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Detach from All

Eternal
Infinite
Stillness
One point is void of all
As is the universe entire
In harmony

Stillness, silence and non-attachment
The one point
Becomes one with the stillness, silence and emptiness
That is all and nothing
All material things, earth and water and air – from which we come
All thoughts, ideas and mental secretions which emerge from conscious, sentient existence
All desires, aspirations, dreams, which are mental but also spiritual – from the heart

All sensations we have known, know, and will know
Will come and will go
within the eternal stillness

Leaving only the eternal, infinite stillness
The eternal, infinite silence
The eternal, infinite emptiness
detached from all
For it is everything
And nothing

“Shugyō is a tricky word to define. At a basic level, it is a mental and physical discipline one undertakes for the sake of self-cultivation”
– Jk mann

Self-cultivation. Is there really any other reason to practice? Not self-improvement. Self-cultivation, the practice of simply being, and growing, is like when we cultivate crops, cultivate students, cultivate relationships, cultivate patience.

On the mat, a sense of calmness and flow occurs when we practice with the intent of self-cultivation. This is because there is no goal in cultivation – only being. Being with the growth that is intrinsic, and not extrinsic. Being with the moment that is pure and present, for all growth and cultivation goes through the present. Being, not doing.

You can’t do cultivation, you are cultivation. It is in the patience and awareness of simple being, simple, endless change, that manifests shugyō.

Shugyō is non-attachement, keeping one point at the hara, flowing ki, relaxed with our body weigh fully extended in all directions, an infinite awareness temporally as well as spatially.

Shugyō is without desire, without fear, without greed or expectation. It is the infinite awareness.

“With interest and investigation there’s wisdom. Effort alone, without wisdom—the way people generally understand it—is associated with strained activity because it is usually motivated by greed, aversion, and delusion. Effort with wisdom is a healthy desire to know and understand whatever arises, without any preference for the outcome.”
– Sayadaw U Tejaniya, “The Wise Invesigator”

Shugyō cares not for the outcome, for we are what we are. Shugyō is effortless for it is what we essentially are, once the fullest of illusions is subsumed. Shugyō is infinite for all is emptiness – all is infinite.

Shugyō is not learnt, for it is present. Shugyō is not mastered, for we already master our own spirit, when expressed.

Shugyō is silence.

Shugyō is pure presence, basking within the flow of ki ofthe universe.

Shugyō is just being.

Practice on and off the mat accordingly.

“Awareness cannot be taught. Awareness simply throws light on what is, without any separation whatsoever. Activity does not destroy it and sitting does not create it.

It is there, uncreated, freely functioning in wisdom and love, when self-centered conditioning is clearly revealed, in the light of understanding.

When the changing states of body-mind are simply left to themselves without any choice or judgment, a new quietness emerges by itself.

This new mind that is no-mind is free of duality—there is no doer in it and nothing to be done.”

~Toni Packer

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.”

~ Rachel Naomi Remen

Upon the mat, as well as any other moment of the day, silence is always with us. Much of our world, however, seeks to interrupt our silence, fill our silence with sights, sounds, sensations – noise as I sometimes like to call it. Our world is sensations, sensations which are cast upon the silence that is our true essence.

Recently, I have found my meditation practice shifting to simply being in the silence, and listening, deeply. Listening for the thoughts that come and go. Listening to the sounds that traverse the neighborhood at the earliest hours of the morning. Listening to the cravings that speak to desires and wishes past and future. Listening to the mind who often seeks to convince that thoughts are silence.

Nothing other than sitting – silently – is required to being in the world – the focus being the word “being”.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Blaise Pascal

Being is not popular in a world where we are unfortunately often measured, loved or hated, liked or disliked, by what we do or not do, what we own or not own (as a result of what we do), what we say or don’t say, what actions we take or not take.

But rarely are we simply accepted, simply respected, simply loved, for just being. In just being is the silence, the space, the essence that is pure love. Not the love associated with things, events, or other external objects. Love associated with the acceptance and respect of the essential essence that resides in all beings – the silence – where the soul and spirit calls home.

But are we not “doing” when we are “doing nothing”? Are we practicing non-silence when doing? In the moment of pure silence, whatever we “do” is non-doing, for we are not attached to the “doing”. We simply do, detached from the past memories and future dreams, in the silence that is eternal.

I think this state is what was meant in part when some speak of “when you walk, just walk. when you eat, just eat, when you….”. You get the idea.

In pure silence, we do what we are called to do, not because of what it may bring, what it may resolve from past errors, what it might gain us, but because it is what we are called to do – simply.

So sit, quietly, and practice listening to the silence. Doing will then become simply doing.

My father taught me that we are what we do, not what we say.

~ David Suzuki

“I choose not to project my past onto my future”
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

So what if my past has been about science, logic, efficiency, formal training and schooling, and the ongoing search for truth.

I choose not to project my past onto my present, hence my future will not be my past…

But with no past or future – and just pure present moment – I am what I make of the current flow and choices at this exact timeless point. At this infinite, yet finite point, where choices, decisions and energy converge.

By choosing not to project my past on my future, I choose the pure present moment within which to breathe, express life, flow, and be. No past, no future, just what we do infinite moment by infinite moment, present moment by present moment.

Time, past and future, are illusions created by mindfulness of moments – and memory. But as memory is frequently flawed, and mindfulness is frequently fleeting, time becomes a distorted illusion – the worst of illusions – where neither the memory of moments, nor the record of the moments, is fully accurate.

“When I’m anxious it’s because I’m living in the future. When I’m depressed it’s because I’m living in the past.”
~ Shaena Strubing

Like a film that sputters from frame to frame, our life becomes an illusion of movement, rather than a mindful creation of discrete frames – each frame being thousands’ of a second if our awareness is at the vibrational level; each frame being fractions of a second if awareness is at the sensory level; each frame being minutes or hours if our awareness is purely at the mental level, where attachment and left-brain rationale logic thinking dominates.

Focus on the frames, and the film will unwind itself. Past frames will be past frames, done and complete, fleeting and degrading. Future frames are future – yet to be taken, with no point in trying to take those pictures just yet…their moments will come.

“How do you move a mountain? One stone at a time.”
~Ken McLeod

“In order to be full, we must be empty. If our emptiness is total, we become supremely fulfilled.”

~ Robert Rabbin

Over the past few weeks, I’ve explored to some length meditation on emptiness. Although I’ve dabbled into this question on and off, I was recently inspired by comments on the Heart Sutra by Ken McLeod. I was inspired by the vision that form is emptiness…a fact that I have taken for fact for some time, but within McLeod’s words, I saw a glimpse into something more elusive – the predominance of emptiness above all.

Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, concept, mental formation, and consciousness are emptiness.

~ Ken McLeod

This observation coincided with the lessons from the aikido mat, where I was struggling (and continue to struggle) with reducing, if not seeking to eliminate, an over-intellectualization of my practice. Non-attachment, detachment from all, complete relaxation – all practices aimed at reaching no-mind, no space, nothingness – just being.  Takuan Soho said it best, when he articulated it as follows:

“The effort not to stop the mind in just one place – this is discipline. Not stopping the mind is object and essence. Put it nowhere and it will be everywhere. Even in moving the mind outside the body, if it is sent in one direction, it will be lacking in nine others. If the mind is not restricted to just one direction, it will be in all ten.”

~ Takuan Soho

Put the mind nowhere and it will be everywhere. So the following thought came to me: what if “nowhere” was “nothingness”? What if the stillness, silence, needlessness in emptiness was “nowhere”. Rather than think of “nowhere” in the material sense, I wondered how my practice could evolve if I re-defined “nowhere” as “nothingness”, “emptiness”?

What if practice led us to notice that all happens within this stillness and silence – within nothingness and “nowhere”. What if practice led us to see all our thoughts, mental secretions and consciousness as products that float and are carried by emptiness, nothingness?

What if practice led us to observe all of our words as existing within an eternal, endless silence and emptiness?

What if practice led us to become fully mindful or our actions and movements occurring within eternal, infinite space and time – boundless, timeless emptiness, nothingness?

What if practice brought us to an awareness of everything, all things, all moments, all, existing within infinite, empty, nothingness.

What if practice brought us to an observation that love happens within this space – O’Sensei’s definition of love – a definition not dependent on external conditions, matter or time?

“What is absolute love? Love without an object is absolute love. Love means unity of perception and action.”

~ Kenjiro Yoshigasaki

Over the past few weeks, I have begun to visualize emptiness, nothingness, and have found two sources that have been interesting to say the least, and insightful in creating a sense of the emptiness and nothingness that is our existence.

The first is the Power of Ten video. Although dating back from years now, this classic video revealed the extent to which our universe, internal and external, is, for all intents and purposes, eternal, infinite, endless. It also demonstrated in the most sobering way that most if not all of it is emptiness – nothingness, “nowhereness”.

A second source was a website entitled Cosmic View – the universe in 40 jumps. Although similar to the Power of Ten video in message and method of presentation, one notable exception was when it introduced the nature of our self at the most smallest.  Of particular note: -6 was the most revealing to me – which presented the space between the nitrogen and oxygen molecules that compose the air we breathe. In short – what is the space, the emptiness, the nothingness between the molecules?

This space, this nothingness, this emptiness is the same space that fills the atoms which compose our very being and world; the same space that fills the gap between the endless galaxies and solar systems that is our eternal universe.

With these images as guides, meditating on emptiness then becomes meditating on the eternal, the endless, the boundless infinite space and time that is the “nowhereness”, the nothingness of all reality.  Meditating on infinite nothingness brings one’s practice to a point where the self and all meld; where space becomes boundless, within which all form can manifest and no longer manifest; where time is irrelevant for nothingness is timeless and permanent.

Knowing emptiness is to know that which is within our self, and within all other things. Knowing nowhere is to know all that is possible – past, present and future. Knowing nothing is knowing ‘no-thing’ – knowing that which is eternal, infinite and timeless – within which all is, and is not.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

~ Socrates

“Our hold on the things we cherish is like our grasping the blade of a knife; the tighter we grasp, the more pain and damage when it is pulled from our hand.”

When Buddhists Attack – J.K. Mann

Attachment. The one thing we can count on. Like the sun and the wind – always there. Always ready to act. Attachment is the one constant most of us can speak to with some experience. Anyone who claims having found how not to be attached is very likely attached to ego – or has truly reached enlightenment – at which point they would not likely claim it as such.

Attachment is ubiquitous. Attachment to work, and the belief that success and wealth will bring happiness. Attachment to health, and the hope that prolonged life will bring moments yet to be experienced. Attachment to power, and the desire to control what can never be controlled. Attachment to fear, and the worry that issues and events will destroy our plans. Attachment to words and the false wisdom that owning and speaking words often falsely portrays.

Attachment to desire, and the craving that leads us to seek externally what can only be discovered from a journey within.  We are born into desire, desire for life – but not into attachment and tension. Attachment and tension arise from wanting, from craving, from desire beyond a desire for life. From wanting more than giving.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

~ T. S. Eliot

Over time, we grasp and hold so strongly to things, to people, to moments, to memories – that we choke the very life out of the life which surrounds us. We grasp through craving. We grasp through wanting. We grasp through endless desire. We grasp through a vicious circle of grasping for the sake of grasping, for we are taught and observe in others the fruits of grasping – the spoils of craving – and the belief that more is better.

At one moment, all that grasping and wanting fails – and we fall. And when we fall, we choose. We either fall into fear and anger, and choose to re-emerge stronger, hungrier. Most who fall choose this path, for it is expected by society.

Alternatively, fall into a bottomless well of wonder, unknown – but relieving. A relief from years of grasping, for there is nothing to grasp as we fall. We enjoy the fall and the relaxed feeling of knowing that grasping would only harm our hands and get in the way of enjoying the journey. Observe the fall. Notice the sensations of the fall. Enjoy the peace that comes from flowing and being fully present in pure perception.

At one moment, the pain and grief that comes from grasping becomes as clear as a blue sky – we have grasped without conscious thought. We have programmed ourselves to grasp, want and crave.  We have been tense and tight due to the many years where we thought that holding onto something – or someone – would keep them from leaving, changing, ending.

At that moment, we discover death arising from our own grasping, craving and desires. Death of moments of beauty. Death of friendships. Death of honest work. Death of our own health. Death of life itself.

In relaxation lies life. In detachment lies flow. In releasing tension lies peace.

“The only thing that Ueshiba Sensei taught of true value was how to relax”
~
Koichi Tohei

“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.

listen.

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

~Ken McLeod

… do nothing which is of no use …

~Musashi

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.

~O’Sensei