Category Archives: Connection

Walking with G’d

B”H

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge. They become aware of their own vulnerabilities, their nakedness, and see to cover it up. When G’d calls them forward, they are afraid, and hide, instead of walking with Him.

I had a chance to share this story with some Aikido students of mine, where I explained that the great tragedy here is not that they ate from the tree of knowledge (face it, they didn’t know any better), but that they hid instead of owning up to it, and were afraid to walk with G’d when he called. I ended saying “Do not hide. Bravery is when you realize you are weak, but still say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done, and in so doing, walk with G’d.”

I see the students weekly, and through the medium of Aikido teach trust and respect. One of the teachers has taken an interest, and helps in class.

This teacher recounted what happened last Sunday. Sunday is their off-day. No classes, and teachers will take them out of the orphanage to eat a boxed lunch and to see a museum or have fun outside. It was proposed that they go to a certain museum. One of the students, C.C.., said he did not want to go, and would not say why.

“Then offer up an alternative.” said the teacher. C.C. offered no alternative. “Then if you don’t say why you don’t want to go, the other students will go, and I can take you back to the school [the orphanage] to do homework.” Yet this still did not satisfy him, and his gloomy silence persisted over lunch, which C.C. refused to eat.

Finally, the teacher said. “Have you forgotten what [the Aikido teacher] said? ‘Do not hide.'”

And C.C. said without tears or agitation that the museum was the last place where he had seen his grandmother and his father, and the place where his father had abandoned him.

And the teacher asked “Do you think, being brave enough to say this, that you are also brave enough to go to the museum?” And C.C. said “I think it is worth a try.”

But it came to be that the time had passed where they could go to the museum that day, so the teacher said “It’s already afternoon, so we’ll play some badminton instead of going to the museum today, but next time, you can tell us you want to go, we will all go together.”

[… and so doing walk with G’d.]

My student is growing up 🙂 Also, what a great teacher she was, to have persisted in asking for the answer.

Psalm 19:8-10

The Torah of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The mitzvoth of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them righteous.

Because I have shared the mitzvah of studying the Torah, I have participated in this story.

Every mitzvah counts.

Why did I start reading the Torah? Because I missed Chabad Japan (www.chabadjapan.org Donate!). After many years of living away from Japan and not studying the Torah with Chabad Japan, I tried to find some people to study with, but was dissatisfied with their interpretations, but what could I do but study by myself? This led to finding commentaries online, to studying with my family, and to sharing the story of Genesis 3 with the children of the orphanage.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, once said that every setback is a chance to grow by spurring us to draw on untapped resources. So it was that my disappointment led to me to finding ways to study by myself. So it was that C.C. is learning to surpass his abandonment by not hiding from it.

If I have done nothing else in Taiwan, I have at least played a part in this story. Yet after hearing this story, I begin to see possibilities, and that there is so much more to do.

We are living in the time of the redemption, where there are many tools by which we can amplify good. Every mitzvah counts. May we through our actions shine the light of lovingkindness out into the world. May we thus make the world more joyous and habitable. May we not fear that our shortcomings will prevent us from doing so. May we direct our attention and energies outwards as G’d bade Adam and Eve. May we make straight the road for the Messiah. And may He come quickly in our time.

Briefly Joyful

Aikido practice, in Japanese, is called keiko, which can also be translated as “meditating upon the elders.” Today was the first practice of the spring semester at Taiwan University for me. I practiced with the teacher. It was a strenuous practice. He told me later – “thank you – the more I teach, the less I practice – the older I get, the weaker my body gets.”

“It happens to everyone.” I said.

As I folded my hakama, I thought about the elders – all those who came before. All my old teachers who were once young. The teachers before them, who have passed. Once, I wanted to lean Aikido to be strong and to be able to fight. Now, it is enough for me to be connected to this stream of history, and for me to use it to develop and maintain my body.

Much of the jazz music I listen to is by musicians who have passed on.
Many of the books I read are by authors who have passed on.

Jazz, aikido, dance, food, sleeping, then waking with coffee. I love all of this. How could I ever give it up? But there have been many before who felt the same way. All of us, briefly joyful.

Intersection of Dreams

People come and go.
For love of music, we are here.
Tomorrow we go back to fight it out with the world.
Home gives us strength and love.
Let us shelter each other here for a song.
Simple in giving.
We give each other this dance.
From different places.
To different places.
Here now together at a beautiful and fragile intersection of dreams.

Labels

Supporters of Donald Trump see themselves as reasonable people. They take instances of the extreme left, label it liberalism, put all liberals together there, and then say, that’s not who we are.

Liberals need to be careful that they are not doing the same thing with conservatives.

It’s time to stop name-calling, time to talk about issues and their effects. Time to remember democratic principles of non-violence for which Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Once summed up by my Psychology teacher Mark Cunningham has the One Asshole Rule: if the other guy is being an asshole, let there be only one asshole.

言少卻談深

「你跳的,少一個東西。」她說。
「少個什麽?」我問。
「少個身體的帶動。感覺上你用手,沒用動身體 。」她師範帶動了幾步。
「了解 。」
「只是一個小推薦。」
「沒有,我覺得很好。」

其實彼一日不順。朝畫趕忙,心情浮漂,足未落地,而果動作比平小。吾覺確如吾友所言。且吾友又能短時內覺得,並提改方之意。

心與體行。心者現於體,體亦響於心。 吾友覺吾作之異,是不只覺得吾心態,且示調之之道。

言少,卻談深。

Listening

To listen is to close the mouth, open the ears and eyes, and to see. It is to quiet the mind, to breathe and dwell in this moment, to study what is before you, as well as the breathing and sensation of the body you inhabit. In doing so, to touch the oneness from which things were born.

In this silent breath there is not only receptivity, but also action.

Zhuangzi wrote that the experienced butcher hardly needs to sharpen his knife because its edge moves through the spaces between the bones. From the parable「包丁解肉」the butcher says:

方今之時,臣以神遇而不以目視,官知止而神欲行。依乎天理,批大郤。

“Now, I see with the spirit and not my eyes. My senses and thoughts stop – I move with the spirit. In line with nature, I cut in the big spaces.”

In Japanese, “to ask,” “to listen,” “to effect,” and “to be effective” are the same word.

聞く、聴く、効く、利く

When we quiet our minds, perception and action become two aspects of the same thing, just as we breathe in and out.

Communion

This is a picture this morning of a tree growing from the fourth floor of an apartment near where I live. Note the person on the ground, for scale. I have a line of sight to this tree every time I enter or leave my apartment.

20160628-004116a

Not a bush. A tree. Apparently, despite my walking by that apartment every day for the past half year, I had not looked up.

Yesterday I had martial arts and dance practice. I was so happy going home that I must have been looking up. Walking differently, carrying myself differently

How simple is the communion of two people engaged in Aikido or dance. It is pure individualized giving – irreducible, clear, truthful, creative, playful, and utterly fleeting. For a time, we can raise each other up to where timing and place are perfect, where mind and body are one, and help each other to be better, fitter, happier people.