弓道 – The path continues

弓道 – The path continues…


It was a cold day. It had been so for the last few days. My plan was to just deal with it an go to the dojo. I had not any real shooting time since before the New Year. I had a few days in at the home base Makiwara. Things felt more common more comfortable. I guess I am getting used to pushing some part like my shoulder to the extreme, down or/and back, something. Yamashita sensei had told me something about the shoulders being forced back/down, gave them stability as part of the body within hanara.
 
Another thing I am still working with but some headway. When doing Kung Fu our balance is more centralized when in a stance. More towards the center of the foot, slightly back on some stances. When in Kai, the body, the center is different. Even though expanding up and out (Nobei), it is also down. The down balance point is set more toward the toes.
 
I had plans of doing a Shaolin practice session, go to lunch at the Indian place I like then go to Kyudo. Well, I did do the Kyudo part…
 
When I arrived there were just a couple of people there, and they were packing to leave. So good timing on my part. I got lucky. The dojo was cold cold cold. Since everyone was leaving I opted not to change fully. Just my dogi top. It was nice to have the place to myself again.one everyone left, I put on my knit cap, that helped. Having, bald head at a time like this was not fun. Yeah, I could have just done it as training, but why put myself through that now!?
 
I stretched a little then got on the Makiwara. I returned to using the Bamboo Yumi at the dojo since I will only be coming in once a week now that I am not working. I will shoot at home with the Hybrid bamboo Yumi. I can check my distance self when I come into the dojo. We’ll see how that works out. I will not be testing again until Summer. I think the summer exam will be at my first Dojo, maybe that will be lucky for me. Maybe the Master’s spirit will help me! The March exam is just a couple of months away. I am not there yet. We have hopes of going to Hawaii this spring. One of the many training plans I have while there is to visit the Hawaii Kyudo Kai and have someone guide me in English just in case I am missing some pointer. I have already been in contact with them and an expected. I had also planned to visit ChouZen-Ji a Zen temple in Hawaii that has part of their teachings the practice of Kyudo. However, that has been evolved into “Zen Archery”. This temple’s philosophy has always had a big merger with doing Kyudo. They are one of those schools that value the “art” more than the rank, there are no ranks. However, now the temple uses Western Bows in their Zen Archery program. Oh well. I will still go since my interest is really in the philosophy of their style not so much the mechanics. Also the sensei teaching this Zen Archery is also a Shakuhachi sensei and a Roshi with the Rinzai order there. It should be interesting speaking with him. Hopefully, my wife can get her visa on time. so we can go. What an ordeal that has been. However, that is another story…
 
Meanwhile, back to the dojo, I digress…
I go onto the floor for my first shot, I did not give it much thought, other than to cover the points when I shot. After that shot, it occurred to me it was also my first shot of the year and Hit. I took it as a good sign. Then it was hit and miss for the rest of the session. I did end up with a 50% hit rate, so that was good. Maintaining that and improving is the thing, but for now, 50% and ending with a hit of two in a row. It was starting off a Happy New Year.
 
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尺八 – The blessing…

In the broad Cha’n sense, every day is a blessing, Gohan Shifu says every day is good. Narrowing it down though to a smaller scope here I am referring to a blessing pilgrimage of sorts I took. Hmmm thinking on it more, it would be better called a purifying pilgrimage. I went just before going to Myoanji, the last trip.

While practicing some songs on different flutes to determine some sound differences. I got carried away on playing with my “A” shakuhachi. 2.0 , that Oota-san from the Shakuhachi society gifted me. I had not thought of it in my Takuhatsu practice, but it could be used. This thought came when I could play some high notes on it but not the 2.5. Also about taking it to Moriji next time and use in an offering at the temple.

I also wanted at some point to go to the nearby bamboo grove and get some bamboo for a new project, several in fact. One of which was a simple as stakes for the tomatoes and anything else. Instead of buying tomatoe racks. This grove was on or next to my favorite local Buddhist temple. I have gone there before and sat and played. Most times it is very very quiet. The thought was born to take the 2.0 to the local temple and give it my own purification ritual.

So now with the need for bamboo and the thought of taking my 2.0 flute and do a purifying ceremony. The next day was chosen, the weather was excellent. A lovely autumn day I mounted my bike and peddled off to the temple. I gave inner thanks for the beauty, peace, and blessing of riding my bike to the local temple in Japan to play my flute and do some Tai Chi. Also, grab a few photos. I am still a stutter bug. I do not get off on taking photos of myself but I am a handy model whilst out and about.

It is a fairly easy trip to the temple, other than the last bit, where it is easier to walk the bike up the hill or leave the bike at the bottom and take the steps. There is some kind of tradition to the steps. I think it is 100 steps. If you use the stone steps one gets a blessing or merit or something, a wish filled…? Usually, I take the steps just because, I can. However not today I walked the road outside and around the temple grounds to another entrance. I wanted my bike there. and I had to go to the bamboo grove just across the road, the lot, something. Anyway, nearby and still needing to climb the hill. From that side of the temple, one must also go to the highest point around for quite a ways. One has a great view of the countryside.

From the other side of the grounds, one can see to the bay. That is the side of the grounds where the 100 steps are and the old main gate with the two stone guards. Next to that is the cemetery.

So I guess technically I enter from the back side of the temple. No matter. I had some concern about where I had parked my bike but, unwarranted concern. I enter the grounds and felt the spiritual presence of the area and again gratitude for being there. I went to the main temple urn, and found insense burning. I took out my flute and passed it through the smoke and bowed. Then played a single Ro note. I did this also at the main temple steps.

Once done there I went to the front side of the temple to where the great bell is located. There I played more. Maybe Cho Shi and/or Tamuki. I do not recall. Afterward, I did some Taiji, to bring my physical vibe up speed. Balance out, it a good thought. Sort of like doing walking meditation after doing sitting.

 

I left this spot after a while and went to another of my favorites. It is next to a pagoda just behind a sand and rock garden. I can climb up on the rock and hang out. There I settled in an do some playing. A group of people came onto the grounds, they were heading for the great bell and one of the other smaller pagodas. I kept playing at one time I would have stopped, or tried to play softer, now I am Komuso and I play for others. On Buddhist temple grounds and people coming to pay respects or homage to their departed loved one, it felt appropriate…Amitoufo

 

 

 

Solar circumnavigation celebration…

 And so another Solar circumnavigation is done, and as one thing ends another begins. Here I am in Japan at sixty plus something, feeling blessed. Sailing on occasion, Shakuhachi study, Kyudo Study, Still able to do Kung Fu, although not teaching. Still it is a part of my life. It was my first stop in the morning of the day to go to the local Shrine and practice yet another form of Meditation, “Motion Chan” aka Kung fu. The grounds are peaceful, most of the time, but early morning had that extra quality about it. Under the shade of trees, the sound of the birds, danced in my ears. It was going to be another hot day. Even early it was already quite warm and humid.

I have four items to practice, that I have made as my “practice”. Yang 24, Chen 24, Hsing Yi, Bum bo Mantis. I have been getting in Tai Chi in the mornings on the way to work. But it has been a while since I have done my full practice. Today was good, I wet down with oil the mosquitos do not like and was able to get through the sets without being bothered. Even into playing some Shakuhachi and grabbing a few pictures I was unmolested.

The next morning was fairly much the same. Less humid maybe, I did not sweat as much. or it was the clothes. I played more flute. I figured since it was the first day of Obon I should as a Komuso play a few traditional Komuso songs. I played Tamuke the offering song for the departed. Even though I was at a Shinto Shrine not a Buddhist temple, it still seemed fitting. Thanking the spirits there for letting me practice on the scared grounds.

I returned home with my top almost soaked from my water-loss, in the humidity, but it was cool. I felt in a good place having got my full practice done. I had done a little garden work in the morning before I left to train. I had a turf battle with a horde of caterpillar which had invaded my parsley. I was surprised that they tried to bite me when I went to remove them. I was reminded of a saying. ” your arms are to short to box with God”. As such was the case with them. I am very good with chop sticks!! The conflict was short. Banishment was carried out.

Next on the list for the day was getting a sail in. I was looking forward to it, but not overly so. I did not want to go to the “master’s” marina, or see him. More so not see him, and the boat was going to be hot hot, no shade, no cover. However, since I was able to take advantage of that perk as a instructor, I did.

There was not supposed to be much wind that day, however the wind was perfect I should take advantage of the opportunity. I was able to sail at a nice clip even under just the main sail. I was feeling lazy and mostly just wanted to get the sailing “chi” but did not want to work much. As in trimming and tacking, putting the extra sail on off and away. If there was a roller jib that would have been nice , but no, none. So I just used the main and it was perfect. I got the vibe, the energy, the Chi without a lot of work.

While there was good wind there was also a lot of chop. I could feel myself really needing to focus on the horizon a lot, even with taking the seasick pill. I did not wear my wrist bands, I should have. maybe I needed that little bit of “xtra”since I had not been out on the water in long time. No sea legs I guess it is called. Even still it was a good sail, a good reconnected to the water element and wind. Feng Shui of the earth. I felt like the return of Capt Zen.

I was exhausted when I got back to the dock. I am glad I had chilled water with me. I did not work much but the heat and sitting in the sun took my strength. After I got the boat put away I went to one of the seaside shops there at the marina and had a “softcream” cone. and relaxed in the a/c for a while. Once a felt normal again I mounted my bike and headed home.

My wife and I had dinner plans at a restaurant we had received free dinner tickets. They were given to us as part of thank you for attending a funeral of an “aunt”. Interestingly it is the start of Obon, a remembrance of the deceased time in Japan. We had received the tickets a long time ago but it worked out to go now for a couple of reasons. So it was like a birthday gift from “auntie” for us. My wife’s birthday is the next week.

It was a mediterranean meal. For me perfect! I ate a lot it was an upscale buffet type setting. Somethings had meat , but enough other things did not, so I got to double down on some things. My wife was not as pleased with things as I was. She was also surprised how busy it was, because the place was so new and Obon was the next day. Anyway I enjoyed.

It was a good day, a blessing. As one gets old, one understands more how short the good days grow. On the other hand, in Zen it is said, “every day is good”. But I am talking number not quality. Live so to enjoy each one, we can not see the bottom of the cookie jar….Amitoufo

 

 

What a Long strange trip it’s been…Happy New Year 2018

What a Long strange trip it’s been

あけましておめでとうございます

It is almost a new year as I start this writing. Maybe it will be the New Year, year of the Dog by the time I post this. Year of the dog, btw, is suppose to be a good year for me. I am not dog year, I am Tiger but we are compatible. Going by Chinese horoscopes. Which I have dabbled into. But that is another story time… This one is about the changes in life, paths we walk, the many lives, not just one. I am writing a book about the sailing adventure. I had not put in much background about before sailing, maybe this will go in the book…

 
I was going through some old pictures trying to clean up my iPad which is on the blink 😦 . I found this old shot from when I was in boarding school. A photo of me and my posse. We were a collective of gang members, who formed a mini “club” inside the school. More like, part of a club. We did not form it, not the founders. There were two groups/clubs. We all got along, but just had different members. I never did “get” why the two groups. Human tribal thing?? All the members where from different gangs out in the “world” ( The streets of Philly ). It was at times unpleasant being in this school of thugs. Like when the dorm header, an adult was gone for a weekend off. We the students would get called into the rec room , by the senior in charge for “boxing” which was really just a time for people to get out their grudges they had with other people.
This is were the “clubs” came in handy, making sure things were kept fair. There was a certain style of boxing one followed. I believe the reason for this was so that the school counselors could not see the marks/bruises from fighting. The style was called “creek boxing” two people would bend over, put their heads together and slug it out. supposedly no face shots, but sometimes it did not stay that way. One benefit of these clubs and the school really was that one met members from gangs all over the city. You became friends with them thereby could travel all over the city and drop names when you needed for safe passage. Within “Yin there is always Yang”
 
I am pretty sure that 90% of the guys that I hung out with there are dead or in jail now. I was not really a formal member of an outside gang perse, mostly in it by default of my area, but I knew most who were. Knowing the guys at the school was a big (hard earned) benefit for my loner travels about town.
Then there was going to sleep and waking up with my toes on fire. Everyone thought was funny watching me wakeup in terror thinking I was going to burning up, from the little fie they had set on my toes with lighter fluid, as a joke…that was really funny to all involved.
Anyway I survived, that, those and other “interesting” times and places in the city of brotherly love. Although many times I thought I would not.
 
So all this from the picture, got me to thinking, how many, “trips”, “paths” I have been on in this life…
 
I spent time in Virgina. That was perhaps my favorite part of being a kid. Living and working on the farm and properties of my grandfather. I had no fear of gangs, or people having come from the big city. Also my grandfather was well-known in the area and I was his oldest and favorite grandchild. He owned a farm, a gas station, and beer garden ( sort of like a bar). I worked on/ in all of these places when I stayed with him. I loved it. Open space, greenery, I learn to drive on a tractor and that was my “car” since I could drive on the road with no license. Sometimes it was sort of harsh , and Gramps was pretty strict, but I liked the environment much more than city life.
 
The layout of my gramp’s places. I am taking this picture standing in front of the service station, on the far side of the house is the Beer Garden, to the left of the house was the farm.
Living in both places gave me a real taste of the yin and yang of living, city vs country, and I could survive in either. Adapting to both when needed is an important lesson. Being at one with your environment is very “Cha’n”, it is how you survive in bad times. My siblings could not, most disliked the country life.
 
At that time other than playing music from time to time, I was all about fast cars, and wanted my own repair shop, which I had gotten a taste of from working at Gramp’s service station.
 
Once in LA, where I had always been drawn toward. So fairly young I moved. I worked as a mechanic until the music bug hit me again hard this time. I set out on the musical path, mostly for a time doing R&B. As I started getting more into the California hippie life style that changed over to Rock. Living in Hollywood, and being a musically hippie. Yoga, meditation, camping, skinny dipping, etc etc. I did some coffee houses soloing, trying to get discovered and get a contract. Never happen. But I had fun, I learned stuff.
 
My next turn-step when I figured out being a working singer songwriter guitar player was not going to happen for me. was to play bass. I really started playing because I wanted bass on some demo tapes I was doing and it was hard to find someone to play what I wanted. This taught me there were a lot of guitar players around but not many bass players. I started playing bass and started getting work with bands. From there went on tour a few times, got some small studio gigs, night clubs, road tours. yeah it was fun. Not much money but some.
 
The not much money part lead me to think what to do that I could make money and still get to play music. With this thought and a chance encounter with a well-known Martial Artist and TV person put me on the martial art as a teacher/ business path. I had been involved in Martial Arts since my days in high school but never thought of it as anything , but a way for me to protect myself. This person showed me the business side of things. However told teaching was not the way to make a living easy. He ran a health food store, martial art supply store and a MA school. I became involved with the business, ended up as the general manager as well as a teacher there.
This educated me into the world of health, business, herbs, healing, and Chinese Philosophy. I pretty much put aside music at this time. I was all about M.A., and the like, and training. However I still recall clearly a time playing a bass for something at the dojo, and someone saying wow, your whole face being changed when you started playing, you should get back into that…
 
After a time I was ready to move on from the Dojo, I wanted to set out on my own, I remarried and moved to Va. I became manager of a moving company, taught Kung Fu part-time, worked in a health food store, and played in a band for a very short time. I felt really, really out of place in Richmond, Va and ended up moving back to Ca. having found a job with the same moving company I was with therein Va. The main headquarters was based in Ca. The branch I was going to work for was in the S.F. Bay area.
 
I opened another Kung Fu school and took up training again with my last Sifu/Sensei. He was from the same style I had been teaching so it was a continuation of my past training. The Chinese Philosophy studies continued, with the addition of Feng Shui, and slowly music came back, with bands and schooling. Slowly becoming more dissatisfied with the business management life of a moving company, I took up graphic design training. After putting myself through college and receiving a degree in design, I became a full-time graphic designer with much struggle, and still playing music when possible.
 
The Kung Fu school slowly was dying. I was not really a good business man, a good teacher but not a businessman into promotion and the like. I finally got a good job in a large cooperation as a designer and put most of my money into maintaining the school/dojo. This went on for a while, in hindsight too long.
 
Do to the need for a place to live, I had been living in the back of the Kung Fu studio. I ended up buying a boat, and from that getting involved in the sail boat world. The economy collapsed and I lost most things including my job, condo, etc.
 
At this point getting up in years it was not easy to find a designer job in a bad economy. I became a security guard, a part-time assistant harbor master, sailing instructor and still taught a small Martial art class at a community center. We lived, now re-married again, in an apt on the beach for a while before moving on to the boat at the marina where I worked. It was the plan at this time, for the last four or five years to move/sail to Japan. The music life had pretty much stopped when after the last band I was with, for several years, the leaders moved to Hawaii. Now it was for me mostly water world, Boating, Kung Fu, Kyudo, Chan/Zen and making ready to go to Japan.
 
During the disastrous attempt at sailing to Japan, after making it down the coast of Cal., we spent a stormy Christmas in Half Moon Bay Ca.. We were lucky to just make it into the Marina.
Afterwards continuing down into Mexico. There we lived on the boat for four months. From Mexico we set sail for Hawaii. We ended up using the last of our money to fly to Japan after having to abandoning our boat during the rescue at sea. This was our was our home, and dream plans for a new business in Japan, we had to leave it at sea. Having lost steering with at sea with 6 meter waves approaching from a storm, the environment was in charge. There is a saying in Tai Chi Chuan, and the Tao Te Ching “Yield and overcome”…
 
So now, here we are in Japan, that part really did happen, but not without help ( some of which from people I have never met ) , sacrifices and a lot of effort. What a long strange trip for a little colored boy who grew up in the gang streets of Philly and the farmlands of Virgina to be in Japan, a Chinese Zen Buddhist priest, musician, sailboat instructor, gardener, martial artist, and Komuso.
Life is change. Life itself is interesting and what we want to make of it. Some of my dreams are gone, some are just dormant, some are just out of reach, some have yet to speak. It took a while to have dreams again…now even small dreams are good. They are seeds for life and growth.
Now 2018 is here. I recall thinking when I was a teen how old I would be when the numbers changed to 2000. Now 18 years into it. Back then I did not see me where I am now, in no dream…
All in all though what a long strange trip it’s been. Still the road continues and the river of life flows. One can not control the wind, you can only adjust your sails.
Next …the New Year Kyudo 108 arrow – 2018

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尺八 – Komuso and the Shakuhachi-Do

The way of Chan and the 尺八 Tao

Since becoming a Chan “priest” I have been on a search for meaning a purpose for it, for me. Not the standard idea, actions, path. But how to express the label, the responsiblity, the vows, the “weight” in a way that gives meaning to my spirit. Some purposeful outlet for the title, the mantel, honor the linage. My Martial path under different circumstances would be ideal. IF I was in the States or even maybe Mexico or Canada, I could establish myself, my expression of the Chan Dharma, fairly easy…so to speak. Here is Japan, no. The ground is not fertile, over planted. There are many many Tai Chi “clubs’ who’s teachers speak Japanese. Kung Fu, well, that is not a real interest in the land of Karate, even less so here in the countryside, and “burbs”. The few that have expressed interest fade after a few classes, for what ever reason. Let’s just say they do not have the spirit for the effort involved.

When speaking of Meditation (Zazen here), that gives rise to the wall staring hardcore Japanese version of Zen. People have that fixed idea about it. So having a more low-key yet more encompassing holistic approach to Zazen is not understood. Education takes time.


I expressed to a recent new friend, who speaks English, that I wanted to become a Komuso and why. Historically from what is written, the komuso, did little in the way of actual Buddhist practice. Perhaps a few, however what most stands out about them is they just wandered around earning food by playing shakuhachi and the shakuhachi was their tool for enlightenment. Their practice was really all about themselves. Few were actual Buddhist priest. The “aura” that is around Komuso these days is romantic history. 
Komuso these days are more organized, but still from what feedback I am getting it is still just about the playing and themselves. The playing as a social gathering club, or for some as a meditation tool, some for just the music. Then there is my Komuso Sempai in Nara. He is all about being a true “Buddhist Priest” Komuso. It has been educational and interesting going out to do Takuhatsu with him. I can see me doing this in my area. With Takuhatsu No real language issues, no space to rent issues, advertising issues, no identity other than a Komuso. Brings several things together and serves multi-causes. The problem, license, certification, affiliation.

In speaking with my friend about my desire to be a Komuso and why. He said you do not need to be a Komuso to do that. Japan is a Buddhist country if they see you as a Buddhist Priest your color will not matter. You can wear whatever and do not need to be under a Tengai. It is considered fortunate to encounter a Buddhist Priest/Monk especially by the elders. It maybe more to your advantage being who you are, than you think. That got me to thinking…Hmmm. maybe…in all Black robe…

.
Yet there is still the issue of License to do Takuhatsu
( beg) in Japan or perhaps a street performer license. Although that would put it as entertainment not as a serious Buddhist practice. Something to think on…
I have a Shakuhachi recital up coming in two weeks. I will met a shakuhachi Sempai who is a former Policeman and now a Komuso. I was told by my Sensei he does not look at Shakuhachi as a Musical instrument, but only as a Zen Tool. This way of thought, I find interesting. I planned on asking him about license, begging the law, Buddhist Dharma and Shakuhachi. This could give me the final answers I need or a door to where I need to go.
Shakuhachi Club
 
Once a month there is a meeting of the Classical Shakuhachi group. This group plays the long Shakuhachi. I am new to this group having just met some of the members over the last couple of months. This is the group my new Friend, who is from Germany belongs to. As it turns out these members are all Komuso or mostly all, belonging to the Myôan-ji in some form. A general statement. The point is that they are affiliated in some fashion with the Myôan-ji in Kyoto. I made my way to the meeting on my own this time. I was able to located it ok, with a little effort.
There were six of us attending. Once started, there was a little scale drill as a warmup. Then playing two versions of Cho Shi. I finally figured out one of these version I already had learned, the writing style was a little different. Although I needed some playing adjustments, I knew it. Afterward, there was some chatting, then everyone went through the study piece everyone is working on taught to them by their former sensei. Next up everyone played the song they are performing for any upcoming concert. In this case the big show in Kyoto at the Myôan temple next month.
It is at this time period where I play a song. I did Cho Shi even though I am now finished with “Tamuki”. I am more comfortable with Cho Shi, I can play without reading. I was listened to and asked to play again with no breath vibrato. I tend to do this from playing Harp and flute. Afterward it was said it was much better, more like Shakuhachi. There were a couple of corrections I needed and was told about also a point about my breathing. There was some other talk and I heard we’ll teach you. Ok, Cool. I am getting some real lessons from this. Perfect since I need to cut back on my formal classes with my Sensei. I had originally looked for a Shakuhachi group to learn from, but It seemed at the time it was only for people who already could play. Now I am one of them. I can make musical notes, and read, poorly but…still, I can. I have made some progress. Though it does not seem like it to me. I guess this is a real milestone marker to be accepted into the group. ( Thanks Dean for the intro).
So after almost 2.5 yrs of study, I am where I wanted to be when I started…well sort of. I wish it were so with my Kyudo, but that is another story.That evening I receive an eMail from my friend aka “Big O” in the group. He says he spoke with the group about what wanted to do. basically it was said no problem I can join and get set up through them. Wow, great news! Fairly simple, smooth and cheap! I had heard that doing this official Komuso via the Temple was costly! I had an alt plan of speaking with a Kinko Sempai about joining the Kokoku-ji group in Wakayama. I was expecting even there, pay a monthly fee to a sensei plus the extras…
The Myôan-ji seems to be more active and the new Abbot is rumored to be more interested in raising the meditation aspects of the Komuso group.

I do have a sense my Sempai is of the more hard-core Shuizen mind. Which could be perfect for what I want to learn. Wakayama is much much closer. I am going to continue to flow with the force and let the Tao work. I am hopeful with the Sakura in the spring a new Komuso will bud in Osaka.

 

Chan, Music and Food: The Taiwan tour, pt 2


Chan, Music and Food: The Taiwan tour, pt 2

When we last visited our hero he was down with a a/c cold…

 
The night before once I returned to the hotel, rest, a hot bath, glass of wine. I was out for the count fairly early. The next morning I was feeling better, not perfect but better. We started the day with another great buffet. It was not fully vegetarian but there was enough choices that I could again eat my fill. I did not stick with the Chan teaching of eating 75 – 80%, I stuffed myself, not to an excess but at least 90-95%. It was worth it. I needed the body fuel to help heal, I figured.
 
It was still somewhat early, but I chose not to redo the plan to visit the Heart Chan group, rather to just rest. I think I went with LZ out to a couple of places she wanted to go to. It was hot out, but for me not uncomfortable. Since I was not bothering anyone with my small sniffles at this point, going out with her was fine. One of the places she wanted to see was a tower called , 101.
 
Afterward back to the hotel and just hung out in the lounge. There we could eat and drink in under relaxed conditions. There was some food set out, not a great selection but I was still able to top off my breakfast from the morning, enough to hold me over for the evening. Then I was off to the club.
 
My friend the musician I met in Sakai, Japan and I met up at a place call Jazz/blues spot Swing. It had a bit of trouble finding it once I was nearby. With some help from a local I was able to get there. My friend also brought along a friend of his. She had lived in the States for a few years, so her English was great. We because friends easily. She had an interest in Qi Gong and Chan. As it turns out she was just finishing a book by the grandmaster of the Dharma Drum sect, founded by Sheng Yen. My current teachers school and teacher. Also the place(s) I had just went to the day before. So as it turns out I am her Sempai/shrxiang, elder brother. Funny small world. So we three hd a pleasant evening at the club. I spoke with the owners some who also spoke Japanese. The husband played organ. At a later point he, my friend and I did a couple of songs together. I did not have my Bass, so I played piano on one song, and just sang on another. Fun. When settling my bar tap I meet another person from Japan, Tokyo, he is Chinese, speaks Japanese, English and Chinese. His wife is Japanese. A nice fellow who also plays Sax. We exchange info Facebook and Cards. He says he often comes to Osaka, so we may meet again.
 
I find out trains in Taiwan also stop running at 12:00 so it was time for me to head back. My new Chan Sister and I walked back together chatting about Chan and enjoying the walk. At the station we went opposite directions.
 
The next and last day, LZ and I went to another recommended vegetarian restaurant. It was big! Food thing we had reservations so got to go in among the first. This place was the best of the stay. Lot and lots of choices both western and Asian. I saw a group of Buddhist Nuns there also filling up. Once again I did the 90% fill up. Maybe 95, I knew it would be the last meal there so I enjoyed. There were so many choices I got a little of almost every thing.
 
From there it was back to the hotel to make ready for our early evening flight back home to Osaka. It was nice the flight was not too late and it was only a little over 2 hrs. Seats were tight with no leg room. Still I was able to sleep most of the way, by the time I was getting too uncomfortable the flight was over.
 
It was a good trip. lZ said she had no interest in going back the food was not as great as she hoped for. Japan had more variety. For me it was great . Japan is not so great for vegetarians. I did get a website that list Veggie places all over. Some not too far from us, but still some travel involved.
 
Would I go back, hmm yeah, if I could get a good flight price and hotel rate. Also with a purpose. Like a retreat with the Chan group, or a Kyudo seminar, something like that. I still like feel and sights of Japan better. If there was a Tai Chi Mantis sifu or Chen Tai Chi teacher there in Taiwan that would push me into a visit sooner than later. I heard there maybe be a Kyudo Seminar there, maybe that will be my return reason…it is up to the Dao. If God be willing nd the Bombs don’t fall.
Oh, if you wish to see the photos…click here X
 

Sixty something…

Sixty something, wow…

Wow, I did it. I beat my own personal best record for trips around the sun…that I know of. Go me! Hahaha. Yeah, it was that time of year, “Hime” and I had our birthdays. It has been about 20 years, but I still miss her. My Akita named Hanako Hime., we had the same birthday! That really makes it a special day.

I had wanted to spend part of my day sailing. Go down to Snafkin, have lunch then sail back. However The boat I wanted was in use that day for a class, so. Out of luck sort of. It was not a day as I planed but I still made it work…

Otherwise it was just another sun trip for me. Although this is the year I really understood, “time is almost up”. Beside the fact it could be so, as I write this. I am though just speaking about our limited “vision” of our time. I spent the day quietly in meditation. 🙂 sounds very monkish ne?!
Well, in a meditative state would be closer. I was up at 6:00 am, I wanted to get to the shrine, before the heat! 
 
It was a peaceful scene at the shrine, mornings are extra nice. I took in the calm of the morning and the vision of what had changed since my last visit. The clearing was larger, a tree gone, the boulders moved. I adjusted my spacial sense and made my plan. I would practice first then, do some blowing Zen for the Shinto spirits.
 
I stretched a bit, and absorbed chi and the pleasure of muscles being awakened. I started with some Chen taiji, wanted to feel a sense of quiet power to set the tone for my day. I followed those with Hing Yi, some Mantis and sword work. I had some ideas of how using the could work and blended some moves, ideas, principles from Mantis, Kali, and Shaolin and so was born : The Tao of Shaolin Chan Lohan Flute. In Japanese Shorinji Zen Rakan Shakuhachi Do. Sounds kinda cool ne!? I was just messing around, a joke. Still sort of fun to say I have created my own system, style as it were. It reads well, even though there will never be any students of Shorinji Zen Rakan Shakuhachi Do. My martial art legacy .
 
Ok, so back to real stuff…
About the time I was finished practicing the mosquitoes came out. When I first arrived I tried to light a mosquitos coil thing. I could not get the lighter to work. I figured it was the Shinto spirit saying, ohhh no, not here! So I did not push it. I took a few pictures, a grandpa’s birthday, then I was going to play flute. I got a few in, my sister-in-Law posted them on her FB page. Captioned my Brother-in-law. The unspoken part was the weird old grandpa! Hahahahah
The Mosquitos increased their attack and numbers. I thought to the Shintos Spirits well you guys don’t want me to kill here then you should keep them (the mosquitoes )at bay, WTF! Even with no smokey stuff they are dying from me splatting them. Nothing is changed. Ok, screw it, I went for the smoke thing again, thinking it will keep them away not kill them. I got the lighter to work, I tried to light a coil, it would not ! After several tries it did , burned a couple of seconds then went out. Several times of this a gave up. Ok ok I get it, I say to the Shintos!
 
I tried to practice then to shakuhachi. I was being attacked by a horde of mosquitoes. Ok ok, I am out of here. Done! I bowed and left the shrine grounds.
 
I walked back home, and needed to jump right in the shower. I was hot, sticky, and bitened. After a nice shower with some Dr. Bonners lavender castle soap I was feeling refreshed. I started my regular day from there, Zazen, short chant, breakfast.
 
From there on it was pretty much like that, a bit of this and that a lot of shakuhachi playing, some other instruments, some gardening, a movie and nice NAP! Pretty much a cruising day. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings of gratitude. With the thoughts of aging came some goal settings for next year, and five. All personal achievement stuff except for becoming a modern Komuso. An Active, engaged practice. That is really more of my Buddhist path direction, ministry, something for the world, rather than something just for me, like getting that Yon-dan status. So I am feeling pleased to have gotten some sense of a spiritual life direction, I lost that with the Zenamaran and have just been re-centering, seeking a course.

The day full thoughts and gratitude had very little, if any thoughts on how to make money in my senior years. My wife would not be happy about that. I should be more thoughtful of that as I see the world change and the sands of time drop. Logically I should be very concerned, my working years I spent concerned and lost it all. Now aging, wiser(?), why do that again…all my possessions can fit in one room, rely on only the Universe as my support. So far it has worked for these years. Basically I am just along for the ride.

吹禅 – Lohan Shaolin Shakuhachi


Lohan Shorin Shakuhachi

 
My two-year of formal shakuhachi study was last month. I have yet to make my annual anniversary pilgrimage. It is coming though. I did have a small one of sorts. Rather unplanned.
 
I finished learning my second traditional Shakuhachi song this week. Golden week here in Japan. It was a struggle for me. The first two days I spent in pain and a numb mouth from dental work. Which was just hours before my scheduled Skype Lesson. I believe I already said this on my last post. So I will not again, if not, just imagine, numb mouth shakuhachi class. Next two-day a cold! Anyway, I persevered. My fellow Zen path follower was kind enough to teach me the song I needed to do a day with a Komuso upcoming later this month. I am grateful for the help to make the trip possible. Now I need practice! 
 
So any-who, I decided on Friday the weather was great, I was feeling almost 100% normal…for me. I make the choice to go out, get some practice in, some fresh air, some exercise. One of the things, that stuck me holding the shakuhachi was its feel as a weapon, having a martial art background. I read that some of the old Komuso, being former samurai also felt the connection with the shakuhachi as a weapon and they at time used it as such. With that in mind I had been thinking about training with it with a different mind-set. In my shaolin studies, we have a short staff “form” or kata as it is called in Japanese. This lends itself well to use of the shakuhachi as a a short staff. However, i was thinking more in terms of sword. I have a Tai Chi sword form I am re-learning, this I felt would be perfect for use with a shakuhachi instead of blade. In Japan I can not freely go out and practice with my swords as in the states. So I use a cane, or a collapsible sword or cheap meal. Both work , but lack a feel, which I am sure is a mental thing. I decided, practicing with a shakuhachi would give the practice a different feel, something unique. A different feeling than with a sword, but also different from a fake sword. That would be part of my practice for today. Physical, mental, spiritual, audio. Formless and form. I could also Practice Kali with the shakuhachi. But really unnecessary due to the nature of Kali. Also the limits of a two-part Shakuhachi. None of the training is really suitable for a two piece shakuhachi, however the Tai Chi jhian form is the least of being chanced harmful to the shakuhachi.

So I have my plan. Go to the temple grounds near our home. This is my favorite temple in the area, Chokei-ji. The grounds over look the area . I can see to the Osaka Bay from over by the large Bell, which is next to the grave yard. The place is usually quiet. I can practice some of the faces of Chan, in peace. Movement, stillness, sound, as well as take a few photos. Practice my photographic art. I wonder sometime from something LZ said if people think I like posting pictures of myself on FB. Really I have started being able to separate myself as the model and as me. The model is just there, because I need a subject or as part of the subject really more a prop. My photos are more about the shot than about me, or a graphic to support the story.

Off I set on the bike heading for the temple grounds. It is about a 10-15 min bike ride to the grounds. Then there is a climb of 100 steps to reach the main ground. It is said that a wish is granted after climbing the 100 steps at the main entrance. I also feel a charge going up the steps , then passing through the entrance gate with the two spirit guards on the sides. I am guessing the entrance is very very old from the looks of it.

 
I make the upward passage to the entrance, I bow and enter. Today I am being extra respectful as I have a motive from coming. I go to the main temple and to the incense burner and forever candle. I light a stick of incense I brought with me. I pass my Shakuhachi through the smoke of the incense after a small thanks of gratitude for the use of the grounds. Next to the altar and bell. I made an offering , bowed, small prayer. Now I felt I could do my practice, after giving respect to the spirits.
 
I went over to the large bell and changed my clothes. There I took few shoots, and practiced Tai Chi, hand and sword sets. Then I walked around a bit and took some more shots I thought would be interesting and fun. There were some that thought would be great, but I did not want to walk on certain parts of a pagoda, it did not seem proper. I was made more aware of that when I visited the Kyudojo in Kamakura and I was stopped from walking on an area near a prayer spot. This was also in my mind from watching the visitors there today. The pagodas had some meaning as they prayed at them. So I figured the best way is to avoid possible lost of face. I grabbed a few shots from here and there , changing my on some planned shots.
 
I picked a spot overlooking the main grounds and had lunch among the rocks. I was not sure if I should be eating there so I kept a low profile. Afterwards, I played the Shakuhachi songs I felt fit the place. One was the new song I am learning. My Sensei said when I go to visit temples, the amount that I have learned is proper and enough to pay as a “gift”, offering. I also played the new song I was just taught. I did not play long but what I felt was enough. Then just sat for a bit before making ready to go home.
 
This day was the first I had ever seen any of the temple staff. A couple were out doing gardening, another couple went in and out of the housing area. I watched them closely to see if I was doing something wrong. I was pretty much ignored the whole time.
After I had finished my audio shakuhachi practice and was packing my stuff. I did not think I was playing that loud, or noticeably. I thought I was pretty on the “under”. Someone came out of the housing area, a woman, on her way to someplace else. She looked over at me directly and did a small bow. I did not notice at first, she did it again, I returned the bow, she left.

Mind shift

Mind Shift

 
I am getting to embrace the temporal mind matter shift concerning, not only my Kung Ku but Kyudo as well. At least so it seems now. Things change, including my idea, because I am open to learning.
 
More and more I have been cross circuiting Tai Chi and Kyudo. When doing Tai Chi, I recall I need to do this or that, when doing kyudo, or just being aware of carrying to much tension in one muscle group or another. Stretching the spine. It works the same Kyudo to Tai Chi. Recalling I tend to carry to much tension in my shoulders when doing Kyudo, I make a point of relaxing them more doing Tai Chi. I was surprised the first couple of times how much I was carrying even in Tai Chi.
 
I have been going through some mind trips about my Kung Fu. My Shifu would say to me at times, as you are carrying on the linage…blah blah blah. So I have always felt some kind of responsibility to teach. In a way to pay back my teachers for their efforts. Sometime which came for free. I felt a “duty” to teach. Of late I have been thinking more on the lines of, I should think of this more as a gift to me, for my use, my health, my spirit, part of my practice, for my practice. Not to be concerned about teaching or feel guilty if not. I am not just wasting if I am putting it to use, in some form or another. I suppose thinking logically I am the main priority for it’s use. My health. If I am not healthy, sick, weak from not doing my physical, “Form”, movement Chan, and doing it can can help then, I am wasting the gift, several in fact. That is the thing I need to not let escape me, not the teaching.
So much I can spend time on self-improving. I had stopped trying to improve and was just maintaining. It can be easy to fall into that mode when one is not training with a teacher. I had a classmate also a sifu, say yeah, everyone once in a while we need a kick in the pants as a student to keep moving. Also at this age, this maybe one of the things Ling Sisuk told me about at reaching this age. Another challenge to one’s motivation is not having any peers, classmates. I am really just out here on my own. I can be difficult, It takes more discipline I think to hold the course. I do ok, but I can do better. I have to bring back more priority to my “Fu”, “Motion Chan” use that more as a training aid for Kyudo. They can support each others and me. I kind of felt as a teacher, as a Lohan Priest it is selfish of me to focus only on myself and not seek students, but, as I said before the Universe puts us where we need to be, for whatever reason. Sometimes that reason is right in your face…
If there is a student(s) who is in need of me, the universe will bring him/her to me. I will no longer “trip” on it. another case of I am where I am suppose to be. In a way it was kind of like being attached to passing a Shinsa instead of just improving one’s self. As said in Zen, “the answer is within”, seek within not without. That also means motivation, the prize. Find it within…
 
I have been putting more effort back into my Kung Practice as a solid part of my overall “practice”, like part of daily meditation. When I was working with the city I did some warmups before going out on the truck. I have started Taiji/Hsinyi before going in now to the boatyard, unless it is raining. Training like this is good as well for Kyudo. I notice this or that position in Tai Chi gives balance, strength, pressure to this or that when doing Kyudo. More so using some of the weapons. The control of the muscles in detail. Kyudo is big on details. I am starting to understand true cross training.
 

One of the things I wanted to do when we moved on here was to have a wooden dummy setup in the yard for my practice use. That did not work out space wise when LZ added the a/c heater, with the blower right in the front yard space where I was going to put the dummy. That stopped that.

Just recently with this new influx of training ideas, the dummy has come up again. I have figured a spot for it , inside in the laundry area. Perfect, day or night, rain or shine, I will have a practice partner…sort of. Now to just figure the how of getting one in Japan, without it costing a small fortune. At least to me. I will give some meditation time to planing on building my own. I have seen it done, with varied workable results.

 Another thing I need to get on is improving my Japanese, it is a big deal to advance now. That is also needs to be part of my training. That will advance me in other areas here as well as with the music field…yosh

On such a winter’s day


This n that….on such a winter’s day.

 
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I have been looking forward to going to Kamakura. A visit to the Engakuji, not just to see the old Zen temple ground but to see the Kyudojo. Dream perhaps dare to dream of a chance to shot there. We have friends from the states that moved nearby, so besides visiting the Great Buddha we were going to hang out a bit with them.
 
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LZ has made the arrangements we are set for April! It will just be a short stay , but even with the disappointment of the Kyudojo at Engakuji, the trip will, be interesting a short pilgrim for me to the Zen Temple. 
Oh, what’s that I did not tell you about the disappointment of the Kyudojo ? Well, I had Lz do some research and ask a few questions about the Dojo. It turns out it is there and anyone can view it from the outside. The club itself has changes as the an old priest who ran it passed away. The new priest does not do Kyudo. The space it rented out to a private club, not taking new members. Sounds like the shrine I tried to join when I first arrived in this area. They, the temple staff, say they do not know how to get in touch with the club. Of course that is BS , but I get it. Oh well. Another life item to be viewed with non-abiding awareness. The Great Buddha I just want to see for the photo op and say I been there, kind of thing.
 
So yeah , it will be fun seeing our friends. It has been awhile.
 
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Shakuhachi,
Recital next week, I know the piece but not by heart. I still have a week to focus. I have also been working on a another piece called Cho Shi. I am learning this to play with my acquaintance the Komoso in Nara. He has been kind enough to offer me the extra gear, hat, sandals, etc, I need to be a kumoso for a day. I was able to score a plain black kimono. I need to learn the piece now. I am slowly getting it. I will be able to focus more after the recital. Also not having a Yon-dan shinsha staring at me will help. This will come I think shortly after the Kamakura trip…or before. Which will be in April.
I was pleased to find out Golden week is in May, so I may make it to the Kyoto Tai Kai this year.
 
Waterworld
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The weather has really sucked down at the marina as of late. That is hail in the picture above this.
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However it is good to have the couple of days work. More so since the City Park work has dried up for the season. Working inside the boat on some bad weather days , really reminds me of my own boat owning past. The rain on the cabin, the sway of the boat, the comfort of a heat small space. Watching the boats through rain streaked glass, in the marina dance with the waves. I wonder some time will I ever own again. I have noticed a pattern with things I have “owned”. They all go away. My clock is running out, as has my build-able income. Yet, one must stay open to gifts from the Universe, because one never know what the tides will bring.
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Kung Fu dharma world is once again quiet. Not surprising, disappointing but not surprising. This is a different world here, and I am in a way different area. Anyway it is ok, I still keep my feelers out, but return to having my practice for me, improving me. It seems selfish when I say it like that but, that is reality. Use this knowledge and training to keep me healthy and supported in my other practices…
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Music, Chan/Kung Fu study, Kyudo, these are part of what I wanted for my retirement years. So I am mostly there and I am indeed feeling blessed to be able to do this. More so with the oncoming darkness of the Trump years ahead. I am missing the sailing part, but I also have that sort of since I can borrow a boat from Aoki Corp if I want a day sail. So mostly just missing doing ceramics. I ant at some point get back into doing some clay-work, however Kyudo is my big challenge right now. Even though Shakuhachi, is also and will most likely give me more payback as far as actual use. Kyudo remains my big challenge. So mostly things are as I hoped for in Japan, it is rare anything turns out just as one plans, but in life like sailing , one can not control the wind, but one can adjust your sails.
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Anyway with approach of winter all one can do is hold on to their inner light as long as they can have faith in whatever one believes in, even if is just duct tape. Then see what the universe has in mind for you.
 
…for now, it’s winter