He was easy to spot at the airport being the only 6′ 6″ tall passenger dressed in a gold robe with a shaved head and wearing wooden sandals. Daijo was a Shingon Buddhist monk and one of the only ones from the west to finish the training in Japan. “Round Eyes” his fellow monks called him.
The training had been brutal. Long hours of meditation, meals consisting of a quarter-sized dollop of wheat paste, and occasionally sleeping out in the snow. There were also many broken bones from hours and hours of martial arts training.
Daijo had left the monastery entrusted with some of the most ancient incense making skills from Japan. And this incense wasn’t the type you’d find at Wicks and Sticks here in the United States. No, it involved things like Ambergris and rare Aloeswoods from forests that had been in the same family for centuries. First,the tree had to be infected with a certain type of fungus and die. After many years, the wood took on a sweet aroma that was almost indescribable. Incense was an important part of ancient Japanese culture. It was one of the ancient arts of Japan and there were several “incense schools” established over there at the time.
Daijo wanted to start the very first incense school ever outside of Japan. It was to be called Hikoshin Ryu and I was lucky enough to be one of its first members. I had just written my first book and met a local radio DJ who was going to start the school with Daijo. He asked me if I wanted to join. “Maybe we could even write a book about incense.” He told me. I jumped headfirst into it without really knowing what was involved.
One of the things that was involved was a whole lot of meditation. We sat in the lotus position and chanted “Omm swava shudo sarva darhma, swava shudo home.” for hours at a time. One time we synchronized the sounds together to the point that the vibrations caused a lid to pop off of one of the incense burners.
Unfortunately, the incense school only lasted a couple of years, but I still relish the experience. And between smelling the wonderful fragrances, doing the Aikido and the meditations, it certainly helped this very stressed-out restaurant manager at the time.
According to CNN, (www.cnn.com), researchers at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga. are convinced that meditation can play an important role in reducing stress.
Too much stress can wear your body out and contribute to a number of health conditions. “relaxing your body actually turns down your heart rate. It turns down your blood pressure as well.” The researchers said.
While meditation can be very helpful, the researchers are quick to point out that it shouldn’t be a replacement for conventional medication. Taking your blood pressure medication and practicing meditation is probably the best approach.
They also recommend that you take a few lessons from a professional teacher before you start any meditation program.