Thursday, June 30, 2011

I was recently asked:

When someone says the word "Beauty," what do you think of?

This was my answer:

The first 10 things to come to mind:
1) The feeling at the point where a bell quiets beyond the capacity to hear.

2) A flower as it speeds through its life cycle in less than a second.

3) Light at the end of a deep breath.

4) The first moment of pain.

5) The warp in time one can see if they intensely stare at the space between a white line and a black line for about 2 hours.

6) 84,000 moons, each in a drop of water having traveled so far and without disturbing the moon, the sky or the water.

7) The look of sudden understanding in someone's eyes.

8) Wrinkles on old people, old books and old trees.

9) That which can not be experienced with senses but is simply understood.

10) Pure selfless-sacrifice.  This is also called 'love.'

Daily Saying for June 30th, 2011

Dreams are not to be sacrificed.  Dreamers are.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daily Saying for June 29th, 2011

Mankind's greatest ability is venturing bravely into its deepest fears. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The other day I was asked:

Recently I was told a story by my Japanese girlfriend about when she was learning English as a kid. She once asked a teacher "Why is 'a' shaped like that?" When they couldn't answer she got fed up and to a certain extent lost interest.  When she brought that up I didn't know either. I looked it up later and in doing so I got more fragments but nothing that entirely satisfied my sparked curiousity. I started wondering about things like different fonts, or hand writing styles. The various interpretations of the alphabet in a still recognizable form.

Which, in a way, is like martial arts.  There are many different styles and practitioners, but what is it that really distinguishes one style from another, in there being so many different interpretations of the same idea? Also is there really a clear line between separate styles?

This was my response:

When it comes to most things we believe that we have a definitive understanding of what makes anything apply to a specific word or symbol and the word or symbol apply to a specific thing.  This is quite misleading.  We say that A is A because it is.  That's terribly arbitrary!  It is giving us the pen of God to write our dictionary because only we will use it. 

It is actually quite the opposite which gives us our definitions.  In Zen, there is a postulate that says:

A≠A∴A which translates as "A is not A therefore A." 

This seems terribly counter intuitive but it should.  Logic prevailing, then A which is not can not be at all.  This seems as much of a paradox as "This sentence is false."  However there is a way, beyond the logic that we can understand this but you've got to do exactly as said.
Here goes:

Look at your hand.
I say, "Your hand is like a bird."
You wait for my explanation or see the bird in your hand.  
I say, "Your hand is like my hand," and you notice the 4 fingers, the thumb and the palm.
I say, "Your hand is like your hand," and you realize that this makes no sense.  
It can't be like your hand because it is indeed your hand!  It would be a stupid sentence and have the feeling of incorrectness.  
Think for a moment.  What is your hand actually like?
Is it like a fish, a tiger and the universe more than your own hand?   No.
Then how is this wrong?
Well, let's simplify.  
Your hand is like anything that is not your hand and as such it is your hand.
That can be simplified to "Your hand is like not-your-hand and as such it is not your hand"
We use a simile but we could simply switch it to a metaphor by removing the "like"

Your hand is not-your-hand, therefore it is your hand.
A is not A, therefore A.

Hope that explains how we must step out of our basic definitions and understand our reality beyond the numbers and measures we usually attribute to all of what we call "reliable information."

In an effort to reply to the martial arts aspect of the question, I would like to draw attention to two specific situations.  First, a comparison between Aikido and Muay Thai.  These styles are so far from each other in most ways that the dividing line is easily seen.  Aikido usually involves grabbing an opponent and very few strikes at all.  It is about moving with the opponent at the appropriate time to throw them.  Muay Thai involves a large amount of striking and with wrapped hands, the grabbing is next to nothing so long as it is understood that a clinch is a body position and not a grab.  Thus Muay Thai and Aikido are opposites in many ways and as such they define each other pretty clearly.

Second, a comparison between Karate and Crane Kung Fu.  This is where things get hazy.  For evidence:

This is a showing of how the concept of the "three-battles" traveled from China to Okinawa and it changed over years of evolution into another but similar practice.  There is no real line between the two styles.  However we can look at them and say, "That's Crane and that's Karate." This is our own perspectives.  Simply understand that as a true and clean witness of your reality, you must be more willing to bend the definitions and as such it will change your perspective on what is truly important in the style you study. 

To sum it all up: 

Once you know something is, the why or why-not is a matter of perspective and an understanding beyond the self. 

Daily Saying for June 28th, 2011

Famous, popular, expensive and convenient.  Not even one of these is a synonym of quality.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Saying for June 27th, 2011

When sleeping, sleep.  When awake, be awake.  Whatever you do, dream.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekly Homework for the Students of the Way for June 25th, 2011

Last week's homework went pretty well!  Let's get even more this week!

We often find ourselves in places where we see drama and we have an option of entering it or simply observing it.  The problem is, with only observation, no one in the drama can learn anything.  The solution is to understand just the right thing to do to help the participants learn how silly or misguided or cruel their actions are.  This will be discussed in following weeks, but for now, just watch this movie.  Yes, it means you have to spend money, but trust me, it's worth it.  This is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen.

 "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring"  is a Korean film about this kind of situation and how one of the way can see just what to do and how to do it to solve the problem without really being involved.

Please, buy a copy (they are pretty cheap for a movie that will likely be added to your favorites list) and remember to write what you thought here.  Feel free to watch it in groups or alone.  Either way, discuss it here.   (Also, use this link to buy it, it's the cheapest I've found.)

Daily Saying for June 25th, 2011

You have never seen the wind, happiness or your own face but you can feel them.  Remember this when you think of only believing what you see.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daily Saying for June 24th, 2011

Do not misplace the intensity of this moment!  The clothes you wear, the flavors in your mouth, the texture and colours of this writing, the smell of the room and the sounds of the outside world all can be experienced at once!  There is nothing new inside yourself!  Throw it out!  Let the intensity overwhelm you!  Then and only then are you living.  How intense this moment is!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Art of Selflessness: Bicycles, Tea and Love

I was recently asked:

[I've] been trying to comprehend, and apply, the "Art of the SELFLESS". What I realized this morning, however, is that while I have always achieved, & percieved, said philosophy through means of a courageous, SINGLE selfless act, it is indeed instead a way of LIFE. So...what would you recommend to a man seeking to arrive at this way of life?

This was my response:

This is indeed both a simple and a complex question at the same time, which one could suppose would make it complex.  However, it is actually quite simple.  Practice love.

That is easy for one to say.  The actual action requires a lot of someone at first.  It is a conscious effort to forgo the generations of instincts we have incorporated into ourselves and our cultures.  It is first and foremost a sacrifice.  But most importantly, it is a sacrifice with zero gain for ourselves.  To someone unaccustomed to this, it might seem crazy, counter intuitive and quite self-destructive.  It is, instead, the greatest thing a person can do every single day. 

Love, by this one's definition, is a pure and selfless sacrifice.  We often confuse love with infatuation or lust but neither of those things are actually love at all.  Love is beyond a concept of self-benefit.  We gain nothing from love.  We can not feel love either.  This may seem strange, but when you love someone, there is no way to be certain they feel it.  We have faith that love is what we are doing and the other person appreciates it.  When a child is told they are loved, it is not a feeling.  When a parent is told they are loved, it certainly warms the heart, but their child rarely understands the depth of the words and their parent's love.  This is quite a thing to think about.  We have only truly felt our own love for others.

This poses quite a problem for many people.  They require validation in their love.  This however, is not really love at all.  Recently, I was riding my bicycle to the train station on a rainy day.  I was going quite fast as I was running a little behind schedule.  Suddenly a young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, ran from the far side of the very wide walk way across my path towards his secondary school.  I was aiming right for him.  I never met the boy before, I never saw him again, but I loved him.  I wished him well and that he would have no pain that day.  So, I slid out on my bike in such a manner that we are accustomed to seeing in action films where the person slides under a trucks trailer by sharply turning sideways.  I landed on the ground unharmed, but the bike slid from between my legs toward the boy.  Faster than I thought I could, I caught the bike and threw it over my head so as to keep it from sliding into the child.  It clipped the side of my head as it went and knocked my skull at the temple into the hard stone pavement.  Mildly rattled I got up and assured the woman walking near by that I was fine and continued on my way to the train.  I wasn't angry at all, I wasn't sad at all, I was in pain a bit but I wasn't going to blame the child.  He's a child and I'm a grown man.  After all, I had Judo training to do that night.  The boy did not notice.  His mother looked on from her car in horror as I got up and rode away while her child skipped into his school.  I never saw the child or the mother again but I can tell you this, it was not only the right thing to do, it was love.  I don't care that the child doesn't know what happened.  All that matters is his well being.  This.  This is love.  I have no benefit for the experience and, in fact, my head was swollen to the point of not being able to sleep properly for about 2 or 3 weeks.  This was not a rewarding experience, it was nothing of which to be particularly proud because I was going too fast, and it was certainly not comfortable.  It was however, pure and selfless sacrifice.

The next question someone might ask at this is "How does one do this in every action?"  This is actually a much easier answer.  Understand that every single person you ever meet has the potential to be God/Buddha/Jesus/The single most important person in human history/The cure for cancer, AIDS and world hunger/Your mother/Your sister/Your brother/Your father/Your child/The person who will align the planets and will bring peace to the planet and the rest of the universe.  This understanding will lead you to encourage peace around the world as well as with every single individual you meet.

It is said that one time a great zen monk from Japan was NOT told that the emperor might visit on the day of the first snow but he prepared anyway.  At the first sign of snow, he took all of the meditation pillows from his hall and placed one on each stone on the pathway to his tea house.  When the snow stopped and the next day came, he went out and removed each pillow.  It didn't matter if it was the emperor or a beggar who came next, they would have a clear walkway and when it happened to be the emperor, he was so impressed at the thoroughness that he built a temple for the monk to be head master.  The monk just went back to the old tea house and continued to do as he had done before.  There was no need for reward.  He just did what he would do for anyone.  He would show them love.

Show that same love to everyone.  Friend, foe, family, feline or fox...  That is the way of selflessness.

Osu, love and peace,

Daily Saying for June 22nd, 2011

If you are taught but do not learn, you are drinking from a net.  Make the effort to get a cup so you don't dehydrate.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daily Saying for June 21st, 2011

Is that strength you think you have?  Show me its destruction and I'll admit you had it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Daily Saying for June 20th, 2011

Sing a duet with the universe and dance in circles with all creation.  Then kiss the wind and wave goodbye.  This is the way of all truly living things.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Daily Saying for June 18th, 2011

Let all colours be your favourite.  Then the world will have more life, rainbows will have more meaning and every choice will be beautiful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekly Homework for the Students of the Way for June 17th, 2011

Since no one did last weeks homework, this one will be easier.

Give someone you don't know one dollar.  
(If you live in another country, give away an amount close to $1 USD)

Post your results in the comments.

Daily Saying for June 17th, 2011

One who walks when they can run would be missing the point.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I was recently asked:

The other day, I was at a ceremony.  In this tradition, the leader of the group connects with spirits of the earth and gives out advice and words to people he's barely met.  His first set of words were for me.  The spirits gave me the name "Altarnator."  Not a very earthy or native name.  I was surprised!  But then he went on to say it was because I pray at many alters.  Funny yes, but confusing and I don't know what to think of it.  What would you say?

This was my response:

The first reaction is to laugh and say, "Of course!"  Here we see the spirits calling you out on something.  They don't exactly care whether you pray at many altars or if you pray at one or barely pray at all.  They are simply pointing out something you should notice.
One who partakes in many traditions is blessed and capable of so much.  However there comes a danger with this.  If you spend too much time spreading too thinly all of the prayers, you separate the very things you're trying to connect.  It would be like having a different dictionary for words starting with 'A' and one for 'B' words and so on and so on.  Sure each one works and you can get things done with them.  But they are all so separate when they don't need to be.  This isn't saying you should mix the traditions together.  Sometimes that brings more problems than solutions.  It is saying that YOU should be the same in each ceremony.  There shouldn't be a different you in each place.  That creates no spiritual growth because each experience is compartmentalized and they keep you from fully grasping what is happening to you.  A piece of music only works when you hear all parts at once.  That is when there is the most beauty.  Then you hear the true music.  Don't listen to each instrument separately.  Appreciate the harmony of each ceremony by being there as the same you.  Then, by doing that, you can remove that you that is the problematic 'Altarnator' and simply be part of the spiritual experience.  A prayer itself.

Love and Peace,


Daily Saying for June 14th, 2011

No matter how vile you may find another person, they are still human and part of your world.  Do not be disgusted with them or their dirty ways.  After all, they are far cleaner than the heart of someone hateful.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daily Saying for June 13th, 2011

Never allow the first few pages of simple words keep you from the rest of the book. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Daily Saying for June 12th, 2011

Before you take that first step, before you take one breath, before your heart beats even once, practice compassion.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Daily Saying for June 11th, 2011

A glass of water is refreshing.  A new perspective is more refreshing than a glass of water.  A new perspective on a glass of water is The Way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekly Homework for the Students of the Way for June 10th, 2011

Make a "Clean Tao"
1.Buy one of these  (Note the different formats and pick whatever is cheapest.)


2.Scrape off the cover completely so it is only a white and slightly rough but still strong surface.
3.Rip out the foreword and end notes so you're only left with the section from the page that says, "Tao Te Ching" and to the page called "81"
4.Read it with a friend or enemy or someone you never met before and discuss it.
5.Post what happened here.

For best results, repeat this more than once.

Good luck!

Daily Saying for June 10th, 2011

Running from fire does not extinguish it.  Just a bit of calm water does.  Remember this when you're next on fire.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Question of the Future

I was recently asked:

Lately there's been a forceful push (by my parents, particularly my dad) to figure out what I'm going to do in college. My dad said he, "isn't paying for me to be in college for seven years" I'm reading economics books, religion books, considering a major of math combined with something else, maybe even business, all in an attempt to figure out what I'll major in, but I'm fearful of deciding on a major because I think that it will pave a road for me that isn't one I'll love.  Can you offer advice on how to go about picking a major with freedom of future in mind, or perhaps some advice that I wouldn't think to ask for? 
This was my response:
Let's begin by saying you're not alone.  This question comes up to so many people of so many ages.  "What career/school/major/path is right for me?" comes up in most people's lives every single day.  The answer lies only within each person.  However, there are things one can think about and a story that might help.

First, go to a bookstore or library.  This is the best advice related to figuring out what you really want to do.  This might take a day or so but go to EVERY section of the store.  Pick up at least 1 book from every section that is even mildly interesting to you.  This stack, for most people, should have at least 20 different books in it.  Then start reading one.  If you don't want to put it down in the first 5 minutes, set it aside.  If you do, that subject is not for you at all.   Then you should have a stack that is at least a few books smaller.  At this point, select the one that catches your attention the most and pick it up.  Start skimming through this time.  Look at chapter headings or the first paragraph of each section in the book.  If you want to keep reading for more than 75% of every section, then set that book aside.  If you don't, it goes in the reject pile.  Then you should probably have less than 10 books left.  At that point, pick one and start reading, but also take notes.  What about it do you like?  What are the strong points of the subject?  What are the weak points?  What part makes it interesting?  Then when you've taken notes for about 30 minutes to an hour, go to the next book.  Keep doing this until you've finished them all.  At that point, you look at the notes.  Which sections do you want to expand?  Which do you feel are the most important in your life?  Which are most needed for something that will leave you feeling satisfied in what you are doing?  We must remember that anyone who asks this question is looking for job satisfaction.  If a subject doesn't satisfy, pick another one.  If no subjects seem to satisfy, quit all of what you're doing and go to some place in the world that is in trouble and help with your hands.  There you'll learn what satisfies all beings in the universe.  Love and compassion.

Second, some of us are lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do.  I know that teaching is my way.  There's no other profession that I feel would be right for me at this time.  Perhaps in the future that will change, but right now, I only want a job in education that will eventually lead to the building of the dojo.  I'm really truly blessed with this.  Others however, don't have a clue as to what they want to do.  I heard such a story once.  

A long time ago there was a man who was traveling through India looking for a guru of some kind.  He traveled north and south, east and west and no matter where he went he found only people who would teach him things that he seemed to already know.  Some suggested a study of postures to help him achieve a greater world view, but he had already mastered a great deal of flexibility in his body.  Some suggested seated meditation to help him explore the mysteries of the universe.  He sat and sat and even with perfect posture, nothing came.  Others still thought a venture into the things absurd such as walking on coals or various forms of traditionally taboo ritual would be a way for him to venture into his soul.  But his answer was always one of disgust.  He seemed to know all about many different things but he could not find the right one for him.  He one day came to a field that was just before a valley.  There children stood playing with each other in the flowers.  He watched them for a moment and then suddenly one of them stopped and looked out over the cliff.  He asked the child, "What do you see?"  The child answered, "You can't see it?  It's a butterfly!"  The man looked up and saw no butterflies, only clouds.  He then said, "But there are no butterflies here."  The child looked up at him like he had heard words from a dog.  "Don't be stupid!  Look!  Not here, over there!"  Then the man looked up and saw that the clouds were indeed shaped like a butterfly.  At that moment, he went to the cliff and climbed down into the valley.  He was surrounded by stone and had no tools, but he slowly worked as hard as he could and eventually built a small stone house.  There he lived the rest of his life in peace.  He looked at butterflies every day though no wings ever touched the wind.  

Perspective, my friend, is everything.

Daily Saying for June 8th, 2011

You can only be worn out when you have stopped wearing in something new.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Question of Morality

I was recently asked:

Osu. I was thinking about what it means to be a vegetarian; how one might perfectly justify it. I was considering the idea of morals. "What is moral and immoral," and after thinking about it long enough, besides the obvious smoke exiting from my ear canal's, I felt like morals are largely built attachment. It seems that different people have different moral codes. What do you think about morality?

This was my reply:

Morality has only to do with one's personal memory and experience . We must first separate morality from ethics. While ethics are the rules of others, morality is our own rules. Ethics and morals from this stand point are two entirely different kinds of attachments. I am reminded of a story about a great teacher. However, that teacher decided to quit teaching. He came to the conclusion that the world was too attached to one way of living even in the practices of zen. Thus he became a beggar and lived under a bridge with a few homeless men.
At that time, a student from a far away land was coming to see him.  Upon arriving to the monastery where the teacher had previously resided, he learned that the master was no longer there.  He decided that he would search for him.  Long he looked, from temple to temple and could not find the master anywhere.  One day in the middle of winter, he walked by a bridge over a frozen stream and looked over the side and the master was there looking up at him.  The student waved and the master waved and walked back under the bridge.  The student followed him and then asked the master to teach him.  The master at first refused.  The student begged and pleaded with him to reconsider and finally, he relented by saying, "If you can live the way I live here for one week I will teach you."  The student was delighted.  The first thing they did was remove his robes and turned them into blankets.  The student was standing naked in the freezing winter.  He was then given some old rags to keep him warm when not under the blankets.  They slept that night and the student slept soundly with the satisfaction of finding the teacher.
The next day, they found a few places where garbage was regularly disposed and they made a meal of it.  The taste was foul and the portions small but the student choked it down happily knowing that the teacher would teach him.  The night was extremely cold.  They had their small tents but some of the men had fewer blankets.  They shared their blankets with the other men.  However, it didn't keep one of them from dying of hypothermia.  In the morning, they found the body and so, in the snow and ice, they dug for hours.  The student was exhausted but knew the funeral rites and this was the thing they had to do.  When they finally had finished the hole, the teacher stripped the body naked and put it in the grave (Note: Holes only become graves when bodies are in them, interesting.). The student was a taken aback when they put the body in the hole naked.  He felt strange about doing that to this man.  Then, when they had finished, they went back to the bridge.  The teacher went to the dead man's tent and got his food.  The dead man had had a small bit of chicken jerky.  Then he began to feed it to the student.  The student refused and decided to go hungry.  The teacher ate the jerky staring the student in the eye and the student began to cry.  "Leave! You haven't learned anything!"yelled the teacher.  The student went back to the temple in tears.

My question then to you is this.  What was the student's problem?  Clothes are to be worn, bodies are to be buried, food is to be eaten.  What is the moral imperative?  Also, then, why share the food with the other beggars?  These questions seem confusing initially but with a little time and meditation they become clear.

The student was morally opposed to disposing of a body without clothing.  To him it seemed cruel.  However, is it more cruel to deny those alive of a perfectly good thing to keep them warm that is free for the taking?  The answer here is of course!  Further more, the food was for eating.  The student saw it as belonging to this man.  However, that man was no longer there.  Had an animal found it, it would have eaten it.  What makes them different from the animals?  Ultimately nothing.  So eat it!  But morally, that is difficult because we find it to be stealing from the dead.  In this case, the morality is an attachment.

However, the harder question is the one about sharing.  Why share indeed?  The simple answer.  It is the right thing to do.  Morally?  Ethically?  No.  Universally the right thing to do.  Help those in need is not a moral imperative.  It is in fact, a way of letting go of the self and those moral attachments.  Help without fear of death, help without fear of starving, help without fear of wrong doing.  These actions lead to a peace beyond the self and has nothing to do with morality.  How interesting it is, though, that we lump the two together so frequently!  This is the reason the steam spewed from your ears.  You must learn to take things apart and look at them for what they are not for what they seem to be.  Morals are based on good ideas, but become too attached to them and they will lead you astray from reality.

What do I think of morality?
Live rightly, not morally.

Daily Saying for June 7th, 2011

Communication without considering the audience is choosing to be misunderstood.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Daily Saying for June 5th, 2011

One doesn't use the same key for every lock, so why use the same practice for every situation?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daily Saying for June 4th, 2011

The most useful learning is done in groups.  The most valuable learning is done alone.  The best learning is done when no one is there.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I was recently asked the following question:

What do you think about goals in general?  
Like, the goal to finish a job, or complete a style study.
This is an adjustment my reply: 

They are a double edged sword.  Goals are both an attachment and something that can lend both pain and joy to an experience.  The best thing about a goal, for most people, is the focus.  It keeps you on a path towards something that will ultimately change your perspective.  The worst thing about a goal is everything else all at once.  The fear of failure, the minor setbacks are always demoralizing, the major setbacks are depressing, the obstacles that come up make you hate yourself and the goal at the same time, and upon success, the result is rarely what you initially thought it might be.  That said, I have a huge goal (building the dojo) and it is terrible in many ways.  Don't get me wrong, it's my #1 priority every moment of every day.  However, I find that while living in Japan I have stumbled across an ideal situation, had I not had such a goal.  I have an awesome girlfriend, a great apartment, cool friends, delicious food at every turn, a satisfying job that pays the bills and still lets me save, the works.  Yet, I will be sacrificing all of it if necessary...such are the pains of goals...

That said, I can't wait to build the dojo.


Daily Saying for June 3rd, 2011

All beginnings are humble but the best endings are too.