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Meditations

When you talk, say not a word
A white flower grows in the quiet. Let your tongue become that flower.

—Rumi (1207-1273)”

In 2006, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea for a business trip. At that point in my life, I had studied Buddhism for the better part of 8 or 9 years. For some reason, the proximity to the far east, likely combined with jet lag, led me to the most oriental of rituals – a Starbucks in downtown Seoul.

Over a latte or venti bold…it’s been too long to remember…I sat down and told myself that I would not rise from the seat I was sitting in until I produced a triad – a summary, in three verses, of what Buddhism had taught me up to that point. It was a point where I needed to summarize for me what Buddhism brought into my life, in simple and condensed thoughts.

Then, without much effort, the following verses came to me as an instruction of how to practice at every infinite moment:

Be silentwork triad

in thought

in speech

Be still

in glance

in movement

Be without need

in heart

in mind

I sat, stunned at the simplicity of the words, and the truth that they spoke to me. I looked out at the window, throngs of Koreans walking by, and was struck by the non-nondescript place and context within which such words came about. I also envisioned that they would come when visiting a major temple or shrine – never a Starbucks in a busy Seoul business district.

So what of these simple thoughts? I still study them often, and return to them in moments of difficulty on or off the mat. Many interpretations and ideas have I attributed to them, some in an attempt to over-analyze, others in an attempt to convince myself that these thoughts are filled with flaws. At this moment, I take them as follows.

Be still, in movement, is for me movement without movement. Movement required, no more. Movement with grace and peace. Be still, in glance, is to look at the world in a quiet, serene way. Not shifting, nervous eyes, but the eyes that come with coordination of mind, body and spirit – gentle eyes. In essence, stillness of the eternal nothingness.

Be silent, in thought, is the quieting of the mind, the chatter, the clutter that is our modern mind.  Be silent, in words, is to speak only when words are needed, and even then, with few words, reflecting patience, serenity and peace. Both are not to be interpreted as silencing all thoughts and words, but in seeing the thoughts and words against the silence of the eternal emptiness.

Be without need, in mind, is the quieting of desire, of craving, of neediness. In our consumerist society, our craving mind is a calculating foe – practice expends much in addressing this adversary. Be without need, in heart, is the quieting of desire, of craving, of neediness that is rooted beneath the mind, deep within our emotions and heart. Being without need, in heart, is not being heartless, but in being with unbounded love, for we can give, and fully expect nothing in return.

And so these words have been an inspiration and guidance for me over the years. I have two calligraphies that remind me of these words that uttered from my years of practice. One is home, the other at work. I often explain to those who ask what the calligraphy represents, and I try to explain. Often, gracious acknowledgement is given. Frequently, discomfort from some who seem to be surprised by the personal nature of the message.

Home triad

For me, the message is universal. Although it was the product of study, I consider it nothing more than the product of my understanding and decision to summarize my studies in a way that could be easily remembered, understood, and shared.

And my guideposts for when moments are fleeting or challenging my practice. I’ve come to accept that if only these three practices are sustained – silence, stillness, needlessness – practice will forever be rich and engaging.

Neither the past

Nor the future

Can injure or harm us

Only the present

And if our mind

Is unable to manage only that

Then we are truly without peace

 

– Dan, 2007

 

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

~ Blaise Pascal

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.. a meditation about the infinite space that is the pure present moment …

In the pause

Lies the grief

That has plagued

Many days

And where sits

The silence

To hear

The truth absolute

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything”.

~Suzuki

Every moment in life is absolute in itself. That’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment; there is no past, there is no future; there is nothing but this. So when we don’t pay attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing.
– Charlotte Joko Beck, “Attention Means Attention”

Aikido can only be done in the present moment, if you put the mind beyond the past horizon or the future horizon, aikido becomes nothing but physical movements. Only in pure and infinite presence can one point be kept, weight underside be felt, ki extended and pure relaxation found. In that pure and infinite moment, future and past can come to visit, without disrupting the balance and centering that occurs in the present moment.

When we face the limitations of our power and control, all we can skillfully do is bow to that moment. The conceit of self is challenged and eroded not only by the circumstances of our lives but also by our willingness to meet those circumstances with grace rather than with fear.
– Christina Feldman, “Long Journey to a Bow”

O’Sensei was repeatedly quoted as saying that the purpose of Aikido was masakatsu agatsu, katsu ayame – true victory is self victory, right here, right now. Through masakatsu agatsu, the conceit of self is challenged and eroded by the eternal truth which is pure perception of endless, infinite emptiness, forever present in the present moment – pure presence. With eternal truth, one meets circumstances with grace rather than with fear.

A hallmark of a genuine Buddhist practitioner is a truly peaceful mind. Advocating peace is not enough. One must have a mind that remains unflustered and nonaggressive even in extreme circumstances, including when one is provoked.
– Rita M. Gross, “Buddhism and Religious Diversity”

With eternal truth, response becomes a choice, and reactions, both emotional and mental, are no more. Pure perception of the eternal present becomes the peaceful mind, a mind manifesting from harmony of the physical, mental and spiritual self.

Maybe we think that nirvana is a place where there are no problems, no more delusions. Maybe we think nirvana is something very beautiful, something unattainable. We always think nirvana is something very different from our own life. But we must really understand that it is right here, right now.
– Maezumi Roshi, “Appreciate Your Life”

The eternal present is the infinite emptiness that surrounds physical, mental and emotional secretions. Delusions and suffering come from planting secretions in past memories or future desires. Secretions of the body, mind and heart cannot grow in the eternal present, for only emptiness exists, within which purity abides. Right here, right now, is the eternal present – katsu ayame.

If one puts his mind in the action of his opponent’s body, his mind will be taken by the action of his opponent’s body.

If he puts his mind in his opponent’s sword, his mind will be taken by that sword.

If he puts his mind in thoughts of his opponent’s intention to strike him, his mind will be taken by thoughts of his opponent’s intention to strike him.

If he puts his mind in his own sword, his mind will be taken by his own sword.

If he puts his mind in his own intention of not being struck, his mind will be taken by his intention of not being struck.

If he puts his mind in the other man’s stance, his mind will be taken by the other man’s stance.

What this means is that there is no place to put the mind.

~ Takuan Soho

Within the pure present and infinite emptiness, if one puts the mind in his past regrets, his mind will be taken by his past regrets. If he puts his mind in his future desires or fears, he mind will be taken by his future desires or fears.

Within the pure present and infinite emptiness, one cannot even put the mind one millisecond behind or ahead of the infinite present – otherwise, the mind will be taken by the past or the future. One must therefore not only be wary in what one puts the mind, but when – past or future.

With the mind in the pure and infinite emptiness of the present, the mind will have no place or time to go.

And harmony of mind, body and spirit will manifest.

“Any notion of time takes you out of presence.”
– Ken McLeod, An Arrow to the Heart

The past cast with one’s flesh
Memories and recollections echo
Images and sounds, shadows and light
Etched in emptiness

The future painted with one’s mind
Desire and curiosity create
Wind and currents, space and time
Projected into nothingness

The present manifested with one’s soul
Impermanence and change resides
Infinite space, timeless breath
Forever fleeting

The infinite point from one’s harmony
Endless and eternal light
Flowing waves, dark torrents
Comes to know without knowing

“One must be deaf to the conceptual articulations and rely on the indefinable experience of knowing itself”.
~Ken McLeod

The movement from ordinary states of self-concern to selfless giving always involves a gradual transformation of character, not a sudden leap. Like any form of strength, generosity needs to be intentionally cultivated over time, and everyone must begin in whatever state of mind they already happen to be.

– Dale S. Wright, “The Bodhisattva’s Gift”

change is occurring. cannot be stopped. cannot be prevented. must be accepted. must be lived. It is happening. question – do we know where it’s taking us? Do we spend our energy trying to know where it is taking us, or do we spend our energy “surfing” the wave?

Do we accommodate change through knowledge, or through action? For many years, the focus has largely been through knowledge. if you understand theories and data, information and knowledge, the change will be less scary – you might even be able to change the change…

all of this is nothing without action

If you know dharma but do not apply it, then you have more regret than if you had never learned any dharma in the first place. If you are not going to apply dharma knowledge to your life—better not to know it at all.

– Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche, “Keys to Happiness”

change does not occur from knowing…it occurs from doing. change is life. change is every moment. knowledge, mind committed to the understanding, does not change change. it will happen. changing change is a spiral into suffering.

“Do or not do. There is not try.”

-Yoda

in change, there is no trying. there is simply listening, observing. then doing. or not. not trying to do. doing. or not. knowledge is not doing – it is knowledge. knowing is not doing. it is knowing. doing is doing. not doing is not doing.

trying is the mind convincing itself that it can alter the change, if enough effort is provided. trying is based on the assumption that the self can be protected and saved. the ego can be triumphant. no such luck.

What disintegrates in periods of rapid transformation is not the self, but its defenses and assumptions. Self-protection restricts vision and movement like a suit of armor, making it harder to adapt. Going to pieces, however uncomfortable, can open us up to new perceptions, new data, and new responses.

– Joanna Macy, “The Greatest Danger

to get there, we must explode. explode our ego, our structures. our beliefs. our mind. we must destroy and kill what is our ego and identity, and resort to the purest form. ki.

such a change is daunting. it is a form of suicide. a killing of the self, leading to the traces of the past, but fully charged to take the moments in full possession of our purpose and mission. not in a goal-related way, but in a purpose, like I must breathe to live, and so I must take this path to live.

It’s essential that we at least understand that the built-in resistance is proportionate to the scope and speed of the change.

-George Leonard

the rate of change, and the extent of change will define the pace at which we can change. constrained by scope & speed of change.

as it is on the mat, if there is no apparent pressure or force to change, or speed that is no faster or slower than the change that is self initiated, the technique will be effective.

Only because of emptiness can things change and flow. Emptiness is not a vacuum, a black hole, but the possibility of endless transformations. There is no more grasping, or self-created barriers and limitations. The Buddha-nature can shine through and express itself fully.

– Martine Batchelor, “The Ten Oxherding Pictures”

in emptiness, all change, fast and slow, large and small, will occur. emptiness is permanence. emptiness is infinity. emptiness is silence. emptiness is where ki resides and breathes. where ki flows.
in this emptiness, our purpose and path will manifest. and whatever change is required to bring us there, is possible. not only is it possible, it is where the change comes from. when we accept the silence and the emptiness, all is possible, all is possible. all ceases to attempt to become, and we become whole, in mind, body and spirit.