Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Q & A

Walter sent these questions with greetings from Germany and asked that they be brought to Sensei:
I have often been asked by kyunin of schools other than ours why we put the second ya in front of us and lean it against the knot of the hakama. I have seen this only in a very old demonstration movie of Honda Toshizane. How did this develop and why? Which is the japanese expression (term) for this? Are there tales around this custom?

Sensei spoke at length after hearing these questions. What follows is an attempt to capture the essence of what he said.

First he spoke of this as a way to remember the quality of our beginners' hearts.  He made reference to the manner in which we call our groups together (by pounding the wooden han with a mallet). This call brings us together and signals the beginning of settling into meditation practice. These qualities he likened to the ya positioned in front of us, as per the question. In other words, he paralleled this with having the effect of settling our hearts into practice and the sense of working as a group, not just following one's own rhythm or idea. Likewise, when the wooden clack signals the end of practice, we stop whatever we are doing and prepare to close.

Sensei also mentioned that the ya in this position mirrors stability, balance and alignment. It exemplifies the fact that the body does not sway to the left, right, back or front. He said however, that the deeper answer as to why this is done cannot be conveyed well through words and who can say what is a lie and what is true? Sensei did not offer history or stories and felt that too much discussion would likely lead to confusion. He indicated that kyudo is not about defeating people or making money or fame. A good practice of the seven coordinations void of excessive striving brings us deeper understanding. He extended an invitation to come to Boulder and share in this type of good shichido practice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

From Sensei

"Anytime my health is going well, I feel it is due everyone else's power. Truly, thank you! I'm ninety years old and enjoying a wonderful life. Please send my wife your aspirations, too, so that her health can increase. It would not be possible for me to live this way on my own. Again, I thank each and every one of you for all of your efforts and kindness."

New Addition - a message from Carolyn

Sensei says of this: "Kan in ashi bumi."

Well...we were not actively (or even inactively) looking for a dog. Kan is a one year old rescue who came to us via the gentleman who cuts our hair. On Tuesday, as we were having our haircuts, he explained the situation. He has two dogs of the same crossbreed. A friend of his bought one, then had to relocate to New York and left the dog with him in the hopes that he could find him a new home. He's been on the lookout for the right situation for the last six months, emphasizing that, although three dogs were a bit much for him, he was very taken with this animal and refused to let him go to just anyone.

Relegating the story to salon banter, I didn't give it a second thought until it resurfaced in my mind about three hours later. By six hours later, I was strangely convinced this dog belonged with us. I tentatively presented the idea to Sensei over dinner, ready to let it go if he thought otherwise. (We had discussed getting a dog about six months ago and both quickly nixed it.) He started to say 'No', then paused mid-sentence, sat quietly and said, "Maybe, very good idea."

In the car after picking him up, Sensei named him, "Kan, as in 'Kanjuro'."

He's a one-year-old schnoodle (cross between a schnauzer and a poodle) and very mellow, but playful if you want to be. He's one of the most easygoing beings I've ever met. Even our parrot instantly relaxed with him in the house. If anyone had asked me two weeks ago if I'd find having a dog more relaxing I would have said, "Are you out of your mind?" But, as it turns out, Kan is taking care of us. A real plus that, being a schnoodle, he doesn't shed at all. He is gentle inside and out, very perceptive and apparently easily trainable (a mark of this crossbreed). Also, he came with a built in anytime dogsitter, as our friend who gave him to us has said he will happily care for him whenever we are away.

Perhaps our neighbor, Matt Zimmer, said it best: "Kan's hair is the same color as Sensei's. And they have the same eyebrows."

And, about having him in the house, Sensei simply says, "Good feeling."

Kan is not actually a lap dog, but he's been pretty amenable to anything we ask.

Enjoying the deer.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sensei today

Spring is in the air here in Boulder,
and new leaves are bursting forth with fresh energy.
This is the image that best captures for me
what if felt like to share Sensei's presence
in the Iba today.

He's vibrant...

and leading the way to new growth.

Sensei today: A-OK!

(This photo was taken as Sensei was leaving the Iba.
Moments later, drops of rain turned to a hailstorm
covering the ground in lovely white
pellets of much-needed moisture.)