Written by Marcia Bradley
When Grant Elliot, PhD, took a trip to Japan several years ago, he had little idea that the treasures he’d uncover would have lasting and “life changing” implications for students at AULA.
Planning for his first trip, he read that Japanese temples offer a little known sanctuary in the way of guest quarters for travelers. While visiting Kyoto, he discovered Shunkoin Temple within the famous Myoshinji Compound and was delighted to find that its English-speaking vice-abbot had constructed a modern guest house complex on the grounds of the 400 year old temple and had opened it to non-Japanese visitors. Since that first visit, Grant has developed an AULA Study Abroad program in Japan where Psychology Department students now enjoy this same experience. The fourth of these trips will depart in March of 2015 for a 17-day journey that past participants have described as “the ultimate experiential course.”
Staying on a temple’s grounds is only the beginning of what is truly a journey of immersion into a lifestyle of peaceful mindfulness. The experience goes well beyond the temple compound into the surrounding area complete with local people, neighborhood homes, small shops and restaurants. Students will enjoy an introduction to meditation, learn about Japanese approaches to Psychology, art and architecture, and what’s trending as the Japanese consciousness regarding LGBT grows.
The trip also provides excursions including a visit to Hiroshima, and there is a four day break in the middle so that students can take side trips to explore their own interests. The study abroad has been planned to coincide with the arrival of the renowned Japanese cherry blossom season, a tree whose beautiful pink and white flowers are believed to reflect both the splendor as well as fleeting nature of beauty.
Asked if it’s necessary to speak Japanese, Grant advised, “It’s not necessary but a little Japanese goes a long way.” To learn more about this study abroad, or for registration information, email Grant at [email protected].
As for a few Japanese words, if you take this journey you will most likely become very familiar with hai for yes, arigato which is thank you, with meisou that means meditation, and probably even seimei henkō—which, but of course, means life changing.