In The Aikido and Zen Dojo:
Gratitude, Idealessness and Non-attachment

gratitudeThe concepts of gratitude, idealessness and non-attachment may seem self-explanatory. But we will understand their true significance in the context of modes of mind.

Never forget the singular goal of Zen Aikido training.  Open your eyes to the reality of an unfettered mind. And the fact is, all of our minds work essentially the same way. While it is true that we don’t all have the same thoughts, we all do have the same modes of mind. And these modes haven’t changed in tens of thousands of years. This is why Zen practice is as relevant today as it was when it started to take shape fifteen hundred years ago.

Heaven and Earth and the Bridge Between

In the pursuit of the unfettered mind, heaven and earth are common images. In this case, earth is not for the living, heaven is not for the dead. Heaven and earth are the two major modes of the mind. Earth manifests as a mode of self-centric activity. And heaven manifests as a mode of transcendent activity. And in most traditions that use these images, there is often one more image – that of a bridge between the two.

Sitting zazen and seeking true relaxation within the framework of a Zen Aikido training give us the opportunity to experience first-hand these two modes of mind. We experience both earth and heaven. And, for those Zen Aikido students who know what to look for, practice also provides an experience of the bridge in-between. Being lost in a multi-dimensional self of thoughts and wants and needs is to live within the domain of earth. When thoughts stop and the mind and body fall away, leaving a transcendent self, we live within the domain of heaven. But how do we get from earth to heaven?

We cross the bridge.

And the simple fact is – a fact that you will one day dwell on and with persistence will fully understand –

that a feeling gratitude is the most reliable way to get your butt onto the bridge, maintaining idealessness sets your direction toward heaven and non-attachment keeps you moving forward.

Manifesting Gratitude, Idealessness and Non-Attachment

In zazen we are grateful for the line of teachers who have made this moment possible. Therefore, within an Aikido technique, we are grateful for the kindness and sincerity of our attacker. Our Zen teachers have passed along well-tested teachings and practice methods. Our attackers aid in our effort to confirm the nature of true relaxation. Now we have this feeling of gratitude and we embrace of idealessness.  And so, we are only left with one hurdle in crossing the bridge from earth to heaven. We are left with the hurdle of attachment.

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