Thursday, December 30, 2010

Congrats to Verna & Rick

Verna throwing Rick
 Congratulations to Verna Micik and Rick Micik for earning their Intructor Certificates in Zen Goshindo Karate! Rick has been a Budoka for 12 years and Verna 10. They are a mother/son team that bring great energy to the Broken Bokken.

In fact, Verna named the dojo after she broke my bokken during practice one day. The name stuck!

She will be taking over as head instructor of the Broken Bokken after I move to Madison in the spring of 2011.  Rick is off to culinary school...he likes sharp knives.
Rick performing Sanchin

Again, congrats! I am blessed to have two wonderful Yudansha!

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Warrior Sage is...

A Warrior Sage is....(please fill in the blank)

What are the qualities of a Warrior Sage?

Who do you consider to be a Warrior Sage?


I am curious to find out people's impressions.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Monday, December 27, 2010

My New Year's Resolution: Slurping Gruel

Yun-men
Yun-men, a noted Chinese Zen Master, from the Tang Era (late 800's) was approached by one of his students.

The student asked, "Please, Master, show me a way in!"

Yun-men said, "Slurping gruel, eating rice."

I have decided to make this my New Year's Resolution. Slurp gruel and eat rice.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips!

HOLIDAY EATING TIPS..........LIVE IT UP!


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare... You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Have a Happy Holiday Season!

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

(thanks to my office manager for sending this to me...thanks Rose)

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Zen Priest's Ass

THE ZEN PRIEST’S ASS     (rated pg-13)


The local zen priest entered his donkey in a race and it won. The priest was so

pleased with the donkey that he entered it in the race again, and it won again.

The local paper read:

ZEN PRIEST’S ASS OUT FRONT

The Zen Temple’s Head Monk was so upset with this kind of

publicity that he ordered the local priest not to enter the donkey in another race.

The next day, the local paper headline Read:

HEAD MONK SCRATCHES PRIEST’S ASS

This was too much for the Head Monk, so he ordered

the priest to get rid of the donkey. The priest decided to give it to a Zen nun in a

nearby temple also overseen by the Head Monk.

The local paper, hearing of the news, posted the

following headline the next day:

NUN HAS BEST ASS IN TOWN

The head monk fainted.

He informed the nun that she would have to get

rid of the donkey, so she sold it to a farmer for $10.

The next day the paper read:

NUN SELLS ASS FOR $10

This was too much for the head monk, so he ordered

the nun to buy back the Donkey and lead it to the

open country where it could run wild.

The next day the headlines read:

NUN ANNOUNCES HER ASS IS WILD AND FREE

The head monk, totally losing equanimity, was hospitalized the next day.

The moral of the story is……. Being concerned about public opinion can

bring you much grief and misery & even shorten your life.


So be yourself and let your ass run free!

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Got Sole?

Getting down to basics today...Your Footwork. In Karate we have many stances to learn: Sanchin Dachi, Kiba Dachi, Zenkutsu Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi and so on. Some look funny, some feel funny and some just plain hurt when you stand in them for a long time...spend some time in a low Kiba...ouch! But I digress.

Why so many stances and why the importance placed on proper foot positioning, etc?

Your ability to stand properly and use your footwork to drive power is why. All of your hand techniques derive their power from your feet. If your feet or stance work are not proper you will not have power in your hands. Pure and simple.

All power to deliver a punch, a block a throw are born in the soles of your feet. Think of your soles as your soul of power. Without a soul of power your techniques have no spirit...no umpha!...no chi!  It comes up from the sole/soul.

Get in touch with your soles. Practice kamae...stance standing and feel the energy of connecting to the ground or floor. Move your feet across the floor and feeeeel them. Get in touch with them. Be soulful! :)

Come to think of it...maybe this is another way of connecting with your spiritual soul as well. See the connections of sole power and soul power. Something to ponder.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ryokan and Winter

Thanks everyone who gave me feedback on a title for my next book proposal.

It's been snowing a lot the last few days with 4-5 foot drifts around my house...and in my driveway. Funny how it works that my neighbor one door down has almost zero snow in their driveway and mine looks like I could go downhill skiing.

But, I won't complain. Back in the late 1700's Zen recluse, Ryokan wrote some poetry about his winter experiences. I will share.

"No begging in town today.
The snow falls and falls.

I lie down near the hearth
and stretch out my feet to the fire,
But still the cold pierces my belly."

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Need help with title of next book.

I am in the process of putting together a proposal for my next book.  I have some working titles I want to post here...and get some feedback from readers. Even if you aren't a martial artist, let me know which title grabs your attention or piques your interest. If you want you can rank them. Give me the top three.

The book is going to be on how I see Sanchin Kata and how it has spoken to me over the last four decades. It will have some philosophy and applied self-defense situations based on my insights. It is sort of a new twist on an old kata...but maintaining the historical integrity of the form. I 'see' things in Sanchin I have not seen in other books. So here are some working titles with subtitles following the colon (feel free to mix and match if you want) Again, just go with your first impression:

1.The Sanchin Code: Ancient Secrets of Self-defense

2.Contemporay Applied Sanchin: Breathing Life Into an Ancient Kata

3.Sanchin Speaks: Life Lessons from Karate's Most Venerated Kata

4.Wake up to Sanchin: Re-Discover Karate's Ultimate Combat Kata

5.Emptiness Becomes Form: Zen & the Art of Sanchin

6.Zen & the Art of Sanchin: Emptiness becomes Form

7.Cracking the Sanchin Code: Breathing Life into Karate's most venerated Kata.

8.Cracking the Sanchin Code: Unlocking ancient secrets of creative combat

9.Neo-classical Sanchin: A new twist on an old form

10. I am a Sanchin Slut: (no subtitle...this just popped into my head...must be the cold medicine)


So...rank order your top 3 or suggest something...or rearrange...just wanting some feedback...if you have questions, put them in the comments...

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, December 10, 2010

What is your Original Nature?

Received a couple inches of snow last evening and so was shoveling a bit this morning. Got to work and my Zen Calendar has this little saying by Natsume Soseki:

"What is your Original Nature, Snowman?"

And now Calvin & Hobbes:


Click on the comics to enlarge,
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scabs are Good!

One thing I have learned over the years in working with emotions, not only others, but my own specifically (I suffered panic attacks as a teen), is that there is nothing wrong with having anxiety, panic, depression, sadness, loneliness, even anger...

Emotions, when viewed as the healing scab, give them a new flavor and become less of a problem. Look at this way. So many people pay large sums of money using pharmaceutical and street drugs to drown out their emotions. This is like picking a scab. It only makes the matter worse.

When you get a physical cut, perhaps a deep gash in the arm, a scab forms over the wound. The scab is itchy, ugly, irritable and you want to pick it off. But, you know to pick the scab before the wound heals is to make the healing take longer and you run the risk of infecting the original wound and making your situation worse. In fact the scab will have to grow thicker and larger to cover the wound.

So, if you have sadness for an example. Sadness is the emotional scab that has formed to protect the original wound done to your psyche. If you try to get rid of it with drugs, prescriptive or street, the original wound is in danger of becoming infected and your sadness turns to depression...a thicker more irritable scab.

It is imperative, just like a physical scab, to just let it itch. If you learn to just watch sadness, you will see how the sadness changes and eventually you will feel better. The sadness falls away and you are healed from the original wound.

Zazen helped me see this. I also used to get depressed quite a bit during the winter, but after years of Zazen...my winters are filled with, well, just winter as it is. I highly recommend a regular meditative practice that allows you to 'just watch'. It is a lot cheaper than prescription drugs or street drugs...and no side effects!

Be Well.
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beyond Likes & Dislikes

The great Zen master, Seng-Ts'an, wrote, "The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised."

So true, especially when you can see how this works in self-defense. When being attacked you have to suspend like or dislike and deal with the situation NOW!  It goes beyond whether you like it or not. Your life depends on you being in the moment and flowing with the action. Get caught in mental discourse of like and dislike you can kiss your ass goodbye.

So, addressing this in life. Same thing applies. Basic life is beyond your likes and dislikes. Life throws stuff at you and presents you with many situations. Some desirable. Others not. But to be caught between like/dislike... these preferences you lose your way. It causes suffering and you become reactive to life rather than flow with life.

Today, as I type this, I am a bit run down with a cold. It is beyond my likes or dislikes. Just flow with it and allow it to take its course. I will flow with it...and the snot. It is all part of the big cosmic dance of life. It is beyond our likes and dislikes...afterall, think about this...

...When someone is trying to beat your brains in to rob you do you think they are going to stop just because you don't like it? Neither will life stop because you feel like 'bad'. It is beyond likes and dislikes. Make sense? You gotta be tough and face the moment. When you do...as Seng-Ts'an says, "..everything becomes clear and undisguised." The Now or Tao or Void or whatever you call it, opens up to you and you will be free! You are only trapped when you choose...

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All Is Provided

The longer I am in the martial arts, the more I see how what you need is always there. When during an attack, the assailant actually gives me what I need in order to defend myself. This is difficult to put into words, but let's say my assailant attempts to push me straight back with both his hands. When his hands come at me I have a variety of ways to work with this and will take the one that 'feels' and 'flows' better. I don't have a pre-set method of dealing with this attack. What is there I use and the answer is provided. Even after I disrupt his initial attack and begin to 'mess him up' with either joint locks, hits, kicks or throws...it all depends on what he provides to me. This dictates the next movement.

All is provided when I need it.

This goes for life as well. Everything I need is already here. It is provided. But just like an attack I need to keep my center...and flow...and smile. Life will provide me with I need to do next. I don't have to pre-think or worry or have anxiety. I just have to trust.

In the martial arts, I trust my training. Defense and movement with another being is natural and no real concern. I am learning the same goes for life in general. Just gotta trust that no matter what life throws at me, I have the skills needed to flow and smile. On my journey this is about growing into my Dharma name of Shinzen...Trust Zen. I trust zen...I trust this moment...I trust that, just like an opponent, life provides exactly what I need to do next. Ahh...freedom!

Leap and the net will appear.

In Gassho,
Shinzen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Body like Stone...


Body like Stone
Mind like Meatloaf
 My mind loves to wander on wonderful tangents. My last post shot this up from the old memory banks. Cartmen...Master of Sumo!

Ah...perfection. Mind like Meatloaf....is this Mushin? No-mind? ^_^
Something to strive for.

In Gassho,
Shinzen

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mountain, Wind and Sky

Body like mountain.
Breath like the wind.
Mind like the sky.





A set of instructions for meditation from the Tibetan hermit tradition of meditation.
From Ken McLeod's book, "Wake Up To Your Life."  Excellent book. I recommend it.

In Gassho,
Shinzen

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reading Intentions

One of the greatest skills you can learn as a martial artist is to read intentions...and most importantly, act on intentions. We've all heard of the remarkable ability of the old masters to seem to know what was happening before anyone else. They could read intentions...and just like practicing a side kick or reverse punch, the more you practice the better you will get.

We all have intentions. It is the spark just before a thought and just before an action. But how do you tell the intentions of your opponent? Learn how to see your own first. Here's a meditation to do to get you started:

Sit in a meditative pose with your back straight. Focus on breathing deep in your hara (center).  Now, become aware of the intention to inhale and your intentions to exhale. Feel the energy of intention just prior to each breath. Do this for about 20 minutes a day for 21 days...and notice the difference in your ability to pay attention and feel the energy of intent.

Next 21 days: Begin with noticing your breath's intention and switch to being aware of your intent to have a thought. Be like a cat waiting for a mouse to come out of its hole...watch...and feel.

During your day...when you remember...notice your intentions to think, move, breath, etc. Also, begin to see if you can feel other's intentions. Just watch...don't overanalyze.  Play with it in the dojo as well....think of ways you can work with your dojo mate in reading his or her intentions.  I use the word PLAY....don't try too hard. Be loose and listen and watch...and feel.

Hope this makes sense. Think of how reading your opponent's intentions can help you...not only in the martial arts but in life as well.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Pace of Nature

"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.
Sometimes you don't need the things you 'need' to enjoy the simple things, quiet times, friends, family."

Amish Proverb




Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tai Chi helped my Sanchin

One great thing about being in the martial arts is the diversity. From one art foreign to you, you can learn more about your own art. For instance, one of my students back in Lincoln, Nebraska is a Tai Chi instructor (Yang family).  As I learned more about tai chi and began practicing I fell in love with the movement, 'grasping sparrow's tail'.

Grasping sparrow's tail contains the essence of tai chi in terms of its movement. In it we have four movements, called ward off, roll back, press and push.  These correlate a bit to the four 'winds', as I call them, of Sanchin. These are spit, swallow, sink and float. These winds when combined create a spiral of energy that is very powerful.

Well, practicing Grasping Sparrow's Tail, I could feel an internal movement of energy that moved and undulated. It taught me how to use me feet, hips, etc in a continuous movement for self-defense. Then when practicing Sanchin, I could feel the same energy and could use it within the more seemingly rigid structure.

It is difficult to explain this movement, but it is where Chinkuchi, or Fa-Jing, is generated. I am writing more about this in my next book on Sanchin and might play with it here for your reading feedback.

Well, basically, practice some Tai Chi and it will help your Karate. It feels good and can help any stiff Karate-ka break free and flow better.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weathered the Storm


Finally, I believe this latest storm of activities is over. I am feeling refreshed after taking care of my family's health issues over the past few weeks. Everyone is healthy now. My son's eye is looking better every day and his discomfort is minimal. Just one more followup visit to the doc in Milwaukee this week. One lesson that was reinforced for me was to keep my center and have faith, especially when so much is beyond my control.

Had a great book signing at Wausau's Barnes & Noble. They overnighted a bunch of my books from the publisher so when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised. They had cookies and coffee waiting for us as well. The book signing was an Author's Day and I had a wonderful time conversing and networking with other authors. I learned a lot as most of them were seasoned professionals with multiple books. It was great...I did learn I better keep my day job for awhile.

Just want to say thanks to all readers. Your encouraging words were helpful.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Testing my stress limits...arrgh!

Life has a way of throwing a lot of stuff at you. In the past few weeks my two daughters have been very ill. One with a nasty virus that has effected her lungs, the other stung by a bee. My daughter who was stung is in college 3 hours away...she is allergic and went into shock. Fortunately a friend grabbed her epipen and gave her the doseage.

My wife and son, both have had surgery and lots of pain afterwards. My wife had to have a d&c to check for uterine cancer. Everything is okay as tests came back benign. My son had to have a eyelid repaired as it drooped due to a weak muscle-tendon connection. It was effecting his vision.  Both of them, on the journeys home had break-through pain that caused my wife to pass out and my son to cry.

On top of this, once again, a top ranked bookseller, this time Barnes & Noble has screwed up an upcoming booksigning by forgetting to order my books. The one at Borders I had a few weeks ago, they accidently sent my books back just before the signing. What's up that?

Oh, well. Just gotta keep on one day at time. Everything does work out well. My son is recuperating well (I am home with him today...his surgery was yesterday) and he is feeling fine. My wife does not have cancer. My daughters have recuperated and are well...and my book signing for this weekend will go on. 

What is there to learn from this? Not sure right now. Just needed to vent a bit. I feel better already.

In Gassho,
Shinzen

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some new Mind-Swords

In my book, Black Belt Healing, I describe three primary mind-swords that manifest health and healing.  In working with people one thing I have discovered is that some people still need to "cut out the past."  Pondering this I realized we have another set of three mind-swords. This set is for cleansing and clearing the past and contained in many spiritual and religious traditions.

These three mind-swords are:

The knife - this is Gratitude.  Being thankful for what you already have and where you are right now is important...even if it is uncomfortable. Gratitude as I have described in previous posts, brings us to the Now and begins a shift in our emotions and awareness.  So, when you are feeling like sh*t from past memories or life is just feeling difficult, give thanks...and mean it. I will add a smile and a gassho.

The short sword - this is Contrition.  Contrition is asking forgiveness and saying you are sorry...not to an eternal being or god, but to the situation you are experiencing in the Now.  It is important to accept responsibility where you are right now...you are responsible for where you are. You may not have caused 'the problem' but you are responsible for where you are. Make sense?  So, simply say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness, and once again, mean it...feel it.

The long sword - this is Love. Not the sappy romantic love, but the deep compassion you can feel when wishing others happiness and blessings. It is simply saying 'I love you'...and smiling...and seeing in your mind's eye all beings being blessed.  A gassho works for me once again.

Using these three mind-swords can help clear away negativity that might be impeding your health or healing. I have a tendency to get virtigo from time to time, especially when I forget I am in my fifties and still think I am in my twenties...and try to free spar to heavy.  So, when I get the bed-spins at night, I begin a routine of saying, Thank you to the spins/vertigo because it is showing me my life is out of balance right now.  I then ask for forgiviness for manifesting the vertigo through my mind, body and behavior.  Then I give it feelings of compassion and do my best to embrace it (see 'don't feed the bears' chapter in my book).

It is amazing how this helps me deal with the bed-spins, nauseau and lack of sleep. After this I put into forth my other set of mind-swords to create health and healing towards a balanced perspective and life.

In Gassho...
Shinzen

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ryokan

I found a great deal at our local Goodwill store. A book of poems by the Zen Hermit, Ryokan for 49 cents. He was born in 1758 and passed away in 1853.  I've always loved his poetry...here is a sample.

"At the main crossroads, playing Hotei,
coming and going with my bowl. How many years have passed?
Pretending again I do not know where I am going;
A fresh wind blows and the bright moon covers the autumn sky."

(Hotei is the fat Buddha who carries a sack and passes out gifts)
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Brilliancy of Death

As I was driving to work today I got the opportunity to drive under a canopy of autumn colors. It was amazing to notice how brilliant the leaves are in their dying. Oh, to be so bright and colorful upon my own death!

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shin Tai Gi 2010


Shin Tai Gi 2010 Cassie's Farm
 This year's Shin Tai Gi went well as we raised a good chunk of change for the local domestic violence shelter. The women who live and work in these situations are true warriors.

Our host, Cassie Hitzman (white gi by dog), had just finished renovating an outbuilding on her farm into a dojo. We initiated it with Zen Meditation and an Andean Shaman Despacho healing ceremony. Thank You Cassie...the dojo is awesome!

Our Guest Speaker/Healer this year was Teri Nehring (first row to the left in the blue). She is known as "Little Warrior" has studied with the Andean Shamans of Peru and conducted the ceremony. It was really neat to learn about the Andean Shaman traditions and to participate in a healing ceremony. Thank You Teri!

I want to say 'Thank You' to all participants and a special thank you to Joe Pounder of Original Martial Systems out of Appleton for his generous donation as well.

I have had some people who couldn't make it requesting to have another one soon. Maybe a winter retreat will be in order. I'm game.

In Gassho,
Shinzen

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Empty Boat

A classical Zen/Taoist story regarding Emptiness. This version comes from The Way of Chuang Tzu as translated by Thomas Merton.

If a man is crossing a river and an empty boat collides with his skiff, even though he is a bad-tempered man he will not become very angry.

But if he sees a man in the boat, he will shout at him to steer clear. If the shout is not heard he will shout again, and yet again, and begin cursing. And all because there is somebody in the boat.

Yet, if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat crossing the river of the world, No one will oppose you. No one will seek to harm you....

Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Musashi's Land of Bliss

"Under the Sword lifted high
There is Hell making you tremble:

But go ahead,
and you have the
Land of Bliss."

Miyamoto Musashi
(from my 9/14/10 Zen Calendar)

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sahasrara Chakra & Gi: Equanimity reigns

Sahasrara or the Crown Chakra is located just at or above the crown of the head. It is associated with enlightenment and spiritual freedom. It is about living in the here of the eternal now. It is our connection to the spiritual nature of the cosmos.

The Samurai treasured Gi. It is associated with making right decisions from equanimity. Seeing deeply into the nature of all things removed any fear of death or dying. It has also been translated as rectitude. With recititude, death has no grip. Attachment to mind and body has been dropped. Entering into the battlefield took on new life.

Becoming free from fear was a big thing for the Samurai. This seventh principle was an ideal sought after and practiced through zen and other indigenous ascetic practices, such as Shinto. Being able to operate from this source made legends of many Samurai.

Well, that's all for now about the 7 chakras and their similarities to the Samurai Bushido 7 Virtues. I will, overtime, write more on these subjects as I explore them more intimately on an energetic level rather than just an intelletual one. If any readers have insights or suggestions...let me know.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ajna Chakra and Yu: Bravery

Yu is about having courage but it is not just mere bravery. It is about doing what is right, when it is right to do so. Any warrior can run into the thick of battle and be slain. The Samurai termed this a ‘dog’s death’ and not true bravery.

True bravery comes about by having deep insight into non-duality and being open. This is the spinning of the Ajna Chakra. Often called the Third Eye, it is considered the sight of deep spiritual insight. It is here we see deeply into our truest nature, freeing us from the shackles of our deepest fears. When all fear has been removed, courage tinged with bravery has a chance to grow. This is what many Samurai were looking for....the removal of fear and the growth of bravery, heroism, courage.

Ajna Chakra is also considered the sight of our psychic nature and insight into the wonders of the universe. This Chakra is very white. I had an experience with it many years ago during zazen. I had been sitting for about 30 minutes and one of my legs had fallen asleep. When I switched my leg positions, a white-laser beam of light shot in between my eyebrows almost knocking me over backwards off my zafu! It was strong and left a deep impression on me. I'll never forget the intensity of that light.

A simple candle meditation can help simulate and stimulate this chakra and the quality of bravery. Sit in a meditative posture with a lit candle in front of you. Gaze at the candle for a few minutes. Then close and cover your eyes with your hands and just allow the after image sit in your vision. Notice how when you try to 'see' the flame, it will move...just relax and allow it to be it will be there. This allowing opens your nature 'to be', which requires bravery of a kind you have to practice. It is openess that can feel vulnerable as well. Too often we strain to see...it takes courage to see without seeing, by letting go. Sounds weird, but try it. You'll discover the quality of Yu.
Many blessings.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vishuddha Chakra and Jin

The throat chakra, or Vishuddha Chakra, guides our energy towards benevolence and compassion as expressed in the concept of Bushido's Jin. It is here we totally surrender our will to that of a 'higher' power...and it is here we find our true voice.

The essence of Vishuddha is Faith. Faith in that which is invisible to the eye. Faith in that which gives rise to our true essence and allows us to see a bigger picture than before. It gives rise to the spirit of deep compassion of Jin. We begin to see that the 'other' is ourselves. Those we thought of as enemies are no more. We can only see ourselves. This requires faith and the ability to communicate from our heart.

About thirty years ago I visited a counselor friend of mine who was an intuitive and could read chakras. She told me I was doing pretty good, but my throat chakra was a bit stuck. As I looked in myself, I realized I wasn't being true to my inner voice, but listening to others and wanting to please them more. Her insight helped my find my voice and faith within myself.  Then about seven years later, I met Nonin, my Zen teacher. He gave me the Dharma name of Shinzen. To have faith in zen.  I had to dig deeper and realized I was still hampered in this area.

This writing and the publishing of my book is a result of opening my throat chakra and speaking from faith and my inner voice...and I am hoping it blesses people. I still care how others percieve me, but I am less apt to be a people pleaser. I also have more faith in general. Faith that everything is okay just as it is.

Vishuddha Chakra and Jin. An expression of Faith.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Anahata Chakra & Rei

Located in the region of the heart, the Anahata Chakra is typically associated with compassion and a surrendering of yourself to a higher power (however you percieve it to be). It is here, at this level, you begin to make decisions about life and your calling...about following your heart. It is here, the Samurai speak of Rei.

Rei is respect, kindness, politeness and all with a hint of morality. Treating others and yourself with Rei keeps this Chakra spinning...and conversely, keeping this Chakra open allows Rei to pour forth.  Samurai culture was full of Confucian influence as well, which called for protocol that implied respect, politeness and refinement of character.

The act of bowing is deeply symbolic of these qualities....and add your hands together you have a gassho.
Also, the wish-fulfilling tree, kalpa taru, resides here, symbolizing the ability to manifest whatever you wish to happen in the world. Thus, following your passion, your heart, is highly creative. As a tree produces fruit so does the Anahata...and Rei.

Surrendering to this higher power within ourselves and listening is the beginning of entering into the higher realms of what it means to be human. It also here, when you learn to trust your martial training that 'magic' happens. Emanating from Anahata/Rei you rise above the physical lower chakras and your ability to see and relate to others begins to shift.

Get stuck here means...well, you"re an ego-centered jack ass. You can't see beyond your own wishes and carnal lusts. Visualizing green in your heart region and simply filling your heart with loving thoughts can help keep this chakra spinning. Also, practice bowing and paying respect to all things...rocks, sticks, animals, humans...and even the ego-centered jack ass. After all, you can only know he is a jack ass because you have those same elements within yourself. Be peace.

Hands palm to palm..._/|\_
Shinzen

Friday, August 27, 2010

Walk Blood-Heavy

Just taking a bit of a stray from the Chakra/Bushido code for a post. In Madison, Wisconsin today to drop my middle child off at college. My wife and I went to a folk festival this evening full of old and young hippies.

While walking around I noticed my shoulders and breathing were high. There were a lot of  people and I felt a bit on-edge. Then this little voice in my head (yes, I have voices in my head....now don't get jealous cause they just talk to me...lol)...well, this 'voice' or prompting said, "Walk Blood-Heavy".

For some reason I knew what to do. I dropped my shoulders, put my breath-focus into my feet and with each step I visualized the ground vibrating from the heavy step of blood-filled feet. A lot like when doing Sanchin Kata. A very strong rooted feeling. The only difference was it felt heavier than Sanchin and I felt better...less on-edge, more clear and calm. I felt connected to each step, the earth and now.

I know. Strange. But you have to listen to those voices...it is the voice of intuition. I am going to practice Walking Blood-Heavy more often and see what happens. Try if for yourself. Just see and feel your feet getting heavy with blood (remember chi and blood flow together). Then be aware of each step and as you step feel/visualize the ground thunderously vibrating beneath your feet. Have fun with it. Let me know what you think.

I know at times I can sound crazy...well, that's because it is important to push the parameters of consensus reality. Don't you agree?

Hands palm to palm  _/|\_   (thanks Rizal for showing this to me)
Shinzen


photo courtesy of: users.surf.net.au

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Manipura Chakra & Makoto

The third Chakra, Manipura, also known as the Solar Plexus Chakra correlates well with Bushido's, Makoto. The Manipura Chakra is the seat of personal power and integrity. Whereas the first chakra is associated with tribal power and the second with the flow of power in relationships, the third chakra is all about personal power.

Makoto is about this power. Makoto is truthfulness to yourself, to your values and to your inner self and vows. It is about total sincerity in being true to yourself. This entails personal power and the ability to have a well-adjusted attitude and perspective with your 'tribe' or 'group'. This is also about self-esteem....and so is Manipura Chakra.

Manipura is about the development of good self-esteem, self-respect and self-discipline. It is the seat of creativity as well that served the Samurai in crisis. Manipura and Makoto is about the ability to generate the personal power for courage, action and strength of character..

When not in order fears of rejection, criticism and a general lack of confidence exists. The Samurai here could have a major fear of not keeping his responsibilites to his lord. It was important to generate the energy for Makoto. This is all about honoring yourself.

To develop Makoto via a healthy Manipura.  Get plenty of sunshine. Spend time in nature soaking in the sun and the warmth that nature provides. Practice some simple rooting Qigong with the trees...while opening yourself to the vitality of the sun. I have heard that the practice of Karma Yoga is also a wonderful way to strengthen this chakra and its virtue. A simple chakra meditation is to place your hands over the chakra and visualize its color. Do this over each chakra for a few minutes or until you feel like your done.

The first chakra is red. The second is orange...and the third is yellow. Yes, the seven chakras follow the rainbow. So, be true to yourself. Practice integrity and truthfulness.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Svadhisthana Chakra & Meiyo

Meiyo. Honor. The Samurai believed in honor within society. This is ruled by awakening your second Chakra, the Svadhisthana. This second chakra oversees your energy for relationships, sexual energy and the need to manage the dynamics of your place in society.

A second chakra out of balance brings about a fear of losing control. I see this in men and women who are domestic abusers. They rule over their partner with power and control tactics that are physically, mentally, economically abusive. They have no honor for another. Ever have a toxic boss? Second Chakra out of a balance.

Honoring others in relationships and your place in society was crucial for maintaining the feudal system in Japan...and other cultures as well. In the dojo, this honoring each other with a simple bow is so important. Examine for a moment when you do a standing bow. Where do you bend? At the second chakra! This bowing motion seems to exercise this second chakra...and bowing is a symbol of enacting the virtue of honor to one another.

A healthy second chakra helps build faith and is a source of wonderful creativity as well.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Muladhara Chakra and Chuugi

The root chakra, or Muladhara Chakra, is located at the base of the spine. Its energy is concerned with survival and groundedness...especially to mother earth. When it is out of balance there is fear. Fear, in early development, is about being part of a group or tribe. In a lot of ways, this Chakra is our Tribal Loyalty Chakra.

Take a look at Mixed Martial Arts right now. These are young men and women who are extremely tribal. Check out the tattoos, the t-shirts, caps, etc. Their concern is how they fit into the tribe...and how the tribe helps care for them. Loyalty is key in tribal survival.

The Muladhara Chakra is also the seat of an energy called Kundalini. This is a life energy that begins at this Chakra and coils its way up your spine through all the chakras. It does this through three meridians, called inga, pingala and shushumna.. If your energy gets stuck here you will tend to operate your life from fear and having to be the baddest ass on the block.  Martial Artists who get stuck here are usually young and loud-mouthed, as well as surrounded by their tribe or gang. They rule through preying on fear...and loyalty to the gang or tribe becomes paramount for survival.

One of the basic virtues of the Samurai was Loyalty or Chuugi. Loyalty to their feudal lord and clan. It was also very important for a Samurai to have this affiliation. His survival depended on it. As a Samurai you were awarded land, food and relationships. Without a lord, the Ronin, who were Samurai with no clan or tribe, had no land, food and relationships were mostly mercenary at best. They lived a lonely, meager existence. Chuugi was needed for the basics of living. Food, Shelter, Clothing.

To awaken the Kundalini that will spin your root Chakra, or throw this Shuriken safely, meditation and training in various Kiko or Qigong were practiced. As this energy rises, it allows for awakening the next in line Chakras...and provide awakening to the other virtues. Keeping this chakra spinning in a healthy manner allows for growth from blind loyalty to the tribe to other wonderful virtues.

Well, that's all for now. Any feedback or comments are greatly appreciated...even if it is to say,'this makes sense' or 'I have no idea what the hell your talking about'...'or 'can you please expand on xyz'.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chakras, Shuriken and Samurai...oh, my.

Many martial artist's today understand the concept of Ki or Qi. It is the energy that runs through us and gives us life. We can get Qi through the air we breath, the food we eat and the water we drink. It is in all and moves through all. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the meridians are the channels that Qi flow through. Each meridian is connected to an organ and has certain qualities pertaining to our physical and emotional makeup.

The Chakras, or Wheels of Energy, run up and down our spinal column, beginning in the coccyx and ending at the top of the head.  These Chakras are energy wheels that spin and also give us life...and contain certain qualities...many of which correlate to the seven virtues of a Samurai.(Loyalty, Honesty, Integrity, etc.)  Seven Chakras. Seven Virtues.

Sometimes I think of Chakras as Shuriken spinning inside of us. Shuriken come in many shapes, but the most common thought of form is a disc. The circular Shuriken were developed from old coins, sharpened at the edges....and thrown at an opponent. Not so much as to harm him, but to distract him for a moment so the Samurai or Ninja could use their long or short swords.

Shuriken take practice time to throw properly and if not trained in throwing, you will miss your target and possibly harm yourself. Thrown properly they will defend you and keep you safe.

Same with Chakras. They need to be spun correctly. They need to be handled with care and exercised so as to spin correctly to give us the right types of energy we need...as well as provide us with the virtues the Samurai treasured.

I'll get more into tying these divergent systems together in future posts...my wife wants to get out and go for a walk. I do need the exercise....walking helps the Chakras as well...and by walking with my wife I am practicing familial loyalty. Such a Samurai, eh. (I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, eh).  Oh...this is where I need your help as well.  This might be part of my next book and am looking for feedback and questions. Thank You.

Till later,
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, July 30, 2010

Go Internal

Chakras & Subtle Energy
As martial artists we do a lot of physical training. We hone our punching, kicking, throwing and weapon skills with sweat and precision.  This physical training is essential as it does exercise our vital energy or Ki/Qi.  However, the focus of physical training is still what we call 'external' training and to get the most out of your workout, and yourself, it is important to practice 'internal' training.

Internal training, such as meditation (zazen) and various forms of Yoga and Qigong, are excellent for this.  Getting in touch with your subtle energies will enhance your martial skills as well as your health overall. It is this energy that supports your life. It is just as important as breathing. Without Ki/Qi you're dead.  To keep it flowing with proper exercise, nutrition and meditation is life itself.

So, don't neglect 'internal' training. As you learn more about energy and its impact on your overall health you will wonder why we don't emphasis it in our educational systems. In future posts I will discuss more about our chakra system and its role in martial arts.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nothing left to do? Laugh!

My Zen calendar today, "Nothing is left to you at this moment but to have a good laugh!"

Good advice. Grouch Marx was known to have said, "A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast."

So...A man went to his doctor complaining of painful headaches. After concluding his tests, the doctor said, "There's only one solution, but it's extreme: castration." The patient said he could never resort to that and he walked out.

As the weeks went on, his headaches go so painful he couldn't take it any longer. He went back to the doctor and agreed to the castration. The operation was a big success, and the patient couldn't believe that his headaches were finally gone. He felt like a new man. He was so excited about his new life that he went to a tailor and bought a whole new set of clothes---suits, socks, shirts, even underwear.

In jotting down all the appropriate information, the tailor finally asked, "What size underwear do you wear?"
"Forty" replied the man.
"Oh, no," said the tailor. "You're a 44 if I ever saw one. If you wear underwear that tight, you'll get terrible headaches!"

Oh, well...nothing left to do but laugh.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Train like you mean it...for life.

What the ???
In my last post I discussed martial art training and the necessity to train hard, pay attention and give it your best effort. Training like you are on the street prepares you mentally and physically for a street attack/defense situation than being too lax and just srewing around.

But what about basic living?  How do you train for your everyday activities? Do you give it your best or do you do it half-assed?  But what are the basics? How do you train for everyday?  Well, pay attention to what you are doing first of all.

What is the most basic aspect of daily life that we must train?  Hmmm...I am going to say Breathing. Yes, breathing. Without it you're considered dead. Do you practice any formal breathing exercises, rituals or mindful activities that connects you with your breathe? In the martial arts, if I an take your breathe...I have your mind...I have you.  We study how the body moves during relaxed breathing and anxious breathing...what your body looks like exhaling and inhaling. Did you know you are weak when you inhale? This is when I can attack you. Studying my breathing and others breathing gives me insights into the mind of myself and another.

Just the basics. What other basics of life are you not training? Think about it. Eating is a big one. Not to be too crass, but pissing and shitting is another. Are you managing these areas of your life well? If not, your health is gonna stink!

I suggest you make a list of what you consider basics of life...pay attention to them and take some time to train in them like you mean it....after all...your life could depend on it. Just some thoughts. I gotta go pee..so,
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Train like you mean it.

Ernie Paulson & Rob Shepard/Goshindo Karate  
When you are in the dojo are you training or jawing?

I tend to see, yes, even in my dojo, too much talking and not enough training. I am all for having fun during the workout, but it must also be vigorous and have adrenalin pumping intensity. It must simulate real life as much as possible while ensuring safety. Why?

If you have sloppy habits in the dojo...you will have sloppy habits on the street. Sloppy on the street gets you hurt, if not killed. Train vigorously in the dojo with intensity of mind, body and spirit helps you shape yourself for the rigors of a street defense situations.

Injuries will happen in the dojo, but those will heal. Injuries on the street could be crippling if not death inducing. Endure the dojo dings and your mind and body will have a better chance of street survival if need be. Facing your fears of injury in the dojo will help you face the fears of injury on the street...but only if the practice in the dojo pushes you to your limits and makes you question what the hell you are doing.

So, get ready Broken Bokken Dojo....especially the Yudansha...you've only just begun. Get the ice packs,jow and bandaids ready.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

How do you eat?

How you eat is as important as was what you eat. 

Your thoughts and attitude towards your food determines its impact on your body, mind and spirit as much as the bio-chemistry of the food itself. Think about it. Food eaten in thanksgiving, joy and mindfulness versus food eaten in distraction, anxiety and non-caring.

Do you eat watching tv or do you eat watching the meal?

Experiment for yourself...notice the difference in your day when you eat your breakfast with mindfulness and thanksgiving versus the day you watch the early morning news and scanning your facebook account.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Have you ever noticed that nature has a pace and a rythm?  It is neither fast nor slow, hurried or dawdling, anxious or calm. It is always 'moving' (this from a human perspective who is stuck on a fixed self).

How can we harmonize with this pace, this rythmic beat of wind, sun, moon, stars, water, fire, rain, tornadoes, floods, droughts, etc?  Not really sure....all I know is that when it is hot, I sweat. when it is cold, I shake...when it tornadoes, I go to my basement....when my butt itches, I scratch it (hey, I am part of nature too!)

Nature is neat. We've been having lots of rain this summer. Last year hardly a drop. I wonder what the fall will bring...I know my garden is thriving, except for the corn being flattened by 60 mph winds a few nights ago...and shattering my glass topped patio table by lifting it and shoving into the rails of my deck. Ah..nature. She is so gentle :)

Nose tickles...

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No Sh*t

No shit. You are perfect just as you are. Right now. Right here. All you need is here, sitting in the place you are, reading these words. Nothing is lacking. Nothing to seek. All is well. No shit.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Amnesia for Discomfort & my next book

For the past week I have been experiencing some rather intense discomfort in the metatarsal region of my right foot. I figured it was from wearing some new sandals while on vacation, but the darn thing won't go away...in fact, it has progressed in its discomfort. Two evenings ago I dreamt I was walking on a gravel road in my barefeet and when I awoke the bottom of my feet felt as if they were burning. To get them to stop burning I used some visualization techniques to cool the sensation and fell asleep. (you can read more stuff like this in my book by the way).

Well, just this past evening my right foot woke me up with once again a severe burning sensation across the pad of my foot but also shooting into my toes. I tried a new technique using hypnotic amnesia.  I simply told myself to remember to forget the discomfort and then focused my breathing into my hara (remember the red rubber ball technique?). That's all I did and I feel back asleep and had a good night's rest.  I had to do this twice during the evening and it worked both times to get me back to sleep.

I know I am improving and will get better soon...I have a martial art seminar/camping retreat this weekend and will be on my feet all day. I bought some special shoe inserts so I hope this can give me the support I need to facilitate comfort. I am curious to see how it works.

Also, for those who are interested, I have started writing my next book and will have a co-author, Teri Nehring. If you remember back in November of 09 I had asked the 'creative spirit' for seeds for my next book. This led me into the world of shamanic studies and meeting Teri, a healer trained in Andean Shamanism. Well, the seeds have finally sprouted.  It involves warriorship, healing, sacred swords of the samurai, shamanic journeys and wherever inspiration leads us.  I will keep you posted.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Let the opponent cut your skin...

This past Tuesday, the Broken Bokken Dojo was playing in the park once again, and we primarily free-sparred with weapons. One of my Yudansha, Mariah, cut my index finger at the middle knuckle with her bokken's tip. It was a clean cut. One I admired. She understands the concept of embracing the fight and moving inside.

Her actions reminded me of an old Samurai saying, "If you intend to capture the tiger's cub, go inside its den."  This means you never back up, charging forward regardless of where your opponent's blade is and staying a fraction of an inch away from the blade itself.  For Mariah, this is very important, as she is only about 4 foot 10 inches tall and weighs less than 100 pounds.  She has to live on the inside of a fight.

She moved inside my blade and got the finger with a real nice motion resulting in a slice. The sword is a slicing tool and she did it well...I stopped for safety purposes...because as she did a nice job cutting my skin, I have learned how to let the opponent cut my skin so I can cut their flesh...it's like taking a punch to give a punch.  Once you learn how to do this fear tends to diminish...at this point the samurai would also take a cut to the flesh in order to give a cut through the marrow of the bone. (I'm not ready for that yet)

This requires determination, perserverance and practice...and courage. Most of us do not like to be cut on the skin, let alone the flesh...but take this lesson and look at from a deeper psychological and spiritual way. What lessons can we learnd from this to help us grow. Let me know what you find.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Lesson from my Weeds

A lesson from my weeds in the garden.

Life isn't to be measured by time or money...in fact it isn't to be measured at all...it is meant to be lived...embracing both the comfortable and uncomfortable with a big shit-eatin grin.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How many lives...

"There's a stream, and there's bamboo,
there's mulberry and hemp.
Mist-hid, clouded hamlet,
a mild, tranquil place.
Just a few tilled acres.
Just a few tiled roofs.
How many lives would I have to live,
to get that simple."

Yuan Wei

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jiyu Kumite

Jiyu Kumite, for my non-martial art readers, is free sparring. No prearranged techniques like kata or one or two step Kumite. It is mostly for us an exercise in adapting our 'eye' and mind to fight speed. Fists and feet come at you very fast and you have to act upon the action swiftly or get a good thumping. There are rules we use for safety purposes, but you will walk away with bumps, bruises, scrapes and tears.

Jiyu Kumite also has much to teach us, not only in the martial arts, but outside it as well...mostly in the realm of present moment awareness and dealing with life's difficulties. For instance, when you get your ribs bruised by a side kick it is not a pleasant experience. Even when kicked hard and out of breath, Shihan Dean would yell at us to keep moving...don't stop....even in the midst of pain...be here! Stay in the moment of engagement...you ain't dead yet.

Life will always throw unpleasant experiences at us that we don't like. Life is beyond our likes and dislikes. It is indifferent...just like a side kick. When you get hurt, either physically or emotionally, stay here and now and keep moving. Stay in the game, stay in the Now of what is going on cause, just like your opponent in Kumite, Life is gonna keep on coming. After it kicks you, it could be following up with a flurry of strikes...or running away. You don't know. You have to stay alert even though you hurt.

The hurt will go away. Kumite gets us in touch with Transiency of phenomena. Every thing changes. This too shall pass. Staying in the game, eyes open, alert and mindful, your pain diminishes and you realize you are okay and can keep moving. You begin to feel empowered and soon realize that the hurt and pain is a wonderful teacher...if you let it be.

Kumite also teaches us how to keep the mind calm in the midst of all this turmoil but always having to stay now. When your thoughts race into the future with fear or past with regret you have to bring it back to the action...or once again pain will wake you up to now, whether you want it or not.

As you go about your daily life, maintain this Kumite mind of being in the game, in the now. Know your intentions, but stay focused with what is at hand, neither projecting too far into the future or visiting the past. These are just ghosts in your mind.

Kumite teaches us how life can come at us fast and furious. But, if we maintain our calm mind, our now mind and trust our training, it becomes a fun event. Most students love to Kumite. It becomes a joyful experience despite the discomfort. And so is life. As you stay connected to now of now...the flux and flow of life as it arrives, your life becomes more joyful, more fun and inspirational....even when it side kicks your ribs.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Red Rubber Ball

One of my favorite meditative/mindful techniques I use, especially when I find myself getting bored or overly excited, is the Red Rubber Ball. I learned this from an Aikido-ka about 22 years ago and I love it.

All you have to do is imagine you have a red rubber ball in your hara. This is three inches below your navel and three inches in, approximately. If you find yourself bored or nervous, like what can happen to me, just bring your focus to the red rubber ball.

Sometimes I breath into it and when I inhale I make it expand and when I exhale I make it contract. Now, if you want you can use different colors. Sometimes for a cooling, calm feeling I will pick green or blue and breath into it or let its energy bath me in calmness.  You are only limited by your imagination.

Over the years I discovered I could also 'magnetize' the ball and make it attract a healing, insight into a problem or even money. However you picture magnetization, imagine it and see it attracting what you want and how great it feels! The feeling of the healing or insight or money already being here is very important. It is the attractor factor inside the ball.

Well, off for a week of vacation.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sacred Swords of Zen Goshin-do Karate

Zen Goshin-do is the style of Karate that we practice at the Broken Bokken Dojo. We love all things Samurai and in Zen Goshin-do there are three swords that represent our soul and practice of the Way.  These three swords are Zazen, Kata and Kumite.

Now, many styles practice these three, however, as usual we take a view that might or might not be classical or traditional. It is just how these three swords have 'spoken' to me over the years. Swords are the soul of the Samurai...and these three swords are our Sacred Swords.

Zazen is the sword that teaches us how to be here and now. It is the practice of seeing directly into our true nature without words and a bunch of b.s. We practice Zazen to practice Zazen...and allow the benefits of calmness, centeredness, self-knowledge and healing to flow.

Kata is the sword that puts zen into motion and teaches us how to be here and now while in the midst of the principles of Karate. In terms of life, it shows us how everyday activity, like brushing teeth, driving to work, making love...are Kata...how we behave. Parts of Karate...and everyday life...have certain ritualistic features that we can pay attention to and reveals our true nature, when we pay attention to what is going on. It helps us develop the skills we need in Karate and to support our life.

Kumite, or Jiyu Kumite, is Free Sparring. It is the sword of action and flow. No pre-arranged structure. Here you must be in the flow of activity with discursive thought in the background. Being here and now is paramount or you get a fist or foot in the face or a bokken across the knucles....heck, even being here and now these things can happen, but at least you are dealing with it directly and not with a bunch of bruha. You keep moving despite comfort or discomfort. It is the flow of life, unstructured, unscripted and at times extremely chaotic...yet you remain unmoved and centered like the bodhisattva, Fudo.

All three swords are intertwined and give us the skills to master the art of karate...and of living. To be an artist of life direct knowledge of yourself is important. Paying attention to our routines, rituals and practices of everyday living allows us to enter into a place of deep mindfulness. This serves us well when we need to flow with life when it is unscripted.

Let's say you have a job interview. Prior to it you have to prepare a resume and cover letter describing who you are and your skills...sort of some self knowledge and introspection needed...prior to meeting a prospective boss you have practiced in your mind questions she might ask...and how you would answer...then there are the unscripted questions you need to be able to respond with fluidity...and the answers come easily because you have prepared yourself and practice in the basics.

I will let you sort out the elements of zazen, kata and kumite in this job interview...mostly cause I gotta get to work.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Middle Way

Yesterday, while sitting at my desk, I drew a line down the middle of a legal size piece of paper. I was working on a solution to a personal dilemna I was facing. Well, I drew the line down the paper and in the left hand column I wrote the worst case scenario of my situation. On the right side I wrote the best case scenario.  I am sure you have done something like this in the past, as I have.

I stared at the piece of paper and hit me like a kick in the nuts...but only better!

Both case scenarios are only in my imagination....and not real! The only 'reality' was the thin line I drew down the middle. The Middle Way...of being here and now...staring at this piece of paper.  Of being with the flow of reality as it unfolds. The pen, my chair, desk, sound of air conditioning, etc. All represented by a narrow line...a narrow path.

No decision needed to be made. Life will unfold as it is.

Now, I can influence it, but this just 'ego' getting in the way. Why muck it up with my fears and hopes. Both need to go by the wayside and abandoned...forever.  Then, and only then, can the reality of this moment's joy break forth.

This was validated last evening while doing some bokken free-sparring. Being in the moment was more important than worrying about getting hit (which I did....bloody knuckles) or 'winning'. Thought either way takes me away from Now...the only place I can be. All else is an illusion...notions...thoughts...phantoms and hungry ghosts.

Well, gotta go.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen