Uketamo: the philosophy to live by

A Jizo statue at the top of Mt. Kyogakura in Sakata

Uketamo has a long, long history. There’s a little known mountain region in northern Japan called the Dewa Sanzan that has been used as training ground for the Yamabushi, monks who train in the austerities in the mountains, for over 1,000 years.

Although the Dewa Sanzan comprises of only three mountains, currently Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono, a powerful philosophy that has implications for all of mankind has developed there over the centuries.

Called Uketamo (oo-keh-ta-moh), the philosophy succinctly encompasses the lessons learned from nature through countless generations of Yamabushi training on the three sacred peaks.

Uketamo works like this: Your master, called a Sendatsu, tells the Yamabushi to climb Mt. Haguro. The only response allowed? Uketamo. Your master tells you to get under the waterfall for meditation. Your response? Uketamo. But it gets much deeper than that.

You’re walking by the river and you get bitten by a bug. This time you don’t say Uketamo, but you definitely feel it.

It starts to rain on an otherwise perfect day, and you realise you’ve forgotten your umbrella. Uketamo.

You reach the top of Mt. Gassan, and have to walk through a thunderstorm to get back. Uketamo.

You lose your job. Uketamo.

Your best friend gets married, and you feel your relationship with them will never be the same. Uketamo.

Someone very close to you dies. You take the time to grieve, all the while thinking how can you Uketamo this (hint, give it time, meanwhile focus on keeping your house in order).

Uketamo means acceptance to the core. The Yamabushi understood that the sooner you can accept the things that life throws at you, the better off you are in the long run. And it works. Or at least it has for me.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed or have an itch that just can’t get scratched, try Uketamo. Or even better, go out into nature and learn the philosophy first hand (you can also join me on Yamabushi training if you like).

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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