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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

My kyudo notebook is an eclectic mix of diagrams and arrows, quotes and passages from books that I have read, study questions and answers for testing, seminar notes, project outlines, letters, doodles, reminders, page numbers to refer back to the Kyohon on, various words that few would understand unless you were there when they were said… such as squirrel’s butt, and profound, partial sentences trailing off into nothingness resulting from a night around the table with a bottle of Eagle Rare. It tells a story as I look at it. I read between the lines and it tells a tale of travel.

You might see how when I got home one evening to discover that my notebook was not with me, I was a bit unsettled. Luckily, I knew exactly where it was. I had left it on the right-hand side of the table behind the sofa at Sensei’s house. There were no better hands it could have been in, but never-the-less, not the sort of thing one wants to do. I could never re-write this book and only parts of it do I share. On my return to his house later on, he put the notebook in my hands without a word. None were needed.

Sensei recently brought out his notebook and read an excerpt to us while we were shooting. He has read from his notebook previously… a rare treat, one of those special moments you don’t want to miss. As Sesnei left the dojo on this day, he picked up his notebook and causally walked by. He informed us that he was taking the notebook, that it might blow up our minds if he left it there for us. I enjoy my days in the dojo with Sensei, with his wisdom and his humor. Some days I understand and some days I don’t. This day, I understood.

As I thumb through my notebook this morning, I see everything from the words from Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, Tich Nhat Hanh, Rumi, Kosaka sensei, Miyauchi sensei, Blackwell sensei and many more, including all of the Sensei that collaborated to make up the Kyohon, down to my own words. As I look at this, and think with great respect to all that gave their time and wisdom so that others could find the Way, I find it a bit “mind blowing”.

While I don’t know which great mind the following words came from, I would like to share them from my notebook. I hope they will help you in finding the Way.

“Everything happens for a reason.”
“You are always where you are meant to be.”
“The Way teaches.”
“Quiet the mind to be open to where you should be next.”

With that, I leave you to go shoot!

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As I sit at the table, I glance down at my hands.
They are twisting, tearing, shredding a straw paper. I realize what I am doing.
I don’t stop. I hide nothing.
I am talking. I am telling a story with my hands.
Are you listening?
“I don’t know you.” “I don’t trust you.” “You make me uncomfortable.” “You are in my space.”
I turn slightly in your direction. Do you hear me? The fact that I remain at the table speaks for itself.
“If I did not want to be here, I would leave. I would not come back.”
“I give you this chance to earn my trust.”
-Unsent Letters, Unsaid Words

The excerpt above is an example of how the hands are a reflection of our mind, of how the body speaks.
Mezukai, ikiai, dozukuri. are reflections of our mind as well.
The hands, the eyes, the co-ordination of breath, our posture, they are all telling a story as we practice the art of kyudo. The Way.. the way of the bow.
Kyudo is a budo, a martial way. The warrior way. Any opening tells a tale of weakness. Leave no opening.

“The human mind is disturbed by delusion, worldly desires, passions and attachments, which are more often than not the result of the pursuit of experience and knowledge. Also the mind succumbs to the temptation of the eye and the ear, which assail and agitate the spirit. To have the correct activity of the physical body and the right fullness of spirit, there must be stability of spirit. This is a fundamental requirement for the shooting.” (Kyudo Kyohon pg. 58)

In Herrigel’s book The Method of Zen, he tells a tale of eating dinner in a restaurant with Japanese colleagues. As one friend is telling a story, an earthquake shakes the entire building. The hotel creaks and sways, sending objects to the floor. While many rush to evacuate the hotel, his friend sits calmly. Herrigel fears for his life but is mesmerized by the calm nature of the friend. He sits back down at the table. As the commotion subsides, the friend continues his story at the exact point he left off from, as if nothing had happened. This story is a good example of heijoshin.

Simply put, heijoshin, can be described as the calm, everyday mind. The Kyohon states that “…at full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faintheartedness, fear, and self-depreciation…”. (pg. 70)

“When we are watching someone or something, our mind is concentrated only on what we see, and we neglect the spirit and the body. Therefore, the most important element of setting the gaze (metsuke) is to look into your own heart and take command of that place. The condition of the Mezukai has a great influence on the breathing and posture.” (pg.58)

As we begin to look deeper into the mental aspect of our shooting, we begin to see how everything is tied to the mind and the mind is tied to all else. The concept of sanmi-ittai , unity of the three essentials, Body, Spirit, and Bow as one body, then becomes clearer. (ref pg.24) In summation, as you shoot, show no weakness, take command of your heart, shoot with heijoshin. Focus the mind on the body and the body on the bow. Become One.

“The Way is in the training.”

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle

I ran across this quote today and immediately thought of how this relates to Kyudo. One of the things brought up at the autumn Kyudo Alliance seminar this past weekend, was the phrase from the Kyohon, “Kyudo is Life“.

On Page 9 of the Kyohon it states:
Kyudo is not simply a way to create well-being and train the body, but a way to bring enhancement and cultivation to your life… we, as practitioners of Kyudo, who are expected to master such virtues as discipline, modesty, gentleness, self-restraint, and reflection through the shooting, can realize these qualities in our own life.

In regard to kai on page 70, the subject is again brought up, stating:
…at the full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faint heartedness, fear, and self-depreciation and make the effort to fulfill the spirit with self-control, composure, endurance, and determination, founded on the right belief. This disciplining of oneself in this very precious way is connected to Shasoku-Jinsei-Shooting is Life.

As Blackwell Sensei has said, “Practice as if you are testing…”. I take this to mean with sincerity and determination, doing our very best each time we shoot. The Way is in the training.

Hopefully, if we practice faithfully and strive for excellence in our Kyudo, we will bring excellence into our own lives as well and learn the true meaning of “Kyudo is Life”.

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In re-reading parts of Ki in Daily Life by Koichi Tohei. last night, I ran across a section that pertained to something that has been popping into my mind from time to time. It deals with what can be called open mind. Tohei talks about being candid and begins with:

Not just in ki training, but when you are learning anything, frankness is essential. Some people, ruined by their previous experience or knowledge, are unable to learn things openly. These people have what we call bad habits. They judge things solely on the basis of their own narrow experience and think that what suits them is correct and what does not suit them is wrong. Progress does not lie this way.

Say we have a glass full of water. If we try to pour more water into it, the water will flow out, and only a little will remain in the glass. Once empty the glass, and it will hold plenty of new water. If your head is crammed with this and that, whatever new things you try to learn, they will not go in… Ki training is the discipline that lets you make great progress in moving from a world that emphasizes the body to one that centers on the spirit, from one that thinks in dualities, to one that thinks in absolutes, and from a world of fighting to a world of peace… Some people decide once and for all in their heart that they are not going to believe what anyone says.

We all come from varied backgrounds, different martial arts, religions, social backgrounds… that’s what makes us unique. But with the same vain of thought as Tohei’s glass of water, old water can become stagnant. And even if you add some fresh to it, I wouldn’t want to drink it. Best to empty your glass and refill with fresh water. I have also heard that as long as the ki flows pure, the water remains clean. I think the key here is that you have a continuous flow.

So, I suppose, we should try letting go… and have a glass of fresh water!

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