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What It Means to Be Okinawan at Soka

I do not know how I end up anywhere. In fact, I often do not know who I am. Who am I? I am learning to allow myself to slow down and breathe gently, to hear the unheard voice of the river of life. With an open heart, I attempt to catch the rhythm that weaves through me and try to find a way to resonate with the music of the spheres. I do not see my footsteps before birth, but I know that somehow, I first cried in Okinawa. I decided to simply believe in my genetic call. There must be something that I need to do as an Okinawan. My life’s journey will be a constant search for what that is and a repeated redefining of what that is. Luckily, in the course of my Soka life, I think I found a little hint.

When I was a first-year student at Soka, I wore myself out. I did not know how to control my desire to distribute love. I was constantly giving out my love to people whom I thought needed it the most, and I never left some for myself. I was horrible at loving myself. When my bottle was empty, I relied on external comfort to disguise the emptiness. Once I had slept and eaten and had a little bit of love in my bottle again, I went outside and gave it all away to those who I thought needed it more than me. In reality, I was the one that needed it the most. There is a concept called “kame-kame-kougeki” in Okinawan, which means “eat more, eat more.” This phenomenon is usually seen in an Okinawan grandma when they try to stuff you with tons of food until you cannot take it anymore. This is the same with love. In Okinawa, I was showered with so much love and many honest words of appreciation from my friends and family every single day that I never learned to love myself on my own.

One day, when my life condition was very low I had a wake-up call, both literally and figuratively, from an Okinawan friend who out of the blue told me one thing; “Hinako, you are a person that needs to be valued, and you need to know that.” Surprisingly, I took those words very seriously, despite the fact that he was drunk. I realized that people grow best when they are well loved, and the same goes for myself. Sometimes the love I give to someone never comes back to me. Before, that used to drain me so much, but now I am stronger because I know the importance of filling my bottle on my own. I can love more than I’ll ever get back and yet, I can love anyway. I think this is the philosophy that lies behind the Okinawan concept of “kame-kame-kougeki.” Being an Okinawan at Soka means that I must joyfully offer my entire being to others and learn to do the same for myself.

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