A three day monk

learn_bannerThere’s a proverb in Japan that gets dragged out for every New Year… just a few days after the resolutions are made, the gym memberships bought, and the muscles start to stiffen up. Mikka bouzu, the 3 day monk. It means becoming a Buddhist monk is tough, but most people can hold on for about three days. That is to say anything is doable for three days, but it’s that day 4 that’s the real killer.

IMG_3252I remember the crowded boardwalk on Long Beach’s Alamitos Beach, New Year’s days past. Joggers and walkers pushing past each other in shiny new workout clothes–wired with a new ipod that doubled as a pulse reader and body mass indicator. Most of them are home today on the couch with a jar of Tiger Balm watching football. We won’t see them until next January 1st.

Here in Japan it’s not much different. The New Year signals change, an opportunity to cast off whatever prevents financial growth, activity, health, whatever. Everyone has some idea what they would like to change, or start or finish.

Of course, some scoff at the artificial arbitrariness of the New Year. After all what’s so different? The sun still rises and sets, it’s still cold, the ozone layer is still disappearing, we’re all still getting sauteed by global warming. So why make any resolutions at all?

I confess to be a product of society. I relish the opportunity to drop old habits for new ones. I love to stand in front of the mirror, suck in my chest and tell myself: “in 30 days you’re going to look like Brad Pitt.” But I don’t want to be a Mikka Bouzu, so this year I’m starting off the new year right. I’m starting on Day 4. That way I can extend my resolution at least until day 7. And a 7 day monk is 4 days better than a 3 day monk. It’s fuzzy math, I know but at least for those three days from the 4-7th I’ll be jogging alone on the boardwalk.

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