Monday, October 24, 2011

New Initiatives

Spread the Word: Zen and Martial Arts

Several years ago, while in very intensive Zen study, I began reexamining my Aikido through Zen lenses and vice versa. Each one naturally informed the other. Part of the examination's growth can be found on this website; part is still emerging, particularly as I've begun opening up my integrated practice to all comers. The result, as with everything in life, is a work in progress; still, some key tie-ins between the topics are recurring and clearly important to me--perhaps they'll be important to you as well, whatever your practices and whatever your objectives.

I've started cataloguing those Zen topics, those Aikido practices and techniques, and the links I see between them, and I am considering how best to deliver them. Whether that's to continue on course writing and working with visitors locally, travelling about a bit delivering weekend seminars, enriching this space with recordings and videos, or something in between, I do not know. I'll follow my gut, which will hopefully be informed with your feedback here, on Facebook and Twitter (find my links on the right), or in person.

There are two things in particular I've realized over time regarding this type of work, though: First, it's not something that can be forced. Second, I can only do so much on my own. Combined, we find one interpretation of Zen's "nothing is left undone" teaching: If it's important enough for me to want to spread this work and it's important enough for others to want to receive it, everything will come together to make that happen.

So, I'd appreciate it if you helped me reach the right ears: Who should I see? Who do you think might benefit?

Whether in place or on the move, I look forward to our exchanges. In each new encounter--particularly given the variety of styles--I am challenged and given an opportunity to reflect and to improve. Our encounters improve my practice; I hope the same for you.

Challenge the Word: Koan Intensives

Related to all of that is the Zen aspect alone. Our Zen practice, like our martial practice, is rooted in the adversarial. This is not to say we are "combative" in the sense of competition, winners, and losers; rather, we perfect ourselves individually and each other within challenging encounters. Our practice can also be characterized as somewhat nomadic: Once rooted in the practice, students are encouraged to work with different teachers, engaging in exchanges with different schools' practitioners.

Particularly when limited to electronic exchanges, the test of skills and understanding comes through koan exchanges... but the same is also true in person. Whatever the school's tradition and whatever the school's practices, koan exchange reveals the heart and the understanding of a practitioner in that moment. Even those practitioners who "just sit" should be able to demonstrate clearly how their practice frees them from the "wheel of life."

Sword Mountain and Baltimore Zen are looking for individuals who wish to take up this matter with intensity, and we are looking for those individuals and organizations who would sponsor their practice.

This is not a trivial matter. Not everyone is cut out for this practice. Not everyone will excel in it. Not everyone would be selected to be sent out to represent the teachings. But it is time that we begin this work.

Are you ready, or will you help?

Help with Words: Counsel & Consult

Sword Mountain and Baltimore Zen have always been available to help individuals discover certain truths, to find your "true self." As our teachers tell us, though, it's the work of all sages to alleviate suffering, whatever the guise, meeting it wherever it stands. If we are conditioned to restrict this practice in to the sick, the impoverished, the homeless, and so forth, we are ourselves attached to form and thus set ourselves up to exclude the burdens everyone else faces. If we divide society into two, we are ourselves in conflict. How then can we help one another?

To meet you where you stand may mean an appointment in your boardroom to discuss a business problem or over privately over coffee to discuss a personal matter rather than an early morning hour or so in silence on a cushion with us--it's hard to say if you wonder but you do not ask.

So ask. Perhaps we can help one another.

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