Awakin Calls » Maki Saionji Kawamura » Transcript
Maki Saionji Kawamura: Power of Prayer
Awakin Call with Maki Saionji Kawamura 11/28/15
Host : Biru Pandya
Moderator: Pavi Mehta
Birju: Today our special guest speaker is Maki. She is somebody who really empowers today's theme of "power of prayer".
Our Moderator is Pavi Mehta. Her background is too hard to understate. In addition to being a best selling author, she is somebody I would consider to be a big sister. And the last time I saw her in person, she actually was performing my wedding, among the many things and many hats that I see that she wears!
Once again the theme is "the power of prayer". The context is that, prayer can transform us and can transform the world. After 20 years of studying the effects of prayer on the brain, the message for this weeks call for sharing, Dr. Andrew Newberg finds that, as we pray the self goes away and we become connected to the world. The question for this week is- Has prayer helped you heal? Has that transformation been amplified in a collective? Since we do have the pleasure of having Pavi here today, I thought we start by asking her to kick of our circle. Pavi, could you share a bit of your thoughts?
Pavi: Thank you Birju, for your wonderfully articulate introduction and opening. Prayer is definitely something that has been close in my world these past few months and my husband is recovering from a very acute form of bone marrow failure. We had been, I think in a vortex of prayer and blessings and grace from the community. He is doing well now. It made me reflect a lot on what that word even means to me. There is the writer Anne Lamott, who distills it really well in just three words. Prayer ultimately she says, comes down to, Help, Thanks and Wow! Those are the three types of prayer. The human heart asking in its moment of feeling the tininess of our existence. The fact that we are limited finite being on a vast complex and infinitely profound planet, we do have our cries for help. And then, thanks. The gratitude. It is almost on the flip side of the feeling of finiteness, is the awareness of these incredible gifts that are dropped off on our doorstep every morning. Just by the fact that we are breathing, that we are alive, that we are here, that's a prayer. Gratitude is a form of prayer. And Wow! Those moments of just reverence that take your breath away. Wow! Can happen at the drop of a hat. I think these are very human experiences that we all can relate to, whether we think of ourselves as religious or prayerful or not. Help, thanks and wow are buckets that we dip into each day. I think to me what prayer comes down to in essence is - it's a kind of a connection to something deeper or higher or more pure or more luminous than ordinary surface existence. We skim on the envelope of things and prayer is kind of reaching in or reaching up or reading outward. It doesn't matter what the directionality is. It's the next concentric circle. In the process, I think we all come to prayer through the doorway of an individual connection or individual relationship. Whether it is the praying for the wellbeing of the loved one or the world. I think there is an opening that happens, and it is very hard to keep it limited. This is the beauty of prayer. As you tap into that space in yourselves, you understand that it is a very natural flow from "me" to "we". It's a pathway to understanding our interconnection in a deep way. There are so many paths to finding that prayer in our hearts, and so many ways of expressing it. I think that's part of the beauty of being human.
Birju: Thanks so much for that context Pavi! And would love for that to be the foundation to pass it along to you to introduce our speaker.
Pavi: Absolutely! My pleasure! It's really hard to introduce Maki. She is such a special person! I will do my best.
Meeting her kind of brings to life what Gandhi meant when he said, "In a gentle way we can shake the world". She is petite. She is soft spoken. And yet she carries in her heart this flaming torch of love for all of life. She has this conviction that she lives, and we are here to foster this spark and it's highest potential in ourselves and in each other. And when we do that, she believes we birth new possibilities for our world.
Maki grew up in a family that has spent decades praying for peace on a daily basis. She is a peace pilgrim in her own right and her journey through life has shaped her many different roles. She is a quietly brilliant leader and Managing Director of the Goi Peace Foundation, a forward thinking organization that brings together leading scientists, writers, educationalists and artists with a goal of awakening a new consciousness in every human heart. She is also the deputy Vice Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai, a remarkable spiritual organization that has been supporting prayer as an instrument for social change for half a century. It brings tens of thousands of people together annually.
Birju and I, both had the privilege of being part of one of the events and it truly is a humbling experience. To see the sincerity and the dedication with which the prayers take place…
Maki is a healer trained both eastern and western medicine. She worked as a pediatrician and found herself drawn also to serving people nearing their transition of life. She is dedicated daughter, ever protective big sister, loving wife and mother and a noble friend to so many of us. It's a deep honor to have her on this call with us today.
Maki, Thank you so much for making time and for being the beautiful being that you are!
Maki: Thank you very much for such a heart warming introduction. Your introduction gave tears to my eyes. I feel like you know me so much more than myself and you made me realize who I am and what I am living for. So I really thank you for your heart warming introduction Pavi.
Pavi: I am so happy to have this opportunity to share your spirit with the world. I just want to jump right in so people can have the benefit of hearing your stories.
I was thinking about your mother, remarkable Masami Saionji. As a teenager she went through a time of intense personal suffering and it was through the guidance of the poet, philosopher, spiritual teacher Masahisa Goi, that she was brought to prayer as a tool for healing oneself and the world. She had remarkable experience that in a way gave her that great conviction that she carries today and anyone who meets her feels that instantly.
My question to you is, growing up with that kind of mom, do you remember when and how you first learned to pray?
Maki: I was raised in a very different environment, where prayer was very natural. It's like a child learning a word, learning a prayer for me is like that. A different language which is like always there with me. So I don't have a memory of learning a prayer, but everyday there is prayer in the family. But as I grew up and extend my community to larger community, like to school and seeing friends, I realize that prayer is a different tool for the communication. Growing up I realized that it's a different language. That's a very different environment from other people, where people learn to pray at certain age or when they face difficulty in their life, they learn to pray.
Pavi: I love that idea of prayer being another language that you learn like a child learns the word for water or the word for hungry
Maki: Yes! Yes!Yes! Every day we pray for the nature of the world. If we go traveling we pray, "Thank you dear mountain.” Or if we go to the ocean to swim, before we swim in the morning we open the window and we say " Thank you dear ocean, thank you dear air, thank you dear nature." That's like the beginning of the morning for us. At the end we pray for the peace of the world, which is, "May peace prevail on Earth."
Pavi: That is built into the daily fabric of your life. That is so beautiful!
Maki: My Grand pa said, "Prayer should not be something you do just during the time you create for it, but every day what ever you do, that message is always in your heart and live that message. "That is what he told my mother and she then told us. We don't sit for an hour to pray. When I was a child, we didn't sit for an hour to pray of the peace of the world, but.. It’s kind of like. While you cook you thank the food, while you watch the news and if there is a terrible tragedy, you pray for the peace of the world. So during your everyday life there are so many places that you can practice this prayer.
Pavi: That's beautiful, the way you inter weave that without it being this "thing" that you have to do. Its kind of scattered throughout your whole day and almost like it's a way of being than as a separate action that you are performing. Did you ever feel like it was a mechanical thing and suddenly it came to life for you? You are like, "Oh this is what prayer is? This is why I am doing this?"
Maki: When I was in junior high school, my parents took us to their work, or to the events like peace ceremonies and peace parades. When I saw people praying together, the energy that was created was so much different than when I prayed by myself or when we prayed as a family. And that big energy radiated by each person that was there, made me realize that it had so much power. If we pray for the peace for the world, that message is really carrying the energy to heal the world and help the people. When I realized that power, my daily prayers' power has shifted too. So it's that realization that gave me much more strength and power to continue this daily habit
Pavi: It's so beautiful to understand that. Each of us in our own ways have had that experiences of sitting in communion with other people who are tapping into the deepest part of themselves and there is almost like a quality or vibration or energy that you experience. So much of what you are talking, the conviction comes from that experience of interconnection. How we strengthen each other as we deepen in our own practices.
I see you and your sisters and your family, and each of you are so interconnected and yet you are each your own person and you each have kind of your own path. It's individual and yet interconnected and there is a beauty to that. I was thinking about how some people come to earth and they are born knowing their calling. They are born knowing what they are meant to do. And some, the rest of us, we kind of are figuring out step by step and we are still figuring it out! I was wondering, being born into a family where you have parents who are legendary and their field of peace work and who have these enormously selfless missions that they are working towards, did you always know that it was going to be a part of your mission or what was your journey like to find and follow your calling?
Maki: Even as a little girl, I always knew how important my parents work was. They were so dedicated to creating peace in the world. They traveled many places where they needed to go. Most of the time, my sister and I were spending time with people who took care of us. They were not our close family. So I knew how important their work was, but at the same time I felt, as a young child, my mission was more like helping them. Not like helping the world or helping their work. I wanted to support them. So my role was to be a good child, as a way of supporting them. Not to make them worry. I was a really good child who would do whatever they wanted me to do. And that was my journey. When I was 30 years old, my close friend asked me, " What do you like to do? What’s your mission?" when she asked me this question I became blank. The fact that I couldn't answer that question was a big shock for me. I felt colorless. And I realized that I really needed to find my own color and the only way to find my color was to really work with myself. Asking myself," what do you like to do? What is your mission? What are you here? What are you born to do?" It took more than one year to do this and prayer helped me to do this. I think prayer can radiate energy toward the world but at the same time, like Pavi said, it can deepen you. We are living in the world where we receive so much information from our eyes and ears. So we need to create some time shout down our ears and eyes. Unless we shut down information from our eyes and ears we cannot hear what our inner voice is telling us to do. It is so quiet. At the beginning my voice was so quiet that I couldn't hear. But as I continued asking myself, "what is it that the inside of me is telling me to do?" I started to realize what my missions are and my roles are. And that guided me to live the life that I am living right now.
Pavi: Beautiful! You hit on something profound there. This idea that we are constantly taking in information through the eyes and the ears and yet there is this deeper wisdom of the heart that we don't tune into often enough. The heart is full of it's own kind of information and we need to practice and sharpen our skills so we can tune into that. So beautiful! It's almost like you were prepared your whole life to practice that art. It's heartening for some us to hear that it takes time. It's not something you hear overnight. May be some people do, but for some of us it takes that showing up to listen in that way.
Can you speak a little bit about how your path lead you initially to the healing profession?
Maki: Yes! I lost my grandfather to cancer when I was 15 years old. At that time I saw the pain and suffering that my Grandfather had to go through. That process guided me to think about the process of death and dying. I really had struggled to understand that death and dying is painful process that people have to go through. That idea did not connect with my heart. The birthing of a child is fun of happiness and joy and I think the death and dying process is similar to that birthing process. It shouldn't be the fear of death or dark image. I didn't want my parents to die like my Grandfather. I realized that to search for answers about death and dying, I wanted to study deeper into that field and that's why I decided to go to medical school to become a physician.
Pavi: It just feels like nurturing has always been a part of your journey. You are the big sister. In a way that's such a touching image to me of you as a little girl, recognizing that your parents were going important work in the world and that your job was to kind of take care of them in a sense by taking care of your self and by being good in every way that you knew how and then to have that then lead you into very naturally into the field of healing. I guess my question from there is, how did your footsteps then turn towards the peace work that you are now involved with?
Maki: I knew from the young age that my parent’s work was so important and I respected them so much. But my parents never told me to follow their steps. They said find your own path. Find your own journey. But whatever you do has to be connected to the service for the community or the world. I respected then so much that I didn't have confidence to say that I wanted to do their work, to follow them, to take over their work when I was older. I was so afraid that I was not good enough to help them, I felt when I take over their work, I won't be able to do like them. I will crush everything that they created using their whole life. That was really scary for me to do. So tried to do different path, like connected to their work, which is service of the world and that could be connected to what I wanted to do which is to create a peaceful place for death and dying. Place when death and dying is more peaceful and harmonious. That's why I went to medical school. But when I was doing a night duty at the hospital, I had this dream, a very scary dream, that my parents both died and people who supported them are coming to my sister and myself and asking us what should we do? What should organization do? And I realized that I don't know anything about their work. I don't know how they move their organization. I have seen from the outer perspective, but never from inside, working with them together. So I did not know anything. And realization made me think that I am walking in a wrong path. I thought that if I work as a physician there is always somebody who can teach me how to heal a patient for how to find the symptoms or the treatment for the symptoms. But only my parents can teach me about what they are doing. And if I loose them, there's no one else who can teach that message to us. When I realized that I was able to make a decision to shift my work from physician to what I am doing right now, which is, supporting my parents work.
Pavi: And when did you make that shift?
Maki: When I was 30 years old, the time when I felt that I needed to find my own color. That process all came together at the same time.
Pavi: There are so many things that are intriguing here. It's so telling that your parents, who have spent their life doing this work didn't push that on their daughters. They almost went the opposite and said, " you find your own path and find your own work, what makes you come alive in the world and do that as your form of service and I think that allowed for a beautiful growth in your own journey and in a way that you have taken on that responsibility, all of you, in different ways. Quite remarkable! What was response when you went back with them?
Maki: My mom was really happy and in the beginning she was like," Are you sure? Because what I am doing is very very difficult. If you are a physician you can just be a physician while you are working. If you are a spiritual leader, there can never be a resting time. If you decided to become a spiritual leader, every day and every moment is about healing and about prayer and about reconnecting to your source and never rest. So it's not an easy path. So please think over. And I would love to accept tour offer but please think about your choice and decision before you make a final decision."
Pavi: (Laughs) So like her! So wise and honest! Oh my goodness! Did that come easily, that transition when you stepped into that role? Was there a lot of learning that you had to do? Or did it feel like fish in water that you immediately felt like, "Oh I'm home."
Maki: I was really thankful for my self that I was able to make this kind of decision. Because I think I was yearning to make this kind of decision, but I didn't have courage to that when I was younger, when I was 17 or 18. It took 15 or 16 more years to make this final decision. But when I was able to make it, I felt " here is the path that I was supposed to walk and I am back." My parents always have told me that, “Whatever you choose is the path that you needed to choose. So someday in the future, your learning will all come together and blossom in a way that only you can blossom." So that was the advice that I received from them. I am glad that I made this kind of decision.
Pavi: The world is glad too. All the better for it. I wanted to hear you explain in your own words, I've experienced it as a visitor to Mt. Fuji, where you have the peace sanctuary and where you hold the symphony of peace prayers each year. This is where multiple thousands people gather and pray for peace using a very simple prayer, " May peace prevail on Earth " and they pray for all the individual countries in the language of that country together. Being there and experiencing the power of that, is kind of hard to put into words. When you are trying to explain this to people who hadn't experienced the power of prayer, how do you explain how this works? How does it work that you say these words, of course I know it's not just about the words, but you make these prayers and do it together and then what happens? What is the power of prayer in your view?
Maki: The reason why my Grandfather Masahisa Goi created this peace prayer, " May peace prevail in the world" is because he has experienced World War II. After witnessing the devastation caused by war, he realized that we individuals couldn’t achieve peace and happiness, the true peace and happiness, until the whole world is at peace. And at the same time we cannot bring peace to the world, unless we ourselves have attained a star of peace. So he came up with this message, "May peace prevail on Earth", which anyone in the world can accept and adapt in their daily life. But it is letting go of your own self. Your existence is in the Earth. By praying that," May peace prevail on earth", you are praying that you have peace for yourself and at the same time you are praying for the peace of the world. Which is like achieving the goal at the same time, your peace and the World peace. So this is the prayer that my Grandfather created. But in Mt. Fuji, like you said every month, we pray for each country. Using the alphabetical order, we say, “may peace be in Afghanistan", "May peace be in Angola" etc. There are 191 countries in the world. So we pray for each country using the countries flag. What is powerful about this is because ...If you go to one country which is at war with another country, it is very hard to pray of the other country that is hurting your country, right? But if that country is one of the 191 countries, you can pray for the other country. Your individual self thought that it was impossible to pray for the other country, but as a process you were able to pray. And this surprise that happens in your life is creating a big transformation. I think this is the power of prayer. The transformation cannot occur from outside. It has to occur from inside. But it's very difficult to do it by yourself. So my mother always says," you may not be able to pray for the happiness and peace for certain person who you really hate, but you can say, "May peace prevail on certain country", because you are not including that individual person’s name. But the energy will reach that person and that process is really healing the relationship with that person, but at the same time it is really healing yourself. And that healing is really making you transform into a bigger existence."
Pavi: So well said! I have to say that being in that sea of people and listening to wave after wave of words of intention, "May peace prevail on Earth" and we all had our little print outs.. For some countries we prayed in all the national languages of that country and it was so beautiful. The languages were so foreign to the place that we were in and yet there was such spirit and such sincerity in the way the people were vocalizing these words. You could just feel that shared sense of sisterhood and brotherhood. I never thought of it that way that, it is easier to pray for world peace than to focus your attention on one person who you are struggling with. Sometimes if you can start with bigger piece and then that reaches the microcosm. That's a beautiful perspective.
Have there been times when you started prayer feeling a little bit upset or frustrated or sad and find tat transformation as you go through your prayers?
Maki: Yes! I feel like life is really a challenge and there is never a moment of continuous peace. Every day there are things happening, things are moving your heart.... For example I have three daughters. One of my daughter when she was 2 years old she said to me, " I hate myself." When I heard her say, “I hate myself", I was so upset thinking that this 2 year old girl hates her own self! What did I do to make her think that way? I really went into prayer and deep meditation and I realized that may be unconsciously I was comparing her to my elder daughter who is one year older, and my unconscious behavior is making her think that way. From that day I decided to consciously act differently. It took a long time and after two years, she said," Mom, I love myself." When she said that to me, tears came out. I think it is not just because I was happy that she loved herself but also more like I was able to transform. This is the power of transformation. The environment changes at the same time as you change. And this can be created by commitment that comes from your own Divine spark or your own source. And if you are choosing the path from your inner source, and make a commitment to really work and try to create a living that aligns with the source, then if you continue that transformation occurs. There are many people who ask me question like, "Even though I pray for the peace the world, the peace never comes to me, or bad things happen my life. Why am I praying for the peace and bad things occur in my life?" But it's about the patience and commitment that you would not give up praying is really the key. If you think about boiling water, the pot's size may be different, the power of the fire may be different and if you out the thermometer on the water, you can see that the temperature will rise. Many people give up before it becomes 100 degrees. So it feels like shift doesn't happen. If the water temperature goes up to 100 degrees you can see that the bubbles come up. Many people give up when the temperature is 40 or 50 degrees and if you stop heating only thing that happens is that the water will cool down. If after cooling down you start praying again and keep stopping at 30 and 40 degrees, you feel like it doesn't change. The important thing is that, even if the fire is so small, you just keep doing it. And then the size of the water may be different in each individual. So you don't compare with the people. Like, "We both started together and her transformation came before me." It doesn't work that way. So we just continue. Just see the small differences that are happening. Like small tiny bubble that are coming up. And then think that, these small bubbles are coming and my transformation time is really close. So appreciate the small change that is happening in your life and try to look for that change that is happening is very important thing. Big shift doesn't come all at once. But all these small changes are really coming to you if you just believe and continue doing that.
Pavi: I think one of the most touching moments for me, when I was with all of you at the symphony of peace prayers is your beautiful sister Yuka Saionji, when she is addressing the gathering. And like you she just has such a transparent heart. You can se how deeply se feels these things. There is strife, there is struggle and there is violence in so many eruptions all over the world. We all feel that. You who have been doing this work as well, you feel the pain of that and something she said in that moment... I am paraphrasing. These are not her exact words.
"There are so many people in this world today who do not have the capacity to pray in this moment. They are so beaten down. They are suffering so much that their heart doesn't have strength. They haven't woken up to their own spark yet. And that's why it's important for us to keep tending the flame to keep praying until every heart has its prayer."
She was in tears as she said it. You could just feel her strength. Because it's not blindness. It's not saying, let's pretend everything is fine and let's keep praying for peace. It's like you are in touch with the suffering and you are in tough with the pain and you are choosing to seed the spark. You are choosing to look for that light. The Divine spark that you mentioned is such an integral part of the work that you are doing now and this idea of looking for that flame of possibility, that flame of potential, that flame of truth and light and hope and beauty, in each individual, in each situation, in each field and saying how can we seed this and take things to the next level. That's not an easy job to do. Can you speak a little bit about your conviction that there is.. You know I can imagine that some people can come to you and say, " You know what? You have the Divine spark, but I don't think everybody has it or every situation has it. There must be some people out there that are spark less." What is your experience then, of finding that spark and cultivating that spark?
Maki: If you can go deeper into yourself and find your own spark, the person who finds the spark in himself or herself, can believe that everyone has spark. I am lucky that I was able to find my spark. But since I found my spark, I really strongly believe and am 100% sure that everyone in the world has that spark. Because we are all humans, we are all from same human family. So until the time that the person can understand that they have spark, I want to really believe that, the person has spark and try to connect to that spark in each individual. People ask me, " If you understand what I am going through, you will understand that this person I am facing does not have spark." and they will explain to me how horrible the neighbors are or classmates are. I think it is about making commitment to decide that.. I made a commitment to see Divine spark on all the people around the world. Because I made that commitment.. Sometimes there are people who are really upsetting me or irritating me, but since I made commitment to connect to that spark, it's not about giving up. It's about trying to continuously find a way or path to connect to that spark. And if you don’t give up, there’s always a way. You Know, if this way doesn't go well may be the other way. It may take time, but if you keep doing to there is always a little bit of difference that can be created by walking a different path.
I have a beautiful example. My friend is has a son who was a victim of a really bad car accident. Son was injured really bad, such that he had to be taken to emergency hospital and he was diagnosed with spinal cord injury and was told by the doctor that he wouldn't be able to walk for the rest of his life. And the mother was really upset and sad and all these emotions were coming from her. At first she had strong anger and strong resistance towards the man who caused the damage. The person came to apologize, but she wouldn't accept seeing him because she was too mad to face that person. But she made time to pray everyday to really find that message that comes from her Divine source and realize that, if she is not able to forgive this person, she and her son will be in a constant pain and suffering. She continued to pray," May peace prevail on me, may peace prevail on my son and peace prevail on earth" over and over again. I saw the process she went through and it was painful. I was able to pray together but the biggest thing is her own work she had to do. As she continuously did this she started hearing her own voice telling her that only way to create peace is by accepting that apology and forgiving the man. She called the victimizer and invited him to the house and accepted the apology and asked him to move forward to live his life. And the victimizer never thought that he would receive this message. He was really surprised and they both cried and they promised each other that from now on their life would be dedicated to forgiveness. The only way to create forgiveness is by doing that. And she said that when she was able to forgive this person, the peace came back to her life. You know the situation didn't change. Unexplainable peace was just there with her and she said this is it. And as the peace came back into her life and her son was ale to forgive too and the healing process healed the son's body too. It took long time, but he practiced and practiced and now he is able to walk by himself and is able to live his own life dedicated to teaching about forgiveness and prayer. This story really reminds me that you need to really follow your voice. Your head may want to go against that inner voice, at that time we need to trust that voice more. Because that voice is telling the truth. The voice of head is more from the common knowledge. It’s like the taught knowledge. But the heart or the inner voice is telling you the true path. Sometimes it may be difficult, but if you follow that, it will guide you to the eternal peace. Whatever the environment, whatever the situation, the peace is really created by your own self. Believe that but people sometimes are in a very difficult situation. We pray instead of that person, until the person can pray for himself or herself. I think that is our job to do that.
Birju: Thank you so much Maki Saionji. I have been listening s we go along and I have just been moved one after the other.
Pavi: One of things I have been reflecting as you were talking is ... it is a lit bit of paradox. Because there is so much joy, so much healing and so much fulfillment in living a life that is guided by love and forgiveness and generosity and kindness and yet we have these tendencies towards these other qualities that are not as positive and we have fear, anger, jealousies that come up and are so constricting. It's like we are holding our own throat in the grip and even though we know this intellectually of love, generosity and kindness, but that grip that we are holding ourselves in, is not something we can just automatically realize. It takes a process. It's not enough to know in your head. You have to know it in your body; you have to know it in the cells of your being. Not that you want forgiveness. That's your natural state. That's your natural way of being. And there is a beauty I think to that struggle, to that journey that we take, to get from one shore to the other that you are describing. And I love that analogy of the boiling pot. We just have to have that strength of commitment to not give up too early, to see the journey itself as kind of part of the destination. I was thinking about one of the stories I heard from you earlier about experience of praying for peace in Poland 15 years ago. It's a similar story that points to the power of transformation and how something as simple as showing up and vocalizing has a momentum of it's own hat takes over your heart. I'd love for you to share that.
Maki: It was a world peace prayer ceremony, which I was telling you about. We pray for 191 different countries using the different flags. We did the World peace ceremony in Poland 15 years ago when Poland was still under communism. For the people every day life was very difficult, very restrictive and we want to do this ceremony because the priest of the church was so committed and dedicated to peace and wanted to do peace ceremony at his church. So went to the church to do the ceremony. But people who came were not interested in creating peace for the world at all. They wanted to create peace of their own. They really needed to have peace in their family and peace in themselves. They were not interested on peace for the world. But they came because they love that priest. When the peace ceremony started no one was praying for any country at the beginning. But we said we would pray. We just did our normal peace ceremony starting the alphabetical order, A, b, c, Bhutan and Cambodia, Denmark. As the letters went D, E, F, still no one is praying, but as it reached Ghana and Gambia, few of the people started saying because may be they felt like, “Poor people. They are praying but no one else is praying. So let's pray together." So some people who felt sorry for us started to pray. And as few people started pray their energy started to connect with others and as we go further down the alphabetical order, more and more people started to pray. When we reached P for Poland, most of the people prayed and everybody prayed. From there on for United States, every body joined the prayer. When we said last that, “may peace be in all the world", everybody stood up and hug each other and said that they were so happy that they were able to pray for the peace. And at the end of the ceremony people came up to my mother and said, " "We were only thinking about our everyday life and we felt we were never be able to pray for others or for the world. We needed to use our every minute and lives for our own self. But when I joined this prayer, I realized that there are ways that we can serve to create peace in the world. We will continue this prayer as long as we live, because we believe that we can do something for the world. This has brought us true joy and created peace in out heart." That message was really, really deep and it really stayed in my heart and my parent’s heart for long, long time. And I think that's the power of community. You are alone you won't be able to continue or you will give u really quickly. But if you have community that can support and help each other, things that seem impossible become possible. And I always think about the puzzle piece. In a puzzle, there are pieces that have bumps and pieces with indentation. Because there are bumps and indentation, we can connect. We don't have to think about positive or negative or good or bad, or dark or light. We just need to accept our piece. If we accept our piece, there is some body that can fill that space that seems like negative to you. And you can use the busy part to connect to the person. If you see as whole it becomes perfect. So if gif you just see yourself, you might not be perfect or if we compare with other we might look different, and that's because we are created to connect to each other. And I really learned that from my sisters. Because we are all so different, but if we connect with each other, through the differences, we can become more whole and our perspective becomes bigger. And it’s about letting go of your opinion or your way of doing, and just be part of the big piece. Offer your idea or offer your perspective and offers by different pieces is making you see the whole vision. And so I believe that community like Servicespace is really to make us realize that we don't need to be perfect, but we s a whole is perfect, if we just accept who we are an appreciate who we are.
Birju: That certainly resonates with me Maki Saionji. I wanted to jump in to share my gratitude with you. I remember being in japan a few years ago and you have supported my journey in many beautiful ways. I remember being on a subway ride with you in Tokyo, I don't know if you recall, it was a very powerful conversation in my life and I just wanted to say, thank you.
Maki: Thank you. I remember too.
Birju: I wanted to ask you a question around some of the ethos that I have been feeling in this call. Two of the words that came to my mind. One was authenticity and the other was feeling. And from experience, these are approaches to living and being in relationship that are hard to do. I felt you reference the freedom with which you express your emotion and you reference tearing up on multiple occasions and I wanted ask your reflections on that. Atlas in my experience for many people in the dominant culture and society, it's very hard to feel that deeply. To feel the pain of others. To feel the joy of others. To be moved emotionally to what is happening. And I am wondering if you have any reflections on how that growth process was of you to develop that capacity and what others can do to grow that in themselves.
Maki: As I said earlier, I think this is one of the qualities that I carry from a young age. In a way it is really positive and really good and it helps me connect easily with others. But the negative side to that is, as I connect and understand easily with the pain of others, it can harm myself. When I was working as a physician in the hospital, I became sick because, I would resonate with the suffering the family and the suffering the patient and it was very difficult for me to make distance with that individual that I was taking car. What Birju has asked me is one of the qualities that seem really good. But it’s a strong point that has weakness too. I rally believe the there is no positive or negative. Something that seems positive can really become negative. But it's like understanding yourself and how do I cultivate so that positive aspect can be of more service to the world. I don't know if you understand, but it's about the quality that you carry from a young age. And at the same time, environment can create for you not become emotional. For example in Japan, the train is so crowded in the morning. So if you are able to empathize and feel, then you cannot live in a crowded city in Tokyo. Because then when you are really connected to how you are feeling, you will be angry all the time cannot live normal life. So the environment you are living in causes you to disconnect to that part of yourself which is trying to feel. If you are too used to that, then you forget to connect to that place. So I think you need to create a space for yourself to really connect. Asking yourself, " Are you happy? Are you sad? Very sad? Those practices will keep you tuned to how you are feeling and how others are feeling.
Birju: Very helpful. Thank you so much.
Aryae: Maki, Thank you so much. Such an inspiration to listen to you. And to you too Pavi. My question is .. I have been paying attention to the demographics of religion around the world. So much prayer for so many of us is associated with our religious practices. And I am seeing two contradictory trends. On one hand there are more and more people around the world who identify themselves as religious. People who identify themselves as religious are more and more of them who identify with the fundamentalists wing to their own religions, whether it's Jews or Muslims or Christians or whoever. People who very much see the truth as contained inside their own religion. On the other hand the contrary trend, there are more and more people who identify themselves as not being religious and not having any particular spiritual orientation or practice. Maki, you travel around the world and your family travels around the world. I am wondering if you have any comments on what you see and how these tendencies relate to the environment for prayer, when you bring the practice of prayer around the world?
Maki: Thank you for the wonderful question. I think I feel the same way as you do too. Like, if you focus on the practice of the religion, there are so many differences and contradictions between different religions. What we are trying to see is that, like Divine spark in each one of us, we have Divine spark and our expressions are different , we believe that each religion true principle is same . To understand this we do symphony of peace prayers at Mt. Fuji in May. Which is all about understanding different religion through the peace prayers. We ask different religious leaders to do the peace prayers in that religion. For example, Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, all different religions are invited to do the peace prayers. We as people who come to experience the different religions. And when we experience the different prayers and different methods and different religion, you instantly understand that they resonate same energy. And the wording and the method are different, but it is something that connects or some energy that you feel are really similar. And I really think that understanding religion with head is very difficult. But if you understand through experience, that experience is true you for the rest of your life. If you understand that al the religions have the similar energy and all the religions' peace prayer have similar energy, then you will start to know that whether you hold the religion or don't believe in religion, there are peace prayers and they have energy to heal yourself or others. I hope I answered your question.
Aryae: That's beautiful! Thank you Maki.
Wendy: This is Wendy and I am here with Aryae. This phone call is just so inspiring. And thank you Maki for showing that prayer can actually be a path for action and thank you Pavi for the poetry of your questions and comments.
Sometimes it feels to me that natural world cane a prayer partner, may be because I live where there is ocean and where there is so much natural beauty near where we live. Do you ever experience that as well, that the natural world, the trees, the oceans be partners as well with you in prayers.
Mika: Yes! Yes! Thank you very much. You reminded me of very important thing. I was only talking about humanity and the countries but yes, the natural world is a true partner, which can always give us deep message and realization. When I am deeply wounded or confused, I always go to the natural world and sit quietly and meditate. And through meditation, I learned so many true principles from the natural world. For example, once I was meditating and heard the bee buzzing. I opened my eyes and realized that bees were going flower to flower, through the process of bees work, I realize that we as human beings can live like the bee. Bee is collecting honey and at the same time helps flowers to make seed. So as I saw the bee, I realize that human being has two roles like bees do. To live for your own mission and at the same time that mission is really truly connected to the world mission. And that's the way we should live. Just simple work of bees is giving me big realization of who you are and what your path should be. And so the natural world is always a true teacher and provides guidance to our daily life.
Wendy: Thank you so much for that. I love your comment in the beginning, of prayer being a language and what I am hearing is that prayer comes in many languages and even non-human language.
Mika: Thank you. Yes!
Birju: There are a couple of questions that have come in from online. So I’d like to ask on behalf of Alison. She asks, Maki Saionji, did you find any insight on dying and death.
Mika: Yes. When I was a pediatrician, I was working at the oncology department for the children. Young children at the age of five or four, they taught me a very strong teaching that death is not something you should be afraid of. When I was communicating with these children, they often said, I am not scared of dying but I am not going to say this to my parents because it's going to hurt them. That made me realize that, from the perspective of our true nature, death is not something we are supposed to be afraid of. But as we grow up and we start to learn about death or dying, we start to think and fear that process. If you think about self, your body is living but every day your cells die and everyday your self is experiencing the birth. Your body is experiencing both the birth of the cell and apoptosis of the cell. That balance of birth and death is making you alive. And if you think about that, your body is experiencing that everyday, everyday. So why do we have to be scared of death? All this work that I did in the hospital made me realize that we don't have to be death, but we need to create an environment, which can foster this sense that death is not something to be afraid of. My another mission is to create some kind of place where people can talk about how they are feeling, what their fears are, some place where they can express about to death and dying is one-step closer to creating that environment which is a little bit peaceful and harmonious place to end your life.
Birju: Wonderful! Thank you so much for the insight. I think it's a powerful thing personally even to hear about that question which I am going through with my parents right now in terms of their inquiry.
Kozo: Thank you so much for all the work you are doing. I think you are like on of the bees pollinating so many beautiful seeds all over the world. I want to ask you about, I know you worked in medicine, you said in oncology, what I find in western medicine, and in Japan there is a lot of western medicine, the power of prayer and intuition is often disregarded, almost excluded. So I'm wondering how your journey and how your views on medicine have shifted since you became involved with the power of prayer.
Mika: Yes. It is. It's unfortunate but in the medical world, many people even if they believe in power of prayer, they don't express that in the hospital. When I was a physician, I knew the power of prayer... I work in the children's hospital. At night when parents had to go to their house, 7- 8 pm babies and young children cried because their parents have to go home. If I go closer physically to try to hold them they would be really afraid of me. Because all I do is hurt. So I didn't go close to them. But from far away, I pray for the peace of their soul and peace of their existence. As I pray for each of then that I was in charge of, slowly they go to sleep. At first I thought they were tired of crying so they are sleeping. I doubted at forty and when I talked to my colleagues, they said it was just coincidence. But by continuously doing that it really shifted the energy. It doesn't have to be the word prayer, but life is really about living from your inner source, Divine spark. It's our practice to know how to live from there. The expression prayer, the other expression may be music. What ever it is, if we really live from that place, it always connects to the person in front of you and then the energy will be connected and peace will be created in the environment
Kozo: Beautiful! Thank you.
Birju: And Maki, would it be ok if we went a few minutes over today, just about 5 minutes, as there is one more question.
Susan: Do you have any advice for working mothers?
Maki: I am a working mother myself. I have three children, 8 years old, 6 year old and year old. And I think that children really know. I mean we cannot lie to children. Even though I am not home they know that I am not playing around, like meeting friends to enjoy. They know that I am doing work that is something very important. Even though they are really small, they can understand and really support me. Always I feel pain if I am not there to protect them or if I am not there when they are sick or if I am not there to comfort them. But that emotional pain is coming from your emotional self. So I always tell myself not be confused with receiving message from the emotional place. If I go deeper to my inner source, the message is like believe in the child source. Believe that the child has Divine spark in themselves, each one of them and they can live strongly from there. And something that seems painful is just a surface and I really trust that they have the spark and that they can live from that. If I go deeper and get connected to that place I can really trust them. I believe that trust is the most powerful thing to create transformation. If I can trust that deeply enough, they can trust in themselves too. That trust in their own Divine spark can create strong growth and strong power to protect their own self. It is so difficult for working mothers, but my mother always said that, "They are protected by something great, greater than ourselves.” They are coming from this beautiful universe and it is protected by the beautiful great power and I have believed in that. My mother always says," The power of universe is much much greater than the power of mother." So sometimes it is better not to interfere. Just pray that the baby or child can be strong enough to find his or her own spark and live from there.
Birju: Thank you so much.
Pavi: Thank you Birju. Thank you so much Maki Saionji. In a gentle way you have shaken this call and shaken us all in a beautiful way, with the simplicity of your words and withe the deep wisdom of your heart. One more question before we close. What can we do to serve your work in the world?
Maki: My mother always says that, "There are so many different ways to express. The expression, if it is coming from the source or Divine spark of your self, that's really service to the humanity." So I really hope that each one of us can find our own source and our own divine spark and then express our life from that place. At the same time if you have extra energy to do something or if you are not sure what to do, I really hope that people can pray for the peace of the world. Because this world is really needing that power of the prayer right now. And there are so many people who need this positive energy. If you have extra minute or if you have extra energy to do something and if you are not sure of what to do, please pray for the peace of the world. And if we can continue our prayer until each individual can pray for himself or herself, then eventually ... my mom always says that her with is that religion disappears. That every body can find their own wisdom within themselves. that religion is not necessary. Until that time comes our work is really to do that on behalf of humanity. So I hope we can continue this prayer and may peace prevail on Earth.
Pavi: We just had a realization on our end that is 3.30 am Tokyo time which is where Maki is calling in from. As mother of 3 bandleader of organization and all the other beautiful roles that she plays, it's incredible that you carve out time so generously to share from your path. You have left us so many nuggets that we will carry in our pockets for many many years to come. Thank you so much for being who you are intros world.
Maki: Thank you so much too! Because of this opportunity I was able to look back into my life and look for the stories that really blossomed by life and understand deeper things about my mission. So all this work that you are doing is really creating a different win the world and different win me. So I have so much deep appreciation to Birju and Pavi and Servicespace for creating this kind of opportunity for me. Thank you very much.
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