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.

愛・関心・共鳴

愛とは個を超えること。

関心とは意識を伸ばして、個を超えて、自分の心を他の人のと結びつく。相手の立場から物事を考えること。

共鳴とは他との境を越えて、相手と一緒に反応すること。あいてのこころが鳴っているのを聞こえてないと、共鳴するか。心が静かてなきゃいけない。

愛の気持ちを育てるには、意識を伸ばして、心を静かにするのだろう。

黒田鉄山による受身

8:03 投げられて受身を取ると言うんじゃないですね。体を痛めるから受身を練習するのじゃないんですね。柔術の場合は相手に投げさせて、自分が回って行っちゃうんですね、先に。で、相手に返し技をしたり、崩したり、その隙に腹を切って行ったり… 投げられたから、負け、そういうルールはないですね… かと言って自分勝手の速さではだめですね… 相手がいるわけですから相手に合わせて。

8:03 不是被摔而受身。不是因為要避免受傷而練受身的。柔術的受身是讓人摔自己,再自己先滾出去。然後做返技阿,破勢阿,趁空隙切腹對方的腹部阿。被摔而輪了這個概念是沒有的。然而不是按隨意的速度滾出去。因為有對手,所以要配合。

8:03 Ukemi is not about being thrown. Avoiding injury is not the point of practicing ukemi. In Jujutsu, one let’s one partner throw, and rolls away of one’s own accord. In doing so, reversing the technique on one’s partner, disturbing his posture, or cutting his abdomen in the opening that results. It is not that one loses because one is thrown – there is no such rule. Yet, it is not that one takes uke at just any speed. There is a practice partner. One must move with him.

Shimokawa Sensei of Lihue Aikikai once taught me something similar when I had the honor and fortune of training with him for an hour one-on-one. It was back when I was in the habit of resisting technique. Throughout the practice, he would perform techniques with greater vigor when I resisted, since the more the recipient resists, the easier it is to apply joint lock techniques like Shihonage. Most of the time, the lesson was non-verbal, since the more I resisted, the harder I fell. Sometimes, it was verbal, like “if you resist here, this becomes an opening for an elbow break.”

六月我因日本朋友來而請假, 陪他們在迪化街散步. 路過在執行藝術展的一棟樓. 走入看到有兩個學生坐在一間茶屋裏在飲茶. 她們看到我就出來解釋作品.

作品名叫「圄」. 圄字意「吾於框中」. 感到压迫時, 常因自己作了個圍牆而把自己置於內. 命品為「圄」是希望碰到該樣心況時能借此茶屋學個不同的看法. 是把自己置於不同的框子而找所処難況的出口.

作品制造者是銘傳學建築部的四名女子大生. 她們為了作茶屋和倒茶的研究, 去了農場, 由摘葉至烘焙學了制茶的流程. 又學了茶屋建築的歷史同應用. 甚至門框的高低. 日本的茶屋門框矮, 以使人低頭入屋. 銘傳大學生的茶屋亦該樣.

我及四個日本朋友, 加銘大的學生, 坐入茶屋, 賞飲茶. 話提講到茶, 天氣, 來自的地方, 要去的地方,  有時不談而賞微風股, 讓我覺得我回到人類的基本. 沙漠裏遊牧民在遠行中入當地包裏亦會聊般的. 學生招待我們飲茶, 我們共同取靜, 除之外暫無地位, 對屋主的儘力招待感謝.

四泡茶, 約二十分鐘後, 我和我的日本朋友出去, 継續逛街. 後來逛到無時間食午餐. 朋友說還好有幾會於茶屋取靜, 否則最後感情會漂浮.

送好朋友上車去機場後, 我回到藝術展再和學生欱茶. 那時, 有一位中年女氏也一起欱. 她一直不停地講哪裡買了房屋, 哪裡旅遊過, 親戚在國外的那裡住, 房子有幾坪. 她很好意地想要分享她的経驗, 但是我覺得還是大學生人格較大, 不必借財物地位講話. 不只是那樣, 自己周圍置的財物及地位會擋住她是視野, 阻止她和其他人溝通. 今世的社會勸我們更專業化, 鋪設條漂亮的路而寫履歷書, 賺更多錢. 但我常覺得那樣不過是給自己做個圍牆, 把自己放在裏面.

大學生的熱心的招待不是為著爭地位或爭錢, 而純是為著要斟一杯好茶. 那樣全面地研究, 純心地執行,讓我感動. 但願那些大學生可以継續那樣純真的.