Of all the things you pick up along a journey, the most treasured are the ones you do not see.

I hope you’re having a joyful holiday season and starting 2019 as it deserves. My New Year’s zen Monday greetings will be a bit longer than usual, and posted later too.

This year I have returned for the third time to Japan and finally made it to one of its most famous historic sites, the Ise shrine. Anyone can walk along the site – set in a beautiful forest park – peer through the main shrine gates as the white flags sway in the wind, and leave a prayer and wish to the mercy of sun goddess Amaterasu. Yet you cannot actually see inside the shrine, its main buildings fenced in, and kept distant enough from the gates. At first, as a non-Japanese, you feel perhaps disappointed that the place referred to in almost every Japanese classic is not close enough that you could actually touch its walls or feel the warm wood boards creak under your socks. But as I reflect on the year that 2018 has turned out to be, I look back on the memory of the fences that surround Ise and have a different thought altogether:

“Of all the things you pick up along a journey, the most treasured are the ones you do not see.”

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One of the shrines inside the Ise Inner Shrine, Iseshima, Japan, 2018

You see I picked up a lot of things on my journey through 2018 in Switzerland, Japan, and Ise. I went through my board leadership program, worked on the launch of a cool product for a well-known consumer brand, and continued to support the community of INSEAD alumni in Switzerland. As the Japan trip neared its end, I was finishing my first mini art edition “One Moment, One Drawing” (now nearly sold out, but more news to come soon) and left a painting ready for my first exhibition in Tokyo in January 2019.

I picked up lots of mementos in Japan which you can see in the image below, from the acorn on its hiking trails, the water dropper for my painting desk, and a new year’s wish board from the Ise shrine (I’m not superstitious but I will take all the luck I can get). But what the picture does not show is that in order to accomplish all of those wonderful things, I needed to connect with and learn from many of you along the way. And though you are not visible directly in the image, I’m very grateful for you continuing to be part of my personal journey whenever the chance occurs.

A 2019 New Years card, nengajo, ねんがじょ, 年賀状, 2018

So I wish you a great year ahead, I share a bit of that luck I picked up for the year of the boar through the image below, and hope we are all lucky enough to reconnect in 2019!

Thank you for reading another zen Monday. ありがとうございました。明けましておめでとうございます。今年も宜しくお願いします。

Every Monday is zen Monday, a weekly dose of zen in Japanese ink painting format, coupled with one Japanese word.

via “New Year’s Card”

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