Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

Aikido’s Path Beyond Awakening

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Last Sunday I had the privilege of being in Gankashu training with an aikido master Utada shihan. 学習 (gankashū) in Japanese means learning or actively studying a subject. In aikido, we emphasize 修学 (shūgaku) which is beyond the superficial intellectual understanding and as a way to commit to the depth of true knowledge. 修学 (shūgaku) is similar to 修行 (shūgyō) or 修道 (shūdō) which is often used in martial arts training to describe one’s lifetime devotion to the path.

The path prior to awakening is similar to the path prior to attaining a black belt. We often aim our direction in such a way in order to achieve, to conquer, and to make the ego successful. It is not to say there’s no value in such an aim. It is just that the path after awakening is substantially different even though the outward expression of the path might hold certain similarities.

A few months into my aikido training years ago, I asked both of my senseis how long it would take for me to obtain a black belt. Back then, that was my aim. I thought if I made it to a black belt then I have made it onto the ladder of success. I remember clearly the older sensei just laughed while the younger sensei smiled and sincerely answered me in such a way that was fit for my level of understanding at the time. I could sense that I was blind to a greater knowing. I saw it on their faces that for me to even ask such a question I must only have had superficial understanding but really was essentially ignorant.

Life worked out in such a way that my sustained awakening synchronized with my training for my shodan (first degree black belt). My training partner invested in aikido mats for a home dojo where he aimed to obtain his black belt no matter what. We trained during normal class times as well as in his home dojo and by ourselves. He held a purpose to obtain just as I lost my obsession to obtain. I didn’t know what was really happening within me at the time. All I knew for certain was that I had lost the drive to ace the test, yet I still trained and trained with every ounce of my heart not at all concerned with the outcome. The interesting sensation was that I felt more truly devoted to my path without holding any agenda at all.

Samurai sword bushido - artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Samurai sword bushido – artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Utada shihan told us a story of a samurai’s search for Enlightenment. This samurai set his course to be the best. He did end up conquering and defeating even the best samurais around him yet he did not find what he was looking for. He decided that a warrior’s path cannot lead to Enlightenment so he switched his path to become a farmer. Years later still not able to find what he was looking for, he then switched his path again to become solitary and lived in a cave no one would ever find. Legends told that he never found what he was looking for.

Stories of samurais or warriors in search of one’s true path are often told in great detail and variation in many cultures.  They are all the same story in essence – a hero’s journey. Initially the hero wants to obtain skills for a grand purpose. There is much hardship and resistance internally and externally. This is symbolized as the fight, often times a duel to the death. Death is also symbolic where an old way must completely end in order for the hero to truly discover oneself. We project out our own inferior qualities onto others in the world and in such stories these inferior qualities must be “killed” in a duel so only one True warrior can live on. Unfortunately for some stories like our story of the unfound samurai, even winning the duel cannot bring a deeper understanding of Truth, Self, and  Life. Fortunately for some others, we dig deeper than just the superficial appearance and find a whole new world of being. There does come a death, more dramatic than the physical death is the death of the old, the death of our tinted beliefs, and the death of the psyche. In the physical death, the energy of the old way of being will still carry on and the psychological death does not allow any old parts to carry on – EVERYTHING must go, must be cleaned out.

The moment of awakening is the realization of “oh, I now know what I am.” Just because this realization takes place it does not mean all of our cellular memories, hardwired beliefs and reactions will shift in a single moment. The clearing out process takes time. The new neuronal network takes time to disengage and rebuild. And the new DNA transcription and new protein expression also takes time to re-educate. And these times of the post-awakening can sometimes be very clear while all of a sudden we sink into the mud again of confusion. This is because our system is rebuilding, readjusting, and relearning. Anything that no longer fits the new system will be brought to the surface, examined, and evaluated. There are times of blissful oneness followed by unshakable darkness. The path after awakening is that of purification. It does not happen by us, but it happens to us. Grace takes care of the majority of the work, we just are just along for the ride – hence 道 is written as a the “one who emerges” riding a “carriage”. Like my 初段 (shodan) is written as the beginning of a path – the road after awakening is  where the journey truly begins. This path is 修道 (shūdō) – the path of complete devotion to the life after realization.

Utada shihan shared several points through aikido to help one orient the focus in a constructive manner. These points will help aikidokas and freshly realized beings alike.

I) 道場とわ (dojo to wa)
“how to conduct oneself in the dojo environment”
In aikido, one must start from the self, once our inner space is cleaned then extend that onto our gi and into a cleansed and open space we call the dojo. This is also true for our spiritual journey. First we must hold what is realized, then embody what is realized and be what is realized. We take the realization into the world.

II) 心技体の稽古 (shin gi tai no kei ko)
“the importance of the body and mind/heart training”
In aikido, the enemy is the constantly changing and wavering mind. The wavering mind unbalances the body. A unbalanced wavering body is already defeated. In aikido, we train to unify. In our spiritual path after realization, the mind can still try to take center stage and take along the body, emotions and energy with it. The training is to become “no mind”, where movements are simple expressions from spirit not thought.

III) 二つの目付き (futatsu no me tsuke)
“two ways of witnessing”
There are two ways to witness, one way is 見 and the second way is 観.  The first way is to view something with sight. It is only a superficially physical way to witness. The second way is to deeply see and intuit the completeness of something. It is often said 観 is a deeper way of truly seeing with one closing one’s two eyes but opening the third eye and turning it inward. It is the first word in the Heart Sutra – the beginning of truly seeing. Life after awakening demands us to no longer rely on 見 but we must look inward and view life by its completeness with our own depth through 観.

IV) 伝統と継承 (dento to keishou)
“tradition and succession [of the art]”
In any type of martial arts, we base our training in the grounded-ness of tradition. Aikido is an evolved form from the way of the sword, jujutsu, and other forms of martial arts. Because of tradition there is training. Yet it does not become capped but a life-form that keeps evolving to higher and higher levels.  O sensei said in an interview: “In my opinion, [aikido] can be said to be the true martial art. The reason for this is that it is a martial art based on universal truth. This universe is composed of many different parts, and yet the universe as a whole is united as a family and symbolizes the ultimate state of peace. Holding such a view of the universe, Aikido cannot be anything but a martial art of love. It cannot be a martial art of violence. For this reason Aikido can be said to be another manifestation of the Creator of the universe.”

And that too, is the path after realization.

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Death & Rebirth, Enlightenment, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Softer Side of Spirituality

The balance of Yin and Yang has been studies and expressed throughout history in many different cultures. In this pair of Chinese Song Dynasty Scrolls, the artist used the balance of dark and white space, strong and soft composition to express both a winter scenery and a summer scenery. On the left, a lunar colder calmer quality is presented in the winter scene. On the right, a solar hotter windy quality is presented in the sumer scene. Yet in the winter scene, stronger lines, sharper angles were used to bring in a touch of yang. And in the summer scene, softer lines, more curves were used to demonstrate the presence of yin.

The balance of Yin and Yang has been studied and expressed throughout history in many different cultures. In this pair of Chinese Song Dynasty Scrolls, the artist used the balance of dark and white space, strong and soft composition to express both a winter scenery and a summer scenery. On the left, a lunar colder calmer quality is presented in the winter scene. On the right, a solar hotter windy quality is presented in the sumer scene. Yet in the winter scene, stronger lines, sharper angles were used to bring in a touch of yang. And in the summer scene, softer lines, more flowing curves were used to demonstrate the presence of yin. [Paintings from “Picturing Listening: The Sight of Sound in Chinese Painting” by Susan Nelson, University of Indiana]

As the gentle sea breeze caresses my hair, my spirit begin to dance in the wind, letting go the tough shell, exposing a softer side of an inner nature…

How often have I forgotten to melt into the wind? As part of my journey I insisted to be overly focused on fitting into a mold, following a form and in turn losing touch with the essence, the formless, the effortless way of being. So much of our spiritual teachings in existence were written by men – the solar Yang, the masculine, the protruding drive towards attainment. Yet for all of us, we all possess an inherent nature of the lunar Yin energy that is yearning to be a balanced part of our complete whole.

I love beauty. A bulb waiting to blossom can move me to tears of appreciation. I also love training, striving for more, and breakthrough my self-imposed limitations. Lately I noticed the more I strive, the less content I become. In a way, I’m training myself too forcefully that actually deviates my path away from my true Self-expression.

Enlightenment is already a part of our innate nature. The path of spirituality is really to allow that which is Realized to penetrate deeply into our everyday lives, in the way we carry ourselves, in the way we share love with one another. As we sink deeper into Awareness we touch upon a softer side of spirituality – the feminine all-acceptance non-conditional Love. In this side of the same coin where Yang resides, Yin tenderly watches over us like a mother tending to her child’s every need. Yet this Yin energy does not demand, it does not strive, it only watches us with the grandness of her love from a distance. She has no agenda of her own. She allows us to come and go as we choose. Don’t mistake this for non-caring, as she senses our every laughter, every drop of tear, and every challenge we face she is there for us through the strength of her spirit. This is the expression of Yin.

In all of us, we inherited both the Yin and the Yang. The Yang were well publicized in the form of committed actions such as structured meditation, contrived martial art movement, or even directionalized intense focus. We are familiar with such a drive and somehow we believed if we just do this or do that, we can achieve enlightenment or we will march our way towards attainment. On the other side of the coin, we often forget the quality of allowing, the carefreeness of going with the flow, following the way of nature.

I have forgotten my softer side and now she is calling out to me. Today, as I slow down from weeks of intense training, I allow myself to breathe in the cooling sea air, feeling myself wrapped in a warm blanket of Grace. I step slowly to feel every inch of grass beneath my toes. I open up myself to this emerging spring inside and out, feeling blessed to be a part of grand nature, balancing my own unique mixture of Yin and Yang. My meditation is to feel, to open, and to love.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Chinese, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , | 6 Comments

Life’s Desire within You

nature flowers

Natural desires are the most basic foundations of life. The key is to recognize what desires come from ego and what desires come from God.

There’s a saying in Chinese – 心同日月 – the direct translation roughly equates to “heart with sun and moon”. The real meaning lies beyond the metaphorical image and hints to a desire so deep so strong that it stems from the desire of nature itself.

When we speak of desire, the mind can often grasp onto ownership – asking something from life – a demand in terms of “what I want is…”; the emotions can often feel the sensations of longing – yearning for something I have yet experience – a wish in terms of “only if I can feel that…” Most of these desires come from us, the little egos – thinking “only if I have that I would be happy.”

There is another kind of desire – something more basic and more instinctual. A desert flower desires the kiss of raindrops. The crops desire the gentle gaze of sunlight. A wife desires being in union with her husband. These are the kinds of desires that stem from life itself. Such life desires are in the form of energy that creates more life, more nature. Without these desires life cannot sustain itself.

The beauty of awakening is seeing the difference between the two. The choices we made as unenlightened beings are often based on the desires of the body, mind and emotions. These choices only lead to suffering and entanglements. Then we spent much of our energy trying to untie the knots we trapped ourselves into – often with little or no success. The gift of awakening allows us to see such entanglements are counter-productive to life, we work against ourselves, against each other and against the natural flow of life. We often stand in the way of what life truly desires within us. Upon the grace of awakening we are beginning to see there is no need to fight against what is natural. We can see there is no need to protect ourselves from the illusions of fear. All is well – even these instinctual desires we might have judged in the past are really just another form of pure love. As we open ourselves more to what is true within us, we can listen more deeply, sense our 道 (Tao) more distinctively and follow the path that is uniquely meant for us.

This is when life becomes magical. We no longer require a set of circumstances to be happy, we are naturally blissful. We no longer need to own anything to feel valuable because the entire universe is throbbing within us. A sense of overwhelming gratitude arises within us without us reminding ourselves to be thankful. Things just happen not because we have set it as a goal but because we are being true to ourselves and in harmony with all that is. Life becomes a breeze. The manifestation of such desires is unique within each and every one of us.  As you might have heard, O Sensei – the founder of 合气道 (aikido) felt a sense of duty to bring-forth the art of peace into the world. He cannot NOT do it. Through his poetry he expressed the desires of the heaven so strong within him, guiding him, and later in life, the desire of the heaven became him. He became 合气道 – in complete harmony with the energy of his unique path melting into all that is…

It takes tremendous courage to recognize our untruth, our entanglements and our resistance. It takes a warrior to follow the path of aiki, letting go the desires of the ego and be in complete harmony with life itself. To follow such deep desires will undoubtedly lead you to your unique path of self-actualization.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Inner Growth, love, poetry, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

李枫 — 用艺术感染我 用经历打动我的女人

 李枫 — 用艺术感染我  用经历打动我的女人 (English Translation provided below)
Flo Li - Using Art to Invite Me, Using Experience to Impress Me










Journalist interview 1
















今天,李枫 Flo Li 再次回到中国,回到西安美术学院,就是展示她的发现,也为我们在时间和空间带来一件件值得细察和珍惜的体验。  


























Original text published on  www.TianXiaHuaJie.com/

reposted on http://blog.soufun.com/blog_26050658.htm

Translation below provided by Google Translate

Flo Li impressed me. Was not originally with her paintings, but with her unusual experience. When life gave her the darkest chapter, God let her toward another side of the door. Of course, God has given every person with pain another open door, but, some people run towards it to open that door, while some people never make a move, thinking that there is no more way out.
This is Flo Li, born in 1978 in Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts. This unique and harmonious atmosphere affected the early stages of her understanding of the world.

At 12-years old, she left with her parents to the United States. After she finished high school in the United States, has received a master’s degree in biological engineering, and held 5 patents within the professional field.

But, today, I met with her, she came as an artist.

She was born in Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts, a place where artists develop; turn out of the loop for many years, now back to the same circle. Is this the fate of the conclusion, or self-seeking? I think this is a very interesting question. Not every student graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts can become an artist, not to mention practitioners of non-art institutions; not to say that a person who did not study art cannot become an artist, nevertheless Flo Li was only nurtured by the place of Fine Arts.

  She had thought her life was very fortunate, at the age of 27, everything was beautiful, with much academic success, career success at such an early age, her professional efforts have given much material comfort. However, this young lady always ask herself: is this the life I wanted to live?

In the light of reaching humanity, she donated herself to charity. After four years of specialized training, she participated in the half ironman event. There is a great will and strength to fight within every triathlon, this event attracted the attention of the United States and around the world, and this fund-raiser proceeds was to be donated to a charitable organization to aid people in need of medical breakthroughs. Flo Li was proud of her physical strength and ability, the more she can use herself for a cause or any worthy obligations to the community made her proud.

But accidents often occur inadvertently!

Flo Li cycled downhill, in order to go beyond the competitor in front of her, she accelerated to nearly 50mph, suddenly the wheels went out of control, she plunged to the ground, unconscious.

What an unthinkable situation! Half of her face skinless, cheek bone fractured, nearly losing her left eye, with blood everywhere, and the body unable to move, and where is her heartbeat……

Some people said to have called the ambulance immediately, but the experienced rescue workers arrived in ambulance but instead said it would be too slow, the only way was to use an aircraft to left her to a big city hospital, to possibly save her life.

After the rescue, life returned, but lost too many, almost three months, she laid in bed unable to go outside. At that time, she understood the feelings of drug addicts. When she took the painkillers,there was a kind of illusion, she was under the influence of this drug, one can for the time being avoid the immediate pain, feeling a momentary pleasure. Of course, she soon realized that a deeper problem is more psychological.

An intelligent person will not allow themselves to survive in this situation long-term, she began to consider the meaning of life, considered her own fate and her responsibility to her own future. Her fingers hit the keyboard, communicated with the world with the mouse, and slowly, used mathematical chaos models with the aid of a computer to paint pictures.

That was her effort to get rid of the shackles of darkness, but also in its own mystical way to build a bright future. She knew in order to head into the future, there must be a healthy psychological support.

Three months later, a little better, she not only adhered to work, also in her spare time to study psychology and enrolled in MBA. Since then, she also used her psychological knowledge to help relief the suffering of others she encountered.

But what she prefers, is to use the computer to explore fractal art.

She found the cells under the microscope, the engineered designs of an artificial hip-joint, the eddies within a turbulent flow, are all comparably beautiful, just like the changing colors of an autumn leaf. Scholars of fractal art know that this is the form of mathematical models to resolve true natural beauty. 

Today, Flo Li returned to China again, back to Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts, one is to show her discovery, but also to share with us in time and space with all the pieces of her life experience worthy of scrutinize and cherish.

People often sigh, life is cruel. When Flo fall in that moment, life is far more cruel to her, yes, quite cruel!

But she survived, she is in the process of making peace with the cruel, God has also unexpectedly opened another door for her to walk through.

Therefore, she is the lucky one.

This lucky one. Fortunately, as we trace back to her luck, it must be that she initially lived in the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts, at that time, her neighbor was professor Zhang Xiao-qin. As she took her first steps, she always treasured her own graffiti on paper, eventually got Professor Zhang’s art instruction. And her first sketchbooks, were gifts from Professor Zhang and husband Professor Chen.

Today, Zhang once again showed up to critique her paintings, to state her views, but she also said Flo’s work, to a certain degree, enlightens herself, if discovered earlier, she could have taken her Buddha Enlightenment series art show at Famen Temple using a different tactic and a different perspective. Professor Zhang was very sincere in her remark.

In the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts Library second floor’s exhibition hall, I met Flo Li. She seemed quiet, some what physically weak. But her heart is undoubtedly strong, a tri-degree student can be common, but while this woman received five patents, that is rare. In particular, I think her experience in college, where she and her fellow students designed an auto-scan optical microscope, where one can view different layers of cellular microscopic world is also rare.

I am also a former engineering student, well aware of university invention is not so easy.

She also conducted blood analysis with hardware and software-disciplinary combination with chemical analysis. She also worked for company’s senior management to advance blood testing. Such a needed woman, but lying in bed unable to move, unable to smile into the mirror, only able to perform part of her brian’s instructions… …

Science is often helpless towards psychological suffering. The treatment of the body must rely on science. Fortunately, this contradiction of science and psychology is just a harmonizing process, in her efforts to overcome adversity, she walked on the path toward wholeness and health again.

Her fractals helped her psychologically, later became her accomplishment.

Her paintings helped many people psychologically as well, she talked about some interesting stories. For example the story of a famous lawyer and her turtles.

And we also spoke gently of the past, Flo Li suddenly jumped up like a child delighted running toward to door to greet Professor Zhang Xiao-qun, they hugged each other tightly. In that moment, both were in tears. In the following conversation, their hands were tightly held together. Speaking of art, about her childhood paintings of flying birds, blue sky and white clouds, they held onto each other, as if leaning onto each other give them both a source of power.

I was initially impressed by Flo Li’s experience. However, when viewing her art work, I found myself completely immersed in her work. As early as 10 years ago, I have collected some fractal art, and have really appreciate the work too. Today, it is fair to say that those works were more complex and expressive, but Flo Li’s work touches people different, with her ingredients inside the computer, adding a lot of warm color, inviting you into her heart.

A woman who can touch so many does not only do so with her experience.


October 12, 2011 Posted by | Chinese, Inner Growth | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Smile, Greet Chaos

Order in Chaos

Forces of nature took wind, rain, disorganized pine needles into a beautiful orderly piece of art. Organized Chaos, copyright 2011

True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.

True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless.

The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out-of-the-way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.

– Tao Te Ching ch.45

This verse came at the perfect time when my world came crashing down with so much chaos and so many uncertainties. The engineer in me felt so overwhelmed and unable to plan everything to meet the next challenge.

“Let go and let God,” I thought. I have witnessed miracles happen in the past and it can surely happen again. Just like the Tao Te Ching verse, I can shape events as they come instead of planning how to counter every possibility in advance. I can step out-of-the-way and allow God/Tao to do its work. Time after time I have witnessed chaos turning into order. This time I must step out-of-the-way for God to enter. I must have faith and trust things will work out for the best.

Alright. All that sounds too good to be true and I’m personally sick of hearing all the new age spirituality mumble jumbles. Another part of me wondered if I just wait for God and what if God didn’t even get my message asking for help? How can I sit here mediate and wait for God when my car is totaled, my body is in pain and my finance decided to take a vacation?

Could there be a middle way? That is exactly what I had to do. After been suddenly rear-ended at a traffic light two weeks ago, I rested to gain strength and clarity before moving into action again. 1) Instead of hoping the insurance company will give me a decent settlement for my car, I did a few hours of research myself to find the acceptable price range; 2) used my facebook network to find the right healthcare for my physical pain; 3) talked to friends about their experience in such accidents and collected DOs and DON’Ts; 4) kept on my eyes open for the next car of interest while allowing my dreams to guide me to a specific model; 5) researched on consumer reports, local listings to find cars within my need; 6) mediated and listened to my body and got various medical treatments from chiropractic work to somatic trauma work; 7) I reassigned clients with other service providers so everyone will be taken care of when I’m out; etc.

Once I did all the work I know I could do, the rest was up to God. The results were astonishing. 1) The insurance appraisal for my car came back to be more than I had expected; 2) I found my chiropractor, acupuncturist and somatic trauma healer all from my network on facebook; 3) I decided to take my physical pain seriously due to various recommendations of friends who still suffer in physical pain from such an accident; 4) found the Honda dealer while remembering a dream of sitting in a new Honda and finding comfort; 5) determined the new and old Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback were my top choices; 6) I work through a lot of physical pain and can move my neck again while release locked emotional trauma associated with the accident and now I’m eased myself back into aikido training; 7) my clients are taking care of and two of them even came to the house to visit me. Finally just over the weekend when I didn’t know where to get the money to purchase the new Honda CR-V I really want, my dad called and offered to help me out with the payment. The dealer called me as soon as I hang up the phone with my dad and we settled on a purchasing price lower than Costco auto quotes. By Monday afternoon, I was able to sit in my new car freshly off the shipping truck and  now all I have to do is wait for the paperwork to be completed by early next week. The best part is I have met the most sincere insurance agent and car sales woman in the history of mankind. This painful experience did not break my spirit but instead made me stronger and more compassionate.

I’m still amazed how so much chaos can be dumped on someone through unexpected circumstances. It is even more amazing how much power we have to transform chaos into order, elevate pain into enlightenment. We do not have to be enslaved by our circumstances, we can smile, greet chaos and shape events the best we can. The secret is to listen, then act, and allow. “The Master allows things to happen. She shapes events as they come. She steps out-of-the-way and lets the Tao speak for itself.” Yes, indeed. Now onto the next challenge.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Chinese, Emotional Freedom, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Aikidoka’s Shugyo

Aikido Demonstration of centerline

Aikido Demonstration of the Centerline: this centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. http://www.AikidoDelMar.com

I saw a translation of the Tao Te Ching (道德經) naming the Tao (道) as the Great Integrity. In my engineering experience the word integrity means ability to withhold structural properties. The Cambridge dictionary definition of integrity refers to the quality of being whole and complete, or the state of being unimpaired. In mechanical engineering we also stress the importance of structural integrity. In any kind of construction, we combine materials together to complete a working whole. And this working whole must withstand outside stresses being applied. If the bridge you are standing on is unable to hold its structural integrity, the whole would break apart and the bridge might crack or worse collapse.

What does structural integrity have anything to do with Aikido (合気道)? In my experience, there are three levels to Aikido integrity. First, the physical level – the strength of the body’s integrity can produce extremely effective techniques. In Aikido Shugyo, Shioda Sensei explored this effectiveness from the angle of the body’s centerline. This centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. We have seen demonstrations of a student standing on a sensei’s back leg without causing the leg to bend and the body to collapse. The strength of the body’s centerline is due to years of training where the body eventually learns to find and stays within its most productive state. For a beginner it takes longer for us to find our centerline and it is also more difficult for us to maintain it. On the other hand, a master might momentarily lose his balance yet within no time he can gain the balance back to maintain his center.

Second, the psychological level – the strength of our mind’s integrity can bring certainty into our choices and peace into our hearts.  Many of us spend hours per day planning and deciding what to do and what not to do. Many of us second guess ourselves and question if our earlier decisions were indeed the best for us. As you can see this can often bring added stress and wasted energy. According to the Harvard strategy expert Michael Porter,“the essence of strategy is deciding what NOT to do.” Basically in order know that we have made the right decision we must see that the decision does in fact align with our integrity so we can let go all the choices out of alignment with our values and beliefs. For example, I believe in doing our part to help bring-forth a green planet. Therefore I don’t spend my time looking at merchandises with extensive and unnecessary packaging and I find peace within myself by purchasing items that are green-oriented. The more I chose to be in alignment with my values and my beliefs, the easier it is to make the next decision and the more peaceful I feel.

Third, the spiritual level – the strength of our spirit’s integrity can reduce ego conflicts and cultivate harmony. Most of us have learned very early on to use our ego to manipulate or force a situation. We don’t listen to our intuitive soul urges instead we follow the logic of linear thinking. By using our ego instead of our spirit to accomplish goals, we have overlooked the fundamental reasons why we are alive. We are here to learn the right way of living that will bring-forth more love and harmony into the world as well as to cultivate our spirit to align with the longings of our soul in order to become purified into our authentic self – our natural structural integrity. Whenever we follow the demands of our ego instead of listening to the guidance of our soul, we drift further and further away from who we really are and we deteriorate inside out. The results can range from emotionally wounding ourselves and those closest to us to killings thousands of innocent people to achieve a stand of superiority. Hence it is essential to build the strength of our spiritual centerline and practice coming back to our loving nature whenever we are out of alignment.

Where does shugyo come in? In shugyo, the kanji characters are 修行. Some have translated 修 as “using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a person’s original elegance“. The combination 修行 are often translated into “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery“. To me these popular definitions have over simplified the ultimate intention of shugyo. The deeper meaning of shugyo really lies within cultivating oneself’s own state of wholeness and nature integrity while using that personal integrity to harmonize with Tao of the world.

I came across shugyo (修行) when I learned to meditate in a Buddhist temple at the age of six. We learned that shugyo is the life-long devotion to one’s Tao. It is often called kugyo (苦行) where 苦 means long-suffering. In my Chinese calligraphy training at the same time I learned to examine each part of the kanji characters to find deeper meanings. My grand-uncle the 77th descendant of Confucius showed me ways to decode the meaning within each characters as Confucius did in his study during the late 500BCs.

If we were to break down shu (修) into pieces, we will find the left side of this kanji represents one individual. The line in the center was explained to me by the head monk in the Buddhist temple as ku (苦) – the long-suffering obstacle the mind must overcome in order to find itself in harmony (合) with the origin of the Self. On the right side of shu (修) there are three layers of training to achieve purification of healing (which 修 also represents healing in ancient text). To me these three sideways lines represent the physical, psychological and spiritual levels of shugyo training.

The second part of shugyo 行 can also be broken down into parts. The left side is no longer one individual instead two people or multiple of individuals. The right side becomes 亍 which means to take small but deeply grounded steps. The whole character carries the meaning of traveling, to walk on the Tao (道 or Do). By seeing the combined effect of 行 we can tell that this traveling on the Tao no longer consists only one individual but must be achieved by sharing the journey with others. In a way, just like the principles of aikido, shugyo (修行) means first we must overcome the obstacles in order to heal and purify the self to become one’s original elegance by finding our own centerline then we can form relationships with others to combine our individual centerlines to form something even more powerful. Together, we can become a bridge that can function on a holistic unimpaired level for the goal of greater goods.

On the physical level, the development of our physical centerline will allow us to attain holistic execution of movements that results in combined energy of powerful techniques. On the psychological level, the cultivation of the mind in alignment of our truth will allow us to become less stressful and more peaceful. On the spiritual level, the purification of the self into alignment with the depth of our soul will allow us to become authentic and form impactful relationships with others. In the end, Tao Te Ching is indeed the Great Integrity and Jacques Payet Sensei is dead-on when he signed my copy of Aikido Shugyo with “Aikido is Life!”

To all the aikidoka sharing the journey of shugyo, this kind of complete devotion to our Tao is not for the faint of heart, we are walking on the road less traveled and that will make all the difference. Osu!

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Reflection on Buddha 菩萨

Fractal 艺术

Buddha by Flo Li (Fractal art on Aluminum) Copyright 2010 http://www.FloLi.com

Rough English translation of a Chinese art critic’s review

First time I saw Flo’s works, out of curiosity, I wondered why it lacked specific artistic effects. However knowing fractals are mathematically generated, I was surprised that the seemingly dull mathematical formulas can actually condense into such beautiful patterns. These particular effects cannot be replicated, the same way that each input function can create various graphics are based on boundary conditions or variable constraints. Often times these functions and constraints produce no more than discontinued numbers or out of range nothingness – which seems like a little joke to the artist when rendering the fractal – hoping for something yet finding nothing. The nature of fractals made me wonder how someone can use this media to convey the depth of feelings.

In a quiet and pleasant place this work was cautiously presented. Much to the Flo’s personal preference to this piece she carefully placed it in her bedroom and hope to connect with its energy before handing it over to a buyer. Flo spent much time producing this work and I wondered why is this work so difficult… I noticed that this piece conveys a deep idea and it is simply profound. Because of its black background, the sliver and blue/green focus precipitated out of the whole picture against that dark contract – making the work hauntingly mysterious. Her use of color was very stingy yet it is this presence of color contract of black, silver and cold blue that simplified the process of captivating the viewers’ hearts with a quite whisper of sublime kiss.

The name of this painting is called “Buddha”. Before I had asked for its name I speculated the kind of work this particular piece contributed. It has the feeling of penetrating sacredness that people long for but have difficulties grasping. After knowing the title of the work, the sacred feeling has deepened. This work conveys a highly philosophical realm. Only in this state such creation was able to blossom out of our hearts to answer our longing for God – not because it rigidly adheres to a particular shape or image but rather it generates an intuitive visual experience of inner knowing. It is this explosion from within truly expresses the sacred and the unspecified wondrous harmony that deeply haunts the spirit of all living creatures. Flo uses the specific color of cold blue to give connotation to the presence of Buddha, seemingly appropriate, as the coldness inspires us to feel the spirit within the space spanning nothingness. On the other hand, the darker blue area in the center of the work  with darker dots made me think of characteristics of a mother’s womb as it traces back to the beginning of human race. The transformation outwardness from the womb into undefined physical shapes shows where human nature was often overlooked in our current cultures and human societal laws are now bound by ball and chain into silencing the inquiring minds… The reason why the Buddha is God is because she can influence people’s hearts. In fact, the way this “Buddha” is represented is vastly different from historical images of colorful Buddha created by our minds with jewels covered shawls, mediating in the throne of a shimmering lotus, showing anger with thick brows and mercy with the flick of a finger.  The images of Buddha throughout history have been heavily based on human interpretations while artists have mistaken our egotistical creations for the source of spiritual inspiration. Therefore God must not simply be the image of anthropomorphic art. God’s true charm lies within the invisible strength where faith is precisely seeing beyond the seeing-eye to go beyond our perceptions of lack and separation and to surpass our confused minds of hardship we were addicted to pursuit. When I saw this piece of Flo’s work I realized in fact WE have been overly concerned with the appearance of things rather than the essence of things. The outward search cannot offer spiritual freedom, we must find a doorway into mental and spiritual moments of serenity in order to reach within – into the permanent peace of the mind and ease of the spirit.

Flo is a practitioner of martial arts. She pursues the Tao of Aikido in order to sense the physical, mental and spiritual condensation of divine Ki – the ball of energy within the hara that acts as a doorway to access the endless supply of our essence. When I stood quietly in front of “Buddha” I found myself unable to escape the “balloon” feeling within my center because the composition of “Buddha” have somehow evoked the life essence within me. Its spiritual nourishment metabolized into physical sentiment. In this piece, the turning of gaseous sphere around Buddha’s center produces the bodily outlines that layers around its essence symbolizing the impermanence of our appearance but what is true lies within. Just as we feel inspired, we take a breathe into nourishing the body through the spirit. The Ki-focused and body-secondaried composition also leads the viewers into the illusion of different perceptions of the Buddha without making the outer perception as the ultimate goal. It honors various visions of Buddha without adhering to the historical views and worships. In this work, Flo has clearly standardized the answer that many individuals discovered on the road to  self-awareness – elements of unseen need to be found in order to reach God. This unique form of painting gives the viewers an objective freedom of choice not only through the interpretation of the theme of such creation but also through the image of Buddha from different viewer’s own perspectives and rich cultural backgrounds.

The most magical moment this work brought forth is that the human spirit unconsciously craves the merging of the physicality of mathematics into the spirituality of arts. Fractal’s extraordinary creative method can not be planned or reproduced by the same equation as we cannot plan ahead where a mystical experience can suddenly take place. Unlike Flo’s traditional paintings, such holistic work cannot be executed by plan alone but it must rely on faith and the rarity of coincidences. In fractals, only faith is appropriate because this art form cannot be derived from our subjective metamorphosis of our ego to transfer the misconception of human will. I believe “Buddha” is special. It is pure. In fact, as long as the heart of God is still beating, “Buddha” is truly watching over us everywhere.

Thank you Flo for your creation, for your faith and for your inspiration. Your work has brought us many moments of Truth and endless waves of awareness…

By 小鱼 (Ethan Zhao)

Jan 12th, 2011


在一个安静和惬意的地方摆放艺术作品往往是非常谨慎的, 这张作品挂在FLO的卧室里FLO非常喜欢它,所以在这张作品上也花费了大量的时间去制作.而在我看来FLO诸多的作品中,这张作品最为艰辛,为什么这么说呢?因为作品传达出来的意念不仅仅是深刻.因为在黑色的渲染中整张画面更沉淀出一种难以形容的玄妙,FLO并没有给整幅作品赋予太多的色彩,用色彩非常的吝啬,但正是这种有些压迫感的色彩效果,反而使得观者的心里得到了难以宁静的升华.

这张作品的名字叫做”菩萨”,只是这张作品在我并不知道它的名字之前既有了自己的猜测,因为画面所渗透出的那种神圣的感觉使人无法木然。看到了作品的题解之后,这种感受更加加深了。这张作品传达出了极高的哲学境界,创作之所以能在我们的心里绽放出对神的向往,并不是因为它拘泥于某种特殊的形象之中,而是在于视觉产生的第一感受。正是这种从内部散发的神圣与奇妙,深深的感染着泯泯众生.FLO是用冰冷的蓝色赋予菩萨特有的内涵,这种色彩的渲染非常贴切,在不知不觉中启迪着我们的精神空间,而在画面蓝色区域的中心深蓝色的圆点让我更多的联想是母亲的特质,想到了孕育人类的起点,只是这种人类的本质,常常被忽视和默然所束缚。菩萨之所以为神,那是因为她可以感化人们的心灵。其实菩萨的形象绝不单纯是我们脑海里,那个身着宝石罗英,脚踏莲花宝座,慈眉善目,大慈大悲普度众生。因为任何神的形象都是人们对现实困惑的反映,是对人类精神世界的一种诠释,所以神绝不单纯只是拟人化的艺术形象。实际上神的魅力是一种贯穿于对生命的启迪和力量, 信仰恰恰是因为人类自身的某种无法逾越的缺失,才使得芸芸众生不得不去苦苦的追寻。当我看见FLO这副作品之后,我才恍然大悟:其实我们过去一直关注的是事物的表象而非本质,所以我们只能得到精神或心灵上片刻的宁静,而却达不到心境永久的收放自如。.




January 14, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Fine Arts, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments