Faith After Doubt: Explore Spirituality With Doubt
In his new book, Faith After Doubt, the author, speaker, activist and public theologian Brian ...
OUR MIND CAN BECOME overloaded and overstimulated, disconnected from our body, heart, and soul, creating fear, anxiety, and separation. Shinto can be a beautiful solution, a way to give our minds a break and tune into a state of peace.
Shinto is an ancient life philosophy and religion (although not in the Western sense). It continues to deeply influence the Japanese way of life, but the philosophy of Shinto is universal and eternal. Its rituals and practices can be a tool to enhance our modern life.
Over generations, my family was involved in running our local Shinto shrine in Wakayama. Since I was a child, I served as miko, a shrine maiden at the season’s ceremonies. I assisted the priest in performing ceremonies at the shrine. At home, my mother and grandmother taught me the daily rituals for our family’s wellbeing and prosperity.
In Shinto’s principles, when we are born, we come to this world with purity, as a child of kami, like in a state of kami, the divine spirit. To keep this pureness—in this world, in this lifetime—is our main mission. As we live, we experience impurity, kegare, through our six sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body, mind. The ritual of purification is called harae.
With daily practices, family rituals, and seasonal ceremonies, we purify ourselves. Once we are pure, we invite kami, the divine, to us, to be with us daily in our house, our office, wherever our life evolves. To follow Shinto is to live as pure as possible, as in a pure state of kami. Not only through the rituals, but also in daily situations, as we try to refrain from judgement, train our eyes to see the truth, and keep our heart pure.
Salt, water, fire, and sake are used for the purification rituals. Salt, especially, is widely used in spiritual purification in Japan since ancient times. The purification ritual with salt welcomes a higher frequency of energy, wellbeing, and prosperity. Here are my daily rituals of Shinto purification. I have developed them while living in Europe, removed from the Shinto shrines of Japan. They cleanse the six senses and enhance overall wellbeing.
“My outer world is the reflection of my inner world. I keep purifying my inner kingdom.”
Use the Purification Power of Salt
Sprinkling salt or placing a cone of salt, morishio, at the entrance purifies the energy coming into your home. You can also carry a small amount of salt wrapped in cling film, in the same way you might carry a crystal or amulet. In this case, make the package fresh each day. (BODY)
Connect With the Divine Spirit
You may have a spot with candles and crystals in a corner of your room. Make it an altar and bring an offering of water or light a candle in the morning. If you are not into making such an altar, be creative! Plants or flowers in the house can be your spot to connect to the divine. As you bring an offering, sit still or stand still, put your palms together, close your eyes, and focus on your breath for a few seconds or as long as you can. (EYES, MIND)
Refrain From Harmful Words
This is something very simple, but we tend to forget it. Refrain from using harmful words or speaking ill of others. Words carry energy and vibrate as sound. We tune into the lower vibration by using harmful words. We can express ourselves without using these harmful words. (EAR, MOUTH)
Express Appreciation to the Universe
Make a habit of expressing appreciation throughout a day. In Japanese, we have the expression itadakimasu, which is used before the meal and also when we receive something. This little phrase means something like, “I humbly accept and receive. Thank you, everyone, who was involved in bringing this to me. Thank you, nature, for making this grow. Thank you, universe.” This act of appreciation elevates our energy frequency and connects us to the realm of the divine. (EAR, MOUTH)
Connect With Nature
Nature is the gateway to divine energy. Go for a walk in nature. If you are in a city or in the office, you can find a piece of nature around you. Trees, flowers on the terrace, sunshine, rain, moon in the sky … quiet your mind, focus on your breath, feel the existence of trees, plants, or flowers and feel the beauty of it and simply appreciate being here. (NOSE, BODY, MIND)
Celebrate Seasonal Produce
Celebrate each season with the fresh produce of the season. With the act of appreciation, you enjoy what the universe and nature have brought to you and connect to this divine energy. (MOUTH, BODY, NOSE, MIND, EYES, EAR)
Take a Shower or Bath Before Sleeping
In Japan, having a bath in the evening is a daily routine. It cleanses not only the physical body but also our energy fields. I love having a bath daily with a handful of salt (my favorite is Himalayan salt). This purges out impurity by sweating and it is a wonderful way to end the day and wake up refreshed the next morning. (MIND, BODY)
Shinto is the native belief system of Japan, existing before Buddhism reached the islands. It currently coexists with Buddhism, and most Japanese people follow both traditions. Shinto is based on the belief that there are millions of kami, powerful local spirits, in nature. Shinto shares this aspect of pagan animism with indigenous tribe’s wisdom.
There is no founder of Shinto, no dogma, and no charismatic leader like Jesus Christ or Buddha. However, there are iconic figures from the ancient mythologies, such as Amaterasu Omikami, who are still adored and frequently mentioned in today’s comics and literature.
The rituals and ceremonies of Shinto emerged in the ancient communities of Japan as ways to live harmoniously and safely with the family and community. They connected to kami and collectively wished for a good harvest and protection from natural disaster.
The most important principle in Shinto is purification. To welcome kami, we practice cleansing the impurity from our mind, body, and living environment. We aim to be in a state of pureness, kami’s state.
Our ancestors marked locations of power in Japan. These spots are in the mountains, forest, trees, lakes, and the sea. This is the spot where we can tune into kami and rejuvenate our body, mind, and soul and experience healing. Shinto shrines have been built in such places to call upon our millions of kami who are everywhere in nature. The famous torii, two pillars connected on top with two horizontal bars, marks the entrance to a Shinto shrine.
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