Nagasaki Media

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

Whilst there is hope on the horizon with the Covid-19 vaccine eventually becoming available for everyone, for many of us the waiting is very difficult; so much of our lives has been shut down, so much of what we knew of seeing our friends and extended family has been taken away, and so many aspects of getting out and about and being a part of society are currently not possible. And all this is before we even consider the financial impact of the current situation on so many people’s lives; not only do we have plenty to worry about, but we may be beginning to feel diminished, in and of ourselves.

On this last point, there has been quite a lot said about how such restrictions affect people’s mental health, and this is genuinely a matter to be taken seriously, but Kendo would tell you that there is much that you can do to feel better, maintain the balance in your life, and come through these challenges healthy and able to resume your life undiminished and fully capable, when circumstances allow.

Kendo would remind you that even if you have felt listlessness, disengaged with the world, and perhaps even depressed, you might be losing sight of how powerful you are as a force for good. It might be difficult to see this amidst such restrictions on your life, but you can still be a strong force for good in people’s lives, and doing so will restore purpose and achievement to your own.

Kendo recommends that you try to see the possibilities that still exist to enable you to feel connected – if you are reading this, you have a ‘device’, be it a phone or tablet or computer, and we are fortunate that electronic communication on all these devices is so capable now. Kendo would recommend taking a break from scrolling through other people’s versions of the outside world, and reach out to your contacts, including those you haven’t been in touch with for some time. Talking about how you feel is incredibly healthy, and asking others how they feel is healing and generous for you and whomever you speak to. As you ‘pay it forward’, so it will come back to you – reaching out to others for no reason other than to engage in healthy, uplifting interaction will cause ripples of benevolence and positivity to spread throughout our society, and we will all benefit.

As Kendo points out, you can choose to be an active part in that positive movement, and it begins with realising that the current restrictions and challenges do not define or diminish who you really are – you just need to recognise your true value and express it in the world.

Of course, Kendo would recommend meditating on this – if you let all your current frustrations fall away and enjoy true Zen peace, when you come back you will have found your ‘Buddha within’, and, realising the power of that, you can spread your peace and wisdom and healing just by calling or messaging someone.

Despite the current challenges, you can remind yourself that you are a powerful agent for positivity, and being your best for the benefit of your friends and family and the whole of society just requires a little lateral thinking at this time… Go ahead: use your devices to pay it forward to everyone you can reach – you’ll be changing our currently challenged world for the better, conversation by conversation.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

Kendo’s December Healing Message falls around mid-way between the American ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday and Christmas, and the sentiments of both are entirely appropriate to reflect upon at this hectic time of year, and indeed anytime.

‘Thanksgiving’ is an opportunity to reflect upon the things and events from the previous year for which we would do well to reflect upon and be thankful; too often in the western world we tend to expect our blessings rather than counting them, and this simple gesture of humility can illustrate the link between the health and positivity of our own attitudes and the ‘quality of life’ we experience.

The sentiments of Christmas centre around peace and goodwill, both of which feed into the ethic of forgiveness, which itself is a gesture of humility and optimism for human relationships going forward.

Kendo has long championed rising with courage and confidence to meet the challenges we face in life, not only from a position of strength through peace but also from a perspective of Zen-based wisdom. Strength is found in the peace, clarity, and inspiration found in meditation, but in the best ‘Zen through Kyu Shin Do’ tradition, recalling humility and goodwill as we begin our meditations is extremely powerful.

There is an ‘urban legend’ of sorts regarding Marcus Aurelius, a Roman general, wherein despite his exalted and revered status he hired an ordinary man to walk behind him to constantly say to him, “You’re just a man, you’re just a man.” Whether apocryphal or not, this story illustrates self-knowledge, wisdom, and humility, and – no doubt – an awareness of the strength born of a healthy inner balance that can come from such an enlightened approach to one’s place in the world.

We cannot know what challenges will arise in our lives, nor how great they may be, but it is important not to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them. There are things that we can change in life and things that we won’t be able to, but we may not realise how able we are to mitigate the impact of a challenge simply by applying a good attitude towards it. Feelings of panic or desolation will obscure our ability to see avenues for constructive action, and, logically, they won’t help mitigate a difficult situation, and Kendo’s perennial advice remains the key – find Zen peace, let it all fall away, and let your intuition wisely guide you.

All at the Nagasaki Retreat wish everyone a happy and peaceful festive season, and at this time of year Kendo would encourage us all to reflect upon the following: be thankful for your blessings, be humble in your strengths, and be confident in knowing that you always have the power to be a force for good, for optimism, and for positivity in the lives of others and indeed the whole world.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

Today is a Special Anniversary – it’s exactly 56 years since a fateful Friday 13th November in 1964 when Kendo Nagasaki first appeared in a wrestling ring; for his first match he was ‘Top of the Bill’, the headline bout, so it’s true to say that Kendo started at the top and worked up! The inspiration that Kendo has provided these last 56 years continues to this day, with an equal partner in his astonishing dominance in wrestling being its foundations in Zen, which enabled the young man behind Kendo’s iconic mask to achieve so much.

As many of the regular readers of this blog will know, Peter, the man behind Kendo’s mask, wrote his autobiography a couple of years ago, and he has been delighted with the reception that ‘Kendo Nagasaki and the Man Behind the Mask’ has received!

Of course, it is a sporting autobiography, and like many successful athletes Peter has had an eventful and entertaining journey to the success he saw channelling Kendo. However, there is much more to Peter’s journey than ‘finding a niche’, or ‘capitalising on a talent’, or even ‘hanging in there’; Peter’s life began with significant challenges, and he looked to have no prospects at all until the influence of Kendo Nagasaki began to be felt when he met and began studying under Sensei Kenshiro Abbe.

Sensei Abbe was no mere judo instructor; he conducted his classes in a highly mindful way, requiring a genuine stillness from his students before directing them towards focus and intuitive insight, and this is what made him an unsung Zen master. After the old phrase, “Many are called, few are chosen”, those who went beyond mere obedience to the master and genuinely stilled their minds so they could non-intellectually immerse themselves into the depths of ‘Kyu Shin Do’ began learning on entirely new planes, and they learned about more than judo – they learned the Buddhist way of life.

Peter was one such dedicated student, and as such he quickly caught a glimpse of that speck of Zen light which leads to enlightenment, and the rest is history – the persona through which Peter channelled Zen Kyu Shin Do emerged and became Kendo Nagasaki, a living metaphor for how strong and focussed we must be to overcome the challenges of life, exhibiting an indomitable strength born of Zen stillness.

In illuminating this example of the positivity which can flow from Zen, this healing blog entry is an objective look at how a young man with few opportunities or saving graces took notice of an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of his life, through Zen open the door to the wisdom of his intuitive self, and, as a Zen master would wordlessly imply, begin his journey towards enlightenment.

One of the core things that Buddhism is about is finding what really matters in life by letting go of all that ultimately doesn’t; this is practised in meditation, and whilst it can be conducted in full consciousness as a ‘thought experiment’, this can rapidly lead to escalating anxiety when we contemplate an existence without our western comforts and toys! However, these things ultimately do not define our essential selves and they can safely be let go – rather, it is intangible qualities which truly matter: strength, optimism, pro-socialness, willingness to help others make the most of themselves (particularly through Zen). This is what Sensei Abbe did for a teen-age Peter Thornley, and what Peter now hopes to do for everyone he can reach.

In these extremely difficult times, many of us are losing livelihoods, possessions, even homes, and as distressing as such ‘reversals of fortune’ feel, there is so much more to us than what we may lose or may have lost. Collectively, we are the energy of a successful society, a family of humanity, and we can always be fundamentally important to each other and the ‘family’ of our entire society. Meditation is a great help in these times, bringing peace amidst turmoil and loss, and showing us what really matters – that we matter, come what may, and that we will always have the power to support and help others, and in so doing, be genuinely worthy as individuals, irrespective of unimportant material trappings.

Like so many of us, Peter is facing challenges in these difficult times, some of them quite momentous, and to cope he practises his life-long discipline of Zen Kyu Shin Do – finding Zen peace, placing all his cares metaphorically away from his ‘self’, and opening himself to the quiet wisdom of his intuitive self. This meditation has never failed him and it never will, and even in the most difficult of times, you can find your valuable, wise, strong essential self and take heart in knowing that you are not diminished by material loss, but are strengthened by finding your own intuitive wisdom.

As Kendo would say, from the enlightenment born of Zen peace, all that’s negative can be transcended, and boundless positivity can flow.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

As the significant changes in our lives continue, and seem to be becoming more restrictive once again, Kendo feels that it may be helpful to have a conscious perspective on our reality, something to recall when we lament the loss of all we’ve known in our lives – at least, until there’s a vaccine for Covid.

For many of us, our realities have contracted; we can’t meet with the people we used to see whenever we wanted, we can’t go to the places we once went to without a second thought, and we are increasingly ‘house-bound’ by social distancing regulations. Life can now seem quite diminished, and perhaps even oppressive.

It would be easy to feel negatively about all this, but that is to be avoided wherever possible – negative feelings can lead to depressive feelings, and when they set-in, our creativity and optimism diminish – but all this can be side-stepped, with an ‘outlook adjustment’.

Kendo would point out that our current restrictions are actually an excellent Zen Koan – a challenge for which there is no ready intellectual solution. Likewise, his recommendation is both simple and, at the same time, incredibly profound – it’s existentialism.

This is a term from philosophy, which relates to the concept of existence; we all exist, but one could ask, “How do I exist? What is the nature of my existence?” Considering this question quickly brings us back to the issue of quality-of-life, not as in ‘what does life give to me?’, but instead, ‘how am I a positive force in the life around me?’

As he has espoused for many years, Kendo has recommended giving ourselves some contemplative space, by setting-aside our technological gadgets and screens, and remembering that we are a part of the big picture of nature. Nature is so much more than our ‘monkey-minds’, which constantly demand stimulation – and, as integral parts of nature, so are we, and it’s immensely healthy to remember that, look around at nature, and begin to feel it once again.

Stilling our minds and finding complete Zen peace by meditating will always be healing and balancing, but what Kendo is recommending now is to also adopt a conscious, waking willingness to recognise the positive in the connections we still have, even in these restricted times. We are most likely in touch with at least a few people, and one of the benefits of technology is that we can contact many more, and now is an opportunity to be grateful for those relationships and to nurture them.

Some aspects of our lives have been taken away for the time being, but there’s nothing to be gained from resenting that, because it’s entirely beyond our control – say as the Japanese say, “Shou ga nai!” – it can’t be helped, so look at what is good in your life and what good you still may be able to do. You can still make a positive difference in the lives of those around you, and adopting this attitude will mean that you are being the best you can be, which will inevitably benefit your family and, by extension, the whole of society.

Kendo points out that our current Zen Koan, while initially appearing somewhat weighty, is actually giving us all the chance to focus on what really matters in human existence – each other – and how we can help each other, both the few we are currently in direct contact with, and the many we can reach remotely.

Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, always strive to be the best you can be, and the whole world will ultimately become a better place for all.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

As we continue to find our social lives limited by restrictions on movement and the numbers whom we can meet, how can we continue to feel ‘normal’?

The current restrictions are unwelcome but undeniably necessary, and their effect can be lessened by using apps for virtual meet-ups, but it is still all quite a change to normal life. Change can be a greater or lesser challenge for us all, and even when we steel ourselves and ‘hang in there’ or find some way of coping, what happens to us when it happens again and again, going on for so long?

It is worth remembering that some people seek solace in order to find peace of mind and understanding of themselves and their place in the universe, and they can stay away from mainstream society for years. Staying in a monastery for long-term meditation can lead to true enlightenment, which is finding answers to any and all questions about – as they say – ‘life, the universe, and everything’!

Those who act upon such a calling are unlikely to read an online blog such as this, so hopefully it can be of help to those who live comparatively regular lives and enjoy the internet; but it is worth remembering that during these socially-constrained tomes when many of us are using the internet more than ever before, the answers to our questions cannot always come from outside ourselves – some can only come from within.

Like so many who have direct experience of its benefits, the man behind Kendo Nagasaki’s mask is an advocate of meditation. The outside world can throw challenges beyond imagination at us, yet with meditation it always remains within our power to escape from the immediate negative experience of those challenges, as well as neutralise the worry which can blind us to the most powerful resource that can help us overcome reversals – our own intuitive wisdom. Once we’ve found that place of Zen peace, we will be completely at peace, and our intuitive selves will wordlessly guide us towards maintaining that peace, even when we return to the challenging ‘real world’. As Kendo points out, meditation is liberating, enlightening, and healing.

So, when you’ve streamed everything that’s looked interesting to you (and even some stuff that wasn’t!), when you’ve looked everywhere for answers but still find yourself questioning, it’s time to look within yourself. As Kendo has remarked many times before, the western world is incredibly rich in distractions and entertainments and ‘time-fillers’ which can keep the conscious mind occupied, but the time inevitably comes when we find ourselves looking for something with more meaning – something deeper. It’s been known by philosophers for centuries that the mind is a limited thing, and that true wisdom springs from more than mere ‘thought’, and once you accept this you open the door to the wealth of wisdom which lies beyond your stilled mind – this is the Buddha within.

Just as feelings cannot be ‘reasoned’ either into existence or away, enlightenment or wisdom cannot be created with the mind. Switching it off for a while allows the deeper levels of ourselves to flow naturally, giving us understanding and tolerance and resilience towards any hardship. You might have noticed that the way our lives are currently restricted upsets the conscious mind – be reassured that there is more to life than the distractions which it craves, and there is more to you, too. If the mind’s distress is upsetting you, switch it off and escape from that stress, and in the process, heal yourself on a deeper level and open yourself to the enlightenment of your own intuitive self.

Kendo might suggest that our current social restrictions are an invitation to take advantage of the solace from which the deep contemplations of those in monasteries give them so much; as the saying goes, currently, we have lemons, so let’s make lemonade! Use this time to find the true, wise depths of your own intuitive self, and you’ll have turned what at first appeared to be a negative into a life-long positive.

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

Do you know who you are? Kendo asks this apparently simple question, a question which might be thought of as having an obvious answer (“…yes, of course I know who I am!”), but it is actually quite profound because we are generally unlikely to ask it of ourselves – and yet, Kendo recommends that we should.

Who you are is more than what you do, more than your position in a family, more than your interests or vocation, more than the music you like, more than the car you drive, more than the clothes you wear or how you style your hair, more than how well you reflect or represent your social group – indeed, when pressed, we might have to concede that who we are is largely invisible, because we rarely, if ever, have to think about this core issue.

The instances given above could be thought of as the ‘dressing’ to our essential selves – the things, circumstances, or people which surround us. They undeniably have qualities of their own, but because they are external to ourselves, they have an autonomy which doesn’t depend on our presence. So, if, in one of Kendo’s ‘thought-experiments’ we take them away, what is left? Who is left?

Faith can be argued as being central to many people’s identity, and the pro-social rules and values which faiths teach are beyond reproach and an excellent ‘yardstick’ for living a good life. Buddhism, even though it has no central ‘deity’, likewise seeks to give guidance on how to live a good life, and crucially, a life which benefits others, radiating out from family, to friends and acquaintances, to the whole of society. It could be argued that once one has committed oneself to such an exclusively pro-social path, then there is little else to need to think about, other than being a conscientious vehicle for such good works. Indeed, such a teaching is central to Buddhism – allowing the mind to wander into ‘navel-gazing’ existential explorations is doing little more than indulging the conscious ‘monkey-mind’, which needs to be stilled and trained so that it understands that it is not the centre of the universe, but a part of a team dedicated to living a good life.

However, for those of us who have grown up in the reasoning, intellectualising west, we occasionally need a nugget of ‘information’ to feed to our minds, to help satisfy its appetite and at the same time guide it. All of Kendo’s works have used a mix of western rationality and the mysticisms to which people can relate here, to illustrate the simple Buddhist truth described above, and yet he goes further, which is why he asks that key question at the beginning of this message.

The ‘ego’ is an invention of western psychology, and it is a useful one, because who we are can be considered as being essentially our own ego. All us westerners have one as a result of our upbringing – it is our sense of self, what we stand for, our values, our likes and dislikes, our talents, our motivations, and in many cases, what we’ll put up with! And this is where there is potentially a problem with evolving, growing, becoming more refined, mature, and reasonable people – our egos motivate and give quality to our interactions with the world, they establish who we are in the world, and, as such, we are likely to feel a need to defend them. That is likely going to be a conscious process, and therefore limited by the mind. There is only one way to ensure that our egos are as wise as they can possibly be – Kendo’s Kyu Shin Do.

The essence of Kyu Shin Do meditation is to mentally place everything in one’s life at a safe distance away from ourselves, and then seek Zen peace at the centre of all that orbiting ‘stuff’. But as we still our minds and open ourselves to our own intuitive wisdom, our last thought can set the tone for intuitive guidance, and it is very wise to seek further wisdom regarding our essential selves – our egos. Giving the evolution of our egos over to objective wisdom also has a Shintoistic quality of humility – our intuitive selves are closer to the whole universe of nature than our little mental calculators, and making that wise, humble decision gives us the opportunity of finding true universal balance.

So, to answer Kendo’s question, do you know who you are? With Kyu Shin Do meditation, you have the opportunity of finding out just how great you could become.

Kendo’s Healing Message for July

As we all emerge from the initial impact of Covid-19 on our lives, there is perhaps one emotion which prevails, and it is not welcome – fear.

There is arguably much to fear in this ‘new normal’ – we must be afraid of getting too close to others, many of us fear for our working lives, many of us fear the consequences of losing our livelihoods, and it would be natural to fear that our hopes and aspirations have no future, from that long-promised holiday to being able to afford higher education. Perhaps more than most of us have ever known, we are living in challenging times, particularly how we see our futures.

Kendo would not point out all the foregoing – which most of us would rather push out of our minds – unless he had something to offer which could be of help, and that would be the words of the Healing Buddha, Yakushi Nyorai, who simply said, “Fear Not”.

To our western ears this sounds like little more than a platitude, a warm and fuzzy phrase to help us feel a little better for a few moments, but there’s actually a great deal more to those words when they’re considered in a Buddhist context.

One of the greatest gifts from meditation is to switch off the thinking mind and escape from the whirl of unanswerable questions it seeming willingly hoards; in reality it’s only doing its job by raising awareness of matters which clearly need consideration, but the wisest next step is to seek answers beyond the limitations of reductionism and reason alone – and they are to be found in the intuitive self. This is an equally powerful gift from meditation: the opening of the self to the wisdom of our own intuitive selves.

Even from a rationalistic western perspective, this makes sense. Accepting that the mind alone can’t give us all the answers is not to diminish it, but to give it its place as a team player. You, too, are part of that team – you have the power to choose to deal with fear by bringing your inyuitive resources to bear upon it, because once your intuition has has given you some brilliant new guidance, you’ll need to work with your mind to make it happen.

The foregoing illuminates what is arguably the fourth member of your team – hope. That hope springs from the wise interpretation of Yakushi Nyorai’s words, and it is a force to be reckoned with because you give it life and power by seeking wise counsel from your intuitive self. Such hope can be immensely powerful as a balm for our worries – perhaps that balm is what’s in the Healing Buddha’s medicine pot!

So, Kendo would reiterate the words of Yakushi Nyorai and likewise counsel, ‘Fear Not’. Fear and worry are arguably the same thing, and once you acknowledge that they’ve done their job by alerting you to something that needs intuitive guidance, you have the power to turn that negative emotion into a positive outlook and well-reasoned plans. Thus, Kendo wants you to know that in these challenging times, you don’t need to be disempowered by fear and worry, but can instead be empowered by taking the wise step of seeking guidance from your own intuition; if you put your ‘team’ to work, you’ll be the best you can be, which will benefit you, your family, and your entire society.

Stay safe, meditate, and always be positive!

Kendo’s Healing Message for June

How open-minded do you think you are? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a test for such a quality, where we could examine the results like a credit score and think about ways to improve things? Although this idea may sound like the kind of conformity encouraged in a dystopian sci-fi future, it’s actually a nice thought experiment.

Kendo points out that in the west, we are barely ever encouraged to be objective about our subjectivity; what this means is taking a step outside ourselves and evaluating the self we see as dispassionately as possible. A related aspect of so rarely stepping outside ourselves is to rarely question the objective value of what we take into our minds – it’s so easy to ‘go with the flow’ of our social group, particularly our social media group, and become caught up in things that may actually be superficial. How would we know if we don’t occasionally ‘reality-check’ ourselves?

As Kendo has often remarked, the apparently rational, reasoning mind is fallible and can fail to guide us wisely if we don’t use it wisely, and this means putting it in its proper perspective. It is healthy to be skeptical about our own minds – if they aren’t as clever as they tell us they are, we should make them work hard to justify their positions! And what is the only sure way to intuitively know whether our minds are serving us well? Meditation. Switch it off for a while, get in touch with your deeper self, and develop that intuitive double-check to use alongside mere rationality.

It’s amazing how transformative this practice can be, because it’s not until we step outside our conscious ‘psychological present’ that we begin to appreciate how unsophisticated its ideas are; when the mind becomes tempered by wisdom, a person achieves a higher level of existing and interacting with all around them.

A key example of this could be attitudes towards race. For many, there may be little more than an awareness that differences exist between cultures and races, but that is not enough for harmonious interaction between all members of society – indeed, a mere awareness of difference is a rational quantity which is simply not enough – it must be informed by objective, intuitive wisdom. In the 1980s Cold War era, singer-songwriter Sting released a song which used the medium of music to challenge western attitudes to the feared communist east; regarding the prevailing fear that the ‘other side’ may wage nuclear war on us at any time, Sting’s lyrics remarked that “…it would be such an ignorant thing to do if the Russians love their children too.” This elegant artistic fragment bypassed entrenched views and shed new light on the other side as being human too, and just over four years later and following a great deal more intuition and aspiration and hope from countless others too, the Berlin Wall came down.

Artists are fortunate to be able to escape the limitations of consciousness as they open themselves to inspiration, inspiration which may be capable of inspiring others to the extent that the world can be transformed. But, as Kendo says, we are all capable of escaping dogma, fixed attitudes, biases, and even inappropriate opinions of which we may be barely aware, and with which we have unquestioningly lived for some time, and we can do this simply by switching off our minds, finding a moment of Zen peace, and re-booting ourselves with a new objectivity.

Rationality has limits – wisdom has none. We should choose to be the wisest we can be, as Kendo always says, to be the best we can be, for ourselves, our families, and the whole of society.

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

We are undeniably living in unprecedented times, as so many of our usual freedoms are currently restricted. Of course, we all understand the benefit of complying – limiting the spread of a potentially lethal virus – but, in keeping with his philosophy of looking for the gift in any challenge, Kendo would encourage us to be ‘aware’ of more than just social distancing.

In Japanese Buddhism, the incorporated world-view of Shinto is as sensitive to nature as British Paganism, and this is central to what Kendo teaches about understanding and being sensitive to our place in the world and the universe. We are in no way separate from nature and all our actions affect it, just as it affects us, and perhaps now is the time to become more sensitive to this relationship.

One global effect of so many of us staying at home has been a huge improvement in air quality, both at ground level and in the sky. The sun has been brighter at the start of this May than many of us can ever recall, because there is so little upper atmosphere pollution from aircraft. And with far fewer hydrocarbon-burning vehicles on the roads, most countries have vastly exceeded their air pollution-reduction targets in incredibly short time-frames. This is good for nature, and consequently, can only be good for us, but most of us were not appreciably aware of the extent of the harm we were causing just by taking advantage of what’s available to us.

This positive side-effect amidst our current restrictions has granted us a glimpse of how awareness in this moment can be a catalyst for entirely positive and permanent change.

When the internal combustion engine was developed, it was always known that they produce poisonous exhausts, but that negative side-effect was glossed-over in comparison to how incredibly useful they were – on balance, of course we were going to take advantage of the technology. Ultimately, some human habitats became toxic because of them, so legislation was developed to make car engines cleaner, but because there is an ever-growing number of people using them, we will inevitably reach toxic levels again.

Likewise, we have not yet directly felt pressing consequences from upper atmosphere pollution, but it has been reported that global warming is a major effect of air travel. It is gradual and invisible, and nothing has yet forced us to be aware of it, but should we just carry on with only a dim awareness and easy dismissal that aircraft pollute, without caring until we are forced to? Sir David Attenborough has warned that we are perilously close to warming the earth so much that all the methane from thawing permafrost will be released, which will be irreversibly catastrophic.

Bearing in mind that the international holiday industry is going to be limited for the foreseeable future, shouldn’t we now think twice about the consequences of air travel for tourism? Are two or three international flights per year really justifiable? Shouldn’t our vacation decisions inevitably include concern over how much they would pollute?

In speaking of his forthcoming documentary, ‘A Life on Our Planet’, it is unsurprising that Sir David Attenborough speaks much about pollution, and his final words about what we can all do were that we should “stop waste”, of any kind, including power, food, plastics, and more. His message in the movie is uncharacteristically hard-hitting, and this can only be because he seeks to stress the urgency of our situation.

Now that we have all experienced several weeks of coping with social limitations, we should emerge in an enlightened way – not by rushing back into the old polluting, wasteful ‘normal’, but by seeking to use what we have learned to apply restraint to our impact upon nature going forward. The industrial revolution gave us enhanced capabilities and convenience, but in eagerly grasping those powers we weren’t sufficiently sophisticated to question the consequences of the associated pollution and waste; that time has now passed – Kendo counsels that this moment must be the catalyst for living in full awareness of the consequences of all our actions.

The Buddhist maxim is perhaps more pertinent now than it has ever been – Be The Best You Can Be (and the most enlightened and globally considerate), for the benefit of your family, your society, the whole of nature, and thereby the whole world.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

Retreat Cherry Blossom 2020

 

Kendo would remind us that in Japanese Buddhism, the pure, simple beauty of the Japanese cherry blossom has been meditated and reflected upon for many centuries, and that at this difficult time for so many of us, it is more profound than ever for us all.

The cherry blossom’s brief appearance every spring is an exquisite gift from nature which cannot fail to enchant us and lift our hearts, as it reminds us that we are also a part of the essential natural energy which is capable of creating something so beautiful.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to become distracted by practical, technological, and social matters and we can lose sight of some of the fundamental benevolence and beauty around us, but the appearance of the cherry blossom is so captivating that it can cut through the everyday mental noise and re-awaken that appreciation within us.

Each and every beautiful cherry blossom flower can be thought of as representing an NHS worker – their selfless, courageous, tireless dedication to our well-being in these incredibly difficult times for them is an astonishing, humbling demonstration of benevolence by all those beautiful souls, to whom we owe so much.

The almost overwhelming beauty of a multitude of cherry blossoms can remind us of how we could be as a whole society, with the right attitude of mind, and the way we are responding together now shows that such co-operation and mutual support does come naturally; as Boris Johnson remarked, there is such a thing as society, and it can indeed be beautiful.

And for all those who have so sadly lost loved ones during the current crisis, cherry blossoms can be an inspiration. The blossoms in the Retreat’s Anniversary Orchard are about to leave us for another year, but their gift to us is the memory of their beauty, which is timeless. Having lost a loved one unexpectedly or before their time is tragic, but when we have grieved, we should often recall everything beautiful that they brought to our lives.

With the right perspective it’s clear that all the hardships, losses, and challenges that we are currently facing are actually revealing their counterparts – positivity, selflessness, and benevolence; just a moment’s meditation on that most exquisite gift from nature, the cherry blossom, can help us reach that uplifting, inspiring perspective.