Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meditation around the Labyrinth

On next July 11, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. till noon, I will lead a meditation seminar at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Dothan.

This event is open to every person interested in Meditation, regardless of their religious affiliation.

We will practice sitting meditation inside the main hall, and walking meditation on the Labyrinth.

This is an interesting experiment as it brings together the Eastern practice of sitting with the Western practice of walking a Labyrinth

Labyrinth were used in the West for religious and possibly other purposes for over 2000 years. They became very popular in Europe during the 13th and 14th century and were incorporated in the floors of numerous Gothic Cathedrals. As the access to Jerusalem was lost people would do pilgrimages to these Cathedrals instead, and end up walking the Labyrinth in Prayer.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, there was a renaissance of the use of the Labyrinth as a mind centering device through walking prayer and meditation, and numerous Labyrinth were built in the US for this purpose.

Tai Chi, Iaido and Zen

Practicing Nukitsuke this morning - I was reminding the Dai Kyo Soku Ke motto.
Big, Strong, Fast, Swift.

Something comes to mind - One of Tai Chi's aims is the release of internal tensions in the body - muscles, joints, sinews...
Why release tensions ? Because when the body is tense and stiff, the mind is also tense and stiff. But this is not all. It also enables the proper and fast performance of the next move.

When it comes to swordsmanship, if your body has no tension at the end of the initial draw, you are able to carry on with the next cut, switfly, without hesitation, which maybe the difference between life and death.

Slow Tai Chi-like practice of Iaido will help you (or your instructor) figure out residual tensions that slow down your next move (these blockages are usually easier to spot in shoulders and spine, but they really plague your whole body).

Once you become aware of them, you can work at suppressing them by properly realigning your joints. I have no doubt great progress can be achieved this way.

How does this relate to other activities ?

Karate, Kendo, same as Iaido, slowly practice kata paying attention to the body tensions on each impact. Minimize tensions, find the right body form.

Residual tensions in the body (elbows, shoulder, hands...) are the equivalent of what Suzuki Roshi calls "Traces". Imprints of patterns of moves repeated over years and years of practice. Pollution. They prevent us from freely performing the next move. We need to let them drop out - Leave no traces.

One day I might figure out how Zen related to Budo !

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book of Changes

A student once asked Shunryu Suzuki Roshi :

“Suzuki Rohi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years, but I just don’t understand. Could you just put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”

Everyone laughed, Suzuki laughed and said :

“Everything changes.”

(Zen is right here, page 37).

And I wonder: Am I studying the right book?

The I Ching, or Book of Changes has been around since before Buddhism. It is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. It describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy intrinsic to ancient Chinese cultural beliefs, centering on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.

Are we not speaking about impermanence here ?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I was just wondering...

Did Dogen really think when he wrote Shobogenzo, that 8 centuries down the road we would still try to understand what he was trying to say to some not so bright 13th century Japanese farmers ?

Come on, think about it !

When he wrote about the Moon being reflected in a dew drop, do you think he had any idea and could have had any understanding that one day men would FLY up there to take a walk and come back ?

How would you try to explain quantum mechanics and special relativity theory to him. It hardly makes sense to us in the 21st century. How could he understand them in the 13th ?

And you want us to understand UJI ???

How about going back to sit on our cushion ???