Archive

Admired words

In every form of practice, whether meditation, medicine, or mixed martial arts, the external challenge or opponent disappears and we are left with the internal opponent, our own patterns of reaction that prevent us from effectively meeting or facing what is arising. From this perspective, courage consists in being able to endure the patterns of reaction without being immobilized or carried away by them. Thus, in daily life, when you run into problems, regard the problems simply as features of the landscape that have to be negotiated and focus your effort on meeting the reactive patterns that prevent you from doing what is effective, appropriate or necessary.
—Ken McLeod


A pattern of reaction. 

Are we all subject to patterns of reaction? Or am I alone in the experience of my mind drawing me back and forth, away from the present, into the regrets of the past or the aversions of the future. I read Ken’s advice over and over, yet this morning something shifted. It was not a “sky’s have parted” kind of shift, but rather a settling, like the moment when you watch a silted beach settle following large waves, and the bottom starts to become clear. It is a precious observation for the silt is slight, and any currents from waves or torrents will easily disrupt the silence. 

Yet, the bottom is always there. The foundation is always here. The centre is always the centre. The illusion of the bottom, foundation or centre disappearing is just that – an illusion. Yet we believe because our senses are presented an alternate picture, that the centre is dissolving; the foundation is shifting; the bottom is collapsing. 

Yet the bottom is always there. The foundation is always here. The centre is always the centre. 

So why do we succumb to the illusion? Why do we believe the illusion when we’ve experienced the return of the centre numerous times before? Why do we doubt the infinite nature of the light that is ki – the source of all moments?  

We succumb, for the illusion is the most insidious of illusions – an illusion that does not lead us to believe, but IS a belief. The illusion is a belief. A belief that the centre has dissolved, the foundation has eroded, the bottom has crumbled. The illusion is not an illusion of senses. The illusion is an illusion of belief. 

Illusions of senses, although powerful, do not shift the beliefs of the mind. They challenge them, trick them, mislead them. 

But illusions of belief are beliefs that attempt to replace, substitute or displace those beliefs that we have come to rely upon to frame our world, frame our view, frame our reactions. This is why illusions of belief are so much more powerful, for they not only frame our view, but more critically, they frame our reactions. As such, if they can frame our reactions, they become our reactions, and in become our reactions, they become — come-to-be — us. 

Such a view begs the question that are not all our beliefs illusions, projections, patterns? And if all our beliefs are projections, how are we to know which are “real” and which are “false”?  Are we not solely able of defining real and false by our preference, desires and aspirations?  What is the alternative? What is the basis upon which we can test our illusions of belief against a broader truth, a more universal truth?

The absolute present. Setsuna. The infinite now. 

Illusions of belief can only reside in the memories of the past, or the aspirations of the future. Illusions of belief can only thrive, grow and root in the regrets of the past — even the past of a few seconds ago — or in the fear, worry or desires of the future — even if the future is but a breath away. 

Illusions of belief cannot reside in the absolute present, in the infinite now, for in the now —setsuna— there is no illusion, there is just experience, just sensations, just connection with the infinite possibilities of the absolute. Illusions of belief cannot thrive in ki, they cannot live or contact ki, for illusions of belief are tension. They are tension of the mind, tension of thought, tension of consciousness. 

In setsuna, there is no tension for there is only experience, there is only absolute presence, there is only sensations underpinned, guided and created by Ki. 

And in no tension of thoughts, there is peace. In no tension of thoughts, illusions of belief dissolve, for there is no ground upon which to root, for there is no ground. There is nothing, for there is but emptiness and silence. There is nothing, including no illusions of beliefs. 

Our battle emerges from the incessant nature of our illusions of belief to drag us to the past, or rush us to the future, for the illusions of belief need air, need the tension of though to breath and thrive. 

Hence our battle will forever exist, for we cannot eradicate the past or future. Or is that but another illusion of belief which ensures that we will forever attach to the shores of the past or future? What if choose to head out to the endless ocean, where we loose sight of the shoreline, and have but the absolute present as our existence?

 In that moment, our battle would cease, for we would cease to keep close to the shores of the past or future, and would become immersed in the absolute moment which only the endless ocean of Ki can provide. In that moment, we would have expressed an absolute faith in Ki, for we would become immersed in the ocean of Ki — and we would abandon the desire, the aspiration for a shoreline. 

Then we would truly sail on the ocean, the waves, the eternal Ki. 

Then we would come to be but the infinite moment — setsuna — and all reactions would forever end. 

A recent posting by über blogger Leo Babauta entitled “The Way to Be” was insightful in how he described ‘melting’ as a way to be with someone challenging our balance and centering. Most notable in his description of ‘melting’ is the imagery of blending with the other – not looking to change or alter the other – but rather to simply blend, accept and become one with the other.

Although Leo’s treatise is not rooted in aikido, his presentation of melting is a metaphor worth considering when engaging an opponent or Uke.

Enjoy
Dan

The Way to Be
By Leo Babauta

Last night I received a phone call from a loved one, someone who I love deeply but have struggled with internally because I’ve been worried about his health.

I want to help him, because I feel I’m losing him.

I want to show him my habit method, so he can give up smoking and drinking and eating unhealthy foods, can take up exercise and meditation, and all of a sudden be transformed into a healthy person again.

And of course, I can’t. I want to control something that scares me, but I can’t. I’m not in control of the universe (haven’t been offered the job yet), and I’m not in control of anyone else. I want to help, but can’t.

So I melted.

Not melted as in “had a meltdown”, which sounds wonderful if you like melted foods but actually isn’t. I melted as in I stopped trying to control, stopped trying to change him, and instead softened and accepted him for who he is.

And guess what? Who he is? It’s wonderful. Who he is — it’s super awesome mad wonderful. He’s funny and loving and wise and passionate and crazy and thoughtful and philosophical and did I mention crazy?

I melted, and accepted, and only then could I actually enjoy his presence instead of worrying about losing him or changing him.

And this, as I’ve learned, is the best way to be.

We can stop trying to change people, and just melt into their presence, just notice who they really are, just appreciate it. We can stop complaining about our life circumstances, about our losses, about how the world is, and just melt into it.

Just accept. Just notice. Just appreciate.

This is the way to be.

Many treatises, reflections and words of advice have come from the world of warfare. Numerous historical pieces are mandatory reading and re-reading in leading military schools and academies.

But what of the world or work, notably one where collaboration is not the norm?

Many of those principles apply more than ever in a work world where adversarial, hyper-partisan and, in some cases, physically violent environments exist. Although the later is thankfully rare, the level of mental, emotional and verbal aggressive behaviour – what would be called bullying by any other name – remains all too prominent. Just watch a few minutes of any modern democracy’s parliament or seat of power to get a flavour of what is considered “normal” behaviour – behaviour that would send any child to the principle’s office or in suspension for a week.

Such aggressiveness in our common moments at work leaves one wondering : what classics can one consider to becoming a warrior in a business suit, a warrior who does not become part of the problem, but rather brings stillness, harmony and peace to every moment.
A few books I’ve found inspirational range from the spirit of war to the spirit of peace – yet are all routed in the spirit of victory over an adversary – which in all instances, once you’ve removed the focus on the external enemy or adversary, leaves one facing the most daunting adversary of all – ourselves.

The Art of War
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is the quintessential war literature classic. Covering the breadth of warfare, it is rooted as much in philosophy as in strategy and tactics, if not weighted more on the former. Somewhat difficult to approach for the non-initiated, repeated visits to this historic text will slowly pay off in broadening one’s toolbox of stratagems, tactical approaches and principles for honourable victory. A definite must have in any leader’s library.

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings is less well know than Sun Tzu’s Classic, but no less influential. Musashi is considered Japan’s greatest ever swordsman, and his reflections on conflict, strategies and tactics reflect a more philosophical core than one of battle stratagems. As with The Art of War, The a book of Five Rings is ultimately a treatise of philosophy, and will require multiple visits to begin to fully appreciate Musashi’s insights into the art of the sword – the soul of the samurai.

On War
Clausewitz is the modern Art of War, routed in Clausewitz’s extensive experience, and deep knowledge of the art of strategy and tactics. Although, like the other works, it can be mistaken as a technical text, Clausewitz does commit considerable attention to the moral and political aspects of conflict – in essence acknowledging that peace is the ultimate aim of war. His most famous quote remains “the best developed plan never survives first contact with the enemy” – a core stratagem in any strategic context – and one that merits much study in our modern age.

Hagakure
Yamamoto Tsunetomo drafted this as a “guide for life” for the samurai partly in response to their slowly eroding role from warriors to servants. Quite difficult to approach at first, the Hagakure is filled with many concise, yet deeply reflective, almost koan-like passages that can keep one contemplating the deeper meaning of life, death and service. Although more typically reserved for the martial artist seeking a treatise from a zen-routed samurai, it does present some valuable insights for the executive seeking guidance in balancing life and conflict-laden work.

The Unfettered Mind
Yagyu Munenori, major samurai rival to Miyamoto Musashi, was provided by a zen monk named Takuan Soho, what some consider the least known, but arguably the most relevant book on warfare. Although it does not come across as a text book on war and strategies, it is effectively the most important treatise on warfare – a guide to how to master the self, the mind – the ultimate challenge in any time of conflict and adversity. The Unfettered Mind requires, like many comparable works, repeated reading and subsequent introspection, but the results of ones efforts in learning to master the mind in times of conflict are nothing short of life altering. The Unfettered Mind remains of the few classics on self mastery yet to be discovered as a classic.

The Art of Peace
Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the art of Aikido, was, in the end a man of peace, a philosopher and one who embodied peace – in the true sense of one who lived peace by way of harmony of mind, body and spirit. Although many of his writings and reflections have been captured in various forms, Ueshiba’s the Art of Peace is the antithesis of the Art of War, not only in title, but from the basis that ultimate victory is about self mastery, self control, self victory. The Art of Peace is, like Aikido, short on content, but deep on substance and meaning, with each passage first appearing harmless, yet filled with koan-like brilliance. If the Art of War is about warfare facing outward, the Art of Peace is about warfare facing inward – providing a way to masakatsu agatsu katsu ayame : true victory is self victory right here right now – the answer Ueshiba would share when asked “why do you practice Aikido”?

Although many other classics could be included, such as Machiavelli’ The Prince, the above amount to my personal “desert island” picks which would keep one reading, reflecting and re-visiting for many lifetimes, all in the pursuit of masakatsuagatsu.

The following is fully inspired by, and heavily borrowed from, the 5 principles of a profound workday, courtesy of Leo Babauta. I highly recommend Leo’s words for inspiration and solace.

‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.’ ~Laozi

The Profound Visit to the Dojo

1. Empty: In Silence and Solitude. When your mind is full, you have no room for change. When your thoughts are full of noise, you have no space to think.

Empty your mind. When you have an empty mind, you can fill it with anything. Only with this emptiness can you create something truly different.

Clear your thoughts. Find space for silence and solitude. With this space you’ll be free, free to see the truth, to create beauty.

2. Slow and Mindful. Rushing paradoxically leaves us with less time — speed means we don’t pay attention, and so the moments on the mat disappear rapidly and leave us before we notice.

Slow down, and pay attention. You’ll be able to focus on your movements more, and though you’ll do less, you’re technique will be more profound.

Be mindful of every movement, small or large. Enjoy every motion.

3. Profoundly Creative. Don’t use the gift of your visit to the mat for mindless repetitive tasks. Don’t end the visit with nothing to show for your work.

Start each visit by creating. Make the space at the beginning of your visit to the mat to create, before you get lost in rushing, urgency, or the desire to see the end of the class.

Create something amazing. Delight your Sensei and your ukes. Leave them amazed, wanting to not end the session. for you.

4. Simplified. The principles for a profound visit to the dojo might seem difficult to most people, because there just isn’t the instinct or desire to do less. The only way to create this type of visit to the dojo is to simplify.

It’s the key to everything else. Subtract. Pare everything down to its essence.

What’s on your mind right now? What are the principles that actually need to be present in your practice? Remove everything else.

What do you do every time you visit the dojo? How many of those things can be eventually pared down? Be simplified?

Simplify, and you’ll be able to find emptiness, solitude, silence, slowness, and mindfulness in your practice.

5. Flexible and Natural. This type of visit to the dojo might start to sound rigid, but in truth when you create space you also allow yourself the flexibility to deal in the moment with any change, any attack.

The natural flow of things is change, and if we are rigid we aren’t able to deal with changes. We become frustrated, anxious, angry, flustered.

If instead we have no expectations of what will happen each visit, and deal with changes as they come, we let go of that frustration and anxiety.

Be open to whatever happens. Be flexible. Deal with change as it happens, and you’ll find true profoundness doesn’t come from within us, or from external sources, but in the space between the two.

It comes from the eternal space between all things.

It comes from the universal Ki.

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’ ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“There is a very simple secret to being happy. Just let go of your demand on this moment.

Any time you have a demand on the moment to give you something or remove something, there is suffering. Your demands keep you chained to the dream state of conditioned mind. The problem is that when there is a demand, you completely miss what is now.

Letting go applies to the highest sacred demand, and even to the demand for love. If you demand in some subtle way to be loved, even if you get love, it is never enough. In the next moment, the demand reasserts itself, and you need to be loved again. But as soon as you let go, there is knowing in that instant that there is love here already.

The mind is afraid to let go of its demand because the mind thinks that if it lets go, it is not going to get what it wants – as if demanding works.

This is not the way things work.

Stop chasing peace and stop chasing love, and your heart becomes full. Stop trying to be a better person, and you are a better person. Stop trying to forgive, and forgiveness happens.

Stop and be still.”

~ Adyashanti

In order to see a fish you must watch the water

– Bodhidharma

… which inspires…

In order to see a man you must watch the Ki

– unfettered hara

A 2009 blog post from George Ledyard – one of the most interesting I’ve read regarding the “spirit” of self-defence. Enjoy!

Dan
—————————————

Let us look at the nature of “Self Defense”. There are two kinds of self defense and one is merely a distortion of the other. The first Self Defense is authentic. It is the evolutionary, biological right of any animal to defend its life and those of its family or social group. With humans this involves the development of certain skills coupled with the addition of technical development. The skills and technology of True Self Defense are simply an extension of those developed for survival over hundreds of thousands of years. So True Self Defense is the defense of the physical body when under some threat.

The distorted form of Self Defense is not authentic and is the result of illusion. It is based on the instinct for self preservation on which authentic Self Defense is founded but it is distorted by the illusion of self identity under which most people operate. In other words from the time of our birth we develop a series of self images which we put forward as “who we are.” These self images or “primary selves” are who we consciously believe we are and reflect the ways in which we have learned through our personal experience to exist in the world.

The problem is that this is not really who we are. There is a whole series of “disowned selves” who from infancy we have learned to put away from our consciousness. The more we identify with these “primary selves” the more energy it takes to maintain that incomplete self image, that illusion of who we are.

So what we do as human beings is to devote most of our energy to trying to maintain our false, conditioned construction of ourselves. Anything that threatens that sense of identity feels like a threat to our very survival (whereas it is only a threat to the survival of the false identity). We seek out companions and experiences that support our false sense of self and yet at the same time there is a counter drive for us to look inward towards our deeper nature.

All aggressive behavior that is not True Self Defense is the result of this false identification with the mental constructs that create our “primary selves” and the fundamental reluctance and fear we have to recognizing that we are not who we maintain we are. We will distance from, attack, divorce, etc. anyone who threatens our fundamental sense of who we are and we tend to seek out people and activities that reinforce the identity we put forth to the world (and ourselves). To have this sense of self threatened is experienced as a survival issue by the conditioned self.

So most of what we see as “Self Defense” is the distorted use of aggression in defense of false notions of who we are. This can lead to personal violence or it can manifest as violence between social groups, fighting to maintain their collective self illusions.

…most of what we see as “Self Defense” is the distorted use of aggression in defense of false notions of who we are…

So the only way that we can be sure that we engage only in “True Self Defense” is to get in touch with our True Selves, the unconditioned essential Identity that underlies all these “primary” and “disowned” selves. Only when we cease falsely identifying with our illusions of who we are can we be free of the need to “defend” the false self.

O-Sensei’s vision of what Aikido should be is just this. He looked to create the true “Spiritual Warrior.” He stated that “True victory is Self victory.” This victory is nothing less than experiencing who we really are, not as separate little identities which require constant defense to maintain but as our True Selves which are an integral part of the undifferentiated Universe.

Aikido practice is designed to teach “True Self Defense” while it simultaneously seeks the cessation of the distorted False Self Defense. It can only do that if there is an internal component to the practice.

Students can not, as most tend to do, seek out training that merely acts as a reinforcement of who they already think they are. Many dojos are nothing more than mutual admiration societies which allow like minded individuals to not experience the discomfort that comes with the need to let go of the false self images that we al carry. At the same time other dojos are merely places in which fearful people mutually develop an illusion of strength through tough martial practice but never confront the fundamental need to let go of these defense in order to make fundamental change.

So even as we study the techniques of True Self Defense we must simultaneously be putting our attention on developing the direct experience of our True Natures. Until the time at which all human beings have experienced their true selves there will be a need for the martial techniques of True Self Defense but it is only as Spiritual Warriors who have done battle with their own internal demons that we can operate on this level which is the “Spirit of Loving Protection” of which the Founder spoke.

– George Ledyard
Posted 9th August 2009