Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Address the imbalance without grasping for an outcome”
– Ken McLeod

During a recent meditation sitting, I was struck by the persistence of the grasping mind, the grasping heart and the grasping body. At no time did the three subside, each trading off each other the duty of disrupting the silence and the emptiness of the pure moment. At some moments, all three collaborated to take the flank and attempt a full frontal attack. The issue with the experience was not the incessant attacks – we are bombarded daily, hourly, presently, by incessant assailants – it was the quality of the attack, the texture of the attack, the vibration of the attack.

Stickiness. Grasping stickiness.

I don’t know of a better way to describe the quality that the three assailants expressed. They each had a grasping stickiness to them, as if they were motivated by desire and a wanting to be connected, stuck, glued, to the pure moment. In doing so, they would inevitably prevent the pure moment of perception from occuring, prevent zanshing from manifesting.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
— Herman Hesse

Attachment. Attachment is another way to describe it. Each of the three assailants had a quality, a texture of attachment, a stickiness like when you get used gum stuck between your fingers – a sticky, stretchy texture which does not easily let go, and the more you scrub and try to detach from it, the more it gums up, and becomes even stickier.

The more I attempted to pry them away, the stickier they became, the more incessant they were in attaching.

So I stopped grasping. I stopped being sticky in return. I stopped being attached to the assailants who had a desire to be attached to me.

I stopped. Simply stopped. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

At that moment, wonderfully unexpected sensations manifested. Connection. Wholesome, deep, simple connection.

I observed a connection with the mind which ceased to judge, expect, or demand it to be or do more than the mind can be or do.

I observed a connection with the heart which ceased to fear the emotions, the comfort, the security, which the heart is sometimes unable to recognize or accept.

I observed a connection with the body which revealed the body as it was, revealed its strengths and weaknesses, and revealed the impermanent, almost temporary, nature of the balance which is a healthy body.

With such simply elegant connections, rather than grasping attachment, stickiness, wanting – a surprisingly pleasing discovery.

Acceptance. Acceptance of connection over attachment. Revelation of connections, large and small, far and wide, past and future. Connections without desire, without stickiness, without wanting, without grasping. Connections without attachment.

Is this maybe a description, an interpretation of what Sensei Bussell terms “detach from all”?

Detaching from all, non-attachment, does not mean no connection. Quite the opposite, it means full, unbridled connection, mental, spiritual, emotional and spiritual.

In Aikido, coordination, harmony of our mind, body and spirit is harmony which maintains, expands and enriches our connection in every moment – without stickness, without grasping, without attachment. On the mat, magic, true magic, occurs when such attachement-free connections manifest, and ki, the essence of the universe, flows freely.

Become increasingly mindful of sticky, attachment-laden connections, at the mental, emotional, physical or spiritual level. Chose no connection over connections with attachment.

Practice detaching from all. Practice connecting without attachment.

Practice. Always.

“Ki flows to where it is needed in your life the way water flows downhill. Ki doesn’t live in memories or anticipation…”
-R. Moon

“…‘zanshin’, which I translate as learning without end. It means on-going attentiveness and connection. For this study I have chosen to translate it into English as ‘listening’…,”

~ R.Moon, The Power of Extraordinary Listening

listening. we are nothing but listening.

we listen to the colors of the setting sun, the roundness of a freshly picked apple, the rapid scouring of a rabbit across our lawn, the darkness of the night sky and the brightness of a camera’s flash. we hear the aroma of freshly blooming flowers, the fumes of a young man’s car, the perfume she wears on that first date, the tea which brings solace after a harsh meeting. we hear the fresh herbs that savour our favourite dish, the sweetness of a decadent dessert, the freshness of raw vegetables, the lightness of spring water. we listen to the ruffling of leaves in fall, the scuffing of a teenager’s hurried walk, the warmth of a singer’s voice, the dripping of a tap. we listen to the peaceful embrace of a child, the needing grasp of a spouse’s hand, the reconnection of a friend’s hug, the warming comfort of our childhood blanket.

all of our senses, awake and aware, are but listening. observing, perceiving, subtle, acute.
every moment, waking or not.

in listening, there is no response. no reaction. there is only listening. perception. observation.

of late, i’ve come to respect and accept that some senses are more accommodating, more comfortable with the simple act of listening. but all senses struggle with finding the harmony of simply being with whatever is being heard, simply being with full attention, with mindful attention.

There is no truth. There is only perception.

~ Gustave Flaubert

in some moments, sounds are simply sounds, and we do not jump, startle, or attach to the smashing of a cup, the slamming of a door, the honking on a quiet street, the silence during a tense meeting.

in some moments, light is simply light, and we do not glance harshly, attach, or look away from the tears of a grieving husband, the harshness of a stranger’s stare, the warmth of a colleague’s smile, the indifference of a neighbour’s regard.

in some moments, aromas are but molecules which nerve endings detect, and we do not melt with desire to the aroma of our favourite dessert, cringe to the smell of foul foods, or become irritated by the disruptive scent of someone’s most loved perfume.zanshin

some moments, so many moments, are but physical sensations triggered by infinite nerve endings permeating our body, to which we do not scratch the itch, we do not worry ourselves sick over the slight tightness in our chest, we do not become addicted to the melting feeling of another’s touch, or tighten in reaction to a sudden burst of cold wind.

all these sounds are but vibrations, vibrations of light and moving molecules of air, vibrations of sensory cells charging and discharging, vibrations of skin and nerves and muscles fibres and sinews. just vibrations, large and small, high and low, near and far.

infinite vibrations, near and far, bombard our senses every moment of our lives.

some vibrations are more difficult to hear and listen to: our own reaction, thoughts, feelings. these are mental sensations, mental secretions, mental vibrations, which, unlike all other sensations, originate within the mind. as such, perceiving, observing, listening deeply to these mental vibrations requires discipline, patience, detachment – a practice beyond simple will power – a practice rooted in silence and meditation, still and in movement. aikido is meditation in movement.

listen to these mental vibrations the same as you would a rainfall, leaves of a tree in a wind storm, or a setting sun. no thinking or doing can prevent such events from occurring. so observe. listen.

listen as the vibration arises. listen as the vibration departs.

zanshin is listening. zanshin is beyond listening. zanshin is pure perception and non-attachment in listening. zanshin is attention with pure presence, no past, no future, only the vibrations in the infinite space that is the present moment.

zanshin is detachment from all, but not by rejecting all. zanshin is acceptance of all. zanshin just is.

zanshin is inviting the ki of the universe to flow freely into all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensations, and mental sensations. zanshin is inviting ki to flow out of all senses. zanshin is taking up ki slack of the universe.

let ki flow through your senses.

listen to ki flow through your senses.


How do I experience what is before me and remain at peace…

~Ken McLeod

“The way you conduct yourself everyday in the ever changing world is the ultimate training”
~ Gozo Shioda

note – this post was written on june 3 2013.

the simplest of thoughts crossed my mind this morning. why wait to change? last friday, the question was put to a group of coworkers struggling with large scale organizational change. three questions were put to them. when will you leave the old ways behind; what stands in your way; why not now?

it has been nine and a half years since i started in govt, and I’ve constantly fought the feeling that the fit is less than ideal. busy overworked days have been interspersed with not so busy, relatively boring and non-productive days. productive being the act of producing, being “busy”, busy being the only indicator of value.

when not busy, I’ve repeatedly challenged myself, feeling like the moments of non-busy are examples of what should be avoided, in exchange for the breathless pace of doing, doing, doing.

busy and rushing are cousins, playing off each other, looking for any excuse to irritate and egg each other on. boredom and silence are not to be tolerated. they are to be filled with the busy mind of doing, doing, lots to do.

how does someone feel when we meet them and our mind is in the process of doing, doing, doing, and not being present, fully present, with nowhere to go, nothing to do for the few seconds that we are here.

our to do list will always be there, always filled with items to attend to, always someone not pleased by our inaction.

our society dislikes inaction. it resents silence and flow. it values the 20 second soundbite or the 15 minutes (or is it now 15 seconds) of fame. empty are the moments when breath and light are all that are experienced – silence in its purest form.

one can be busy creating
or busy doing

both are not the same.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
~ Thoreau

i doubt the greatest minds and thinkers were busy just doing – they were busy creating. in creation, they were not looking for perfection, but rather experience, fully felt and lived experiences. experience not delivered by the external, but rather experience arising from the full integration of their body, their mind and their spirit. in the absence of such integration, such harmony, actions and thoughts become hollow, responding to artificial external signals and pressures. in harmony, actions and thoughts arise from the silence that is our pure existence, an existence which is infinitesimal in the timeline of history, but an existence that can alter worlds if lived from truth and light.

on this, the third day of june, 2013. 17,381 days since birth. 1,501,718,400 seconds. 25,028,640 minutes. 417,144 hours. 2483 weeks. on this day, like any day, any moment, choice is mine. choice has always been available. choice has not been taken. busy, doing, busy, doing, has been a choice.

but if your life could be only one outcome, what would it be? if your life could be quality rather than quantity, if your life could be flow rather than to-do’s, if your life could be silence and light – rather than mud and trudge?

if one lived everyday fully aware that the next hours, minutes and seconds would be our last in this form, i believe many would not spend them doing, rushing, doing, rushing, but rather, they would be spent being, creating, being, creating.

choose wisely.
choose your words.
choose your actions.
choose your intent.
choose your aversions and adversions.
choose your opinions.
choose your responses.
choose your questions.
choose where your ki is sent.

choose. and accept, trust, your choice.

your life is but the result of your choices. large and small.
your choices are but the result of where you direct your life energy, intensity or colour.
your life energy is but the result of your awareness and harmony of mind, body and spirit.
your harmony of mind, body and spirit is the product of pure being and silence.

the quality of your choices are the product of how close you are to pure being and silence.

choose to…
– love each moment, for the “way” is love.
– help others, for it is the only “job” that counts.
– learn and share, for it is the only currency worth trading.
– be centred, balanced, integral, for it is the only state worthy of breath.
– be patient and accepting, for our life purpose is not beyond the present moment.
– trust your choices that arise from pure being and silence.

“When one bases one’s life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made.”
~ Unknown

To expound and propogate concepts is simple, to drop all concepts is difficult and rare. A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet.

~nisargadatta maharaj

Depression is the result of overly living in my head, in the mind. It is a disease that results from the mind being the only instrument of managing, living and loving life.

Relationships that are only mental ones, that only live in our heads, will be conditional, for our respective thoughts, opinions, judgements, aversions and adversions will change over time – and if the only basis for the relationship is alignment of those elements, then we are exposed to having nothing but conditional relationships.

If our relationships are based on harmony of mind, body and spirit, then we can see the commonalities that we both share. The air we both need for breath. The heat we both need for comfort. The light we both need for awareness. The foods we both need for life. The spirit, ki, we both need for existence. The basic needs we both experience that influences our choices. The ignorance and insecurities we all struggle to accept. The ambitions and desires we each strive to mitigate. In such a relationship, the link is deeper, and the dependence is less on harmony of mental secretions, and on spiritual harmony – love that is because you and I share life, pure and simple.

Love without an object – that object being the others or the context’s thoughts, desires, judgements, aversions, adversions, body shape or colour, other sensory emissions, actions, words spoken or written, or any other secretions that another can elicit.

Love without an object does not depend on any of my emotions triggered by any of the above – my response, irrespective of the sensations triggered in me, remains calmness, stillness, acceptance, openness, genuine and deep curiosity, needlessness to change ANY aspect the moment – and love.

Love that is fully taking, and fully giving to the moment, and to the context, items and people who make the moment.

Such love does not live nor can exist in the mind.

It exists when harmony of mind, body and spirit are one.

That harmony is, like the body, susceptible to disease and harm from the world which surrounds us.

Aikido, not the physical or mechanical form, but the deeper, spiritual and integral aikido, immunizes us, and maintains the harmony.

Aikido, maybe is not love, but is the prescription for love.

… do nothing which is of no use …


On the mat, many a times, the tendency to overdo, over-engineer, over think the technique, to over analyze the approach, to resort to “why did this work last time, and not right now”, or better yet to “I can’t get this right, let’s stop for a moment so I can rethink this…”.

You get the idea.

So many times, the mind decides to show up, kick the door open and say “let me take care of this”. And that’s exactly when the whole practice goes to hell in a hand basket. The mind cannot help itself but to analyze, conceptualize, rationalize, redefine, compare, assess, critique, recommend, or any other [insert other mental action here].

For me, and I assume for others, the mental context has been one of the most challenging to eliminate on the mat. We live in a society where ideas, thoughts, words and other mental constructs rule the day. We are judged by our logic, our rational thoughts, our mental prowess. Yet, the mind is the barrier to an aikido that is fluid, dynamic, present and whole.

Is this what Musashi’s quote represents?

Do nothing which is of no use. The mind is much more likely on the mat to bring the action of doing – rather than the state of being. And in the mental action of doing comes the attachment that can hinder your aikido to develop beyond the technique, the physical.

Ironic is it not that the presence required for aikido to fully manifest arises when the mind resorts to observing, pure perception of sensations, of ki flowing, of ki coming and going, of your own position with respect to the earth and the others on the mat.  While the instinct may lead one to believe that placing the mind at one point gives the body too much authority, experience on the mat illustrates that to the contrary, such a choice gives the body the relative importance it must have on the mat – one of harmonious partner, along with the mind and spirit. The mind, in harmony with the body and spirit, gives all their rightful place to perform aikido.

So, to do nothing which is of no use, could be interpreted not as not doing – but rather as just being – pure perception that only just being brings to the present moment.

… the past and the future are only sources for worry and anxiety …

~ Zen proverb

But what of the present? The pure present moment? When on the mat, time becomes a curse and a trap. We live in time, we breath and consume time. We reference unconsciously and consciously all actions, thoughts, events  and moments against a continuum of time. But as many meta-physicists and others mystics have claimed, time is an illusion, a construct of the mind. Time is the frame within which past and future can exist – and therefore give it importance and influence which they ultimately do not have.

On the mat, past and future are often the most subtle of traps. The past entraps our mind to attach to techniques or ukes as a result of some past memory of moment or feelings that do not matter and cannot influence how we execute a technique at this very moment – at this infinitely small point which we call the present.

Similarly, the future entrains the mind to dream about the results, the impacts, the consequences – good or bad – that the execution of our technique might bring. But as with the past, which cannot influence or change what we do at the pure present moment, the future will not result uniquely from what we do in the pure present moment. Too many variables, factors, influences or unknowns have yet to manifest that will contribute to a moment yet to be experienced. Our decisions and choices in the pure present moment will have impact – but no more than a single grain of sand can have on the shape of a sea-shore – each grain contributes, but only together, with each grain absolute and whole, does the shore manifest.

The future, like the past, are illusions, products of an illusion called time. When we resolve to accept this illusion, and simply live and act from pure perception of the present moment, our aikido takes on a quality of lightness and presence – aikido without any and all attachment.

Past or future do not have to be that far away from the absolute present to set their trap. What is the past if not 2 days ago, 2 hours ago, 2 seconds or 0.2 seconds ago. What is the future if not 2 days from now, 2 hours from now, 2 seconds from now or 0.2 seconds from now.  Consider that 0.2 seconds, either way, is already not the present moment. Only in the pure perception of the present moment can non-attachment be maintained. As soon as past or future are engaged, even fractions of a second either way, attachment begins, and the lightness and presence that is our aikido begins to suffer.

The one point that is your physical center is infinitely small, a point without volume, mass or space – an absolutely pure point of nothingness, within which ki can flow, come and go, and provide a core center from which to operate. Similarly, your one point is your temporal center – a point of infinitely small time – an absolutely pure point of nothingness, within which time is non-existent, and ki can flow, come and go, without any hindrance or mental attachment of where it has been or where it is going.

Aikido is pure perception in the present moment. Aikido is developing the ability to return to this center, this pure present moment. Returning quickly. Returning dependably. Returning and resting in the pure perception that is the present moment.

In closing, my interpretation of the quote below is that O’Sensei had developed his ability to return to the pure perception of the present moment to the point where most, if not all, could not detect that he had ever left his center – both physically and temporally.

My students think I’m always centered. I get off center as frequently as you do. I simply recognize it sooner and get back faster.