Monday, January 12, 2009

Playing Dead...Part 4...Karmic Cleansing

Before I get into Part 4...and the last one on Playing Dead for awhile...yesterday I attended a Shodan testing in Neenah. Congratulations to Diane for her 14 years of dedicated study has turned into a Shodan in Shorei Kempo Karate!

Also, I met two Shorei Kempo students who came up to me and thanked me for 'The Bears'. Larry remarked after I spoke about the bears seven years ago it has made his job more tolerable. He was able to retire and reported to me that applying The Grizzly Bear Principle to his anger and frustration helped immensely. All I can say is good job Larry. I may have taught the principles but you applied them. You did the work!

Another Shorei Kempo student, who is a true warrior, successfully applied the principles in a very tough work situation which triggered a traumatic flashback from the past. She spoke to the bears and was able to stay on purpose and poised. She said after the incident, when she got home, she came to this blog...and lo and behold I was talking about the bears! Again, great job! I only applied.

So, what is Karmic Cleansing and how does it help us not feed the bears?

I am going to assume the reader is familiar with the concept of Karma. In Zen, on the full moon, we do a simple ceremony called Ryaku Fusatsu. (go to for an article written by Nonin, my Zen teacher) It is a ceremony of reflection and repentance of the karma we have created. It is our Karma that can hinder us in playing dead and going with the flow of life...or the Tao. Karma is more easily noticed in our memories or belief systems as we go about life. It is the filter or dirty lens with which we look at life and make choices. As you are aware, much of our reality is our perception of it. If our perception is not clear, our decisions are based on inaccurate information...and we struggle and suffer.

Ryaku Fusatsu helps us wash the filter or lens clean so we can see life more clearly. Like most Spiritual traditions, there are forms of repentance, contrition, gratitude and compassion. Zen has these too, however, it is a bit different. There is no God or Higher Power you are asking forgiveness to or from. You are saying this to yourself...or to your bears actually. The bears are your Karma coming into your consciousness replaying as memories or pain.

Ryaku Fusatsu is typically conducted only once per month. For managing pain you are going to do an extremely simplified version of Ryaku Fusatsu and use it like a mantra. In keeping with the Zen spirit it is very simple and non-denominational.

It comes from Hawaii and it is called Ho'oponopono. (Read Joe Vitale's Zero Limits) It is a healing system developed by their Kahunas, or spiritual leaders. It involves constant repetition of four simple statements. These are: I am sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I Love You. They can be said in any order.

When your bears of pain come up, embrace them with these four statements. Continue repeating like a mantra. I have found it to be very successful at managing some of the arthritis I have in my right hand. For some of you, your Ego is starting to talk already and saying 'what the #@#@". This is too weird. All I can say is do it for awhile, but you must truly embrace your pain and feel the emotion of the statements...and as always, don't try to force a healing. Just allow the bears to hang out. They will move on their own.

Remember, it takes two to have a fight. When you embrace your pain only one is attacking. When you embrace the pain there is no fight...only a dance of healing. Your struggles ceases.

If any questions please ask.

Be Well,
Shinzen Sensei


  1. As I try to wrap my mind around this idea of Karma Cleansing the question that keeps going thru my mind is this: Does forgiving your attacker fit in with this idea and if so how? It is something I am feeling pulled, pushed, and sometimes hit over the head to do.

  2. Thanks for the great questions.

    First, You are not forgiving your attacker. You are forgiving your karma (beliefs, attitudes,emotions, etc) about the attacker. This concept can be tricky to explain in words...but there is no 'outside' attacker. You perceive the attack only on your 'inside' this is what you are forgiving. Zen Master Bankei explained it this way..'Outside of Mind, there is no art of combat.' He is saying only in the mind is there conflict. It is your own mind/spirit you are forgiving. This is where the true conflict lies.

    Now, your second question. I am assuming you are talking about an actual physical assault..should you chant the four phrases?

    No...unless you want to get hurt. Your training in the dojo is the time to practice the physical embodiment of the inner embracing of the fight so it becomes a part of who you are. In the heat of battle 'no-thought' is important and faith in your training should take precedence. If your training has been sufficient, embracing of the fight will be a natural event and no mental chanting is necessary. You should be the physical embodiment of chanting or karmic cleansing.

    I hope this helps. If I missed your point...just write back and I will try again.

    Thank You.