Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hear Me!

"Not being burdened with the need to be heard, to be understood, to push a point, to be liked, or to be right, life is much simpler."


Have I already made an error? Is this statement itself not my own effort to push a point?

But wait: Is that actually what the statement says? Did you assume that this point is important for me to push? Do I need you to understand this point? To what lengths will I go to make you understand?

Suppose I climb up on the soapbox in the public square at noon and sincerely declare,

"9 x 9 = 82."

Will you be the one to step out of the crowd and spend the afternoon arguing to prove me wrong? Will you be the person who will not let anyone who's heard my speech leave unless they've heard you too? Will you tell stories at the office and then at home over dinner about the crazy person who made the statement? Will you try to convince your friends to return with you tomorrow to see if I return to continue the fight? Will you obsess and lose sleep over planning your strategies? Will you find and surround yourself with people to reassure you that you were really right? Will you start to wonder whether they really believe you, whether they are simply telling you the things you want to hear? How will you be sure?

While your mind is locked on this matter, what are you not doing? What are you neglecting?

... and how are those around you actually seeing you as you try to manage their perception of you?

Ideas, beliefs, causes, philosophies, or even simple points of argument: people fight and die---figuratively and literally---over such things, laying waste to everything and everyone around them, and then finally themselves in the process.

Every one of our lives ends in death. For a fee, the epitaph "But I was right!" can be inscribed on your tombstone so that it can continue your fight on your behalf, but even that will not guarantee that you will not be remembered as the fool who lost everything to madness.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Within the Nothingness...

... are Inexhaustible Things.

On 31 May 2007, I started my blog "Inexhaustible Things." I was returning to Zen roots through my Aikido practice. It was before my son's diagnosis with muscular dystrophy that summer. It was before I met a Zen master to begin formal koan practice in the autumn. It was before I accepted a layoff from contract work in the winter and began the most harrowing period of introspection in my life, my own "dark night of the soul."

I've closed off that blog and imported the posts to Sword Mountain, adding the tag "InexhaustibleThings" to each. My intention is to release select posts with minimal editing, and to notify you via Google+ as they're posted. In this way I can reassemble the story in one location.

It appears that old posts have their publishing date preserved, so those who would do without the history lesson should not be inconvenienced. For the rest of you, I hope there is benefit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Path to Here

Several years ago, I created "ZenStorm" to separate intensive Zen and koan practice from my ordinary life among family, friends, and the office. My pre-ZenStorm personal blog, "Inexhaustible Things," lost some energy as I created and populated "Raising Thought" for the Baltimore Zen Center. Some time afterward, I created Sword Mountain--fencing off my own applied understanding of Zen, primarily through the martial lens of Aikido--detracting yet again from the previous two. And all of that was just the content; naturally there was the living and practice that preceded the content, and then each of the "personalities" obviously required its own social media presence on each and every one of the services to discuss the content with everyone afterward...

It's all very silly, no? Well, no: At the time and in those circumstances, what happened was the obvious path to here, and the entire journey is mapped out through the entries in those three journals. Looking back from here, though, there was clearly a better way--but it could never be seen from anywhere but here.

We awaken precisely where we are.

As divided and dispersed as we feel on arrival, we step off from one point.

So, where to next?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heroic Hakama!

Infused with its master's ki, the uniform leapt from the duffel, killed the thief, disposed of the body, and began the arduous journey home. Finally exhausted, it failed to make that last leap from the tree to the high wall and collapsed to the ground below. Hearing the faint call, the master found his old friend and carried him home... 
... or something like that. 

Actually, my uniform was found in a small graveyard of things in which young thieves might find no value, but probably had value to the owners. The stories, meanings, and worth that we apply to the things we perceive are ultimately our own. It's an ongoing challenge to remain aware of the state we are in as we "read the bones."

So, two more things in this theme--make of them what you will:
  1. Does anyone else have a clever caption or story to go with this photo? Bonus points for creativity!
  2. We should consider that If the uniform so desperately wanted to escape and return, perhaps we should put it back into service... ;-)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Right Teacher

I have seen lists such as this before that advise potential martial arts students about what to look for an instructor or a school, and I have seen the debates about the merits of the individual points exhausted. Let's consider this situation from a different view:

How should an instructor deal with a potential student who shows up with such a list of demands?

Put more simply: A student asks, "Show me how not to be bullied." How should the teacher respond?

Tell me!

Do you think you have an answer? What will you do when the student rejects it and insists, "A good teacher could explain it to me in a way that I can understand"?

Your reputation is on the line. Your other students are waiting for your response...