I love, love, love the Japanese concept of Yutori.
I suspect because I have so longed to be more that way than I am. In fact, I think I embody this concept until I once again face the brutal fact that I am often behind the 8-ball. I picture myself taking the time to create spaciousness in my daily life, yet, as I climb into bed at night, I realize that once again, it didn’t happen – except for last night.
Yesterday was the last day of my grandson Rowan’s final exams, and after weeks of projects – creating a children’s book; numerous research papers; essays; math competitions – you name it, he was done. And that meant so was I. He does the work, and I ask the questions in French. Rather like a study buddy. We actually have fun, and peals of laughter ring out. (oftentimes) I have been impressed by Rowan’s tenacity, and there were very few times either of us lost our cool.
We experimented with different ways to study. For instance, we found the time it took for his French dictee was cut in half when he started asking me to spell the words first, and determine the gender of each word. After a couple of rounds with me, he could zip through the words – likewise, with other subjects like Science and Social. I had him explain the lesson to me in English, so when I followed up, asking him to explain in French, it was easier. The truth is, it has been a busy time, and studying was just one thing on the table.
But last night was different. I finished a program around six o’clock – one that I love facilitating. Picked up Rowan and drove to our favourite Sushi restaurant just in time for our 6:30 reservation. We were celebrating the end of exams and the school year by taking all the time in the world to enjoy our special dinner. We had spaciousness—the beauty and stillness of the environment and the luxury of selecting our dinner and taking it all in. Almost two hours later, we had thoroughly soaked up the atmosphere while admiring the food with our eyes and delighting in the taste. When our shared dessert, a Japanese crepe with mango, so so good, was finished, we made a detour on our way home.
The ornamental garden where I spent so much time with my grandkids and where we are always in awe, no matter the season. Last night we were lucky to catch the still beautiful end of the peonies, roses and irises. I was afraid we had missed them all. And so we moodled; admired; smelled; oohed and ahhed; took pictures, and exclaimed about all the awesomeness. No rush. It was a spectacular ending to a long school year.
Some of you will remember how I learned about Yutori and wrote about it two years ago.
On Being Project
There is a concept, the Japanese word Yutori, which I learned about from one of my favourite poets – Naomi Shihab Nye. She discussed it in an interview with Krista Tippet and the On Being Project. (link in the notes) and tells how she encountered this word.
I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”
And they liked that. And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called yutori.” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around. Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her. But one of them was… and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently. And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous poetry books, including Famous (Wings Press, 2015). Excerpted from interview
Last night I got to experience the conscious slowdown that allowed us to savour the dinner and the garden. I resolved, once again, to make space this summer. The refusal to rush. Taking time to admire the beauty and only talking about what’s in my field of vision. Creating pockets of time to do so. When we step into absorption with nature, as one example, and with no agenda except to see – well, spaciousness opens up.
I can imagine that all of you have had experiences of spaciousness. It is easy for me to imagine how it happens with a poem, music, forest bathing, looking at the starlit sky or the full moon and other meaningful moments. Yet this snippet from the interview hints at the many more opportunities we have to savour our everyday.
A Haiku by Basho (c.1644-94)
Violets, as I walk
this mountain road,
draw me to them somehow.
1:) These things- spaciousness and not rushing don’t happen on their own. We need to create time for them if it matters to us.
2:) I am reading a new book by Katherine Mannix called Listen. I just finished her first book, With The End in Mind, which I highly recommend. She is a brilliant Palliative Care Physician in the UK, who is also a gifted storyteller—recommended by Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal.
3:) The link to the interview with Rachel Naomi Nye and Krista Tippet
4:) A deep bow to you all who keep taking the time to read my musings. Warmest wishes, Trudy