In Japan, near Tokyo, there is a training hall named Ichikukai dojo, where once per month, for four days, senior and intermediate members gather with new initiates to enter the world of misogi-no-kokyu-ho, a form of body-mind-spirit purification. An important practice from the Shinto tradition, misogi-no-kokyu-ho may be translated as “purification through breathing.” In the four day “shogaku shugyo” (first-time experience) of misogi, students wear traditional martial arts practice uniforms and formal-wear called gi and hakama. Eating consists of three meals per day of a barley-rice mixture, soybean paste, salted plum, and radish pickles. Students sleep on tatami mats. With strong encouragement and pressure from senior members, new initiates sit in the kneeling posture of seiza, practice deep breathing exercises, and chant eight syllables with all of their might; “To Ho Ka Mi E Mi Ta Me.” Training is arduous, emotionally straining, and physically exhausting. Yet it is a unique opportunity to...
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