A Lesson on Breathing

From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

by Shunryu Suzuki

A path between a bamboo forrest.
A path between a bamboo forrest.

When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world.  When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world.  The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless.  We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world.  In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door.  The air comes in and goes out like a swinging door.  The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.  If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra.  There is no you to say “I.”  What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.  It just moves; that is all.  When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing:  no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door….

Tozan, a famous Zen master, said,

“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud.  The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain.  All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other.  The white cloud is always the white cloud.  The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”

This is a pure, clear interpretation of life.  There may be many things like the white cloud and blue mountain:  man and woman, teacher and disciple.  They depend on each other.  But the white cloud should not be bothered by the blue mountain.  The blue mountain should not be bothered by the white cloud.  They are quite independent, but yet dependent.  This is how we live….

When we become truly ourselves, we just become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent upon everything.  Without air, we cannot breathe.  Each of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds.  We are in the center of the world always, moment after moment.  So we are completely dependent and independent.  If you have this kind of experience, this kind of existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything.

BOOK LINK – http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Mind-Beginners-Informal-Meditation/dp/0834800799

www.StudyMartialArts.Org

Advertisements

The Way Of Nature in Beijing

Capture

Bringing the way of nature into polluted Beijing from the inside out.

Living in Beijing, China’s capital has lots of benefits. In China’s annual 2012 expat survey, Beijing was voted in the top 3 of China’s most attractive cities for expats to live in.
Beijing’s Parks and open spaces are beautiful and full of life no matter what time of day you might visit them. Literally any open space buzzes with life. The old talk, play, stretch, sway, practice qigong or dance while the young chillout, cuddle or keep fit.

For foodies Beijing has an abundance of cheap and delicious eateries. There are traditional and exotic offerings available that are either local or from further afield. All of which can be easily obtained and many of which can be obtained without even leaving the house. Thanks to the numerous delivery services like Jinshisong, sherpa and many more. Yet, of course, food and parks aren’t the only thing on offer: Beijing also has a rich history and culture, as well as a maze of hutongs and hidden gems, all there for you to explore should you wish to leave your house. For many Beijing’s cultural scene is a legitimate draw and, for many, has more substance than Shanghai.

Beijing is a City of parks, restaurants, historic sites and culture, knitted together by an ever expanding subway system that allows its 20 million plus residents easy access around the city for as little as 2 rmb.

Beijing it seems has everything and in abundance. However, this abundance does not come without a cost. Air pollution, traffic and overcrowding are the biggest challenges that the city faces.

However, whether you’re a Chinese citizen or expat the truth is that we can do very little about these three things individually, without sweeping local and national policy changes and the time for them to take place. At present, too many of us continue to enjoy the convenience of cars, whether it’s our own or a cab, and quite frankly, even the most unsociable of us enjoy congregating from time to time. So what can we do individually to improve our environment?
Consider for a second the saying ‘charity starts at home’. Now why not replace the word ‘charity’ with this phrase; ‘Environmental change’. Maybe for the Beijinger, ‘Environmental change can and should start at home also’, rather than wait for local and national policy changes. Its up to us individually to be more proactive, by having more awareness and connection to our surroundings. We can do this very simply and cheaply by improving our own personal environments.  You can create your own personal oasis of peace and quiet away from the air pollution, traffic and overcrowding by introducing the following key elements (because no matter how peaceful, softly lit or less crowded your home is, it is unlikely that it will be untainted by Beijing’s air pollution).

The surprising and unhealthy truth is that almost all of the contaminants present in outdoor pollution can be found in indoor pollution! These pollutants include PAHs, solvents, organics, heavy metals, particulates, benzene, carcinogens and fecal material. As a result classrooms, offices and homes are introducing more and more air purifiers. But does the introduction of another impersonal home or workplace utility make any real difference without a very personal and natural mental shift? Does the introduction of yet another machine send the right message to students, workers or homeowners? What other measure can we take to protect our little oasis’s and improve our personal environments? Well the answer might just be in creating an oasis.

Below you will find my answer for the practical Beijinger who wants to avoid Beijing’s air pollution, traffic and overcrowding. Here is my list of air cleaning plants that you can order from taobao to create your own oasis without even leaving your home:

Bamboo Palm

 Bamboo Palm: Also known as the reed palm, this small palm thrives in shady indoor spaces and often produces flowers and small berries. It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. They’re also a good choice for placing around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde. ://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%D7%D8%D6%F1%C5%E8%D4%D4

Snake Plant

Snake plant: (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants. http://s.taobao.com/search?%20initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%BB%A2%CE%B2%C0%BC%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Areca Palm

Areca Palm: The top air purifying plant as ranked by NASA’s study is the Areca palm tree. The palm has been dubbed as one of the most efficient humidifiers and can be counted on to keep your home or office moist during dry times and continuously remove chemical toxins from the air. During winter time, it can literally replace the use of electric humidifiers altogether! http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%C9%A2%CE%B2%BF%FB%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Spider Plant

Spider Plant: A beautiful houseplant with long grassy leaves, the spider plant also grows rapidly. This elegant plant is great at removing poisonous gases as well as other impurities like formaldehyde and xylene. For better effect, it should be kept in the kitchen or near the fireplace, as these are the places where carbon monoxide accumulates a lot.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%B5%F5%C0%BC%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Peace Lily

Peace Lily: One of the best plants you can get that reduces harmful indoor toxins that may cause cancer is the Peace Lily. An easy-to-care-for houseplant, the peace lily is a great pollution fighter and air-purifier. It helps in removing benzene and formaldehyde present in the house. http://s.taobao.com/search?spm=a230r.1.4.1.VT1G0W&q=%C2%ED%CC%E3%C1%AB%C5%E8%D4%D4&rsclick=1

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy: This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It’s also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. A great place to have this little plant is either in your laundry room or bedroom provided it can get plenty of light there.  

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%B7%C7%D6%DE%BE%D5%B3%FB%BE%D5%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Marginata

Marginata (Dracaena marginata): This plant is stunningly beautiful with glossy thin leaves with red edges. It is a famously slow-growing flowering houseplant with very few growing requirements. It also not only removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, but is also capable of filtering out other toxins present. However, proper care should be taken while placing the plant inside, as it is poisonous to dogs.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130526&jc=1&q=Marginata+%28Dracaena+marginata%29&stats_click=search_radio_all%3A1

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera: We all know that aloe vera is present in many skin care products. Not only does it help with skin burns but also with filtering various gas emissions from dangerously toxic materials. Claimed to possess tons of medicinal properties, this incredible succulent can also be grown as an ornamental plant and can easily be picked up anywhere there are plants being sold.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130526&jc=1&q=%C2%AB%DC%F6%D6%B2%CE%EF&stats_click=search_radio_all%3A1

Chrysantheium morifolium

Chrysantheium morifolium:  The colorful flowers of these plants can do a lot more than brighten a home office or living room; the blooms which come in a mixture of different shades and colors also help filter out benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. This plant loves bright light, and to encourage buds to open, you’ll need to find a spot near an open window with direct sunlight.

Following in the footsteps of Miyamoto Musashi

Following in the footsteps of Miyamoto Musashi

musashi

In honor of Miyamoto Musashi and his inspirational Go Rin No Sho (The Book of 5 Rings) the following information is for those wishing to visit Japan and various significant Miyamoto Musashi sites of interest. The following is his post with a little added extra information by me.

20090729_reigandou1
Reigando Cave

 

One of the best general resources is the Japan National Tourist Organization website at http://www.jnto.go.jp/ That being said, some of the places which martial artists may want to visit are very much off the beaten track and require a lot of searching online, questioning friends and strangers (a visit to any local dojo for help is highly recommended) and help from a local tourist office or bus station. Japan has very low crime, and its people are usually very helpful, so you will eventually get to where you need to be. Please be very respectful to everyone you deal with. For specific directions to the Reigando Cave I suggest getting to the Kumamoto City bus terminal / station and asking (you can write in English if you don’t speak Japanese and can’t find an English-speaking person). This site is also helpful: http://www.manyou-kumamoto.jp/contents.cfm?id=292

1599424394_1e0a43ab43

The Reigando Cave (霊巌洞) is basically a small cave in the mountains close to Kumamoto city. It is on the grounds of the very old Unganzenji temple (雲巌禅寺), and it was here, in this cave, where Miyamoto Musashi was said to have written his treatise the Go Rin no Sho (五輪書) in the early 1640′s. Here is a link to a relevant blog http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/06/20/kendo-places-11-musashi-no-sato/ and here is a youtube link so you can have a look at the cave. Although this gives a good idea visually of how the cave looks. I really feel that you have to visit these places to feel the connection and the sense of peace. Its all about being truely there. That is after all why we enjoy traveling and why it can be a catalyst for awakening.

These links are for Ganryu-jima. – “Ganryūjima (巌流島, (formally Funajima 船島) is an island in Japan located between Honshū and Kyūshū, and accessible via ferry from Shimonoseki Harbor (下関港). It is famous for the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojirō. The small island was named for its boat-like appearance, and later became to be called the Ganryū kenjutsu school Kojirō had founded” (wikipedia)

During Golden Week (May 3-5) a small festival is held in honor of the epic duel fought between the legendary swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi (author of the Book of Five Rings) and Sasaki Kojiro known as the Demon of the West. They met in 1612 on the island which is now known as Ganryujima and when the duel was over Kojiro lay dead and Musashi was victorious. The actual details of the duel are debatable but the legends of it are very persistent. It’s said that Musashi purposely arrived late, unwashed, and carrying a wooden sword he had carved out of an oar on the way over – all of this to unnerve his opponent. Kojiro is said to have struck first but failed to cut Musashi down. Musashi smacked Kojiro on the head killing him or in the some versions finishing him off with a blow to the ribs.

And if you do pass through Shimonoseiki to get to Ganryu-jima, I recommend that the more adventurous of you try the “fuku” or Japanses blowfish. It’s the famous fish which can kill if not prepared properly, and rumour has it that chefs have to be specially licensed to prepare it, and that they have to try a piece every time they make fuku.

The Spirit of Shaolin By Master Shi Yan Jia

Shaolin Kung Fu is technically speaking the martial arts system of attack and defense movements that uses forms (series of moves combinations:套路 taolu) as a basic method of training. Both the moves and their combinations are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine’s theory about the working of the human body. The cultural and spiritual aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu comes through its essential roots in Chan Buddhism, the first belief shared by practitioners. This is especially the case in regards to wisdom and strength; for wisdom, the Buddha Puti Damo (left) is worshipped to and for strength, the Buddha Jin Na Luo Wang (right) is taken refuge in.

A Typical Day For a Shaolin Monk

Early at five o’clock every morning, the monks of the Shaolin Temple arise with the striking of the gong. They join together to start the first morning class of the day, lasting for 90 minutes. At 06:40, monks mindfully join a line in the Zhai Tang (place where the monks have food) to have breakfast. Before and after the meal, monastic chanting is carried out. Every monk has his own alms bowl with food in it and is not allowed to leave anything uneaten. During this meal time, everyone is to keep silent. Between 08:00-09:00 the monks study Buddhism where dharma learning is taught to cultivate knowledge and wisdom. Between 09:10-11:30, there is study time to practice Kung Fu at the back of a nearby mountain., Lunch is then taken afterwards at 11:40 in a similar manner to breakfast, some grand masters and scholastic monks however do not eat lunch in order to enter fully into their monastic life and study. Afternoon training time then takes place between 14:00-17:30. After a short rest, members of the temple go to the monastery for evening chanting which lasts an hour. The final part of a day is a 45 minute meditation period followed by a period for self-study that lasts until the sound of the bell again at 21:30 which signals the end of the day.

Shaolin Kung Fu’s Nine Steps of learning:

1. 结缘 Knowledge: In various ways, begin to know about Shaolin Kung Fu and the Song Shan Shaolin Temple 2. 仰慕 Admiration: Feel moved by the sprit and character of Shaolin Kung Fu and so be naturally energised towards it. 3. 抱负 Ambition: Start to plan your life again after the feeling of your heart and making the decision to learn Shaolin Kung Fu. After setting a specific goal, set your mind to realize that ambition in your lifetime. 4. 痴迷 Enthusiasm: Make a self-affirmation of the goals chosen and pursue with a one-pointed determination of love and dedication. 5. 行动 Action: Adapt your goal to specific courses of action and start to practice Shaolin Kung Fu. This will be a hard learning process. 6. 认识 Understand: Come to rational knowing and the cultural connotations of Shaolin Kung Fu. 7. 信仰 Faith: Start to transform rational understanding into a deeper understanding about Buddhism. Shaolin Kung Fu is considered one way of learning Chan Buddhism (and so named “Wushu Chan”). 8. 感悟 Awareness: Practice Shaolin Kung Fu from a deeper self belief enabling practice to become not just a goal but an effective path to becoming aware and realising the essence of Buddhism. 9. 见性 Nature: From learning Shaolin Kung Fu, develop a full understanding about wisdom and strength, see the truth of life and the universe.

Master Shi Yan Jia

Master Shi Yan Jia (Wei Shifu) is a 34th generation Shaolin Disciple of the current Shaolin Temple Abbot the Venerable Shi Yong Xin, came to the Shaolin Temple to learn Shaolin Kungfu from the age of 8 years old and stayed there for a further ten years. He is currently ranked at level 7*. He has 8 years of experience in teaching Kung Fu to international students from all over the world and giving performances to many people. In the 1st national Shaolin Kung Fu competition Master Shi Yan Jia was awarded first place in traditional Shaolin Fist form and Shaolin Spear form. At the 9th Sports Meeting in Henan province, he also won first place for his Shaolin Staff routine, and in the championships of Zhengzhou, he came first in the Traditional Sword form category. Master Shi Yan Jia is the headmaster of Qufu shaolin kung flu school. The school has only recently relocated to Shimen mountain near the historic city of Qufu (eastern Shandong Province), hometown of the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius. If you would like to find out more about his school visit www.studymartialarts.org or Skype: studymartialarts.org for a free consultation on your martial arts trip to China.