China taught me how to love.
This might sound like a crazy thing to write, but it’s true on many levels. It was here in China that I first experienced what it was really like to love another person, to depend on them and know that they would be there for you. It was also in China that I learned to gradually love myself and, by extension, learned to open my heart to the possibility of writing incredibly personal stuff about my life. So yes, when I get right down to it, my journey here in this country has been about love.
That’s why I found Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras, a new memoir by Leza Lowitz, so touching.
Leza arrived in Japan years ago in search of adventure, never expecting the country would teach her how to open her heart and soul up to new possibilities. Like marriage and yoga, most of all, motherhood itself. For Leza, who grew up watching her mother’s unhappy marriage collapse before her, it was hard to imagine any happiness from saying “I do” to someone or even having children. Yet living in Japan gradually helps her break through the barriers within herself to heal from the past and courageously move into a new future (a future that includes opening her own successful yoga studio in Tokyo). Leza invites you along for this emotional ride, sharing her story with honesty and lots of heart – a story that follows her marriage to a Japanese man named Shogo and, later, her quest to become a mother in Japan.
For anyone who has ever struggled or felt “stuck” in life, Here Comes the Sun stands as a reminder that you’re not alone – and that sometimes, miracles really can happen in the most delightfully unexpected ways.
I’m honored to introduce you to Leza Lowitz and Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras through this interview.
Leza Lowitz lives in Tokyo with her husband, the writer Shogo Oketani, and their ten-year-old son. She has edited and published over seventeen books, many on Japan, and has run her own yoga studio in Tokyo for a decade. She travels throughout Japan and Asia to teach yoga and write. Her debut YA novel, Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, won the 2013–2014 Asian/Pacific American Award in Young Adult Literature.
I asked Leza about everything from the book’s fascinating subtitle to her husband’s take on the story and also her thoughts on marriage and family.
What inspired you to write this memoir?
Joan Didion, one of my favorite writers (whom I mention in the memoir), famously said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I wrote this book to write my way out of the struggle, to put things in perspective, and to let it go.
It’s been a long process. I’ve always kept a journal; writing has been my lifesaver. During my infertility struggles, I journaled. With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of blogs, I soon found many other women in the same boat. Their stories helped me find hope and gave me a community, which was also a lifesaver.
After we adopted our son, I published an excerpt from this memoir-in-progress in Shambhala Sun in 2010. The response was so positive that I decided to try to write a book. This was not as easy as it might sound–I was a big “starter,” and not a big “finisher.” Subsequent excerpts appeared in Best Buddhist Writing 2011, Yoga Journal, the New York Times Motherlode blog, and the popular blog Manifest-Station, which kept me on track. Women wrote to thank me for sharing my story, and to share their stories with me, and this gave me the courage to keep going.
Your book is subtitled “A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras.” Could you talk about why you chose this unique structure for your memoir?
I was introduced to meditation as a teenager, as I explain in this memoir, and mindfulness helped me deal with the violence around me. Yoga came into my life a decade later, and it has been a huge factor in helping me overcome many of the things that held me back in life. I became a yoga teacher in 2000, and opened my own yoga studio in Tokyo in 2004. I continued writing, marrying my spiritual quest with my literary one. I also moved abroad and married a Japanese man. My life was complicated, as I am sure the reader will understand.
I found that since outer life was so chaotic, I was drawn to poetic forms and structures like haiku and sonnets, which I felt could somehow help to “contain” the chaos. Content-wise, all of my books deal with notions of finding home. As an Expat, this issue was particularly important to me. We all long to belong somewhere.
So, chaos and structure=balance.
One of my first books, Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By deals with finding a home in one’s body and takes the Eight Limbs of Yoga as its structure. Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections, uses the Buddha’s six-tiered blueprint for happiness to chart the path to finding a home in the spirit. In Here Comes the Sun, I’ve taken the chakra system as a metaphor and roadmap for personal growth and transformation, charting the movement from “me” to “we.”
In the yogic system, there are seven major wheels of energy–or chakras–in the human body. The eighth chakra is believed to be our auric field. Each chakra has a particular function. Put simply, when we practice yoga, we awaken energy at the base of the spine, which rises up the central channel and unblocks the chakras along the way. Ultimately, female and male energy meet, and we become awakened, unified, whole.
Some chapters of the memoir deal directly with a particular chakra and the yogic practices that helped to balance it. In others, the work is more symbolic.
Throughout the process of becoming a mother, I had to ask myself questions many mothers never consider, like why did I want to be a mother? This question led me on a pilgrimage from the U.S. to Japan and to India. It led me to yoga, to Buddhism, and back to my birth religion of Judaism. Across inner and outer oceans, the chakras helped me stitch the crazy quilt of life into a pattern that made sense. They helped me to find myself, and ultimately, to find my family.
You explore many painful experiences in your story — from witnessing the breakdown of your parents’ marriage as a child to struggling with infertility. How did it feel to revisit these painful memories in writing the book?
Life is full of pain, and it’s full of joy, and the two often inform each other. If we don’t write authentically from our own deepest experience, the writing won’t have power. So, while it was painful to revist some of those past experiences, writing helped me to overcome them and let them go. Of all the books I’ve written, Here Comes The Sun was definitely the most difficult to write, being so personal. But going through the pain was necessary to be able to come out to joy on the other side. Here Comes The Sun is ultimately about forgiveness, about finding a home in each other and in the world, making choices and owning them. It’s about loving our deeply flawed selves, and loving the lives we have–and make.
Your husband Shogo is one of the most important characters in your memoir. How does he feel about your memoir and his role in helping to open up your heart?
If you read the memoir, you can see that Shogo is very much a person who doesn’t waste energy on things that aren’t worth it. I’ve learned a lot from him. He has always been completely supportive of my experiences, and was totally supportive of me writing this memoir. In fact I think he wanted me to write it, to let the past go and move on! He’s the reason I am who I am today, because he just quietly gets the work done from behind the scenes. He’s incredibly wise, disciplined, and patient. I want to be like him in my next life.
You detail your experience with international adoption in your memoir, something that turns out to be challenging for you and your husband. What would you say to readers out there considering international adoption?
Since we live abroad, we had no choice but to pursue an international adoption. Actually, since we adopted in Japan and live in Japan, it was not really an “international adoption.” But, to anyone considering adoption, I would say do your research, talk to others who have done it, and make sure you are 100% in it for the long haul. Family is family.
So, if you are contemplating adoption, consider what the psychic Dietmar says in my book: “Think of so many women who give birth but have no real heart connection to their children. You see, it’s not always about giving birth from your body.”
Then he says, ”…this child is not going to come from your womb. But it will come from your heart. Which is more important?” The answer is clear. Keep cracking open your heart.
The idea of marriage and family — and whether it can wait — is one of the themes in your memoir. After everything that you’ve experienced, how do you feel about it now?
I think everyone has their own path, their own journey. This has been mine. All the struggles have made the triumphs all the more sweet, and to be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. As the saying goes, “Smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors.” I feel very blessed to have learned the lessons I needed to learn, and to have the beautiful family I now have.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
If you have a dream, listen to it. The dream is yours for a reason. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. Start now. Stop at nothing to make it come true. And then help others make their dreams come true in whatever way you can.
Thanks so much to Leza Lowitz for doing this interview about Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras. You can learn more about Leza at her author website and read an excerpt from her memoir at Stone Bridge Press. Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras is available on Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.