Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Small Hiatus

I am going to be taking a short break from blogging as I will be be putting the finishing touches upon my book. Deadline is June 15th and I have a bit of work to do, plus I have taken on extra duties at work.

For those of you who have been asking, the book...Black Belt Healing...is due to be released by Tuttle Publishing in the Spring (April/May) of 2010. It is a self-help manual for martial artists who experience chronic pain and how to manage it with the power of your mind.

Thanks for your interest and I will still be following other blogs...so keep up all of your great inspirational writing.

Hands palm to palm,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dandelions and Buddha

When Buddha was about to appoint a successor he held up a flower in the presence of over a thousand monks. Mahakashyapa smiled. He was the only one. The Buddha smiled back and acknowledged Mahakashyapa as his next in line.

What did Mahakashyapa know that the others didn't?

Go outside and find a dandelion that is white with seeds. Hold it up...and blow.

If you don't have a dandelion available...just hold one up in your imagination. Hold it up...and blow.

Hands palm to palm,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Control Your Opponent's Mind with Hypnosis

Since I use hypnosis in my professional job, I am often asked by martial artists if hypnosis can be used to stop a physical attack. I say, "yes". But let me clarify by defining hypnosis for a moment. Hypnosis is not direct control of someone's mind, but can be a confusional control of the conscious part of your mind.

The conscious mind works in a step-by-step fashion and is based on logic. It tends to think in concrete terms such as black and white or on and off. So when it is presented with a Zen riddle, or koan, such as 'why is a mouse when it spins', it freezes for a moment because it doesn't make sense. This moment of freezing is a moment of confusion and your opportunity to defend yourself. Zen koans create what I call 'space in your mind.' Just like in self-defense you want your opponent to be off-balance (kozushi). This creates 'space' for you to apply your technique.

In hypnosis we use a lot of confusion and misdirection to help people who are overly rigid or analytical or who think they can't be hypnotized. I am going to teach you briefly how to do this for self-defense purposes. Just like any technique or kata you have to practice to become skilled at it.

There are three steps to this technique. The first step in the hypnotic self-defense strategy is to capture their attention. You can do this simply by acknowledging their existence or the fact they want to harm you. Then confuse them. The simplest way to do this is to ask a 'What if" question. For instance...a guy wants to beat you up while you're at your local pub. You look at him and say, "Okay" and then quickly say, "What if I just lie down here on the floor right now and it will look like you just beat me up...and I will say you did? Is that okay with you?"

This will freeze him for a just a second, then quickly switch to misdirection and change the focus. Continuing our example and before your assailant can answer, "Wait, maybe it would look better if I lie down over there (as you point to a space a few feet away). Let's clear away some of these tables and chairs and I can lie down here. Is that okay...or maybe we should wait and do this next week...is Wednesday okay with you? How about 7 pm?"

By know your assailant is a bit confused. In this example, which happened in real life, the assailant, gave up, sat down and simply had a beer. He had just faced a master of kung fu and a PhD in Psychology, Master Stacy Shook. Master Shook is also a master of conversational hypnosis.

So, try these three steps. Come up with scenarios in which you can apply, 1. Get their attention, 2. Confuse, 3. Redirect. Practice in the dojo or at home with family and friends. See what happens.

Now this is probably the most important part of this post, so read carefully....

What shoe do you put on first?

Hands palm to palm,


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Zen & the Art of Dishwashing

The following post is an article written by Mariah Herber. She has been a student of mine since she was nine or ten years old and is now 17 and will be entering her senior year in high school next year. She has the noble job as a dishwasher at a local pizza eatery. I too once held this profession and can relate...and so I am sure most of you can as well. To preface the article, Mariah told me she had some insomnia so she wrote this to her facebook account. I like it. I know I wasn't thinking these thoughts at age 17. With no further ado:

The Zen Art of Dishwashing

I've got some time, and so instead of sitting here idly waiting for 11:30, or just going to bed, I was reading through some old notes and poems whilst listening to some tunes from last night's performance. (Shinzen note: High School musical performance). Somehow all this made me think to my many thoughts I have during work.You'd be surprised what goes through your head when you're standing at that stainless steel sink, the machine next to you rumbling as the kitchen is a flurry of scurrying waitresses and disheveled cooks.

I can't attest for my fellows, but for me, personally, it's a time of reflection. Some nights I'll reflect upon problems I've been having, some nights I ponder the many questions of my life. Other times, when I'm less somber, I think of all the things I want to do. And then there are those nights, where, as I rinse a plate and put it on the rack, I realize just how very Zen my job is.

Ah, yes, the Zen art of Dishwashing. I could write a whole book on it, with the nearly 2 years of experience I've gained. Dishwashing, in a lot of ways, like everything else I suppose, is like life in general. Some nights it's slow when you want it to be fast. You're energized and want to keep moving, hunting down any dish you can get your hands on, if only to say you're actually much busier then you really are.

Other times the rush is endless and you wonder when it'll stop, when you'll find reprieve. You glance at the clock every ten minutes hoping, praying, it's been at least another 20 since the last check.And then there are those nights, those glorious nights, where it's steady. Everything just flows. You know you'll get out at a good time, you're sure of every move you make. No dish is too dirty, no stack of plates (even those big annoying bowls) too heavy!

How is that anything like life? Because some days aren't as great as you want them to be. Some days have so many problems packed into the small span of 15 hours that you wish to God it would END. And then, there are the days we all want. The days where everything fits. Things happen, but nothing overwhelms you. You're in control. You're rooted.At times, when the night's going to hell, I won't say a word for hours. My face is emotionless, my actions swift- my only focus is the dishes. That's when I get things done.

It's those horrible nights where not only is the kitchen up in arms against the wave of customers, but my own thoughts betray me. If I'm arguing with a friend at the time I'll constantly think about what I could have done or said to avoid all the hurt. If it's particularly bad, to the point we aren't talking, and I'm not even sure what I did, I can't keep myself from thinking about it and how I could fix the problem. And, when my mind wonders in such ways, even if my physical motions never stop, I'm slow.I don't notice right away, but as the night wears on and the dishes pile up I realize my focus is nonexistent. And by thinking so much about things that aren't even happening, the span of time that is the moment is spinning out of control.

About this time I shake my head, take a deep breath, and tell myself to focus on the here and now.I've had a lot of nights like that, you see. And they've come to teach me that when I place my mind in the past or future, the present becomes chaotic and I lose my way. But when I just... stop thinking so much, and focus, and stay in the moment, eventually the dishes (problems) lessen and the night ends on a good note. So what does any of this mean? The same thing any of my speeches and thoughts ever come down to meaning.

You can worry about the future.You can wish the past could be changed.You could wish it were possible to take back words already said.And you could think about all the things you could have done to avoid all these problems.Or, you can just, be. Be in the moment. Take life as it comes to you, and don't try to wrestle with every little thing that pokes at you. When you breathe, and clear your head a little, focus comes easier. And when one is focused, things get done. When things get done, the chances of the night ending on a good note is much greater.

That's all I have to say on the matter. It's 11:40, and I have things to do tomorrow. Thankfully, I won't really be thinking of them until I wake up once more.

Night all~Keep it Zen,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mindfulness, Cat Food and Coffee.

A senior teacher at a temple is teaching the monks when an earthquake hits. The teacher calmly gathers the panicking students and takes them to the kitchen, which is the strongest room in the building. When the earthquake stops, the teacher has a drink and says to the class: "Here you see the benefit of Zen training. While you students panicked, I was able to act logically and even enjoy a glass of water afterwards."

Student: "Teacher, that would be a convincing example except for the fact that you're drinking soy sauce!

I love this story. The above joke reminds me of one of my favorite Nonin stories involving mindfulness, cat food and the coffee grinder. During one retreat at the Nebraska Zen Center, Nonin was speaking about how such a wonderfully mindful and adept Zen teacher he is. He began to talk about how he came down to the kitchen of the temple to make his morning coffee. He was very tired and looking forward to a little caffeine pick-me-up. He likes fresh coffee so he poured his coffee beans into the grinder and turned it on. After a few moments he realized that he was not grinding beans. He had put cat food into his coffee grinder! Even Zen Masters have their moments.

What Nonin taught us more than anything was to laugh at ourselves and noone is exempt from being un-mindful, even Zen Masters. He noted he tried to recycle the cat food but Lola (the cat) didn't care much for the coffee flavor.

One more story for you to have a little laugh and think about:

A monk is walking back from a lecture at a distant temple and gets lost on the wrong side of the river. He needs to get across to get home but cannot find the bridge. Finally, he sees the Master who gave the lecture on the other side and yells out to him.
"Master, how do I get to the other side of the river."
The master replies: "Novice; you are on the other side of the river!"

Hands palm to palm

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tesshu the Samurai learns a lesson

When Tesshu, the famous medieval samurai swordsman, was young and headstrong, he visited one Zen master after another. Once he went to visit Master Dokuon and triumphantly announced to him the classic Buddhist teaching that all that exists is empty, there is really no you or me, and so on. The master listened to all this in silence. Suddenly he snatched up his pipe and struck Tesshu’s head with it. The infuriated young swordsman would have killed the master there and then, but Dokuon said calmly, “Emptiness is sure quick to show anger, is it not?” Tesshu left the room, realizing he still had much to learn about Zen.

Hands palm to palm,


Saturday, May 2, 2009

You are going to die!

Yes, you are going to die! Someday. It is inevitable.

To study Budo and Zen is to study the very nature of Life and Death. In many Zen temples across the world this topic is written across their doors. If you do not want to examine death, don't come in. Did you know the leading cause of death in the world is life? Yep. Life...it's a killer! You can't have one without the other. I know some of you might think this is a morbid topic, but actually it is not. It is about reality and seeing clearly.

Buddha, when asked ''What is the true nature of man?" responded with, "the nature of man is to grow old, get sick and die". It is just a fact. For me, meditation upon death gives me life...it wakes me up. To view death as depressing and morbid is to live in delusion. None of us really know what happens after 'we' die. It is only speculation and faith, impressions and ideas. We only fear death because we are attached to life. Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, talked about 'dropping mind and body'. Part of this is non-attaching to the ego-self and this body.

As Budoka it is imperative that we remain mindful of our daily activities, whether it is working, taking a piss, or weeding the garden. It may sound funny, but really, Life is a Killer. You must pay attention to it as if it is an armed assassin waiting to kill you with his sword and dagger. Every moment is not only an opportunity to live, but to die as well. Meditation upon death and mindfulness of life's activities actually enriches your life...and eventually your death. This is the warrior way.

As you cannot have life without death, we cannot also have death without life. After you die...well...death is also the leading cause of life. When a tomato seed is planted into the ground it 'dies' but grows into life as beautiful tomatoes.

I know I might be rambling but the burritos that 'died' last evening after I ate them have given life to these ideas this morning...and perhaps a little flatulence...but you probably didn't need to know that. So, pay attention to your life...right know...as you are reading this where are you, what are you feeling, what you are thinking? Be here now. As the good nuns taught me, we do not know the time or hour of our death...pay attention!

Some good reading on this subject I recommend, Warrior Zen: The Diamond Hard Wisdom of Shosan Suzuki and Thich Nhat Han's book, No Death, No Fear. Good reading for the martial artist. I also recommend going to a cemetary to do some meditation. I grew up with my backyard connected to a cemetary. It was my playground and meditation ground. I would wander and look at gravestones and wonder who all these people were and the lives they led. I recommend this type of contemplation.

A good warrior studies death and pays attention to life.

Enough ramblings from those burritos.

Hands palm to palm,


Friday, May 1, 2009

Some More Action Pics w/Bokken

PJ (right) waiting for an Overhead Strike with the Bokken

PJ slips to the right and swings Bokken

PJ finding his target

Joel's turn to slip to the right

Joel finding his target

Joel's follow through

Both did a fine job on keeping technique sharp without risking harm to Sensei. I appreciate that.
This is one of our most basic Bokken movements and very effective. Lots of principles involved that apply to armed and unarmed combat. Mostly, get out of the way but be in a position to strike back and run. We have fun. As you can tell by the blurring we are moving fast and if PJ or Joel don't get out of the way, they will get hit.

During Samurai Summer this year we will focus on two sword techniques as well as honing our Bo skills. A majority of the Yudansha actually like the Bo and the Jo. So, students...get ready for some sweating outside in a few weeks.

Hands palm to palm,