Did you ever eat ice cream too fast and get a brain freeze? I love root beer floats and devoured mine quickly while on vacation. For a moment I almost felt incapacitated, unable to think or move. My daughter caught me going, 'damn this hurts'.
Now my wife, during my brain freeze was tremendously empathetic...ha ha. She usually tells me to just suck it up. Well, by now you are probably wondering what does all this have to do with karate, zen and what I usually blog about.
About 13 years ago, one of my karate students, Mike, was accosted by three guys. Now, Mike is a tough black belt and a very dedicated zen-head. In relaying his story to me about the attack, Mike stated one of the guys put him in a headlock and began to smack Mike's face. Mike said that his thoughts were racing and he was thinking, "I can't believe this is happening".
Brain freeze. Mike was in the middle of an assault and his brain had froze. He was caught in between fight or flight. His analytical mind was too engaged in judging the experience. To make a long story short, Mike's training took over and he successfully defended himself from these three guys. Mike stopped using his discursive analytical mind that wanted to figure out what to do and trusted his protective mind that had been trained to kick butt.
Our analytical mind basically houses our ego...our judger of experiences... and is always one step behind the actual reality of the flow of Now. It wants to be in charge, but it really can't because it is so limited in it's ability. You see the analytical mind operates in a linear step by step fashion and typically sees life as on/off or black/white...and as I said earlier...it is judging what is happening which is always one step behind the action of the actual happening Now.
The protective mind works more holographically and is in tune with what is really happening as it is happening. This is the part of the mind that can be trained with high repetition of simple self-defense movements and will protect you, if you let it. Trust is involved here...and no brain freeze can happen. Only flow exists.
Self-defense involves training your protective mind to move your body in a well-coordinated fashion for survival, if you let it. When you let your ego take over you are going to be one step behind the action and more apt to get lost in analysis....and brain freeze can happen, plus get your ass kicked.
So, using self-defense as a microcosm of our daily life experience, ponder how this can relate to your every day activities as well. Be aware of your brain freezes...as well as those opportunities to enter into the bubbling of the now...then notice how your ego wants to take over. In many ways it is like a battle. So just watch.
Back from vacation...and while I was relaxing many thoughts ran through my head and so here is one of them.
Think about this for a moment. In the Mixed Martial Art's world there are rules the fighters must abide by, for instance, no head butts, no eye gouges or direct throat strikes. Well, gee, so what do you think you should do in a fight outside the ring?
Yeah....head butts, eye gouges and direct throat strikes. Here's a list of other prohibitive techniques in the ring, but perfectly okay on the street when your life or the life of loved one is in grave danger.
Head butts, eye gouges, throat strikes, biting, hair pulling, clawing, fish hooking, groin strikes, strike to spine, downward elbow strikes (especially to back of head or spine), spitting and my favorite....fingers in any orifice of the body. It is amazing how fast a guy will let go of you when you put your thumb up his butt.
It feels great to be back from vacation...I might post some pictures when my daughter downloads them to me.
Remember in Monty Python's 'Search for the Holy Grail' the scene of 'Bring out your Dead'? Damn hilarious. First time I saw it I laughed so hard my ribs ached.
The scene also reminds me of the old Zen koan of "Who is it that is dragging this corpse?" This koan has stuck in my head for decades...and cause I associate it with Monty Python I laugh when I hear it swirling in my head.
So, Who is it that is really animating us? Who is this 'I' we say moves this corpse? Who is dragging this bag of bones and flesh around?
It is well documented that the the Samurai studied Zen to examine death. They feared death like most people. There are many stories of Samurai being referred to the local Zen priest to face this subject. So, as good warriors, let's do a Death Meditation....and maybe we can find out who is behind this dragging corpse stuff.
For some, when I speak of doing a death meditation, begin to think I am morbid. There is nothing morbid about it. In fact, it is most liberating and eye-opening when approached in the proper manner. *
So give this a go...
Get yourself relaxed, either sitting in a meditative pose or slightly reclined. (You can lie down, but you could drift off to sleep.) Once you feel relaxed imagine yourself in your final moments of life...whatever age you desire...imagine a peaceful death where you have said all of your goodbyes, perhaps even written a death poem capsulizing your life or current level of liberation.
Now, feeeeeel (extra e's intentional) the feelings of letting go and of peace, especially as you see your spirit or soul or consciousness rise above your body. It is important to feel the release and to feel the love and joy of this moment as you merge into oneness with the original source of creation...
Now, anchor this feeling with a physical gesture, ie, touching your thumb and middle finger together on your right hand. Continue to feel the liberation and love as you rediscover your original self. Hold this imagery and emotionalizing for a few moments, then open your eyes and give thanks.
This meditation is to help see how 'death' is not to be feared but to be accepted as an opportunity for liberation and 'knowing' who is dragging this corpse around. Now, the key behind this is to be able to recall the feelings of liberation during your normal waking state...to feeeeel the calmness and joy of being free. This can be done by simpling squeezing your thumb and middle finger together. It should trigger the feelings you desire through the training and association. Just think Pavlov's dogs.
As you do this form of meditation your life begins to unfold in a more peaceful manner as you begin to flow and harmonize more and more with the bouyant and creative force that lives within you. Your life will begin to feel lighter and above all, more joyous. You might even see yourself and the world differently. Your problems might even seem trivial and a smile might begin to radiate from deep within. Who knows.
So, bring out your dead. Perhaps you might even find out who is dragging this corpse around.
Hands palm to palm, Shinzen
*my psychological/medical disclaimer...if you are experiencing severe depression with suicidal thoughts, please refrain from this meditation and seek professional help...this blog is for educational purposes only.
Joseph Campbell is well known as a theologian and writer...and most noteably known for his saying, "Follow your Bliss." I am paraphrasing now, but he also spoke that when you follow your bliss, where you once saw walls, doors will open. He desired for us all to find our bliss and follow it with courage and faith. It will lead us on wonderful adventures and a life full of, well, bliss.
In a lot of ways this pertains to the martial arts and sticky hands practice...or Chi Sao. Chi Sao is a mainstay of many martial art systems and great for developing close quarter combat skills. In a nutshell, Chi Sao is about sticking with your partner's movement and getting a feel for movement's ebb and flow. It can look like a big dance from the outside.
While practicing and following your opponent's movement where you once felt a "wall" will eventually open up into a "door" of opportunity to enter. In terms of self-defense this is a great way to locate your opponent's weakness and capitalize upon it. By following your opponent's movement you can easily defend yourself.
It terms of living and life...it can teach us how to follow our partner, 'bliss'. Learn how to achieve it...get sticky with it...then follow its ebb and flow. Where you once saw doors slam in your face, doors of opportunity will open. You just need to stick to your bliss.
How to find bliss in your life can be achieved in many ways...such as meditation, hypnosis, qigong practices, etc. Their are many ways to bring up feelings of bliss...however you interpret bliss to be. Practice bringing yourself into a blissful state on a daily basis and it will grow...then learn to follow it, like you would your Chi Sao partner.
As you follow your Bliss your life will unfold in many wonderful ways. Joseph Campbell is right. Learn how to practice Chi Sao with your Bliss. Try it for a day or so and just watch and feel. Just like in Chi Sao, suspend judgement and pre-thought. Just follow and flow.
Did you ever have a series of events that were so synchronistic that you knew it was not pure coincidence or chance? Last week I had three events occur over a three day period that blew my mind away! If you want to know what those are keep reading...
About two weeks ago I had asked in my 'prayers' to have new seeds for my next book. I have had a lot of ideas, but nothing really was coming through that struck me as inspired thought, so I just let it go. Well, I had a two day conference to attend in Appleton, Wisconsin and was staying at a downtown conference center. Across the street from the center is a Bookstore full of used and new books as well as crystals, alternative healing paraphernalia, incense and various religious icons. Cool store.
While I was browsing the used book section, I 'chanced' across the book, "Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval" by Alberto Villoldo, PhD. Dr. Villoldo has studied with the Peruvian Shamans and learned their healing practices. Now, the Shamans of Peru never interested me much before, but for some reason I bought the book. I took it back to my room and read it over the course of the evening. I liked it and noticed he had a previous book, called, "Shaman, Healer and Sage."
The next day after the conference I stopped at another used bookstore on the way of out town. (Yes, I am a book junkie) Now, to be honest with you, Dr. Villoldo's other book was not on my mind at this time. As I was wandering the bookstore, I stopped and then the thought came to me, "I wonder if his other book is here?" As soon as I asked, the book literally 'popped' into my sight. It was the only book I could see. This was a very weird experience. Of course I bought the book.
It gets better now. So the next day, I had to speak at a conference. A colleague of mine had asked me to fill in for him as he couldn't accept the speaking engagement. So, I did. I was on a panel with two other counselors from tribal clinics explaining how substance abuse effects the elderly. As we were introducing ourselves, one of my fellow panelists, began to explain how she is a counselor but also does energy work. She went on to explain how she had traveled to Peru and studied, with, you guessed it, Dr. Villoldi's people. I was blown away!
Afterwards I had to share my story with her and pulled the two books from my bookbag. We both got those 'chills' from this extraordinary moment. We talked about our experiences and our different healing practices...she is also a Reiki Master like myself and I shared with her my 'Mind-Sword' healing practices.
The events all flowed so seamlessly. Where it is going from here I do not know. All I know is I have had some great ideas for my next book that feel like the 'right path'...now I just have to put it to paper.
Sunday morning and looks like a beautiful fall day ahead of us. I have my cup of coffee and usual wandering mind as my companions. This morning it has wandered to a conversation (facebook) I had with Miles Coleman, my Kung Fu friend and Herbalist.
I had made an observation that he is a Taoist with a bald head and I am a Buddhist with long hair...and had asked him, what's up that? He responded in his usual way..."ahh, the mystery of the Tao". So true.
The Tao is totally mysterious. Life is mysterious. None of us really know why we are here or what life is all about. On many levels, life is one big Zen riddle or Koan. The Tao is definitely a paradoxical enigma...and I am glad it is.
What if we did know the Secret of Life and were able to totally figure out every life's problems and boil it down to a formula? In my mind it would be boring. If it weren't for the chase...like the search for the holy grail (monty python style is the best)...life would just be almost too regimented, rigid and stale. Or at least I think it would be. I can't imagine always knowing what is going to happen. Where's the fun in that? Where's the mystery?
What is more fun...not knowing what is going to happen? Or knowing what is going to happen? The Packers play the Vikings today...what is more fun and pulsating with life...not knowing the outcome or knowing the outcome?
When facing a fierce opponent in kumite or with a sword...the not-knowing is what makes you alive! It is the mystery of the unknown that gives us life!
It is the not-knowing that makes this journey here on earth interesting. Yes, at times it is hard and cruel...but this allows us to see the beauty and the ease by which life can be as well. The not-knowing sends us on searches, holy quests, hermitages into the mountains or even dabbling with multiple martial arts to find the ultimate in self-defense.
Well....my coffee is getting cold and my wandering mind has drifted onto my list of things to get done before the football game. I better get going on it...I wonder where it will lead me today? Go Packers!
Thanks for visiting. My Dharma name is Shinzen. I began studying Goshindo Karate under the watchful eye of Shihan Paul Dean in 1969. Yes, I now have gray hair. I am also Lay-ordained in Soto Zen under the tutelage of Rev. Nonin Chowaney of the Nebraska Zen Center.