Growth Through Subtraction

  In the US, we have an independent mindset that defaults to  “Yeah, but why should I?” Why should I obey this stupid law? Why do I have to step back instead of sideways? Why, when I begin a martial art, do I have to do all this bowing to everybody? Once we are convinced…

To See a Tree: Lessons from the Deadly Table

“I was having panic attacks,” Adele explains to the dinner party gathered at the local brewery.  Around that large, high table we appear like ordinary people, but really, we are something of a secret anomaly — eight individuals, all with black belts in Aikido, ranging from second- to fifth-degree. Collectively, we represent around 180 years…

Falling for It

“My ex-wife chose the paint colors,” Trebb explains as we set food and silverware on the dining table. He must have seen me eyeing the odd pastel yellow, blue, and green. Although the yellow leans too close to chalk and not close enough to daffodil, the overall color scheme is as charming as Easter candy…

When I’m Ninety Six

As the milk for my morning’s cappuccino was frothing, I tore off yesterday’s page from our daily Zen calendar. Today’s quote was brief: “Practice thirty more years”. Last night I went to the first session of a beginners’ class that Michael was teaching. He called me up before the group to demonstrate a technique, then…

So Glad I Stayed

“Dude! That is so smooth!” My uke, Tim, makes this declaration while teetering on his toes, one arm so twisted his spine bevels. He looks like a factory-faulty scarecrow. Then, I complete the technique and the scarecrow buckles, ending up belly-down on the mat. Tim laughs the whole way down. We take turns practicing the…

Remaining Mind

Zanshin translates as “remaining mind.” It does not mean the mind remains on the past or a few moments ago, or that thing you did well or poorly. It remains here and now. Zanshin also translates as “the mind with no remainder.” Divide any number by one and the remainder is zero. If you are…

Know Your Limitations

Face down. Prostrate on my belly. With my head turned to one side, one cheek smooshed and spread like a pancake on the griddle. That’s where I was when I confronted a demon. The nage who had just whirled me down to the mat was now trying to master an immobilizing (but not deliberately painful)…