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.
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.
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.
Deep within yourself you have an inner healer.From time to time we all experience a bout of pain, whether it is a headache, overused muscles or experiencing general discomfort....even emotional discomfort.
To connect with yourself and your innate healing abilities here is a guided visualization you can practice. Feel free to play with it and make it your own:
Get yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to relax...perhaps taking in a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds and make the exhale long and slow. Repeat this about three to five times until you feel a bit more comfortable.
Then take yourself to a happy or sacred place, preferably in nature and allow yourself to soak in the sights and sounds. Really feel yourself in this place. Make it as real as possible.
Then, while in your sacred space, find yourself a place to sit down in a comfortable position or a meditative pose. While sitting ask for your inner healer to come out of you to perform or conduct a healing of your choice. Then see your inner healer rising or stepping out of your body...could come out of your back, your third eye or top of head...your butt if you are so inclined. Whatever works for you.
See your inner healer begining a healing session...perhaps laying hands on the hurt parts or sending you powerful energy...whatever you need. See and feel colors entering your body, healing you and comforting you...converting discomfort to comfort to joy. You could even see your inner healer calling other healers or spirit guides to assist...again, whatever works for you.
Really see and feel the healing. Feel the energy flowing through you....see a smile across your face.
When done, thank your inner healer and request him/her to rejoin you...maintaining the wonderful feelings you are enjoying.
Then open your eyes and go about your day.
This visualization can take five minutes or fifty minutes. Whatever you need....just remember, lots of repetition is needed. Try and do this daily and see how your life changes. You can even rate your discomfort prior to the session and then after. Use the unit of distress scale from 0-10 with 10 being the most discomfort. Keeping a record can help you notice how much better you are getting.
Did you know death can be very inspiring? In fact, death can be your guide to leading a very peaceful life here and now. In previous posts I wrote about a death meditation that I practice. In this post I am going to briefly show you how to use this death experience to manifest a life that is full of peacefulness, calmness and equanimity.
My death meditation is a simple one. For myself, the best death is to be sitting in zazen on an ocean beach. The sun shining, waves lapping on the shore, seagulls swirling and talking. I am in between the ages of 85 -95 and then see my 'spirit' leaving my body...feeling peaceful, smiling, all is good. My life's journey is complete and all is well. Nothing left to do. One big 'aaahh' of relief and tranquility takes over.
That's my meditation.
Now, using what is called the Law of Attraction, I use this to co-create my life experiences to be able to experience this form of death. This peaceful death experience is my emotional GPS in going about my daily business. I simply enter into this meditative state and allow it to be with me throughout the day. I also can anchor this experience with a touch of my thumb and ring finger together along with a key word of 'aah'. As I go about my day, when this 'aah' has left or my calmness/tranquility has left, I simply thank the uncomfortable experience and re-trigger my death experience. It brings me back to now and 'aahh'.
As I practice this meditation, the Law of Attraction will begin to make this death meditation a reality. Having faith this is my end...and beginning...it makes this life, this moment, more peaceful and okay. The struggle ceases. This is the faith of zen.
C.Om posted on facebook a few day ago about celebrating life. So true. I love this photo of this child. Wow.
I have noticed that at times I have been way too serious about life...playing it safe. I can use the excuse that I have been raising a family (and still am) and that I need to make sure their safety and security is intact. I accept this as the role of Dad...but I am also to show my family how to truly live!
Sometimes, playing it safe is just too dull. I want to make sure my kids now it is okay to laugh, roll in the mud and just have a good time without having to worry about what others think. Now, I am not advocating anarchy or a total free for all, but a time of pure jubiliation about being alive. That life is a celebration of just being here...and it goes by in a flash, like lightening in the sky. You gotta live it up.
So...the next time you feel like playing it safe, mostly because you are worried about what the neighbors might think...stop...remember what it was like when you were 8 or 10 or 13. Then smile, fart, and let out a laugh that will make your neighbors think you have gone insane. Mine already know I am. I play in the backyard with swords, nunchakus, bokken and at times just do my kata....I must truly look nuts to them. I also yell a bit...just enough to feel good...and not enough for the cops to show up. (One of neighbors is a bit nuts and calls the cops if you look at her wrong.)
My neighborhood is full of little kids now, with my kids being the older ones. When I watch them play they play with abandon! Now that's fun. That's a celebration.
On a parting note: As Martial Artists we should do our kata as a celebration. A celebration of our art...let it rip!
I had the pleasure today of being a guest on the radio program, "Exploring Unexplained Phenomena" out of Lincoln, Nebraska. The host is Scott Colborn and his show is celebrating its 27th year of existence. We discussed my book, "Black Belt Healing", and its most important points.
If you want to listen you can go to http://www.e-u-p.org/ and go to the Archives. Simply go to today's date of 6/12/10 and you can listen. I do not appear on the show until about a half hour into it...so if you want you can skip right to it if you desire. The show is 2 hours long and I'm in for an hour and a half.
The fun part is Scott is a former student of mine and former owner of The Way Home bookstore. I mentioned this is the last chapter of the book. Scott has a lot of great guests on the show and has quite a few followers. If you are so inclined feel free to meander over to EUP website and take a listen.
A tough mixed martial artist was surfing the internet and his computer slowed down, froze and became irratic. Frustrated after trying to fix the problem, he relunctantly called his 12 year old next door neighbor...the computer geek.
The 12 year old came over and took one look at the computer, hit a few buttons, and in two minutes the computer was up and running once again.
The MMA fighter asked what was wrong. The kid said, "It was an ID ten t error." The MMA fighter looked at him with a quizzical 'what'. The kid said, "Yes, an ID ten t error." The fighter, still not getting it, asked once again, "what's an ID ten t error?"
The kid walked over to the fighter's desk, took out a pen and piece of paper and wrote: "Id10t"....then left.
If you were to go to a modern day martial arts studio you will notice they look a lot like a gym or a dance studio. You will see a clean floor, gym mats, striking dummies, kicking shields, mirrors on the wall, etc. Also present would be trophies and weapons on the wall, as well as pictures of students and teachers.
Now, if you were to go to a very traditional martial arts dojo you would notice they all have the same things, with one exception....an altar.
Traditional dojo typically have an altar that pays respects to the founder of the style, ancestors or guardian/family spirits. This altar has a very important part to play in classical budo and has been removed in most commercial studios for one reason. Money.
Modern day teachers have removed the altar because they are afraid of losing students for fear of being thought of as idol worshippers. This fear is based on a lack of understanding of why the altar is there...and why we bow and meditate before it. Respect...not worship.
It is unfortunate that the prevailing Christian culture views bowing and meditating as a form of idol worship and won't partake in it. I know not all Christians have this view, but for modern day Karate-ka who try to run a dojo, the altar was removed because of these views.
When I was operating a commercial dojo in Lincoln, Nebraska I was working with a martial arts association that promised to help build your student base. One thing they emphasized was the removal of the altar or anything that looked like an Eastern religion...no buddhas, no altars, no ancestor lists, etc. I refused to do this.
I am not sure how if effected my bottom line, but I did attract students. The type I liked. Those who were interested in Zen and all the bells and whistles. My dojo also housed the Lincoln Zen Group that was linked to the Nebraska Zen Center in Omaha. Nonin would often come to visit for workshops and seminars on Zen.
I attracted martial artists who were highly ranked in Aikido, Tai Chi, Ninjutsu, Jujitsu and Karate. They wanted the altar. They wanted the spiritual side of Budo as it had not been emphasized in there schools and wanted more than just the physical and mental developments and transformations.
At the Brokken Bokken we have a broken bokken and a small buddha as our altar. We meditate before and after in its presence. The altar represents our higher self. It represents the gateway to the creative consciousness that allows for healing and deep transformation. It is this altar that reminds us of the true purpose of Budo... "to cease the struggle" This is what Budo (the way of the warrior) actually means on a deeper level. It is about putting away the swords and realizing inner peace.
I encourage all martial artists to reconnect with this part of their traditions....or develop your own based on your spiritual insights. It doesn't have to be religious...just respectful. Oh well...I have rambled enough.
As I watching tv last week I saw a commercial for a meal replacement product that is guaranteed to help you lose weight. One thing that struck me was that he was talking a lot about the fear of being hungry. That people who go on diets still get real hungry and that this is a bad thing.
Hunger is not bad. Starvation is. A good hungry is a like a good hurt. In karate we get hit a lot. We get hit on purpose to manage pain on a physical and psychological level. It toughens the body and the mind. After awhile, getting hit by a punch or kick is no big deal and you just keep moving. This is a good hurt. It propels you into the realms of introspection and discovery.
There is also a good hungry. The hunger you feel after a good day of hard work or the hunger you feel from purposeful fasting. Many cultures practice fasting for a variety of reasons, mental, physical and spiritual. It is important for us to really know hunger. It helps us realize that it has many benefits, and in terms of weight management and health, it helps us differentiate true hunger for food/nutrition versus cravings for sweets or emotional comfort.
As a culture, we tend to eat to comfort emotional cravings such as boredom, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, etc. We eat based on clock time...not stomach/nutritional time. Learning and touching hunger shows us the way to see how little we actually need to survive and that a lot of what we consider food is just crap. It can teach us that we can be hungry and okay. I recommend you try going a day and eating only when truly hungry, just not craving a piece of pie cause you're upset or excited. And when you find true hunger just watch it. Embrace it and learn from it. Give it a go.
It's okay to be hungry. It's nothing to fear. It could actually make you healthier.
Santoka Taneda (1882-1940) was one of the most famous and influential haiku poets in twentieth century Japan. I was introduced to Santoka by my Zen teacher Nonin Chowaney. Santoku's life was very harsh and was no ordinary monk.
When he was eleven his mother committed suicide and his father was a philandering drunk. With this type of father, Santoka also became an alcoholic at an early age and helped ruin the family business...a sake brewery. Santoka's brother also committed suicide and Santoka's marriage was a failure.
Much of his poetry stemmed from this life of raw emotion and a deep sense of suffering. Here is some of Santoka's poetry.
"Just as it is -
It rains, I get wet, I walk."
"Begging, I accept
The blazing sun."
Santoka was a wanderer. His taste of loneliness was strong.
"No path but this one-
I walk alone."
"This straight road
Full of loneliness."
And he was also content at times:
drifting here and there,
Tasting the pure water."
"Well, which way should I go?
The wind blows."
What Santoka has done for me is reconfirm that life goes beyond our likes and dislikes. To look at all entities with detached awareness, feel it, see it and live it. Just watch and be what it is...whether it is comfortable or uncomfortable.
To learn more about Santoka, just Google it...or go to the http://www.prairiewindzen.org/ and look up Volume 17, Issue 3, Fall of 2007. Nonin might have it in his archives.
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.