion of comparing myself with the Tendia. It’s about mindset. Whether it be for 1000 marathons, cycling around the world, find another job or stop eating candy.
Something else that requires discipline is to consciously take a moment. A moment of silence, reset, contemplation, whatever you want to call it. Even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. Can be at the office, on the couch, shower, toilet or in my case at small and remote Buddhist temples hidden in Japanese forests. Just by myself, alone, knees, arms and forehead on the ground, just be and make contact. Many times I’d think about something good, something positive and you’d be amazed of the amount of energy you get and that you did a reset in your thought pattern so you have more control over what’s happening in there. Which is, in my case, pretty convenient since I have a dominant alpha monkey screaming in my mind during long cycling days. And despite the fact I felt lonely in Japan, these are great moments to be by myself. And the more you practice it the stronger the effect.
So yes like I mentioned I felt lonely. I had to say goodbye to somebody special and it really kicked in. Poor little guy on his bicycle feeling al sad should man up and accept what is. So I did. But acceptance of pain doesn’t take it away, especially when you feel it bad and then you have to find a spot to spend the night when it’s dark, cold and wet. Not exactly Ikigai moments but maybe good to finally reach it since it does build character. Besides by now I have become an expert on spotting sleeping spots. Preferably illegal so the dopamines can also have their moment. A closed construction site, an old temple or a garage that they left open, the ‘radar’ sees it all.
The country, tough moments and people that have helped me makes Japan one of the highlights. It came to me through another of those awkward coincidences which didn’t end as I was cycling this beautiful country. I want Japan to thank for the trust and connection it gave me.
If you commit to nothing you’ll be distracted by everything.