Stairway to Nowhere

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2016 by seniorsamurai

12 steps…..landing


3 steps…..landing


13 steps…..landing


2 steps…..arrived


Lone candle……lit

Incense stick…..burning



Aikikai Junior

Posted in Aging, Martial Arts on September 2, 2014 by seniorsamurai

IMG_2842 - Version 2


To be honest, the idea of a peaceful martial art sounded strange to me.

I had been introduced to aikido by watching my father practice a few times; this summer I was finally old enough to give it a try. After practicing for the six whole weeks of my summer break I have come away with a new perspective and a new passion.

I learned that aikido is more about bringing about calm than about punching and kicking.  It is about redirecting the force of an attack but it is powerful and mighty. Knowing the right technique is essential.  I liked both nage and uke because it’s important to experience both sides of a fight.  (“Seeing both sides” is probably important in life, too.)

I also really like the tradition and the respect that is part of the dojo, especially for the sensei. As a completely new student, not only did everyone accept me, it felt like all of the “older” students took responsibility for helping me learn techniques.

Maybe I liked it so much because I had a nice dojo, with great peers and, of course, Dee Sensei. I went to classes three times a week and I liked it so much that I plan to join a dojo in my hometown, too.

Every year when I spend summer vacation with my family, they introduce me to many new places and activities.  Aside from being with my family the thing I liked most this summer was definitely aikido.

Living on the Edge

Posted in Questions, Spirituality, Zen on July 19, 2014 by seniorsamurai

“The ‘thought picture’ of what happened in a place is still out there. It is as if the action is still going on: if you stand very quietly you know they’re still there; you just can’t see them.”    – Toni Morrison, Beloved


On a visit to Viet Nam I had the opportunity to enter a tiny portion of the vast Cu Chi tunnel system. The Vietnamese built the tunnels during wars with the French and, later, the Americans. This elaborate tunnel system is enormous — 124 + miles — and offered a relatively safe place for secret travel, food, shelter, and medical care.


In retrospect, upon lowering myself into this magnificent space I felt something eerie and haunting. It was as if there were still spirits from the war, patrolling the tunnels and maintaining the sacred grounds. I suspect I might experience the same feelings if I walked the beaches of Normandy or stood overlooking battle sites at Gettysburg.


I’m coming around to Morrison’s point of view. These locations (and thousands like them across the globe) are not only historical reminders of death and destruction: there’s more that you ‘just can’t see.’ I wonder if it’s possible — and extremely important — to honor the souls who transitioned from those places more than once a year? And can we offer more than flags? And how should we do it?


By accident I found a good first step from reading provided by the monk Thomas Merton who says, “For the real stuff dig deep; for real stuff look deep, a place of clear thought, quiet solitude a place where inner core is buried. There must be a clear space that’s accumulated all the cells of the body labeled private.”


So if we all took time to meditate and reflect deeply at these places, what would happen? What would come up? If we consciously spend more time considering the ramifications of our decisions would it take us longer to rush off to war? Would we be able to martial a more compassionate first response?


Merton wanted to station himself — like the artist, writer, or sage — in a margin that exempts him from complicity in society, the Church, monasticism. From that point he could speak purely, openly, and with wisdom. He called it living on the margin without losing faith in the world. It was his way of finding his center.


How might you live on the margins?

Buddhism vs. Martial Arts

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on June 10, 2014 by seniorsamurai

aikido meditate


In her new book, Paradise in Plain Site: Lessons from a Zen Garden, Zen teacher and Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller wrote:

“These days I want nothing more than to enter an empty room with a group of strangers and sit still and quiet in samadhi, non-distracted awareness, for the better part of the day. I am always astonished by the presence of people who would dare to do such a thing—burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done.”

What struck me about that paragraph was that my first reaction was to translate that to Aikido practice. I caught myself transposing words to fit my life to get dojo. It goes something like this:

” These days I want nothing more than to enter the dojo with a group of practitioners and practice quietly the philosophy and techniques of O’Sensei — sometimes for the better part of the day. I am always grateful for the presence of people who would be here to do such a thing — burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done and come back the next day and do it all over again.”

In Gassho, Sensei Miller and O’Sensei.

Ordinary Joe

Posted in Questions, Uncategorized, Zen on June 3, 2014 by seniorsamurai



In an article by Maia Duerr she reported on the passing of Bhante Suhita. He was the first African American to be ordained a Buddhist monk and also had the rare distinction of being ordained in all three major Buddhist lineages: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana.

Professionally he was trained as a social worker, and found deep joy in working with the homeless, those with HIV/AIDS, ex-offenders, and many others on the margins.

Duerr reported that, “he was not a Buddhist celebrity, so you won’t find much about him on the internet. He worked largely in the realm of the invisible.”

It strikes me that even if you’re not a Buddhist but simply human being like most of us who won’t show up on the Internet, we are in some ways invisible throughout our lifetime.
The question in my mind is, why is that so difficult to accept? Why is it difficult to work at knowing who you are and living your life accordingly. Being whatever that means and accepting yourself as “okay”? Simply accepting that I am somebody to my family, my co-workers, my friends, and my neighborhood, but never expecting to ‘go viral.’