Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
According to Wikipedia, Obon is a Japanese Buddhist tradition that was adopted from the Chinese “ghost festival,” which honors your ancestors’ spirits. This tradition’s origin was from the story of Mokuren, one of Buddha’s disciples, who freed his mother suffering in the realm of Hungry Ghosts by giving offerings to Buddhist monks who completed their summer retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Upon her release, Mokuren saw his mother’s past selflessness and sacrifices she made for him, which prompted him to dance with joy for her kindness, hence “Bon Odori” or “bon dance.” Through the years, this holiday has brought families together for the intent of visiting and cleaning their ancestors’ graves in remembrance of their sacrifices and kindness. Since Obon occurs in the summer heat, dancers wear yukatas, light cotton kimonos, and the festivities are celebrated with rides, games, dance and food. Obon usually ends with Okuribi, a ritual that uses the guidance of fire to send their ancestors’ spirits back to their spirit dwellings.
A unique celebration of life
Obon’s tradition is about honoring your ancestors and ensuring that you are helping those that have transitioned. Why not only honor our ancestors, but those loved ones who are still yet living? A few years back I was invited to a celebration of life for a gentleman who had not yet transitioned, and he had invited all the people in his life that he connected with through the years. He requested no gifts even though it was his birthday, but instead asked for everyone to share a memory of him – a personalized eulogy. He sat on the stage with lei and whoever wanted to share a fond memory was passed a microphone to express their sentiments. What followed was nothing but heart-felt gratitude and a deep love for a selfless individual who inspired so many just by him being authentic and helping others to see their potential and to believe in their own greatness. Though I had not personally met him until that evening, there were a lot of tear-jerking moments, and I found myself with a deep profound admiration and respect for this humble gentleman. It truly is surprising why we rarely take the time to celebrate and honor those who bring meaning into our lives. Even extended family members we sometimes only see at either family weddings or funerals.
Why wait ‘til later?
With the ever-so-present threat of COVID-19 and its variants and subvariants, it’s important to honor your ancestors but more importantly honor those loved ones in your life who are still alive. Over the past few months, I have been hearing multiple stories from clients and friends share the tragic loss of a loved one unexpectedly due to COVID-19 or from mental illness and depression. Just know that it’s never too late to reach out to a beloved friend, family member or someone who puts a smile on your face while they are still physically here. This is my challenge to you: call, text, email or send “snail mail” to someone that you have not connected with in a while and express your gratitude for the way they have impacted your life. In an indirect way, this honors your ancestors because you are “paying it forward,” and if it wasn’t for your ancestors, you wouldn’t be in existence today.
Ganbatte … Good or Bad?
Reflect on how the multiple, perceived demands of your life cause you to take your body for granted. Especially at this time, more than ever, it’s essential and vital for you to honor your body like the way you would honor your ancestors. Your body is always there for you, doing what you demand of it even when you are overextending yourself and not paying attention to how stress is impacting your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual state of being. The outdated mindset of mind over matter or “ganbatte” may serve you for many years until slowly, but surely, your health and well-being start to wear down. Eating poorly, drinking coffee or caffeinated energy drinks, poor sleeping habits, lack of exercise, work challenges, family concerns, COVID-19 fears all contribute to the building of a chronic stress situation, compromising your health even more. The power that you have is the ability to choose and to make small changes now instead of waiting for something to break. Have you noticed that as your family members or friends get ready to retire, all these health issues start popping up – escalating blood pressure, higher cholesterol, diabetes, persistent aches and pains? We chalk it up to old age – you get stiffer, less energy, mental fog, increased forgetfulness, less resilient, and an ever-growing belly. Does this have to be your fate?
Body honoring tradition
My suggestion is to create a quarterly, body-honoring tradition instead of a yearly practice to start taking care of your mind and soul’s vessel (aka “your body”) to maintain an elevated state of well-being and vitality. This quarterly tradition could be a full day, half a day, a couple of hours that you reserve to just take time and care for yourself. If you are already in the habit of taking care of your body and well-being via chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, a weekly exercise regimen then those quarterly mind-body check-ins could be simpler such as a hike in nature, a swim at the beach, or to spend quiet time journaling or meditating. This is a great reminder for me too, because even I can get swept up by all the things that I feel I have to, must, or should do. It’s amazing how even though I know what will help keep me vital and energized, I too can get caught up and find myself saying “I will get to it one day.” That one day, if I don’t intentionally plan it, schedule and put it into my calendar, I will also have the tendency to skip and not honor my body. So prioritize you, because if you don’t, who will?
In closing, as time goes on, sometimes the reason why we celebrate or carry on certain traditions is because it becomes mechanical or falls into the “our grandparents and parents did this so we must keep it going.” The power of COVID-19 is that it gave all of us a break to check in and reassess if all the things we have been doing for decades is something we really like doing at all? If you haven’t done so already, examine any routines you have created and see if it brings you energy or if it drains you. Ask yourself everything to honor your ancestors who sacrificed to make your life better. Are you really listening to your body’s signals or sacrificing yourself at what cost? Finding balance and joy in your work and personal life is the best way to honor the memory of your ancestors and this doesn’t have to be celebrated only once a year on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Choose you and spread this awareness to your loved ones and greater community so your ancestors can be smiling all year round.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (drchadsato.com), in Mänoa valley, O‘ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.