Saturday, October 30, 2010


Thoughts of themselves have no substance; let them arise and pass away unheeded. Thoughts will not take form of themselves, unless they are grasped by the attention; if they are ignored, there will be no appearing and no disappearing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Leave no Trace

"When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself." 
Master Shunryu Suzuki, (1904-1971) came from Japan to the USA in 1959 and popularized Zen in the San Francisco area.
I am not exactly sure what he meant with this, but this is how I would interpret it :  

“If you do something, you might as well do it right, you might as well put your whole being into it. Do it as if your whole life depended on it.”
Okay, it may sound a little excessive. 
Should I do the dishes as if my whole life depended on them ? Maybe not. But I should at least try to do them well. If I get a plate out of the water with a greasy spot on it, then I should use a little more soap to better clean it... I should not just lay it on the draining rack thinking that this is just a little tiny  and unimportant spot, which nobody will see  anyway.

Sometimes, when we do things, we don't do them exactly as well as we should, and we know it, but we think : “Well, this is good enough, this will do”. And it does not. Something happens, and comes back to bite us - or someone else...

No matter what we do or train in, let's put all our heart into it. Let's try to do it right. We should not accept any compromise, we should do it as good as we think it should be done. Just a little less good won't do.

This little Sandpiper puts his heart in his work, and does not worry about anything else. 
He simply does his Bird job and the waves erase his trace. 


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Naikan Tanden Seminar

On last Saturday October 16, I held our first seminar in our new Headland Dojo. The theme was Naikan Tanden.

I borrowed this term from Zen Master Hakuin, (1685–1768) who possibly borrowed it from older sources. One relatively accurate translation of it would be "Introspective Meditation at the Tanden"...

To tell a long story short we practiced a number of Qi Gong exercises centered on the Tanden, an area located slightly below the navel; and others designed to move energy around the body - limited to 3 points on the center line of the body (also known as Conception Vessel in Traditional Chinese Medicine). 

All these exercises were practiced using regular abdominal breathing.

In addition, we also practiced the mighty Reverse Abdominal Breathing.

Between each Qi Gong exercises we practiced Zazen (sitting meditation)for 10 minutes. 

The whole session lasted about 2 hours  after which we had a tea and a little discussion to evaluate the program and exercises.  This was not an easy class. I introduced lots of different and at times confusing exercises to my students. The Reverse abdominal Breathing is obviously not an easy thing to get into. 

I am very thankful for my students' input, their help and their patience.

From this first session I intend to build up more simple programs adapted to various audiences with different needs. (More later). 
In future articles I'll provide details about reverse abdominal breathing, as well as energy circulation in the body, and the importance of these practices for meditation and martial arts. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

13th Century Karate

The name “Karate” originally written 唐手 ("Chinese hand") in Okinawa could also be pronounced “Tode”. It was changed to 空手 ("empty hand") at the beginning of the 20th

The main reason for this change was the willingness on the part of most Okinawan Masters, to see Karate become part of Japanese mainstream culture. Gichin Funakoshi, main artisan of the introduction of Karate in Japan, and a student of Zen, writes in one of his books that the change was to remind the Heart Sutra saying : “Form is emptiness, Emptiness is form”.

In the following 13th century text, translated from Japanese by Trevor Leggett in his book “The Warrior Koans”, “Karate” is mentioned both in relation to Zen and Martial Arts. This is an interesting indication that “Karate” was known by Japanese people in a Martial Arts context way before the introduction of the Okinawan Art on Mainland Japan.

A Koan is a paradoxical riddle given to Disciples of certain Zen sects to meditate upon.

Kamakura Koan No. 44 : Wielding the spear with empty hands

Nanjio Masatomo, a SoJutsu Master of the Spear, went to Kenchoji to sit in meditation, and afterwards spoke with priest Gio about using a spear on horseback. 

Gio said, 'Your Honour is indeed an expert in So Jutsu. But until you understand the method of using the spear with empty hands, you will not grasp the ultimate secret of the way.'

The Teacher added, 'No spear in the hands, no hands on the spear.'

The Spear Master did not get it!

The Teacher said further, 'If you don't understand, your art of the Spear is a little affair of the hands alone.'

In December of 1256 Fukuzumi Hideomi, a government official, was given the koan 'wielding the spear with empty hands'. He wrestled furiously with it to no avail. One evening, exhausted, he crept into a little grotto near the meditation hall, and sat there in meditation, repeating again and again “Kara-Te, Kara-Te (empty hands, empty hands)”.

Another monk heard Hideomi repeating 'Kara-te, Kara-te', and thought he was saying 'Kane-dase, Kane-dase (give some money, give some money)'. He thought it was a robber and raised the alarm. The Jikijitsu (head-priest in charge of the meditation hall) made a quick search around the dojo and found Hideomi.

Hideomi was indeed very ill with tuberculosis, and absorbed as he was with the koan, he had forgotten to eat for several days. He was extremely weak and actually on the brink of death. The Jikijitsu hit him on the head saying, 'Let not this heart be set on any place' and he gave a big Katzu shout.

Hideomi nodded, and quietly died.