Archive

Tag Archives: Poetry

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

 

trust in ki, in fewer words…

have trust in inviting and extending ki
the way you trust gravity will make the glass fall if you let it go
do not stop to confirm if ki is available
the way you do not stop to confirm if gravity is available
you trust gravity is available
the way you know ki is available
you have known this since you can breath
know it so much that you no longer think about it
know it so much that you trust that it is always there
so should it be with ki

– dan

“be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”

― Henry David Thoreau

Our truth is not found in the words or journeys of others.

Others can share their journeys, their observations, sensations and experiences.  Many write eloquent prose to lure others to believe that their way is the way, more often to the detriment of the reader, and benefit to the writer. Through other’s words and images, we can find ourselves taken, attached to their success, their path, and ignore our own.  The words within books and blogs, reflecting other’s stories, are helpful when we remember that, like a picture, they are but a rendition of another’s truth.

When we seek our own truth through experience and insights of others, we may find in those words confirmation or insights into our own journey. Beware!, for we often seek out words that confirm our “truth”, and not words as food and water for our own cultivation.

Other’s words and insights should be like rain – watering our own seeds of truth and exploration, and not become the seeds themselves. To take others words as our seeds is to ignore our own deep seeded truths (no pun intended). In so doing, we may one day wake up and find ourselves in someone else’s garden.  And as pretty and luscious as that garden may be, it will be another’s – and not our own.

Masakatsu agatsu katsu ayame – true victory is self victory – is allowing our own seeds to grow – and allowing rain from other’s journeys to water our own seeds.

Read, learn, study and explore without never forgetting that a great temptation will forever exist to substitute another’s wisdom as our own. Wisdom can never come from outside of ourselves – it is cultivated through patient observation, equanimous being and loving acceptance of every moment.
Others have more eloquently, and succinctly, said the same thing.  What nicer way to close.

 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings

“Zen practice is always about returning to that place where there are no words. Early on, I realized that to use words, you have to live life beyond words, before words, without words. Only then do you have the right to speak.”

– Seido Ray Ronci, “No Words”

Many months have passed since my last blog posting. A significant absence due – in large part, to a long term illness that is on the way to being addressed – in part due to confusion about where I wanted to take my writing.

I started the blog as a way of intellectualizing my aikido learnings, observations and thoughts, and how they overlapped with my Buddhist practice. However, the past 5 or 6 months have been some of the most transformational in my life. Transformational not in the “clouds have parted, and I see the light” kind of way, but rather the “I’m starting to understand in my body what I’ve always understood in my head”. A few events occurred that challenged my modus operandi – good and bad habits developed over 30 years of relying primarily on my mind, intellect and rational thought to guide my life.

The fist event, in late December 2012, was a diagnosis of depression – along with some form of fast cycle bipolar condition. The diagnosis is inconclusive at this time, but the symptoms are quite real, and being fully aware of, and managing, them has been my focus over most of 2013 to date.  Dark, heavy, brooding depression consumed both my mind and my body, shutting down entire bodily systems for days on end. Although I’ve struggled somewhat with the darker side over many years, this recent bout was different – a clear signal to change course in order to avoid rougher waters ahead.

The second was, as a side effect of the depression, coming face to face with my addictive tendencies towards work and career, and the underlying sensations and emotions that accompany it. Courtesy of a ten-day Vipassana retreat in March of 2013, a major shift occurred in the lens through which I’ve seen my life to this point. Much work remains to be done, but like a lost traveller, I’ve found a “map”, a “torch” to guide my way – and now need to use it to guide my journey forward. Finding the “map” or “torch” gave me the hope that there are lands where darkness subsides, and light can fill our days.

The third event was on the aikido mat, an episode one Sunday morning many months ago now. During an especially difficult session, my Sensei, Peter, upon observing yet again my persistent and repeated attempts to overly intellectualize and rationalize what I was experiencing on the mat, said some simple words that he had uttered many times before, words that I mentally understood very clearly, but words which had failed to resonate with my whole being prior to that moment.  “Don’t think so much!”, Peter directed my way. In those four words was the simple truth that I was doing, and had always done my aikido from the mind – an intellectual exercise that could be mastered the way organic chemistry or differential equations were mastered in my engineering degrees. But aikido is fundamentally not, and never can be an intellectual exercise. Although countless Aikido books have been written, and will continue to be written, the uttering of those four words at that moment shifted my practice, and my life forever.

Time had come to begin the work towards true harmony of body, mind and spirit – not harmony of an intellectual nature, but harmony of a deeper, more fundamental and spiritual level – deep work, work that from the outside is largely invisible, but within is profound and foundational.

Part of this work has been to rely much less on words and images from outside of myself – books, stories, videos, etc., and spend more time being attuned to the sensations my body, my mind and my spirit manifest – sensations that tell me much more about what is happening in the moment, and provide a much more accurate and interesting guide for where I should take my aikido practice in the next moment, and the next.

My aikido, like my Buddhist practice, is shifting away from attempting to develop or master some tools and techniques per se, and is now more interested in further enhancing and developing harmony.  We often prevent ourselves from embarking on such new journeys due to our past digressions, commitments and efforts to date, or through fear that we will deeply regret those past decisions, in the event that we discover a better path. In response to this fear, I’ve decided that it is better to have one day on our own journey, than a life on someone else’s.

My blog and writing will change as a result.  Although this entry is wordy, the focus of my writings for the coming weeks and months will be fewer words – ok, I’ll try – and simple reflections of the sensations and moments of what I perceive to be my journey, both on the mat and off, towards harmony of mind, body and spirit.

I look forward to sharing the journey with you – and extend my gratitude to all those who join me along the way. To close, here are some words which attempt to describe what I can’t describe at this time. Enjoy!

Words arise from thoughts.

Thoughts based in our memories of the past, or dreams of the future.

Hence, words are not the product of harmony of mind, body and spirit.

For harmony of mind, body and spirit is the product of pure perception, in the present moment.

Yet many will continue their attempts to describe this state of harmony in words.

Many will expend countless hours and boundless energies convincing others of their descriptions as correct.

Many may even resort to aggression and anger to defend their representation of harmony and peace.

Yet, without words, only the state of peace, balance, harmony and love remains.

And so should your practice be.”

-Dan