Archive for the Zen Category

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

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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

Invisible

 

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.’

The Real Deal

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen with tags on May 30, 2014 by seniorsamurai

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I have been an aikido and meditation practitioner for many years and have been fortunate to practice in locations around the USA.  Unfortunately, I have become pretty picky about where — and with whom — I practice.  My personal shorthand for teachers whose practice speaks to me — with gratitude  — is “the real deal.”

Author Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. Her book, Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden, was written from the soul and clearly from a place of joy.

Her book moved me toward greater appreciation that my home is where I am and I have what I need. I was better able to realize the magnitude of the gift of this life I’ve been given …and it’s mine alone to live. “What goes into sitting isn’t pretty, but after a while it becomes  beautiful” struck a chord and helped soften my heart just a little more.

Her description of the beauty of her pond being that “it’s muddy” allows me more latitude to deal with what’s in front of me right now, in this moment and any other. It helps to ease up on the ‘being perfect’ expectations.

I am delighted to say that, in my not so humble opinion, Maezen and her books are the real deal. Savor and enjoy.

Buddhism vs. Aikido

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on April 24, 2014 by seniorsamurai

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 it to my Aikido practice. I caught myself transposing words to fit my life at the dojo. It went something like this:

” These days I want nothing more than to enter the dojo with a group of aikidoists 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 perhaps come back again the next day and do it all over again.”

In Gassho, Sensei Miller and O’Sensei.

Impermanence and It’s Brothers and Sisters

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on January 25, 2014 by seniorsamurai

Shihoo nage, a aïkido technical falling, illus...

Recently I made a significant change in my life. We put our New England  home of many years on the market, had the requisite tag sale, and moved 1,000 south to a much warmer place.

Along with the turmoil and emotions involved in saying good-by to friends and neighbors of 15 years, moving and leaving,  I realized that I received multiple doses of the Buddhist concept of impermanence.

Of course a move of this magnitude makes any of us face change, and it was obvious even to me. But it was the more subtle reminders that surprised me. One of the more significant reminders that surprised me the most was  the first class at my new dojo.

I had been pleased to find that the new aikido dojo was near my home and had a small group of  dedicated students led by a Sensei who after 24 years of practice still brought great energy to practice and enthusiasm for his students learning. Yet my first night on the mat—you know when you don’t know anybody and are just trying to get the lay of the land— impermanence came front and center immediately after the warm ups.

At my old dojo we had been practicing together for a number of years so everybody knew everybody else’s capabilities. At the new dojo, after the warm up and at  the first pairing off , I was paired with an Uke who kept correcting my technique…every time, all the time.

I was a little taken aback but I quickly realized something.  My ego had moved with me and I really didn’t like some younger, less experienced  practitioner telling me what to do.

It dawned on me that impermanence, ego, and possible some other unsavory aspects of my personality didn’t get left up north. And here I was in this instance thinking that a new start at a  new dojo would mean something different here just because I moved.

I guess that just like at my old aikido dojo, it’s show up, shut up, and practice.

Silence

Posted in Aging, Quotes I Like, Zen on January 1, 2014 by seniorsamurai

If you think with your head about dying, it is  not real dying.

When you are dying, dying is perfectly silent. Nothing to say. Just be one with the dying. All we have to do is just to be right in the middle of dying, which is perfectly silent.

Even if you don’t like death, when death comes you have to die. Even if you don’t like tomorrow, when tomorrow comes you have to be tomorrow.

 

English: Became Silence

English: Became Silence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

— Katagiri Roshi