Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japanese culture and the hills here turn pink during the cherry blossoms. After our visit to Osaka and Himeji Castle, this was our next stop. To this day, Ryoan-ji is one of my favorite places in the world because of the sight above. It's impossible to capture the moment in picture or word, but my friend and I entered the temple a bit burnt out from a day of temple hopping, turned the corner to see this cherry tree over the Zen garden, and were speechless. Literally. We both sat down and turned our full an complete attention to the scene.
I earnestly believe that we seldom truly experience the world around us. It's actually a skill that needs active practice because it's easy to get caught up in either the past or the future, instead of the present. In short, we think too much and it keeps us from truly experiencing the world around us. On top of the challenge of simply being present, we also add ourselves to our perception of the world. At a very basic level, even adding names to what we see around us is a distortion of a type because it adds values and associated concepts to the object being viewed. True experience wastes no energy on what is not there and instead focuses all the senses on everything around you. That might sound like a stretch, but this garden was built in part to help attain these types of true experiences through their use in Shikantaza, which is part of Zen Buddhism and is the practice of "quiet sitting in open awareness, reflecting directly the reality of life". We fell into some version of this when we were there and only left after someone politely let us know that they were closing for the night.
There is so much more to Kyoto than just cherry blossoms and Ryoan-ji. After the break, we'll continue the sakura festival and take a look around Kyoto.