All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence, free from the two extremes of manifestation and beyond all elaboration. To understand this nature and not to conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the bodhisattva.
-Translation from Tokme Zangpo Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices
A recent practice session with the bokken revealed a truth that has started to redefine my interpretation of time and space, and my practice on both the cushion and the mat. One morning, following one hour of Vipassana mediation, I proceeded to reach for the bokken to simply swing the weapon for a few strokes in order to loosen the shoulders and upper body. After swinging the bokken for a few moments, I was struck by the awareness that each stroke was a metaphor for the absolute present moment – the only moment we truly have.
The bokken had been my training partner for over three years, and for the first time, its presence was felt more intently than ever. Unlike previous sessions where each stroke blended from one to the other, this time a new awareness arose.
Each stroke, each cut, was the manifestation of the present moment. No strokes came before. No cuts were to follow. The only cut that existed was the one being executed. Good or bad, swift or sluggish, tight or loose, each cut was done, observed, felt, sensed, then released. I was no longer attached to the previous cuts – proud of the good ones, upset with the bad ones. I was not attached to the cuts to come – worried about fatigue creeping into the movement, or the grip needing constant adjustment.
There was only the cut being executed. There was only the fraction of the second that it took to cut down. Only the present moment existed. defined by the brief motion of the cut.
A deep , peaceful detachment from the past and future emerged – with the full present moment being in the cut. One cut. One moment. The present became a pointed, infinite knife edge upon which all past slid away, and all future had yet to arrive. Even the beginning and end of the cut became distinct, with each finite moment of the down stroke becoming increasingly transparent and existent by itself. The end of the cut was no longer subject to the quality of the beginning. The beginning of the cut was no longer concerned with how it was going to end.
In such a cut, there were no past errors or pride of success dictating movement, or no future desires or hesitations undermining the commitment – there was only the cut.
The point of power is always in the present moment.
– Louise L. Hay
Putting down the bokken, the exercise then surprisingly continued with the breath – where the breath became the sword, the action of the cut. With each in-breath – a raising of the sword. With each out-breath – the cut of the sword. Each breath became like the cut of the bokken – detached from any previous breath, detached from any breath to come. Only the present breath was mindful, filled with awareness and ki. No past. No future. Only now.
One breath – one cut. No past , no future in the breath. Only the present breath.
In the mindful present moment, only one cut can be executed. Only one breath can be taken. It is all that we have when you stop and deeply examine the present moment. One breath to take. One cut to make.
There is nothing to attach to when you fully immerse yourself in the cut. There is only the cut.
Each breath is a cut within the eternal silence and nothingness that is our infinite existence.
One breath…one cut.
Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the past.
-Henry David Thoreau