Saturday, February 27, 2010

So now what?


Just think. Every thought you have ever had, every emotion you have ever felt, every behavior you have ever performed, every breathe you have breathed has led you to reading these words right here right now....right now....right now....so now what?


Hands palm to palm,

Shinzen
photo: freerepublic.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Non-violent Self defense: A Real-Life Example

Karrie, one of my Karate students, told me a cool story at practice this evening. Karrie is an art teacher at the high school and one of her students was becoming physically aggressive towards her.

She said, without even thinking, she assumed a defensive posture and the student backed down and walked away. She said it was one of the most empowering experiences she has ever had.
For myself, this story is wonderful, as Karrie has only been a student for two months!
She accomplished a very high level of self-defense. She stopped an attack without striking, kicking or violence of any kind. This is good Budo. Just her presence, backed by a new level of confidence helped her stay healthy in this situation. It was the appropriate response in this situation.
Good job Karrie!
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I love toilets!

Last night during one of my somnambulisitc states, it occured to me what wonderful technology we have in toilets and indoor plumbing. Kids, today, growing up are growing up in a media world they take for granted. When I was a kid, black and white television was a marvel!

For my dad, indoor plumbing was a miracle. No more outhouses and carrying water into the house. It is even another miracle of heating your house with gas and simply turning up the thermostat rather than having no alternative other than wood or cow dung.

I used to heat with wood when I lived out in the country during my 'back-to-nature' stage of life. Lots of hard work and diligence is needed. I wouldn't change the experience as it does make me appreciate modern conveniences.

We should be appreciative of these convenience, these luxuries that were once hi tech in their day. When we grow up with them we take them for granted. Not having them makes you aware of how dependent and important they are in your life.

Did you ever have the hot water stop being hot mid-shower? When the water heater goes it can throw you for a loop. Indoor plumbing with heated water....Wow! What a concept. Once while I was living deep in the Minnesota woods in this little cabin the electricity went out. No electricity to even run my water pumps and it was mid-December. Cold and snow prevail in Minnesota at this time. I hauled in snow and filled my bath tub to melt on my wood stove to use for washing. Thank goodness I had wood heat and enough wood for the winter. It took about two weeks to get someone to come in and fix the electrical....too much snow and the utilities company didn't like my long driveway.

So, last night, snuggled in bed I was feeling very thankful for toilets, indoor plumbing, water heaters, gas heat and modern conveniences. It is important to be thankful and respectful to these insentient beings. They make our lives wonderful.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Crazy Cloud Clip


"A single night of love is better than a thousand nights of sterile meditation."


Ikkyu (Crazy Clouds)



Hands palm to palm,

Shinzen





trans by John Stevens: Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snowmen


As I was moving through the ranks as a Karate-ka, I remember reading about martial art masters who stated that until you can see your enemy as yourself, you have a long way of going till you understand true Budo. This befuddled me at first, but as I investigated philosophy and meditative arts I soon began to understand...first on an intellectual level, then on a deeper, this is reality level.


You see, all things are interconnected. We are all made from the same 'stuff'. Since 49 of the 50 states has snow right now, let's talk snowmen or let's say an entire snow village. You have snow men, women, kids, dogs, cats, houses, streets, and so on. You can see the individuality of each form, yet all are made of snow. It is all snow just in different forms and shapes. Your ego simply confuses you in thinking you are separate.


Until you can see that all is snow...another snowman appears as a separate being. Until you understand that someone who is going to attack you is 'you' as well, your understanding of Budo is incomplete. To see the 'other' as 'yourself' actually allows you to enter into a different place of self-defense. Compassion reigns. You may still have to cause harm to the 'attacker' but your intent will change the events. Not sure if that makes sense, but that is all I can say about it without going off on a lunatic rampage of words that will even sound crazier.


So, see all as yourself. See yourself as all. Take this with you into the Dojo and play with it.


Hands palm to palm,

Shinzen
pic from coolholidaygraphics.com

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Marvelous Activity

A while back I posted about Layman P'ang. He was a simple family man who lived in China almost 1200 years ago. One day he loaded all of his family goods into a boat and sank them in a river, afterwards devoting himself to Zen practice and wandering about engaging other Zen-heads in Dharma combat.

One of his most famous stories is also one of my favorites. It is an encounter with Zen Master Shih-tou:

One day Shih-tou said to Layman P'ang, "Since seeing me what have your daily activities been?" "When you asked about my daily activities, I can't open my mouth, " the Layman replied. "Just because I know you are thus I now ask you, " said Shih-tou.

Whereupon the Layman offered this verse:

My daily activites are not unusual,
I'm just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing,
In every place there's no hindrance, no conflict.
Who assigns the ranks of vermillion and purple?
The hills' and mountains' last speck of dust is extinguished.
My supernatural power and marvelous activity,
Drawing water and carrying firewood.
Shih-tou gave his assent. Then he asked, "Will you put on the black robes or will you continue wearing white?"
"I want to do what I like." replied the Layman. He he did not shave his head or dye his clothing.
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen
story courtesy of 'A Man of Zen: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang'...Weatherhill Press.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Boredom and the Way

A beginning Zen student complained to his master that the meditation practice of following the breath was boring. The Zen master unexpectedly grabbed the student and held his head under water for quite a long time while the student struggled to come up.

Finally, he let the student go."Now how boring is your breath?" he asked.

I love this story, especially when I find my own zazen practice going 'stale' or I am finding it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning to go and sit. It is very important for all of us to be aware of when we are getting bored with our practice of the martial arts or meditative arts.
The simple things, like breathing, are essential. Without our breath, we would die. To meditate upon our inhales and exhales is to study the very nature of our life and death. It is to see life and death with each breath, with each step we take, with each time we practice kata, like Sanchin.

To see the ebb and flow of life and death in our daily lives and practice of the arts is the very essence of Zen...and freedom from suffering. And, yes, at times Zen and Sanchin Kata are very boring. Our 'ego' or 'small mind' loves drama and wants us to have lots of excitement to feel alive. Without drama the ego feels threatened. Zen practice is also about seeing through this delusion and deception.

To study the simple, basic and rudimentary levels of life, such as the breath, is to connect with the very essence of being alive and realizing true inner freedom. The same goes for the practice of the very rudimentary aspects of Karate, such as Sanchin. Sanchin is simply a moving Zen practice. Simple, plain and ordinary.

Shunryu Suzuki, a famous Zen Master, once stated that Zen is not some special excitement about life, but simply the concentration on the basics of life itself. Yes, not too exciting, but with daily practice, very liberating. So, I encourage you to perservere in the face of boredom. See boredom as an ally, a guide even, to seeing into your true nature and realizing your own buddha nature.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sparklers


Remember when you were kid, perhaps over the 4th of July, getting sparklers? Fun! You light them up, they sizzle and give off a glow of red heat and sparkles. Then you can wave them around and draw pictures in the air, lasting only a few seconds.
Inspired by Rizal's and Doug's blogs on ego, as I was lying in bed this morning it dawned on me that our ego's, or sense of self, is like the glow of the sparkler. You can see it, but it is only an illusion of the eye. We are just a sparkle of a red hot energy source moving through space giving off an illusion of existence...yet it is ephemeral. It is a phantom, a ghost, an illusion of the senses.
Try to hold on to the images while they are being made is folly. Any child can tell you that, yet this is what we try to do by feeding our ego's. We are trying to grab the image in the air in hopes of lasting salvation or enlightenment. No wonder I laugh at myself so often when I find myself doing this! In some ways it is fun to draw the pictures in the air...it is just important to realize they are what they are and not get attached to them.
I have to go to work now....any more insights and perspective are welcome.
Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Felicia found Black Belt Healing in New York!


Felicia, one of the readers of the Broken Bokken, found 'Black Belt Healing' at the Kinokuniya Japanese Bookstore at the Palisades Mall in New York.

If you go to their website you can purchase it now if you desire. Go to www. kinokuniya.com and then click on Bookweb USA.

I am a white belt in the publishing world and all I can think that this is a test market run for the book. I will check with my editor or publicist. So much I don't know about.

Felicia: I owe you one big hug for the fun news.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sanchin Speaks


Sanchin Kata used to keep me awake at night 'talking' to me. Yes, Sanchin speaks, if you listen. As I mentioned in my last post, Kata can teach us how to be mindful inside and outside of the dojo. It also has a lot of other lessons we can learn. Here are few in a nutshell:

1. Start with a bow and some meditation. This is how most katas begin. Bow in appreciation to all beings, sentient and insentient. Bow often...and start your day with some meditation.

2. Get grounded. In the opening moves of Sanchin the palms of the hands are pressed down to the sides. (see video at end of post). This is a time we use to 'root' ourselves and connect to the earth. During this rooting, the shoulders are also down and relaxed....when the shoulders are high, anxiety is present. In the martial arts, if we notice your shoulders are high we know you are nervous and most likely inhaling...a good time to attack you. If, however, shoulders are down and relaxed, it is best to say hi and be nice. As you go through your day, be aware of your shoulders and breathing. Are you breathing into your hara or your neck? Are your shoulders low or high? Keep them relaxed and low...your breathing will follow...and this helps keep your mind calm, centered and grounded.

3. Don't rush. When I was a young colored belt I had a tendency to rush through my Kata. Sensei Dean was always reminding me to go slower and pay attention to what I was doing. Good advice throughout the day as well...slow down, pay attention and move at a relaxed mindful pace. You would be surprised at how you can still get everything done.

4. Be aware of your feet, move deliberately and be aware. Sanchin is moving Zen. When outside the dojo, do the same. Walk with intent and deliberation...and awareness of your surroundings.

I have included a short video of two versions of Sanchin. I've posted this before, but it is a good review, and for those who don't know the kata, you can watch. Enjoy.

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen


video

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All is Kata!


Kata, besides being a Karate series of self-defense moves, has a deeper meaning for us to learn. Kata means 'how you behave'. How you behave moment by moment is very important if you wish to feel the bubbling of the universal waters that give us life.

When performing a Karate Kata, paying attention to the details of the moves are paramount. It is an exercise in Zen mindfulness. At the beginning of each Kata performance, the name of the Kata is announced. For instance, if you are doing Sanchin, you say, "Sanchin Kata". If you are doing a weapons Kata like Kusanku Sai, you say, "Kusanku Sai"...and so on. Then you perform the kata.

Karate practice of your Kata does not end when you leave the Dojo. When leaving the Dojo you are practicing 'leaving the dojo kata' and then 'driving home kata'. Everything you do is a kata...it is how you behave...and just like a Kata in the Dojo, you should announce what kata you are doing and then pay attention, mindfully.

When brushing your teeth, announce to yourself, 'brushing teeth kata' and then pay attention to your taking off of the toothpaste cap, squeezing it on your brush, putting it in your mouth, brushing and so on until you move onto your next kata.

Whatever activity you are doing, announce it to yourself as a Kata. Then pay attention with full mindfulness of what you are doing, especially the small habits you do automatically, like throwing trash out, or taking a piss, or getting out of bed. With practice, over time, you will begin to see and feel a change in your life. Subtle at first, but then later you will feel the stream of life...the flow of Tao if you will.

Now to end my "Posting Kata".

Hands palm to palm,
Shinzen