The Accept Transcend Model for Transformation  comprises six stages of personal development and was inspired by a remarkable period I spent in Japan in 2011. Among other wonders I encountered many Torii gates.  These elegant structures represent the passing from one state of being to another, emerging to a life enriched in meaning and fulfilment, and are the ideal symbol for the AccepTTranscend process.

The Inari Shrine

A torii gate marks the entrance to a Shintu shrine. Shintu is Japan’s ancient indiginous religion. It shares some qualities with Paganism, revering many gods, called Kami, ranging from animals to rocks to mountains to human beings and even to concepts. A Torii gate represents the passage from the profane to the sacred; a shift in consciousness, to a new reality.

On my first visit to Japan in 2011 I travelled alone to Kyoto, like a proper tourist, to see just a few of the myriad shrines and temples that city is famous for. My favourite of all the sacred places I visited in japan (and there were many) was the Inari Shrine, in the small town of Inari, a bus-ride from the centre of Kyoto.

Inari kitsune 225x300The Inari Shrine is dedicated to the Fox god of rice and sake. Approximately ten-thousand torii gates wind from the bottom of a mountain to the very top, in some places creating a virtual tunnel, with little light passing between the closely-packed red lacquered structures. In other parts the gates are more widely spaced, with sky and trees visible beyond the endless shiny red.

There are broad steps leading upward, and stone statues, often of foxes. At one point, part-way up, the visitor is invited to write a prayer or wish on a small wooden board shaped like a fox’s head, and then place it in a huge communal fireplace to be ritually burned with all the other prayers by a Shintu priest at the same time each day. Thus are the prayers of the faithful transformed and transported to the fox god.

As I bounded upwards that beautiful day, the torii gates magnificent above my head, I was aware that I was ascending through level after level of increasing sacredness. This was a profound experience for me. I felt unusually energised, and emotional.

Joro Spider Nephila clavata feeding.webm 300x169Once or twice I strayed from the path, into the dense forest of the mountainside. I watched large, yellow-striped spiders, and wondered idly if they were venomous, and I should have done some research before wandering into their habitat. But the compulsion to keep climbing, to reach the pinnacle of sacredness atop the mountain, drew me back, and after about an hour and a half I reached my destination.

The view from the peak, across all of Kyoto, was spectacular. I remained there for some time, unconcerned that I was missing out on the opportunity to visit other shrines and temples; that my time in Kyoto was short and there was much to see.

I took my time walking back down, feeling that I had accomplished something extraordinary, and keen to bask in the sense of wonder this beautiful and unique place inspired in me.

billy pasco 312336 400x267The next day I could hardly walk. My joints felt as though there were knives burrowing into them, and I realised with dismay that, in the  excitement of the unique adventure that was the Inari Shrine, I had not registered that I was climibing a whole, life-sized mountain. The broad steps and gradual pathways, the seductive red gates, had rendered the experience  a sacred and aesthetic one, rather than a feat of physical prowess. But it had been all of these, and it occurred to me too late that perhaps I was not in the best condition of fitness for such a challenge.

It took a few days to recover, but it was so very worth the pains and strains. The Inari Shrine was one of the most evocative and memorable places I have encountered, and the experience of passing through ten-thousand escalating portals, more profound and special than I can express.

Since that day, the torii gate has been a symbol for me of movement forward; a step beyond a limitation, or leap of faith or courage.

The AccepTTranscend model is all about movement beyond limitation and courageous steps and leaps. I can think of no more appropriate symbol for the journey it facilitates, and I hope those who participate will find that journey as profound and life-enhancing as my climb to the top of the mountain of ten-thousand gates and back.