Taisyu Kawano, Deputy Director of RESM Shin-Yokohama Sleep and Breathing Medical Care Clinic
Dr. Taisyu Kawano, who is a priest of the Rinzai sect, is engaged in medical treatment as a psychiatrist and psychosomatic physician. He appeals to modern people living in a stressed society, “The important thing is how to accept the existence of oneself,” and proposes mindfulness originating from Zen as a way to prepare the state of mind, and strives to popularize it.
On the other hand, as the connections between people have diminished and attention has been focused on “helping each other” as indicated by the terms Mutual-Help relationship and bond society, “accepting the existence of oneself for such things. Only then can we reach out to others from the bottom of our hearts,” says Dr. Kawano. We talked about what we should do to live better in the future.
── What are your thoughts on the existence of human beings as a doctor and as a devoted religious man?
It’s difficult to say in one word, but from a psychiatric point of view, human beings can be said to be creatures with the power to think. In Zen terms, humans are nothing. It means that it is a tiny, dust-like existence within all creations.
Even though it is only one element of nature, due to humans having the power to think, we worry about ourselves and our relationship with others, as well as worry about the state of the world. The power to think is the function of the brain and it is also connected to the state of the mind.
All animals are living “now.” But only humans can remember the past and predict the future. Other animals do not regret the past or worry about the future. Because humans have a larger cerebral cortex than other animals, we can be separated from our hearts and “now.”
How does it work? In today’s society, information technology (IT) such as the Internet is widespread and deeply permeated. Computers and smartphones have become indispensable tools not only for work but also in daily life for many people. The amount of information that overflows from there is swaying many people. Thus, more people are not paying attention to “now” and what is in front of them.
── Why is that?
A major factor is that people today have a lot of work to do and many people have to do various things in parallel. One’s ability to focus that can be devoted at one time is called attention resources, but the attention resources have limitations. If one uses attention resources to process so much information coming in from the outside, one after another, one’s brain will be exhausted and one will not be able to face the spirituality in his mind. Eventually, one will not be aware of the natural feelings like “what we are living for” and “what we are looking for,” and one will not feel the value of living.
There is a treatise that was published in the United States in 2010. A study on the feelings of well-being of about 5,000 people aged 18 to 80 in 83 countries around the world was conducted and found that nearly 50 percent of the time while people are awake, we are not concentrating on the things in front of us. The research also found that the greater the proportion of people who are concentrating on what is in front of them, the greater their feeling of happiness at that moment, regardless of the difference between rich and poor and their social background.
At the same time, by focusing on what is in front of you, your brain will not process many pieces of information at once, thus, you will be able to restore your attention resources. Then you will be able to use the energy in your brain to come up with new ideas.