Nourishing the Soul On an Autumn Hike to Minoh Falls, Japan

REFLECTED IN THE WINDOW of the train, I watch as drizzly fog drifts through layers of vibrant forest. The train arrives in Mino, a small city north of Osaka, Japan.

I’m here to immerse myself in the crisp embrace of nature. I almost didn’t leave; the rain in Osaka nearly stopped me. Then I considered how the rain couldn’t dampen, but vivify, this adventure.

Always go. Perhaps especially when there’s a reason not to.

The train moves forward towards the hills; instead of looking, I watch the reflection. I’m in awe of what I see, the potential of the future as well as all that’s passed, reflected in the moving glass.

Reflection in the glass
Reflection in the glass
On simplifying

We’re always looking towards the future, plans to come and goals to reach.

“We are never ‘at home,’” writes the 16th-century Renaissance thinker, Michel de Montaigne, in his Essays.

“We are always outside ourselves. Fear, desire, hope, impel us towards the future; they rob us of feelings and concern for what now is, in order to spend time over what will be.”

In our age of information, it takes deliberate effort to wade through the ceaseless barrage of noise on social media which makes us feel inadequate as we are.

For the past couple of weeks, however, I’ve removed myself from what’s nonessential: social media, negativity, clutter of the mind that’s built up over years, telling me to keep up and do more.

Simplifying always makes me feel better.

There’s never-ending things to do, see, care about and be. But instead of only looking ahead, to truly understand myself, I aim to look back to the reflection.

Studying the past takes me further within.

Hiking to Minoh Falls, Japan
Hiking to Minoh Falls, Japan
The quest to know myself

Guided by history and those such as Montaigne who sought to know themselves, I better understand my longing.

“Whoever would do what he has to do would see that the first thing he must learn is to know what he is and what is properly his,” writes Montaigne.

“And whoever does know himself never considers external things to be his; above all other things he loves and cultivates himself: he rejects excessive concerns as well as useless thoughts and resolutions.”

We aren’t the first ones to feel the way we do.

“The wise of every generation,” says author Shane Parrish“discover the same truths.”

These truths lay buried. Seldom on the surface of the times, they take digging, seeking, clarity to unearth.

Life is for living

Spanning cultures and religions, transcending eras and individuals, timeless wisdom flows like a well of eternal nourishment if we’re willing to go back.

The words are etched in the mold of the age they were conveyed. Montaigne wrote in Old French and Latin, but he was still just a man.

His words and those of all seekers recast to the times we live in.

We may take these lessons and discover how they feel to us. What’s their weight when held in our hands? How do they feel when they leave our lips?

“The real truths are heresies,” says Naval Ravikant in his Almanack“They cannot be spoken. Only discovered, whispered, and perhaps read.”

Wisdom, both timeless and modern, may encourage us. Yet the truths are just words until we live them out ourselves.

I’m here in Mino to gain insight from our greatest teacher, mother nature. She always tells me what I need to know.

Adopt the patience of nature

Climbing through the forest — ancient, misty mountain shrines — I ponder every step I take.

What sound could be more honest than rushing mountain water? Let that be the noise which fills my thoughts.

The forest brims with layers of shifting color, what’s known as koyo in Japan, the vivid autumn leaves. Red and golden maple leaves hang from sodden trees.

Brown leaves, translucent in the sun which fights to shine, rustle in the wind and scatter on the ground.

“Adopt the pace of nature,” said the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, “her secret is patience.”

There’s nowhere to rush to on this path. The water won’t stop flowing. Listen to its melody which changes tune as we do.

Japan epitomizes the essence of seasons. Summer is bright and rich in festivals. Winter’s draped in snow. Autumn bursts with turning color; spring’s renowned and delicate.

Thus, as time marches on, Japan continually changes. You never truly know a place, as it’s different every time you visit. So are we, as individuals, eternally in flux.

I can’t help but think of one of my favorite lines from Shogun:

Beauty is not less, for falling in the breeze.
We are what we repeatedly do

Underneath our malleable exterior, our core strengthens or weakens by what we do, over and over. I want who I am to derive from philosophy, experience, and doing what feels intrinsically good.

I strive to focus on laying a sound foundation instead of pouring more onto a shaky base.

Of course I’ll stray; I’m enticed by what’s ahead and the striving to keep up. I, for the most part, enjoy social media.

But it feels so good to take a break, to stop keeping up, and focus on keeping true to who I am and what I love.

There’s so much in life we can’t control; we control the output that we give. We decide what to focus on, where to spend our time and energy.

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Why can’t we shut off?

There’s a pressure which tells us we can’t shut off. Trust me, I feel it too. You’ll fall behind if you don’t stay on top of the trends. You’re naive for not wanting to pay attention to what’s happening in the world.

Am I? Are we?

Or are we protecting ourselves?

What’s truly important reaches our ears. Social media isn’t news. Nor is the “news.” Why waste time consuming what makes us anxious?

Social media gives us a false sense of connection. The more connected we are, perhaps, the more disconnected we are from reality.

Perhaps I gain greater insight into how the world feels from looking in the eyes of that person whom I pass, instead of looking down at my screen and reading about it.

The hike to Minoh Falls, Japan
The hike to Minoh Falls, Japan
Does it make you feel good?

All that matters is that what you do makes you feel good. It’s up to you to discover what that is.

“If you are what you eat,” says Remi, the rat in my favorite animation, Ratatouille“then I only want to eat the good stuff.”

The question is, how do I feel from what I choose to consume?

I’m inspired by the things I’m reading, enduring works, penned by souls such as Michel de Montaigne, a man in search of himself.

I feel encouraged and put to peace by the things I listen to: long-form-content such as this conversation between Naval Ravikant and Joe Rogan, who impart that, despite how it seems, you’re on your path.

Consider if what you’re consuming and what you’re doing, over and over, clarifies or muddles who you are.

I’ve made it to Minoh Falls. Raindrops drip and spread on the pages of my journal, underneath a hanging tree.

What am I doing here?

Watching delicate twigs and pink budding flowers flow with the force of nature.

Trust what makes you feel like you.

Trust me, says mother nature, that wondrous steward of time.

Her voice comes as the sound of rain in the mountains.

  • Hiroshi Matano
    Posted at 03:01h, 20 November Reply

    I’m not good at English, but the last line is so impressive for me. I try to feel the nature and sound around me.

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 03:45h, 20 November Reply

      I love that Hiroshi! I appreciate you reading; there’s something about the sounds of nature that heal the mind. Cheers my friend.

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