Japan Healing and Systemic Constellation Work


Bert Terpstra, mathematician & Constellation facilitator, Olivia Fermi, Hisako Morioka, Constellation facilitator (left to right), Tokyo, November 2014.


In response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA of 1941, the Allied Forces unleashed a series of fire bombings on Japan. 70 years ago today on March 10, 1945, US B-29’s flew over Tokyo dropping incendiary bombs. In a single night more people lost their lives than in any other act of war in all of human history. Perhaps 100,000 died, many more were injured or dislocated, with vast tracts of Tokyo destroyed. Ultimately the Allied forces destroyed or partially destroyed 67 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, if not a million or more. The true count will never be known.
Some years ago, I watched The Fog of War, the Erroll Morris documentary interview-style of Robert McNamara, which recounts the above acts of war, but I had never allowed myself to fully comprehend the enormity of it. Like most of us today, we remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forget the fire bombings, which devastated so many of Japan’s major cities.

Counting the Dead. Tokyo, 1945.

In Hiroshima there is a world famous Peace Park and a Peace Museum. Likewise in Nagasaki, there is a place to go to honor the dead and pray for peace. Today on the 70th anniversary of the Tokyo fire bombing it feels important to honor the dead, who have no such visible monument that I know of. Tonight I will be speaking about this as part of a new talk On the Neutron Trail: A Healing Journey to Japan, about my fall 2014 pilgrimage there.

Preamble (above)
Opening to Shared Human Experiences
An Experiment in Service of Healing and Social Evolution
Setting a Constellation for Connecting to Japan
A Revelation in Tokyo
Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Spirit of Japan
Systemic Constellation Work Briefly Described

Opening to Shared Human Experiences

Fall Colors, Kyoto. Photo: © Noriko Nasu Tidball 2014.

On the Neutron Trail, my focus is on the psychology of healing on individual, familial and cultural levels. While science, technology and politics naturally are a part of the inquiry, they are not the focus. I am not looking at right or wrong, nor at trying to justify what happened on any side. Rather my project is dedicated to understanding and accepting what happened in the past, so that we can make better and healthier choices now and for our future. At different times, I examine the different experiences of various nations or cultural groups and when I do so, I tend to want to look from their point of view, to walk in their shoes. For some time I have been specifically looking at the Japanese civilian experience. Recently I read the personal account of the invasion and occupation of Singapore by the Japanese military government for balance, (When There Were Tigers in Singapore: A Family Saga of the Japanese Occupation, by Edmund Schirmer). Before that I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I cannot compare tragedies. When I immerse myself in one, it feels just as terrible. Death is a shared human experience. Voicing that truth I feel a kind of lightness, my heart expands.

An Experiment in Service of Healing and Social Evolution

My Neutron Trail treks are dedicated to healing and social evolution. Trailblazing is naturally an experimental endeavor. I utilize a number of therapeutic modalities in new ways to expand the reach and depth of the project. Over the past 18 months, I’ved learned that a relatively unknown one — Systemic Constellation Work (SCW) profoundly helps Neutron Trail. If you are unfamiliar with SCW, please see my counselling website for a brief description of Systemic Constellation Work.  On the Neutron Trail and in systemic constellation work, the focus is on our shared human experiences. SCW is done with a group and Neutron Trail is a social project. SCW supports generative information flows between identified issues (left brain) and imaginal awareness (right brain). Tonight in my first public talk about the Neutron Trail Japan trip I will also be talking, for the first time, about this new turn on the Trail.

In preparing to go to Japan on the Neutron Trail, I wanted to tune into the most important messages and themes for healing and moving forward. Diana Claire Douglas facilitated my constellation from Ottawa, via Skype audio, with five of us in the Lower Mainland in three locations. Because the constellation turned out to be so evocative and meaningful both in relation to my Japan experience and my grandfather Enrico’s place in social consciousness, I’m including a detailed description of how the constellation unfolded (far more detailed than what I will be able to share in tonight’s talk). Typically we do not analyze or discuss the work. I would like to thank Diana Claire and my fellow constellators for their recollections, which fleshed out the following account, and their kind permission to share our experience publicly. My intent in the sharing is to further the ripple effect of the constellation we set together.

Setting a Constellation for Connecting to Japan

My Intention: To connect with Japan and transcend any fractures…

Space Mapping: Because we were not in the same physical location, Diana Claire suggested we imagine the face of a clock as a positioning device. As I placed each representative in the space, I stated where s/he was in relation to the clock. We continued to use this method throughout to tell each other and Diana Claire where we were. There were only five of us available to represent. We also used labeled pieces of paper to represent important elements, and sometimes changed roles.

Temporal Mapping: Diana Claire asked me to choose an orientation for the past and future. I picked toward 6 o’clock as the past and toward 12 o’clock as the future. Having an orientation in time added a vital element.

I chose and positioned the representatives, except Diana Claire specifically directed I not be the one to position Enrico. Someone else placed Enrico — towards the future end of the temporal map.

Representatives in order of placement:

Spirit of Japan
Japanese People
Neutron Trail
Olivia Fermi
Nuclear Legacy
Enrico Fermi

Initial Placement – Neutron Trail Japan Trip Systemic Constellation

Once everyone was in position, the constellation unfolded. Connection said it felt a strong heart connection to Spirit of Japan and moved close to Spirit of Japan.

The Japanese People spoke, “We feel the Ancestors behind us walking the Earth. We are aware that Spirit of Japan and Nuclear Legacy are connected, but we are not ready to look at Nuclear Legacy.” Japanese People felt strongly drawn to face Enrico and expressed gratitude and curiosity for him as an ancestor and the mystery. Japanese People then felt moved to bow to Enrico in full recognition of him as an ancestor.

Enrico spoke, “All of the things said so far impinge on me.

Enrico Fermi (foreground) holding photograph of Hiroshima atomic bomb cloud with Edward Teller, 1946. Photo: Courtesy Los Alamos Historical Society.

“I am in the terrifying position of being close to the center of all of this. It’s more than a human being can bear.” A resource for Terror was added on a piece of paper for Enrico to hold. Enrico said, “It is humbling and moving for me to have the Japanese People consider me as ancestor. It’s terrifying to feel the connection to the Japanese People.”

Disconnection said, “As Enrico acknowledges the terror, I feel more settled,” and turned from facing outside the circle to facing in.

Connection spoke up noticing that there was a lot of pressure on Enrico, that he was the only one besides Olivia specifically named in the constellation.

Disconnection spoke up again, “I am representing people. I’m not sure who we are, my sense is we are part of the Japanese people.” After a pause they said, “we are the forgotten dead, the unrecognized ancestors.”

Disconnection became the Unrecognized Dead.

Olivia was asked and agreed to represent herself. I was deeply moved by the recognition of the suffering of the Unrecognized Dead and felt myself releasing expectations around the grieving process. The loss was more profound than I had known. Recalling the earlier part of the constellation, I said the Japanese People’s acknowledgement of Enrico as an ancestor, felt right.

Spirit of Japan stated, “This is a powerful gathering.”

Enrico was invited to move toward 6 o’clock, to join the Ancestors in the past. He passed Olivia who was standing near the center facing Neutron Trail and the future. Enrico said to Olivia, “I’m proud of you. You are carrying on my work. You make it possible for me to move back.”

As Olivia representing myself, I was uncomfortable with Enrico’s statement because I am not a physicist and I don’t exactly see myself as carrying on his work. But I was willing to listen for the spirit of the representative’s words and so remained quiet. After the Japan trip, when I was gathering recollections of this constellation, I spoke with the representative for Enrico to see if the person could shed any light on the comment.

The person who had represented Enrico told me: “The reference point for me when I go into systemic constellations, is allowing myself to be dreamed up, allowing myself to feel and express things in my body psyche, which at the moment don’t feel like they belong to me, feel more like they belong to the field or to the one I’m representing. It’s like as Enrico, I was being dreamed up. For me, it’s very important in my heart, your grandfather did something with unbelievable ramifications. My statement in the constellation, ‘yes Olivia is carrying on the work of her grandfather,’ what surprised me is that it didn’t come from my rational ego.

“I am a world person, as are you and your grandfather. Here you are two generations later visiting places where Enrico worked on the Neutron Trail, you’re connected by place, by genealogy. I’m grasped by the mystery you allow yourself to be part of — It’s not easy to put in words something coming from a cosmic place.”

I continued to reflect. It’s true, as I’ve walked the Neutron Trail, I feel my grandfather’s spirit with me, more and more. Toward the end of my grandfather’s life it appears he began to think more about social evolution. I found a quote where he states humans will certainly continue to make technological advances, but what is less certain is whether we will mature enough to handle our creations responsibly. In that sense we are one, as grandfather and granddaughter — yet each with our own individuality and life work. Or Enrico’s representative’s comment may have some other meaning yet to be revealed.

The Ancestors looked at the Unrecognized Dead and spoke, “We notice the Dead and feel a strong calling to you. There are more of us ancestors. We can embrace you. We haven’t processed you yet.” The Ancestors moved to embrace the Unrecognized Dead, standing with them. Both representatives felt connected with the consciousness of the Spirit of Japan.

Grief was placed with the Ancestors. The Japanese People felt lighter. Olivia felt moved by the embrace and felt spaciousness.

The Unrecognized Dead said, “Enrico was named. We all had names.”

Olivia said, “Hearing you, I feel grounded and present, with a kind of strength.”

The Unrecognized Dead replied, “I feel the grief moving.”

Enrico responded, “The whole field made this happen. The whole field suffers and learns from the suffering. I’m a small character now. I feel relief. I’m moving on here. I want to be part of the embrace. I’m just part of the field now, no longer Enrico as an individual.”

As myself, I felt a relief that my grandfather could be released from the unbearable pressure no individual can rightly comprehend. I feel gratitude personally as it takes a pressure off of me as well, and gratitude for all of us in society.

Feeling the support of ancestors from the east and the west, the Japanese People turned to face Nuclear Legacy and the future, saying, “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” and acknowledged Olivia’s presence beside them, her leadership — that she is, “opening a door”.

Final Placement – Neutron Trail Japan Trip Systemic Constellation

Olivia spoke, “I feel more and more solid, a loving, powerful calm energy pervading me and the space — a lot of energy and gratitude.”

The Japanese People responded, “We can breathe. It’s reachable. We’re willing to look at what’s around us, and at what we need to tackle.”

The Ancestors felt settled.

Spirit of Japan reiterated the power in the gathering and reflected on the true power in the unfolding of the constellation, saying, “It’s been powerful to gather these particular representatives and this energy. And it’s enabled me as the Spirit of Japan to look at the grief.”

The Unrecognized Dead agreed, “In our gathering, this feels like the right use of power.”

Spirit of Japan shared a feeling of love and openness of heart.

We ended it there.

~ ~ ~

In the next section of this blog post I will share a few specific ways the movements that emerged from our constellation corresponded to my experiences in Japan. I’m not saying one caused the other. Rather, as nighttime dreams can open a window to the landscape of the psyche’s path, beyond normal restraints of linear consciousness, so seemingly can constellations.

A Revelation in Tokyo

Before I left Vancouver, I looked online to see if there were constellation facilitators in Japan. I found Hisako Morioka and her Dutch husband Bert Terpstra, (a retired mathematician, formerly at Shell). The couple live in the Netherlands but visit Tokyo to offer constellation workshops. Synchronistically my time in Tokyo and theirs overlapped with a day where we could meet. Our conversation lasted for a delightful nine hours and included an introduction to the Tokyo subway by Hisako, a walking tour of Meiji Jingu Shrine, coffee at Starbucks on Ometesando and dinner at a Japanese style natural foods restaurant. At one point I was sharing with Bert and Hisako some of the Japan trip Neutron Trail constellation. When I got to the part about the Unrecognized Dead having names, Bert stopped me. It was a profound moment for all three of us. He said his gut sense was that the Unrecognized Dead were the uncounted victims of the fire bombings in Japan. Even if we can’t name the victims, Bert pointed out that to be counted, is to count — to matter, to be shown respect. He began to explain the enormity of the fire bombings. As I said in the Preamble to this blog post, I had not ever really fully let it in, until that moment.

We all three realized that without the constellation and the Unrecognized Dead speaking up, we wouldn’t be having the same conversation. Bert told me that he had done some research and his preliminary findings showed that the number killed was likely far greater than is normally reported in the history books. Our conversation and further emails sparked him and Hisako to do more research. By the numbers, based on Japanese census records, Bert calculates an upper limit for the number killed to be in the millions. There are many factors which would lower that number to an actual count. For example, how many fled to safety before and/or after the bombings? How many died of other causes?

To accurately determine those factors seems impossible. Hisako tells us that after the fire bombings the Japanese military government prevented ordinary people from seeing the bodies of the dead, as it was not good for morale. No real attempt was made to identify the bodies. Instead they were buried en masse as quickly as possible to hide them from view. In this way the Japanese government hid the true size of the horrors. The Pulitzer Prize winning historian Herbert Bix and others have shown that the Emperor and his military knew for at least a couple of years before the fire bombings and atomic bombings of 1945 that they would lose the war with the Allies. Yumi Kanazaki, journalist at Chugoku Shimbun (Hiroshima daily paper) added to our email exchanges, that the Japanese government also banned citizens from leaving their cities, effectively making them into dispensable human shields. According to Robert McNamara, General Curtis LeMay, US Air Force, who planned and ordered the fire bombings admitted that if the US had lost the war they would have been tried for war crimes.

Bert and I plan to continue our research and hope to find alternate ways to account for what happened to the victims of the fire bombings in Japan. If we are able to add to the story, we will publish our findings. In honour of those lost souls, there will be a moment of silence in my talk tonight. May they rest in peace.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Spirit of Japan

The theme of the Japanese People turning to face the future showed itself particularly in my meetings with Ms. Tanaka (in Hiroshima) and Mr. Hayazaki (早崎猪之助) (in Nagasaki), atomic bomb survivors. Both of them, inspired me with their courage and fierce commitment to peace. Each in his or her own way has come to a place of acceptance and now devotes his or her life to spreading a message of peace to citizens of the world. For more on their activities and the stories of our meetings, please see my Hiroshima and Nagasaki posts.

The Spirit of Japan was ever present in the constellation and on my trip. My friend Noriko Nasu Tidball, a Japanese native now living in Vancouver, was my guide and companion on the Trail. Together we visited Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples wherever we went on and off the Neutron Trail — five cities in all — from humble Kii–Tanabe to bustling Kyoto. Noriko patiently taught me the proper way to enter the shrine gate, how to purify with water once inside, and a few of the many ways to pray. I came to love the little moments of silence. The cleansing water and the simple prayers sustained us, through the more intense parts of the journey. Sorely missing what I call Japanese prayer culture, I came home to a kind of reverse culture shock.

Tokyo was the last stop on my pilgrimage, a sixth city on my own without Noriko. Hisako wanted me to see Meiji Jingu Shrine. It was raining lightly and I was skeptical — did I really need to see another? Hisako gently insisted and off we went. Later I would thank her! Meiji Jingu is in the heart of a large forested park on 175 acres within Shibuya, Tokyo. As we approached the park, I noticed an elderly woman ahead of us stop and bow, before and after she passed through the first gate. As we walked through the woods, I saw her again. While exploring the main shrine, there she was offering a prayer. After we returned through the park, I saw her one last time and felt compelled to take a photo. Does she visit every day? I never saw her face, yet her movements radiated grace and dignity, giving me the sense she is a living incarnation of the spirit of Japan.

Woman Bowing, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo: © Olivia Fermi 2014.


Posted in Buddhism & the Bomb, Conversations, Fallout, Neutron Trail, Synchronicities.

2 Responses to Japan Healing and Systemic Constellation Work

  1. David Roomy says:

    How good her talk was! Olivia Fermi’s presentation of her Japanese pilgrimage brought new light and awareness on one of the seminal events of the last century — birth of the atom bomb and bombing of Japanese cities. In the process of hearing this talk and now reading it on the blog, I was deeply moved. I experienced how on the micro-cosmic level of a single individual, something can happen that reverberates on the macro-cosmic level. This is important for all of us to know where ever we are. Not only are we affected by the “world level”; we have potentially a part to play on the world field — however local. Olivia’s blog is her unique experience involving all these levels of meaning and connection to people, places and history.

  2. Olivia Fermi says:

    Thank you David!

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